The word that sums up these past several days perfectly.  This is the third time that we have traveled this road.  This will be the fourth surgery, but only the third here at UCLA. We arrived here late Monday night.  I had pre-op appointments on Tuseday which cleared me to have surgery tomorrow.  This includes bloodwork, chest x-rays, EKG, blahblahblah.  I’m healthy.  Well, from the neck down, anyways.

Our experiences here, really, are so rich whenever we come.  I am blessed with the most amazing soul in my neurosurgeon and she brings so much warmth and comfort whenever we meet with her.  Yesterday I had the crazy longest MRI of my entire life.  The tech was getting ready to take me back and Marvin was going to wait.  He told Marvin that it should only take me about an hour and a half to finish.  What??!!  An hour and a half??  I can’t move for that long?  I can’t scratch anything that is inevitably going to start itching because I know I can’t scratch it for an hour and a half?

The test was significantly longer than usual because it produced several images that were crucial for mapping out how the tumor would be able to be accessed when she does the surgery tomorrow.  We went over that with her today when we met with her.  One of the pictures gave us a clear view of how the tumor has intertwined with structures of my brain.  The first thing, and extremely crucial and a HUGE answer to prayer is that the tumor has remained stable in the four weeks since the last scan I had done when I was down here.  Some of you may be thinking four weeks?  That is hardly a significant period of time to allow anything to grow.  Not so in the world of brain tumors.  When these tumors become a grade 4, they are capable of doubling in size overnight.  I am not exaggerating.  Overnight.  The fact that it has remained stable definitely favors a less aggressive tumor than a grade 4, in which we are so incredibly thankful!  We won’t know for sure what the grade is until she takes the tumor out tomorrow and we get some pathology, but at this point, we’ll remain optimistic that it is a lower grade.

The bummer part of this tumor is where it lies and what it is wrapped around.  Because it has been a low grade tumor for so long and because these tumors don’t grow as round balls like most cancers do, they grow tentacles and this one has had time to wrap it’s tentacles around brain structures and nerve fibers.  Unfortunately it has wrapped itself around my optic nerve fibers.  I have already had some peripheral visual loss in the left eye in the upper quadrant.  With the removal of the tumor that has wrapped itself around those nerves, I will almost certainly lose the rest of my peripheral vision in my lower quadrant.  This means that I will have no peripheral vision at all in my left eye.  It is definitely a noticeable deficit, as it is, already, but it’s not anything that I can’t get used to.  My body will eventually learn to compensate for it by learning to turn my head more, etc. to see what I would normally see without having to do that.  She does recommend not driving for several months, which pretty much sucks.  No other way to put that.  I’m used to getting my driving privileges removed, but not for several months at a time.

The other bummer is the amount of tumor that can’t be removed.  The original part of the tumor that was left behind from the surgery 3 years ago because it was too close to the brainstem will still remain, as well as some tumor that is too close to the motor strip.  They will have some needles connected all along the left side of my body to monitor twitching movement while she is operating around this area.  If she gets too close to a motor area, the left side (because the tumor is one the right) will start to twitch, so she will know that she’s too close and needs to leave that tissue alone.

I have to say, though, with the what-if’s that we were facing coming into this appointment today, that I’m so thankful and feel like God has really answered so many of our prayers!  I’m so excited for surgery tomorrow.  I have so much peace about it.  God has proven faithful continuously, of course, and I eagerly wait to see how He’s going to continue to use my circumstances for His glory.  It’s hard, yes.  I struggle to hold it together, especially lately, yes.  But in the end, God reminds me that He’s still in control and I can’t help but be thankful for this journey and the things I am learning and the blessings that I have received because of it.  We are so grateful to so many of you that  are praying us through this.  You have know idea what you mean to us.  I wish I could hug each of you personally and tell you how much you mean to me, how much I appreciate you.  I pray that God blesses you for it!

It is late.  I have some stuff going on tomorrow, so I’m signing off, but just wanted to update you all.  Thank you so much for loving us.  We love you.  I’ll be back so soon to tell you how great I’m doing and what the next step is.  Until then…