Tumors, Nerves, and Surprises of Surgery

It was Wednesday, March 11, 2009. To my shock and horror, I gradually realized that I was effectively paralyzed from my legs down. With vivid memories of surgery #2, I wondered what would be next. I was unable to do anything on my own for days and days after the surgery (surgery #3 of 5, as of June 2017). Going from being independent to completely dependent on strangers for everything is quite the experience. I had bracelets on both arms and both legs and signs all around my room that said “Fall Risk” and “Do not get up on your own.” Yet, at least at first, I was on so much pain medicine, I was almost unconscious. 

Doctors had removed a baseball-sized tumor and other smaller tumors from my left pelvis at U.T. M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. One of the tumors was hiding and not detected by the many MRIs and CAT Scans! The surgery and recovery had many complications stemming from where the tumor was and the resulting nerve pain and spasms and from the substantial loss of muscle during surgery.

The nerve pain in the left leg started several years earlier and gradually worsened. I made the video below a few days before the surgery. In it, you can see the painful and involuntarily spasms that were increasingly occurring in my left leg. Be sure to watch the full thing! It’s unlike anything you’ve seen before. 

I was in the hospital for almost two weeks after this surgery and had to attend physical therapy for four months to gradually regain strength. I had to use a walker for over a month. I was unable to drive for a few months. Unable to think for a few months. Of course, numbness was very present and persists to this day. This surgery made already-bad and on-going stomach problems worse, problems that also persist to this day.

And this was my second semester in graduate school! I really lucked out that the University of Houston’s Department of History treated me so well during my recovery. 

To learn more about Neurofibromatosis, please start by reading my past blogs on the topic here. 

Dr. Andrew Joseph Pegoda