Monday, July 1, 2013

Brain Surgery: The Complete Overview

Hello there!

I am finally sitting down and getting a chance to update you on the goings on of today.  It was, as you might imagine with brain surgery, a very busy day for all here.  However, things have quieted down and Kurtis is resting comfortably and I have a cup of chai, so all is right with the world.

This morning, we were expecting to have a super early morning wake up where Kurtis would be whisked away at around 6:30 for an MRI and then begin surgery at around 9.  Once the clock had made it's way to 7:15 or so, we found out that the surgery had been moved forward to 11:30.  Thankfully, it didn't get pushed again.  The Rockies posted a special get well for Kurtis on their instagram: which was very cool :)  Things like this, along with the lantern letters from all of you make such a great impact.

I was really pleased to get to travel with Kurtis to his MRI.  Once we were down there, the neuro surgeon shaved a bunch of small spots on his head so that he could stick these small sage green donut things to his head.  He should probably not be a hairdresser (unless it is for some star who has gone off the deep end or something...).  I learned that the small donut things help to make a 3D MRI picture that the surgeon would use for the surgery.  Kurtis wore them in the MRI today - along with the special helmet packed with pads so he couldn't move.  The MRI turned out great and we were then herded to pre-op.

Pre-op is not my favorite place, I won't lie.  From my eyes it's the beginning of surgery, so I start to get really nervous and feel a slight sense of panic in my belly.  I have to fight it back down with my brain, using the mantra "I am good at my job. Surgeons are good at their job." which usually works well enough to remain calm.  There are multiple nurses plus the anesthesiologist roaming and flitting around and I usually find the best way to get into their way.  Skillzzzz, right? Right.  Anyway, they were all very kind and after Kurtis repeated his name and date of birth about a hundred times, we said goodbye and he was rolled away to surgery.

We went to the waiting room.
It was supposed to be an uneventful few hours in which I told myself I would get work done for school, and I did.  For about the first twenty minutes at which point, I (along with everyone else in the hospital) was met with the blares and flashes of the fire alarm.  I sat in shock not sure if I should pack up and get out or...?

The volunteers came over and let us know that the issue was on floor five (we were on two) and that we were okay.  The sound continued for several minutes and the blinding flashing light for another several minutes.  All in all, a really enjoyable seven minutes of my life.  Seriously, who doesn't want their husband to be having brain surgery during a fire alarm? Kurtis' parents, sister, my mom, my dad anxiously awaiting by text, my grandparents, and I had a lovely time passing the hours.  Reading, writing, watching TV, playing games, and...waiting.  Waiting is the hardest part of this whole 'activity'.

After a few updates and several hours of waiting, Kurtis was taken out of surgery and up to the ICU.  We met with the surgeon who said he did great and told us that the pathologist thinks, at first look, that the tumors are indeed consistent with germ-cell which means that it is what they thought it was, his testicular cancer.  For those of you who are "new" cancer or haven't really experienced it much first hand, one of the first things that we learned was that just because cancer is somewhere (the brain in this case) does not mean that that is the type of cancer - i.e., Kurtis doesn't have "brain" cancer, but rather testicular cancer that is IN his brain.  A little bit confusing, but important.  Different kinds of cancers are treated with different types of chemo, radiation, etc.

At first glance, seeing Kurtis after surgery was a little bit scary.  His head is currently wrapped up in a big bandage and when I first came into the room, he had on a big oxygen mask...add a bunch of IV type tubing, hospital socks, the fashion forward hospital gown, and lots of blankets, it was a little surreal. However, he looks great once you can get past that first glance.  In pre-op, they told us that Kurtis may have some swelling on his face from laying face down for several hours, but he looks great.  His eyes are open (when he opens them...) and he is talking, moving a little bit, and drinking water.  Currently, he's still a little drugged up, so he's actually quite the stand up comic.  Here are a few gems from tonight:

K: "How much ice is left?"
L: "About half of the cup."
K: "Good.  I'm going to eat it all before they come take it away"

L: " Wow, you are really chomping on that ice"
K: "I have no brain left to freeze"

Glad to have him back! :)  Right now he's chowing down on ice and water...not moving a whole lot...but doing great.  The machines are whirring and beeping in their slightly out-of-tune song that I've learned to love as the "getting better noise".

Tomorrow, Kurtis will have another MRI and we may be in the ICU or in another room back on the neuro floor depending on how well he is doing.  Once he's up to seeing visitors again, I will let you know.  We'd love to see anyone if you'd like to see us!

Being in the ICU is not my favorite place as there are a lot of sick and injured people here - please throw up some good vibes, love, prayers, or whatever your cup of tea is to those folks around us who are in bad shape.  They need some love too.

I think that's all for tonight.  Big day.  Step one in cancer 2.0.  I still can't express how much the outpouring of love means to us.  Thank you, thank you, thank you for checking on us and keeping us in your hearts.  Cancer is a fickle, nasty, little beast who is about to learn that it's time to take his toys and go home.

All our love,
Liz, Kurtis, and (of course) Chauncey

Email notes to:


  1. Congrats on the successful step 1!!! We are praying for you Kurtis!!! Hang in there!!!! Instagram message by Rockies was awesome!!!!!Let us know if you need anything Liz. Keep up your great attitudes!!!!!!!
    The Ruybal Family

  2. Wow, Liz. What a great update. So glad to hear step one went well. We are thinking of you both and will be following along as you post new updates. We didn't know all Kurtis had been through until we started reading your previous posts. Lots of good thoughts heading your way.
    Leah and Dave Niedringhaus

  3. Thank you, Liz, for the complete update. So happy to hear things are going well. AND, Liz, I really think you should consider writing a book! You have the knowledge and experiences to make it very interesting!
    Sending hugs, love and prayers.
    Uncle Larry & Aunt Dolly

  4. Hey Liz and Kurtis
    You are all in our prayers! I will be adding Kurtis to our prayer chain at church. Glad everything went well! Im glad Kurtis still has his sense of humor. If you need anything let me know.I would be happy to help in anyway!

    Brandi Haynes- Lippert

  5. Kurtis--BA level 10 (maximum amount)
    Liz ----BA level 9.999999999999 (only because he's the one on the table)

    You're both taking up a lot of our brains just now. Hang in there.
    Also let us know when to bring want some Indian first or something more comfort-foody like lasagna? We'll be happy to take your take out order soon!

    Much love, Randy & Brenda