M02 — January 2012 — Awake for Brain Cancer Surgery
Intro: Imagine this. You're 28 years old, a successful lawyer with a promising career, and you're in a great relationship. It seems the whole world is opening up for you. Then you get the news: a diagnosis of brain cancer. That's what happened to the young woman you're about to meet. But Mary Meixner is a fighter. After an awake surgery during which doctors used an intraoperative MRI to target the tumor, she is winning her battle with brain cancer.
"I viewed it as this is going to be an adventure. We're going to have a party today."
When Mary Meixner learned she had a brain tumor called an anaplastic astrocytoma, she figured she better make the best of every day, in case she didn't have many left.
"The only way to do it is to be extremely positive."
Mary's optimism helped her through the treatment adventure that started with surgery to remove the tumor. Her doctors were concerned about surgery because her tumor was close to the part of the brain that controls speech. They did not want to damage that area in the process of removing the cancer.
"The best way to be most certain is to map where motor and speech areas are during surgery. To do that, to map where speech is, people have to be able to talk, which means that the surgery has to be done with them awake."
"I remember them digging out my tumor. I remember them stapling my head."
"One of the other things that we find in brain tumors is that it's difficult to tell where they end and where the brain begins. They kind of meld imperceptibly into one another."
Dr. Parney and his team used intraoperative MRI imaging during the 10-hour procedure. This allowed them to target the tumor and avoid damaging surrounding tissue. Mary was one of the first patients at Mayo Clinic to be awake and talking while benefiting from this technology.
We tried to have some fun. I mean we had all day to talk about things.
When the operation was nearing the end, she slept.
"I woke up and I was so excited. I was like, yes, I'm not dead. I can talk. I can think. Because you never know, right?"
Forty-eight hours after surgery, Mary went home. And after radiation and chemotherapy, things are…
"Pretty normal. The only things that are different for me now are my hair never grew back under here."
And she gets tired if she doesn't get a full eight hours at night. But you'd never know it watching her now. Living life at full speed.
For Medical Edge, I'm Vivien Williams.
Right after Mary's diagnosis, she got engaged. Now she's married, working full time, and feeling strong and healthy. Her doctors say using MRI imaging during her surgery allowed them to remove the tumor very precisely. The technology will hopefully help more people like Mary live cancer-free longer.
For more information, visit our website at…
STATIONS: Per the licensing agreement, please provide a link from your station's website to http://www.MayoClinic.org or voice tag "MayoClinic.org" for more information.