While its obvious that brain tumours aren't cool, there are many parts to a brain tumor and the subsequent removal that people don't understand.

The first and worst part is the hospital stay. This is the only part I'll bother complaining about.

When you wake up, they might have a breathing tube down your throat because they aren't sure that you can breath on your own. Its a very scary feeling when you don't get to control your breathing and you can't tell anyone to take the breathing tube out.

In my case, because my tumor was in the back of my head, they had to split my back neck muscles to get to the skull. Because of this, these muscles decided they didn't want to work.

Since you've just had brain surgery, you've probably be under anesthesia for 8 hours or more, your body has decided to shut down. When you wake up, your body doesn't want food coming in or going out. Another nice side effect of all those chemicals in your body is that when you try to go to sleep, your whole body goes numb, which thereby makes it impossible; you have to fall alseep due to sheer exhaustion.

IVs and needles are also a big part of being in the hospital. IVs suck because they are constantly in your arm/hand/etc so every time you move that part of the body you feel the IV in your blood vein. The IVs are also notable that when they give you medicine that is on drip, and the medicine has been stored cold, your entire body temperature will drop as it is administered. Its really not a pleasent feeling at 11pm. Then you have needles; used for drawing blood or giving smaller doses of medicine. They have to give you this anti-coagulent every day, but the bad thing is they give it to you in your stomach, and due to the nature of it, it causes what appear to be bruises.

Another interesting thing about my prediciment was that I had to have a tap to relieve the ICP ( Inter Cranial Pressure ) that built up due to cranial fluid not being absorbed like it should ( another fun consequnce of those drugs..). Because of this tap, I was constantly afriad of pulling it out of my head, and thereby killing myself.

Walking is another thing you take for granted: after such a short amount of time, your body seemly forgets how to do it. You feel like a toddler must, except it is a lot farther to the floor. Couple all this with being couped in a place that is no larger than your average bedroom for 2 weeks, with no computer and a TV that only gets ABC,CBS,NBC, Weather Channel, CNN and Cartoon Network. After reading this, a fraction of an idea of why brain tumors suck, may truly be possible.

Well, at least the food didn't suck.

Recently, I discovered that my uncle had lung cancer which spread to his brain and he developed a brain tumor.  He was given six months to live and died within two months.  That is my inspiration for this write-up.  This is some of the information I found while doing research to educate myself on his disease.

Brain, as well as Spinal Cord tumors are abnormal tissue growths that are found inside the skull or spinal column. Tumor is a word that is used to describe abnormal growths which are new; these are called neoplasms. It also describes those that are present at birth; which are congenital tumors.

Where in the body they are located does not matter, there are two ways which they can be classified. Most are benign. This means that the cells that the growth is made up of are similar to other normal cells, are confined to one location, and grow relatively slowly. The other type is called malignant or cancerous. In this type the cells are very different from normal cells. They spread easily to other locations of the body and grow relatively quickly.

Benign tumors are not particularly harmful in most parts of the body. In the brain and spinal cord this is not necessarily the case. The brain and spinal cord are the primary components of the central nervous system. The reason that even benign tumors can be harmful in these sections of the body is due to the fact that the central nervous system is housed within bony areas which are rigid. (Those being the skull and spinal column.) Any abnormal growth can place pressure on tissues that are sensitive and that can cause a function impairment. In addition, a tumor that is located near vital brain structures or sensitive nerves of the spinal cord can seriously threaten health. A benign tumor does not have to grow very large before it can impair or even block blood flow if where it is growing is next to an important blood vessel in the brain. If a benign tumor is found deep within the brain, surgery to remove it may be very risky to perform because of the chances of damaging vital brain centers. A tumor located near the surface of the brain, however, can usually be removed surgically.

Their potential to spread is one important difference between malignant tumors that occur in the central nervous system and those that occur elsewhere in the body. Although malignant cells elsewhere in the body can easily cause tumors inside the brain and spinal cord, it is rare that malignant central nervous system tumors spread out to other body parts. Laboratory and clinical researchers are working on understanding these and other unusual characteristics of central nervous system tumors. They think that the unique properties might suggest new strategies to prevent and treat them.

