Thursday, November 17, 2011

Contraptions and Technology

We are in New York City, having just had my Gamma Knife procedure.

I spent over a month anticipating the procedure, being anxious about some new activity from my tumor. I knew it was going to grow, but not that fast, I should have outlasted its growth. Now, three years post brain surgery we decided on the Gamma Knife treatment.

This is an amazing procedure, slightly misnamed by calling it a knife. It seems the inventor was a surgeon and wanted the reference of a knife. It is non-invasive surgery, though. Two hundred plus, non-lethal, gamma rays come into your head from different directions and focus carefully on the tumor, with all their power, to zap it and delay any re-growth. This is really super futuristic stuff! Something is affected, even removed from your skull without any seemingly outside intervention, science-fiction stuff, remember the Hulk…that was Gamma rays.

Before all this high-tech stuff, it is necessary to have an MRI so they can see the exact position of the tumor. Now the weird stuff starts, they have to put a contraption on your head so you can keep the same position during the MRI and later when they radiate your tumor. Accuracy is very important. The last thing you want to do is miss.

You are in the midst of one of the highest tech kind of medical procedures in the world; really 22nd century stuff…suddenly your neurosurgeon and an assistant approach you with something that looks like a Civil War relic. A metal cage type thing, that seems to have been made by an amateur blacksmith, which is supposed to be screwed on to your head.

I am given a sedative and some Novocain as well as my favorite, a medical lollypop, and then my neurosurgeon starts acting like a mechanic and screws this cage on to my head…yes I did say screws it on, into my skull. It seems to me that something a little less primitive could be developed to hold my head steady so that the Gamma rays hit the tumor accurately.

During the procedure I had a 4-hour wait with this contraption on my head, between MRI, calculation of the rays and then the actual Gamma knife procedure. I was part of three patients that were scheduled for the procedure. I was to go last since my tumor was near my left optic nerve and they required a little more time to prepare. Needless to say I got bored and made a paper mustache to wear on my rig. It seemed to have made a difference to some of the somberness that existed in the ward. Paper mustaches will do it every time.

This was an incredible experience. I am sure they got it. We will have confirmation in about 3 months when I have an MRI to check on the condition of the tumor, but I feel very optimistic. Let’s face it, if it still is there, we come back and do it again…by then the “contraption” will be redesigned and be comfortable as well as light and not have to be screwed on. And maybe it will come with a mustache!


  1. Greg, ( or should I call you Hannibal)

    I don't know what's funnier. The blog or the photos. All I can say is to never change your outlook on life. Most people would be grim and apprehensive. You turned it into a game and a comic routine. You must have had the surgeon in stitches. (Pun intended) I am glad all went well and your head is still there.


  2. glad it went well! they should add a pair of funny glasses to the mustache.. you know.. to keep it interesting.. i hope to get to see you and your lovely other half before you leave!
    be well

  3. You are amazing--blogging and joking and having brain surgery all at the same time. Thank God you came to NYC for this futuristic procedure and did not try to deal with it in Greece. Cederainou. (That's me trying to write the Greek wish which means--may you be as strong as iron.")

  4. Well done Greg! It's so good to see you back online. The gamma knife is an amazing wonders why it's not used on 'no hope' brain cancer patients! Hope you are recovering well and soon be back in your sunny spot in Greece. Best love from us all and Costoula, Jennyxx

  5. When we spoke on the phone little did I know of your problem and the real purpose of your going to NYC! I am so happy for you that all went well and I feel really blessed to have a friend like you and dearest Jeannine. While you were facing the Gamma Knife Treatment you had the time to call and give me advice and support!!!!!!!!! I will never forget THAT and I can never thank you enough for it! Stefano is back home and doing amazingly well after a 25-day stay in hospital and a 6-hour long lung operation! Taking a very positive attitude towards all this and the chemo ahead! I cannot wait to see you back and well! And by the way the contraption looks sooooooooooo good on you!! especially after your inevitable peronalization of it! I couln't agree more with your friend Frank! Boy am I happy that your head is still in place, Hannibal! Lots of love and heartfelt wishes. Katerina xxx

  6. Wow Greg! Hope you've managed to get the little monster and that you will soon be right and back in Greece! Looks amazing...heard from other people who have had the gamma knife in Greece (quite successfully) that it is an amazing procedure - glad you've put pictures and a smile on the whole thing!Siderenios! :)

  7. There are no words to explain how much I admire you! You are a hero! PLease, DO NOT EVER change! ;-)

  8. Well December we were back and in the swing of things again after several quiet weeks softly recovering from jet lag plus the mild effects of the procedure(for Greg that just meant naps were a bit longer in the afternoons)....
    we had a wonderful Christmas, partying with friends and cooking up a storm...December was a very happy month for us both and for all our family and of course January 14th will be even more special as we will celebrate our 50th Wedding Anniversary. I will raise my champagne glass high and toast my very,very special guy. WOW! To you dear brave heart!