Lee Burner Lee Burner's Updates

First post: Nov 9, 2017 Latest post: Apr 11, 2022
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Some of you are aware that since early 2015, I’ve had some health issues. For those of you that have not heard, this included periodic bouts of severe nausea and vomiting. In between these episodes, I’d feel pretty good or even great--you know, normal. I’ve been treated by the GI doctors in the KU system. Recently, the bouts have been less frequent and less severe. However, I’ve also developed some numbness on my left side. Not like totally numb, but sort of like areas are about half the way to being asleep. With this complication, I also started seeing a neurologist at KU.

Since the KU GI doctors felt like they had exhausted their capabilities, without a distinct diagnosis, they kindly suggested that I could go visit the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. I started down that path in early August of this year for both the GI and neurological issues. I’ve had really good care while there with testing and consultations that were scheduled to make the most of my time away from home.

On October 9, I returned to Mayo for more testing, primarily for my autonomic nervous system. The tests included an MRI to help determine if I had a disc that was slipping out and causing the nerve damage behind the numbness. It turns out that my spine is fine but the MRI pictures that were of my head showed that I do have a tumor (probably a glioma) in the lowest part of my brain stem, the medulla. It appears to be slow-growing and the pictures fail to show exactly what type of tumor it is, or if it is malignant.

On Friday, October 13, I met with a neurosurgeon and with a radiation oncologist to discuss treatment options. The possibilities include proton-beam radiation therapy, a biopsy/pathology of the tumor, and possibly, removal of the tumor. After wrestling with this decision, I’ve decided that I’ll go forward with the surgery option, that includes first, an open biopsy of the tumor (to determine type, grade, malignant or not), and second, a possible resection or debulking of the tumor. The surgeon has assured us that he will only proceed with resection if he is confident of the type of tumor and if there are clear planes separating it from the surrounding tissue. 

This has been the heaviest decision of my life. Weighing the potential risks of surgery against the potential for a “cure” has been confounding. Most of you know me and something of my thought process employed to make weighty decisions. I’m (overly) analytical and attempt to gather as many facts as are available before making a decision. In this case the facts amount to possible side effects, how profound they could be, and the probability of them happening to me. The choice I’ve made for open biopsy and possible resection prior to radiation/chemo is the riskiest, but also provides the best opportunity for getting rid of this thing. The decision-making process has reaffirmed to me that I’m not much of a gambler. I don’t particularly like my odds, but I also don’t like the alternative options’ odds much either. So, here we go.

Joyce and I will travel back up to Rochester on November 19. I'll do pre-op prep (including a physical and another MRI) on November 20, then have the surgery sometime Tuesday, November 21. The plan is that I’ll spend the night after surgery in the ICU, then have 2-3 more days in the hospital before being released to come home and heal up, before starting proton-beam radiation 2-4 weeks later.

Thank you to all the friends that have already joined with me and my family with prayers, thoughts, vibes, etc., for my health and for determining how to proceed with treatment. I know that I’m in capable hands, both God’s and the those of the medical staff at the Mayo Clinic. Please continue to pray with us, keep us in your thoughts, etc., as we proceed down this path.

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