Discovery of brain tumor
In continuation to my previous “Setback in Life” post…
The ambulance sent me to Gleneagles Medical Centre for initial treatment. However, I personally requested to be transferred to UMMC (University Malaya Medical Centre), where the chronicles of my medical history lies. Feeling very unwell and heavy-headed, I wasn’t able to even lift my head upright, kept leaning against the pole of the wheel chair or against the wall while waiting for the registration, consultation and CT scan.
Fortunately, I didn’t have much for breakfast, just a spoonful of soup, which i vomited all out and only drank a few sips of water that morning so I wasn’t required to fast for another four hours for the CT scan with contrast. The contrast agent was delivered into the body via IV (intravenous) in my forearm. You will feel slight burning sensations throughout the body and a funny metallic taste in the mouth for a few seconds when the contrast is administered.
On top of the strange discovery during the general doctor’s test upon arrival, when I tended to sway towards the right, while supposedly be walking in a straight line, The CT scan revealed a growth on the right side of my cerebellum. Noticing the problem but was naive of the condition, we didn’t put too much weight on the situation, didn’t expect it to be a more deliberate circumstance as I recovered on the night itself.
I was admitted for the weekend for further observation while queuing for the next available slot for MRI. The queue in UMMC was indeed long, as both the government and private wing are sharing the same MRI unit; the next available slot was 5 days later, on a Wednesday, which mean I will have to linger around in the hospital for another few more days. I spent my time walking in the park, touring the hospital, visiting Secret Recipe and going grocery shopping just like a normal being. Over the weekend, my wonderful buddies and colleagues came to entertain me, keeping me occupied and lifting my spirit.
The major differences between a CT and an MRI scan are that CT only requires 5 minutes, while the entire scan for an MRI lasts up to 40 minutes and CT images bone, soft tissue and blood vessels at a broader view, while MRI provides much higher soft tissues detail as compared to CT.
Being bored and missing home, I raised the question on whether I am allowed to head home as I had been away for a while. Since I had been a “good girl” throughout my stay, the neurosurgeon allowed me to discharge on Monday but required to be readmitted on Wednesday for MRI. I was on red alert all the time in the duration out of hospital; the doctor even gave me his personal contact number in hand in case of any emergency. I was reluctant to be an inpatient on Wednesday, only walked in as an outpatient for the MRI as I was sick of the environment there and didn’t really feel the necessity of any medical assistance.
On the next day, in a tense environment, with a serious upright tone, my neurosurgeon explained the details of the MRI results, which wasn’t a good sign. There was something profoundly wrong with the scan. In a normal scan, the brain registers as matching black pools for the left and right hemisphere, but on my scan, the lower right part of the brain was occluded by a milky white cloud, showing a significant mass on my right cerebellum. The existence of this tumor shifted the central alignment of the brain slightly leftwards. Most importantly, the doctor highlighted the hydrocephalus condition, an excessive accumulation of fluid in the brain, which requires immediate attention. If left unattended, the inner pressure may block oxygen from entering into the brain and may result in serious life threatening consequences, such as drowsiness, loss of consciousness and difficulty in breathing. He gave me two options; one is to conduct a biopsy, another to remove the tumor entirely, where both ways involve a craniotomy, invading into the skull to reach the brain. The major side effects of the removal of the brain tumor are unavoidable, including difficulty in balancing, writing, speech, coordination and all the other functions of the cerebellum. I would have to regain my ability for those basic skills through physiotherapy for months and months after the surgery for at least 6 months. The said surgery was to be scheduled on that week itself (the next day), which is too short a notice as we hadn’t even digest that piece of news. The sudden shocking disclosure left everyone in a state of distress yet the atmosphere was somber. No one has anything reassuring to say, we sat down lost in our own thoughts.
Being told at the age of 27, undergoing a craniotomy was indeed the most dreaded thing that has ever happened in my life.