Freeze column: All good news from the doctors so far

  • Posted: Sunday, October 20, 2013 8:59 p.m.
    UPDATED: Sunday, October 20, 2013 9:02 p.m.

It has been an eventful past two weeks for me, much of it spent hoping that my blood clots would continue to shrink in size and facilitate a quick removal of my brain tumor.

Dr. Asher, a neurosurgeon at Carolina Oncology Associates at Carolina Medical Center in Charlotte, had told my daughter and me that he was more worried about the clots than he was the brain tumor. He didn’t elaborate very much on that when we met with him Oct. 9, but he did say that the clots and the blood thinner used to treat them would be dangerous if there was surgery any time soon.

Asher asked if I had any symptoms from the tumor and described mobility and balance as possibilities. I told him that I had no issues as far as I could tell. He did a few neurological tests that included touching my fingers to my nose and following his finger as he moved it around in different patterns. He asked how long I had been a vegetarian and a little bit about my cross-country ride.

I spoke up and said that I was ready to get the tumor out, but Asher said that we had time to plan this right while the blood thinner medicine did its work. He said that my tumor was rare and that he wanted some of his fellow neurosurgeons, neuroradiologists and internal medicine doctors to weigh in on the proper plan. He soon left us with his assistant who promised to be in touch by the middle of this past week.

It has been just three weeks since discovery of the blood clots on Monday, Sept. 30, and only two weeks since the numbing discovery of the brain tumor on the Sunday, Oct. 6. Extensive blood work had been sent off from Dr. Brinkley’s office on Tuesday, Sept. 8. The results of these tests would help dictate the plan to remove the brain tumor, but also much more. They had to make sure that I didn’t have any unusual properties in my blood that had helped cause the blood clots.

It was also important that there were no signs of any mechanisms that might be setting up to battle cancer from a malignant tumor.

During this time, specifically since Friday, Oct. 4, I had been cleared to run but only if I didn’t push the pace very hard. Amazingly, after just four days of the blood thinner Xeralto, my breathing had improved dramatically. The labored breathing had come from the acute clot in my leg and others already in my lungs. When the blood can’t flow normally, breathing becomes labored.

On that first 3.1 mile run, I didn’t struggle to breathe and felt fairly good. Over the next few days, I increased the distance and kept improving without any issues.

Brinkley’s staff got the blood work results and all were normal. No diseases or unusual properties, meaning that the blood clots were formed by the dehydration and elevation of my bicycle ride. Nothing yet signified that the brain tumor was malignant. Doctors counted this as great news.

Next we settled in to wait on the report from Dr. Asher and his group in Charlotte. Novant’s radiologist, Dr. Ralston, told me that there was a good possibility that they might want to wait and see what the tumor does, especially since it was going to be dangerous to operate while the clot in my leg and the blood thinner remained in my system.

Sure enough, the chief radiologist at CMC in Charlotte suggested that the best course of action was to wait and see what the tumor does. In fact, he suggested that in his opinion the tumor was possibly a “flow artifact,” something that looks like a tumor but is not.

The only way to know for sure, especially with the normal blood test results, was to wait and see how the tumor or flow artifact would appear in six months. I was told to call them if I developed any symptoms.

You can imagine what I think of just waiting while something like this is in my head, so I talked to the Salisbury doctors and we have decided to get a second opinion. I will be visiting Dr. Craft, a neurologist who is a specialist in imaging, in Winston-Salem very soon who very likely will require another MRI for comparison to the first one.

Bottom line, it is “so far, so good.” One of my running clients said it best, “So, where is the bad news?” At this point, there isn’t any. It certainly has been wonderful to have received so many cards, calls and prayers. Once again, the folks of Rowan County and surrounding areas have provided great support for another journey. I promise to keep you posted.

David Freeze lives in China Grove.

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