Different Slants

Seeing the World from a New Angle

Hey! It’s Not Brain Surgery! Yes…it is (part 3)…by Robert M. Katzman

Filed under: Brain Surgery Rebellion,Philosophy,Social Policy and Justice — Bob at 11:09 pm on Saturday, April 17, 2010

Part Three

Ten weeks later, in March 2004, I was called by Dr. Francois’ nurse, Jackie, whom I knew pretty well at that point, and she asked me if I would please come down to see the doctor.  She said he wanted to talk to me.  That’s all she said, and I said sure, and made an appointment for that same week.  I wasn’t troubled by her call.

I’d already had a swift series of MRI’s of my brain following the surgery, there were no complications, I was working every day and everything seemed fine.  I’d since learned that meningioma tumors were somewhat common and so was the surgery that I’d just had.

I spoke to Jackie periodically and also in my office visits to see Dr. Francois. This was just one more office visit, as far as I was concerned.

When I rode up the elevator to his office, I checked in with the secretary at the desk and waited.  I thought about the strange twists and turns life can present to you, like in this situation, the hospital had hired me to read some of my stories to a group of brain surgery survivors to show them how successful it could be…for some people.  I could certainly use the money, but after doing that, I declined any further offers to do it again.  What I saw in that room made me see all the possibilities of how it might have turned out for me, and it was chilling.

A short time later, the secretary called my name and I was directed to go to a different room than usual when I came there.   More of an office than an examining room.  In it were Dr. Francois and another man introduced to me as his associate.  We shook hands and I sat down on a padded stool facing the doctor, with his associate to my left, standing in front of a window.

The atmosphere in the room seemed extremely sober, not at all like it usually was.

I waited.

Dr. Francois seemed to be picking his words. Then he said, slowly, that his medical team had been carefully examining all of the detailed brain scans following my January surgery.

I nodded.

Then he said,

“We missed one.”

 I was stone.

One hundred years went by, it seemed, and I forced myself to ask him,

“Is it cancer?”

 And another century passed as I closed watched the handsome face of Dr. Francois, waiting in agony for his response.

“No,” he answered me, in a low neutral voice.

He was watching me.  They both were.  Perhaps the other man was there to catch me if I fainted. Maybe that was something that happened in a setting like this when bad news was delivered.

I was frozen in my terror.


But, resolute, I asked of him, seeking respite somehow, like I was pleading with Death,

“Doctor, will I…will I get…old?”

 He stared at me intently, perhaps not expecting such a desperate question.

Long seconds passed.  I thought I saw tears forming in his eyes.

Then he said,


 If that was true, thank God.

If it was a lie, well, I needed one.

But, when does “old” start, exactly?

After a bit, when it was clear that I was steady and not going to scream or cry or panic, we got down to business.  But there was screaming going on inside of me.  Always inside of me.

Dr. Francois told me that the tumor was located too deep inside of my brain and was inoperable surgically.   But there was recent advance in surgical technique, developed in Sweden, called Gamma-Knife surgery where invisible gamma rays were intensely focused—like a sort of laser “knife”—on the tumor’s blood supply and the rays incinerated the veins leading to it, starving the tumor of the blood it needed to continue to grow.  That was the only option open to me, in this case.

The time to do the surgery, he said, was now.  Right now.

Was I ready, he asked me?

Would I do it?

This time it was different for me.

There were no other priorities.  I had done all that already and my will was still there, if needed.

I agreed to come in the next week.  Dr. Francois exhaled deeply, and looked relieved.  I don’t think he wanted to lose me.

He handed me some literature to read describing the high tech procedure, which involved no cutting, no blood.  I would be awake, he told me, during all of it.  But it wasn’t really a choice.  He made it clear.  I must do it.

The succeeding days passed for me like blocks of cement, until the time came and I returned to the hospital again, with Joyce, very early in the morning.

I had mused to myself in the intervening time between my meeting with Dr. Francois and his associate as I re-entered the hospital, about exactly how a person would be able to remain still during the surgery.  There had to be some established technique to keep a person securely in one place for such delicate work to be performed.  So, what was it, in my case?  I never managed to figure that out, and no one went out of their way to volunteer such information to me, either.  I thought about that, too, sometimes.

Then a nurse came out from somewhere and precisely measured my head.  She wrote all kinds of numbers down as she kept measuring me in many different ways and from all sorts of angles.  I was so sleepy, none of her efforts caused me any pain and my question remained unanswered.

Then another person appeared in response to my nurse’s call.  He was holding a rectangular sort of Plexiglas box, open at the top and bottom, with many, many holes drilled into it.  I was to be fitted with it, like sizing a hat for a man.  The plastic box was exactly my size, and the nurse and the man looked very pleased.

But how do they keep that box stationary during surgery, I thought to myself, if I am to wear this plastic crown?  I asked the nurse that question, but she was busily measuring this and that and she didn’t answer me.

Joy was sitting near me, crocheting something and drinking coffee.  It was pretty quiet while all this was going on.

After about an hour, my nurse conferred with the other person and both of them agreed that they had all the measurements that were required prior to my second surgery.  Time for that many-holed box to be put in place—more securely—on my head, just above my nose.  I could see through the Plexiglas wall, sort of.  Then I asked the nurse, again, how they attached the box to my head to keep it in place?

“Do you use double-sided tape of some sort?  Or, some kind of special glue?  There has to be a good way to do this, so will you please tell me, now?”

 There was indeed a very good way to keep that plastic box in place.

Part Four, next week.


Publishing News! 

Bob Katzman’s two new true Chicago books are now for sale, from him!
Vol. One: A Savage Heart  and Vol. Two: Fighting Words

Gritty, violent, friendship, classic American entrepreneurship love, death, heartbreak and the real dirt about surviving in a completely corrupt major city under the Chicago Machine. More history and about one man’s life than a person may imagine.

Please visit my new website: https://www.dontgoquietlypress.com
If a person doesn’t want to use PayPaI, I also have a PO Box & I ship anywhere in America.

Send me a money order with your return and contact info.
I will get your books to you within ten days.
Here’s complete information on how to buy my books:

Vol 1: A Savage Heart and Vol. 2: Fighting Words
My books weigh almost 2 pounds each, with about 525 pages each and there are a total together of 79 stories and story/poems.

Robert M. Katzman
Don’t Go Quietly Press
PO Box 44287
Racine, Wis. 53404-9998                                                                                                                    (262)752-3333, 8AM–7PM

Books cost $24.95 each, plus shipping

For: (1)$3.95; (2)$5.95; (3)$7.95; (4)$8.95 (5)$9.95;(6) $10.95

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I am also for hire if anyone wants me to read my work and answer questions in the Chicago/Milwaukee area. Schools should call me for quantity discounts for 30 or more books. Also: businesses, bookstores, private organizations or churches and so on.

My Fighting Words Publishing Co. four original books, published between 2004 and 2007 are now out-of-print. I still have some left and will periodically offer them for sale on my new website.

 Twitter handle:bob_katzman


Comment by Don Larson

April 18, 2010 @ 10:51 am

Hi Bob, as good as modern medicine may be, it’s not perfect. I look forward to the next installment.

Comment by thiêt kế thi công bảng hiệu gỗ

August 13, 2018 @ 7:41 am

Have you ever thought about writing an e-book or guest authoring on other websites?
I have a blog based on the same topics you discuss
and would really like to have you share some stories/information. I know my subscribers would enjoy your work.
If you are even remotely interested, feel free to shoot me
an email.

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