Purpose: My purpose in making these pages is to help people. My hope is that seeing how brain surgery can go in the year 2009 will ease minds and give some hope and comfort.
This is the personal experience of David Luckenbach, diagnosed with brain and lung cancer in May 2009. A sailing instructor who smoked and drank, and almost died, saved by friends and angels and given another chance. Odd fellow I am, always ready to help other people, and neglected myself.
This the chest Xray taken on 5/14/09, if you click on this picture and then expand it with the lower right box you can see it in more detail with the original 4MB image. Not as clear as a CT scan, but I get much less radiation. You can see the large tumor just below my right collarbone, which is on the left of the picture.
This is the xray taken 9/18/09. We have to wait for the radiologist report, but so far the tumor is fading.
Tuesday, May 25
At CCCST we discussed the other problem, the larger tumor in my right lung, and the options available to treat it. These two images are from the CT scan back on May 14. Not in a good place for surgery, they wanted to use chemo and/or radiation to shrink it after doing some more studies of it. Sounds ok to me. Today was mainly getting background on me and health history on me, seeing what kind of shape I'm in, and doing a few tests.
CCCST is a good place, we got a favorable impression there. Not too fancy and nice people. First we met with Dr. Sharon Wilks, my new Oncologist, had an exam and a long informative conversation. She seems to know everything, and answered our questions well.
Wednesday, May 26
No appointments until Friday to get the staples removed, but things happen. Traci scheduled me for a more accurate PET scan on June 5, and has mailed me a special diet for the scan. PET stands for Positron Emission Tomography, and the technology for this scan is incredible. Certain foods interfere with the scan, so only some are approved and some are denied. I called for the Gamma Knife appointment, but haven't heard back yet. I've noticed some numbness and tenderness of my scalp, but not near the incision. Odd but it's not annoying and seems to come and go. The steroid withdrawal symptoms were noticeably less.
Thursday, May 27
Beautiful day. I made progress on the MRI scan files and caught up with work when the co-op men came to look at our power. Arturo of PEC considered, and suggested they put in another pole away from the tree and remove all the power lines going through the tree. The main supply is above the tree anyway. What a great idea, it would also mean a little shorter ditch which would save me some money, and make the whole system safer and more dependable.
Today we start on the lung cancer with the PET scan. A fairly large tumor is in the right lung. Perhaps the primary, or source of the others. Indicated is radiation and chemotherapy, but first a PET scan today to get a better picture. The PET (Positron Emission Tomography) scan is a different technology, involving creating a short lived radioative injection prepared shortly before the scan. The positron-emitting radionuclide (tracer), which is introduced into the body on a biologically active molecule, and lots of computer analyzing, should produce a more accurate 3D scan to help the Dr's decide on the best treatment choice.
Isotopes used in the PET scan have a half life of 2 to 110 minutes, so they don't stay radioactive for long, and must be created in a cyclotron and radiochemistry laboratory to form a radiotracer soon before the scan. Not something you can store, and quite varied, the PET scan is really a limitless group of specific scans that are possible. A bit over my head for sure.
So we're off to New Braunfels, highway construction prevents access to the CCCST office in San Antonio today, but there are three other local CCCST facilities in central Texas.
After a special diet on Thursday low in carbohydrates, sugar and caffeine, and nothing after midnight, we made the drive to New Braunfels for the PET scan. First time I've seen a syringe with a titanium shield! I got a dose of Fluorine 18, with a half life of 110 minutes, although Bobby said it's really only 109.2 minutes. After the injection, I got to sit quietly for an hour or so for the Fluorine to go where it was needed, laid back in a reclining chair. They said to sit still so the Fluorine 18 wouldn't go to my muscles, I took a nap. I forgot to get a disk copy afterwards, but it was lunch time for all.
This was a portable PET scan parked behind the CCCST building, but it did have a slide out! After my nap, I got on the PET scan table. Unlike an MRI, it was quiet, and I didn't have to remove all my metal because the machine recognized it and allowed for it. I took it out anyway. Unlike a normal scan, I lay in the same place for 5 minutes or more before the table would move and repeat. It took about 50 minutes to do the scan, so I had another good nap.
Bobby and Glen did a great job, and I forgot I was hungry and slept after my head was out. I was to hold my head steady while it was in the machine, so my nap had to wait. Afterwards we went to Rudy's BBQ down on the corner for a piece of sausage. We went by Lloyd's rehab center, but he was at a Dr's appointment. We headed home, and stopped at Hill Country Cupboard in Johnson City for a meal, they did say they had breakfast all day, and I hadn't had breakfast. Big mistake, one of the worst breakfasts I've had, I won't go there again. Very tasteless sausage, only white bread and no butter.
Dr. Wilks office called during the scan to reschedule my appointment to June 11.
After arriving home, Evaristo came by with his trencher and dug the ditch for the electric line. Progress. The next day Forrest came over and we redid the sewer pump electric power line that Evaristo had ripped out with the trencher, and put in the conduit for the buried power.
Dr. Wilks office called and changed my appointment, June 9 to June 11 after the Gamma Knife, hopefully I'll find out the results of the PET scan, what they found, and what kind of treatment they think will work best in my lungs. She said it will probably be radiation and chemo over several weeks.
Another effect of steroids showed up in the mailbox today. It made me very talkative in the hospital, over $300 extra on my cell phone bill, ouch. With the traveling to the doctors and all other things not covered by insurance, looks like we'll be out of money soon. Wish I could work, but now it looks like late July or August before I can start classes again.
After the Gamma Knife treatment, we had a 12:20 appointment with Dr. Wilks. We showed her the PET scan, and all agreed I could do the treatment in Marble Falls. This will cut over 3 hours from the trip for treatment. I have an appointment tomorrow with Dr. Preston.