Friday, November 12, 2010

Surgery #2

I have been asked what the reason is behind Mason's sudden second surgery, and so I thought I would post the {very detailed} reasons. This is all as I understand it, and due to my lack of education on the subject, some of this could be wrong.

There are two categories of classification when it comes to cancer patients and radiation or chemo therapy. They are called: "standard risk," and "high risk." If you are put into the "high risk" category, then you can expect to receive intense, aggressive, radiation and chemo therapies. If you are put into the "standard risk" category, then the amount of radiation and chemo therapy you require is much, much, less. When it comes to tumors, wich of these two categories you are put into depends on the size of the tumor mass that is still in your body after surgery.

In Mason's case, anything more than 1.5 cubic centimeters would put him in the "high risk" category. This is unfortunate, because at his age, the risks of side effects from both radiation and chemo therapies is very high. In fact, earliest allowed age for the treatment that he would receive is 4 years old; and Mason will turn 4 on Monday. The side effects to worry about don't show up until years later. They are called late-effects, because they can show their faces anywhere from 2-10 years after the child has had chemo or radiation therapy. Most have to do with loss of mental capabilities, and other things like sterility.

So obviously, I want Mason classified as "standard risk."

On Wednesday the 10th, Mason was well on his way to recovering, and was only a day away from having his EVD (the tube sticking out of his head) removed; something that takes days to work up to, since it has to do with stabilizing the pressure in his brain. The night before it was to be removed, we got a surprise visit from his neurosurgeon, Dr. Riva-Cambrin. He usually only comes in the early mornings to check on Mason, but he came late that afternoon.

He needed to talk to me, he said. Due to the size of tumor still left in his brain, Mason would be "high risk." (Even though it is inly 5% of what was there!!) There was a chance that with a second surgery, he could be bumped down into the "standard risk" category. There was a piece of tumor that had grown right behind Mason's eye, that he hadn't been able to reach at all in the last surgery. It would require a different incision and, he would start over with the EVD, since it is needed for the surgery. He had to discuss it with the rest of the medical team, to see if another surgery would do this, or if it would be pointless. He would let me think about it while he consulted his team, and get back to me for permission the next day.

The next day, Dr. Riva-Cambrin visited us again. "I've been up all night thinking about Mason..." he said. Little did he know that with those few words, he had made my decision for me. There would be another surgery. He sounded confident, and told us he was sure he could remove at least enough to bump Mason into the lower category. He was certain that the benefits outweighed the risks. What's more, he scheduled Mason for surgery the very next day, in consideration of his birthday on Monday; the day that I am sure he originally planned to have the surgery.

The surgery ended up taking a long time. They decided just an hour before the surgery to do another MRI, and so two hours were added to our wait time. The update calls I received were positive and reassuring.

Finally (I honestly don't remember how long we waited) the Dr. himself came out to speak with us. Once again, the surgery had gone better than planned. He was able to remove more than enough tumor, and had even been able to see that some of the nerves he had freed in the last surgery looked healthier and stronger. Mason was already awake, and was very angry. :)

I was in awe at the man who not only saved my son's life, but who had just made his future a bit easier.

A bit later, when I walked into the PICU room with Mason, his first words to me were a sobbing: "What took you so long?!" It broke my heart, but I couldn't shake overwhelming joy I felt, at how well things had gone.

His recovery this time seems less painstaking, and he is already talking, wiggling around, and very aware of his environment. It took days for that to happen last time, even though he did it faster than usual. Now he is recovering super-speedy, although he is very grouchy about it all. He is definitely ready to be done with the hospital forever.


  1. Dear Pene,
    I wanted to let you know that each time I read one of your posts, blog entries, and etc, it always brings me to tears. I want to tell you that I am SO inspired by your strength, love, dedication, high hopes, and Faith of better todays and tomorrows. I know that this isn't easy for you or Mason, but I want you to know that you are such an inspiration to many reading the story of a Mother's love and a Little boy's will to live life with his Mommy by his side giving him every opportunity to do so.. I can't even imagine how it would feel to be in your shoes. I think about you two all the time. You're an amazing Mother and I want to let you know that Heavenly Father couldn't have placed two greater people together in a Family. I hope and pray for the best for Mason. I hope he has a great birthday, he deserves everything joyful life has to offer. You all will be in our prayers. Much love to You, Mason, and the rest of your family.

    With Love,
    Satia and Lil' Malachi Tu'uao

  2. Pene, you are amazing! I totally agree with the comment above. Your love, dedication and trust in the Lord is so strong you are and inspiration to me and probably anyone who reads your posts. Mason is blessed to have you as his mom, as you are blessed to have him as your son! I think about you guys constantly and you are in our family prayers every single night. I wish there was something more I could do for you.....Mason is a little trooper and I just love your updates, especially since they are great outcomes! Thanks Pene for your strength, your faith, your love, your persistence, your example, and for just being you! <3 you!