Mikey’s Lobotomy?

March 28, 2014

Our first visit to Dr. Johnson, our radiation oncologist, a couple of weeks ago now was nothing more than a chance for Dr. Johnson to examine my condition and for Holly and I to ask any questions.

We had a list of standard boring brain tumor questions. But Dr. Johnson had done his homework and designed a personal examination. Well, they were really a group of assessments to test my post-craniotomy cognitive functions based on the tumors location. These included questions about any seizures I may have ever had. I’ve never had a seizure, by the way. This seemed to surprise all the doctors. So, I’m not sure how to take that.

To start my battery of tests he gave me three words and told me that I would be asked to recall them at some point. This would be a test of my linguistic working memory to find out if they messed anything up while they were in my skull. Next, he asked me what date it was. No clue! I’d been sitting in my living room watching Young Frankenstein and Seven Samurai for the past two weeks. I think this was supposed to be an event and time based memory test. So, I told him everything else about the day. Tuesday, got up at 6:30, I came to the hospital, yadda, yadda, yadda.

Then he had me follow a pencil with only my eyes without moving my head. I’m guessing this was checking my horizontal saccadic eye movements. For anyone who’s never taken a medical, psychological, or philosophy of mind (word!) class, saccades are quick movements of your eyes as they unconsciously scan the environment. They are gathering information to be used as a working mental map of your environment and your location within it. If you don’t believe me watch someones eyes some time. They never stop jumping around. They are always scanning. Your visual memory is extremely short, so the saccades send information to your working memory. Saccades are your brain’s first step in attention. (For more info on visual consciousness check out Christof Koch’s, The Quest for Consciousness: A Neurobiological Approach. It’s outstanding! Chapter 9, 12, & 13 are of particular interest to those interested in the complexity of conscious visual experience. Goodale & Milner’s Sight Unseen, Chapter 6 is also informative. I also have PDF’s of all of these. If anyone wants a copy just let me know.)

To test my focus, calculation abilities, and numerical processing, he asked me to count backwards from 100 by sevens. Sure! Ain’t no thang! “100, 97 … wait! No!, 100, 93, 88 … no, 86!” To say the least I screwed the pooch on this test. Holly said she thinks I was just rambling off numbers at that point. But come one! Sevens?! Backward?! Can anyone else around here easily count backward from 100 by 7’s? Ridiculous, I tell you!

After expressing disappointment at my disgusting performance. Dr. Johnson said, “Well, you did just have a lobotomy, Mike.”

Pre-Operative Scan (Whte part on upper right is the tumor)

Pre-Operative Scan
(Whte part on upper right is the tumor)

Holy crap sticks! A lobotomy?! That changed my whole perspective. It wasn’t until then that I realized what had happened. The doctors had always explained that the tumor was in my head pressing ON my brain. The pressure is what was giving me my symptoms. It seemed to imply a strict separation between the tumor and my brain. So, I always thought about my tumor being located between my skull and my brain. But cancer is an abnormal growth of naturally occurring (BRAIN!!) cells. So, when Dr. Litofsky, my neurosurgeon, took out that infamous baseball-sized tumor he was really just scooping out that much of my brain! They were testing to see if anything important was taken out. Brain blown. (see scans!)

Post Operative Scan (Lobotomy!)

Post Operative Missing Brains!


It’s alright though! I still remembered the three words Dr Johnson gave me all that time ago. Chair! Dog! Ball! Mistake Bwian! You left the linguistic area of my brain intact. So, now I can tell you to suck on every poisoned pill I take against you and I can curse you with every dose of radiation I subject you to. You left me able to revile you at every turn. That means you’re MY bitch, Bwian.



  1. Reblogged this on That Space There.

  2. Holy fuck! I, too, didn’t think of it as brain removal. I pictured this lovely action of doctors scooping out the sonofabitch tumor and then your brain miraculously popping back into place. Huh. Wow. This is fascinating.

    • I call that missing portion my Brainerator. It’s like a kegerator but in my brain. It’s also why I get drunk so fast these days. Three beers and my ass is loopy! Although I have stopped drinking. Daily poison pills and an irradiated cerebrum kind of jack* you up enough.

      *”Jag” for you north easterners.

      • Nice! 🙂

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