by Peter Freyne
UPDATED at NOON*
UPDATED at 4 P.M.*
Kind of a cloudy, dreary, damp Wednesday morning in beautiful Burlington Vermont.
In D.C., Sen. Patrick Leahy's Judiciary Committee is holding a hearing on "Sunshine Week" and "open government." His 10 a.m. panel includes Brattleboro Reformer Editor Sabina Haskell and the President & CEO of the Associated Press Tom Curley. That's the same Tom Curley who had Vermont's veteran A.P. bureau chief fired for distributing a Patrick Leahy column for Sunshine Week last year.
Yours truly has a 9 a.m. appointment on Hospital Hill - our third round of R-CHOP chemotherapy to kill off the abdominal cancer we discovered in January. So far, so good. At present, six rounds, every three weeks, are planned to beat this sucker making today's dosage the halfway point (we hope).
The pic was taken Friday night out at the Fanny Allen where we went for an MRI. I spent an hour inside that tube with my brain getting one heck of a good going over.
Hope it's all there, eh?
Life's full of surprises, eh?
The chemo was cancelled. It was something in the MRI. Something in the Ol' Freyne Brain that needs closer inspection.
So, we're seeing a distinguished neurosurgeon in an hour. The words "brain biopsy" were mentioned by the oncologist.
One day at a time, gang.
Sure hope it's not the spot of my brain that comes up with all the nicknames?
So yours truly came home and had the good fortune of catching the U.S. Senate debate the need to debate the Bush-Cheney Iraq War madness.
And then we had the good fortune of watching the United States Senate vote 89-9 to allow that debate to continue. Only 60 votes were needed to let discussion of the Reid Resolution proceed. This time the Republicans were onboard. They're accepting reality.
Hey. Isn't that the former socialist mayor of Burlington, Vermont, the guy with the striped tie, standing in the middle of the pack on the senate floor?
Oh, yeah - U.S. Senator Bernard Sanders.
The times, they are a changin'.
Four O'Clock Update
Back to the Mary Fanny for a 12:30 p.m. appointment with Dr. Paul Penar, a neurosurgeon-type. That's Doc Penar at left, looking at the Freyne Brain on screen.
Had time to Google him before I left. A Wolverine, i.e graduated University of Michigan Medical School (undergrad, too). Did a five-year residency at Yale-New Haven. Also learned his “research interests include the mechanisms and modulation of malignant brain tumor invasion and mathematical modeling of the intracranial compartment. Malignant primary brain tumors have a propensity to not only grow expansively as a solid mass, but also to aggressively infiltrate into brain tissue, which allows them to circumvent surgical treatment.”
Also Googled “brain biopsy.”
Okay, so I was a little shaky going back up Hospital Hill for doctor’s appointment #2. Prepared myself mentally to hear my little inside-the-skull abnormality on the EEG and MRI didn’t look good and absolutely required a biopsy be performed on my fricken' brain!
Damn! I’d be missing an anticipated Thursday swing through the Statehouse in Montpeculiar and a gubernatorial press conference with the one and only Jim Douglas.
I considered calling Paula the Publisher and letting her know I might not have an “Inside Track” column for next week’s Seven Days. But I didn’t. Why?
Because I didn’t know what was going to happen and I'm old enough to know anything can.
Dr. Penar impressed quickly. The appointment had been scheduled fast. He hadn’t seen my whole chart. But the old surgical nursing assistant in me picked up from his line of questioning that this was no neurosurgeon in a hurry to perform surgery. Penar was focused and curious like a good detective. He was on a mission to crack the Freyne Brain Case.
Turns out the little abnormal spot, or "lesion," is the spot where the political nicknames are born and stored after all. It’s the spot in my brain, he said, “where language and verbal memory” are kept. Valuable brain real estate, so to speak,
Penar was in no rush to biopsy. Why not?
Because a brain biopsy procedure does have risks even though general anesthesia is no longer required. Such a small number of brain cells can be gathered, said Penar, that the results are not always so valuable. Plus, he said, a lymphoma cancer tumor in that particular spot was “not typical.”
The abnormality, he said, which is the likely cause of our recent first-ever seizure, ”could be something you were born with.”
Something I was born with?
Finally, that explains it! I knew it was just an Irish thing.
Paul the Doctor and Peter the Columnist also remininsced a wee bit about our Midwestern connection. His in Michigan, mine at Hennepin County General Hospital in Minneapolis, Minnesota doing alternative service as a draftee in the early 1970s. I worked in the surgery ward. Times have sure changed in Hospital Land.
Nowadays, I said, everything looks like it's high-tech and done by computer.
Indeed. Back in the 1970s when he was still in medical school in Ann Arbor, he said, "exploratory" surgery was routinely performed.
These days, said Paul the Doctor and faculty member at UVM's College of Medicine, "exploratory surgery" doesn't exist.
"We wouldn't even think of it," said Doc Penar the brain surgeon.
As for Peter the Patient, Paul the Doc is going to have the PET-Scanner experts take a closer look at their films. The search is to find as reason to justify a biopsy of the cranial word zone of a wordsmith. Otherwise "watchful waiting" will be the approach to the Freyne Brain lesion for now.
And the chemotherapy treatment that was cancelled today because of headier matters has been rescheduled for next Wednesday.
Every day a gift, eh?