Esther describes her brain surgery (craniotomy) and recovery

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The lesion in my cerebellum was treated via X-Knife a year and a half ago.  It initially was greatly reduced in size, but within about six months it started to increase in size.  Initially it was thought that it was radiation necrosis or scar tissue, but by the one year mark, the lesion was bigger than it was originally before it was treated via X-Knife.  The neurosurgeon at Cedars-Sinai said that increased growth could cause damage to the brain, the lesion had grown to 5mm by 12 mm.  I consulted with Dr. Mark Pegram at UCLA, and after reviewing the MRI results, he recommended that I have the surgery.  That finalized my decision for me.

The surgery to remove the lesion itself was not as traumatic as I expected. I put in my contacts and was watching TV the first night in ICU.  The recovery after the fact was difficult, however.  For someone active and used to athletic activities, it was a long road to recapture my balance.  Six weeks of 3 times a week physical therapy, and continued at-home exercises after that.  I did concentrated exercises to regain the strength in my forearms and hands, in order to be able to water-ski again.  My hands and forearms were so weak initially that the water-ski rope was just ripped out of my hands when the boat would take off to pull me up on the ski.

This year has been very difficult for me.  In March, I had Gamma-Knife for a new 4mm lesion found in my frontal lobe.  Two days later, I underwent brain surgery to remove the previously treated lesion on my cerebellum.  Two weeks after surgery, I was informed they had re-examined my pre-surgery MRI, and had spotted a 1mm lesion on my brain stem.  The brain stem is not operable, so if the radiation did not work, I didn't have too many options.  After watching the failure of X-knife on my original lesion, this was a frightening prospect.

A series of 5 fractionated rads (total radiation dose divided into five treatment sessions) was the treatment I chose for the brain stem lesion. This was thought to have the most chance of success and spare the healthy tissue around it.

Surgery recovery has been much more prolonged and difficult.  Regaining full balance in order to be able to be able to participate in my usual activities has been on-going and difficult.  It continues on now five months post surgery, and I am still not back to my usual balance.  My water-skiing skills have taken a huge step backwards. I am still apprehensive about how my balance will be once snow ski season starts.

The hardest part of dealing with surgery has been the thought that it might impact my activities for a long time to come.  I have some fatigue, but mainly residual balance issues from the surgery.  I have some hair issues, due to the trimming done before brain surgery, but that was temporary, and my hair immediately began growing again.

After my surgery, I made it my goal to be able to wear cute high-heeled sandals again.  It felt so good to get to that point two months after surgery, on Mother's Day.

The MRI in June, 2007 showed no lesion in my brain. Treatment for these three lesions appears to have been effective.