Causes of Central Nervous System Tumors

Primary tumors are the tumors that are newly formed within the brain or spinal cord. Rarely, primary central nervous system tumors grow from nerve cells that perform the nervous system’s important functions. The reason is that once the neurons are mature they stop dividing and multiplying. Most tumors are instead caused by growth cells that are out of control and support and surround neurons. The names of primary central nervous system tumors come from the types of cells that they contain, their location, or a combination of both. A couple examples are gliomas and meningiomas.

A few people may have primary tumors that result from specific genetic diseases such as tubular sclerosis and neurofibromatosis, or by radiation or chemical exposure that might cause cancer. Smoking, alcohol, and certain dietary habits, though associated with some types of cancers, have not been linked to primary brain and spinal cord tumors.

Hope of learning why and how cancer begins is one reason that research scientists are looking for clues to this process. Developing new tools to stop it is another reason. Visurses and defective genes are two of the many possible causes that are being investigated. Interest has been increasing in learning about the possible role played by environmental factors, such as chemicals and new technology.

Cancerous cells that shed from tumors in other regions of the body, travel through the bloodstream, burrow through the blood vessel walls, latch onto tissue, and create new tumors inside the brain or spinal cord are what become metastatic tumors.

Twenty-five percent of people with cancer that has spread within the body develop metastasis within the central nervous system. Lung and breast cancer are the two top culprits that lead to these central nervous system tumors. Other less frequent causes include melanoma, prostate cancer, lymphoma, and kidney cancer. Brain and spinal tumors are not contagious but at this time they are not preventable.

Symptoms of Brain Tumors

Symptoms of Spinal Cord Tumors


Source: Margolis, Dr. Simeon. The Johns Hopkins Medical Handbook. : Rebus, Inc., 2000.

God, this one has been hard to write. Go gently on me with this one, people.

I've known three people with brain tumors (or tumours, as we spell it in Britain). One was my parents' neighbour, mother of a girl I went to school with. She died. The second was my favourite uncle, a man I cared for very much. He also died.

And then there was me.

In 1981 I was in my first year of secondary school, just approaching my 13th birthday, when I had a mild headache during the morning, and thought I'd "bunk off", "skive" or "dog it" from school that afternoon. As the week went by, the headache stayed and I started vomiting, until I was sent to a Glasgow hospital for an EEG (electroencephalogram, a brain scan).

I was then sent to the Southern General hospital in Glasgow for neurosurgery (brain surgery). I woke from surgery with my head shaved and a plastic tube draining fluid from my head to my stomach area. This tube has periodically given me sharp pains which may last as long as a day or two: it still causes these pains now, 27 years later. And they kept poking me with needles until my arms bruised.

Then we moved on to radiotherapy - my hair had no time to grow back - the radiation made it fall out again. And the treatment that was designed to cure my vomiting now made me spew up even more. I tried to stay cheerful throughout, telling corny jokes and scoffing on the chocolates and fruit sent by well-wishers. Mum drove me every day to the radiotherapy, and we got to know the staff quite well.

You know how radiotherapy works, right? They focus three weak beams of radiation which won't damage tissue on a focal point, the tumour, so the three beams converge on one point, and kill the tumour. I had to wear a plastic helmet to make sure the beams focussed right.

So anyway, they kept giving me these eye tests, right? At first I got perfect scores, then I started getting double vision and one eye became stronger than the other. It turned out the tumour was near the optic nerve, and the damage they did to the tumour was also damaging my eye. Thankfully it didn't get any worse - I wear spectacles now, and one eye is still lazy.

After several weeks of therapy and disrupted sleep patterns, I was eventually given a clear diagnosis.

Anyway, it all ended happily. After several weeks of therapy and disrupted sleep patterns, I was eventually given a clear diagnosis. The stomach pains still continue, but as one doctor put to me recently, "At least you're alive, right?" I'm a survivor.

So that's my story - thanks for listening.

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