I don’t know why it took me so long to find The Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada, but I am glad I finally did. I have a feeling my Dad sent me their link a while ago, but as these brain things go I clearly didn’t retain it!

Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada is a national, not-for-profit organization dedicated to reaching every person in Canada affected by a brain tumour with support, education and information, and to funding brain tumour research. 
Every year, we help thousands of Canadians affected by brain tumours find emotional support and comfort while gaining a better understanding and knowledge of their disease.

“Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada is a national, not-for-profit organization dedicated to reaching every person in Canada affected by a brain tumour with support, education and information, and to funding brain tumour research. 

Every year, we help thousands of Canadians affected by brain tumours find emotional support and comfort while gaining a better understanding and knowledge of their disease.”

It is estimated that 55,000 people in Canada are living with a brain tumour, 10,000 newly diagnosed each year, that is over 27 people a day. Watch their short video on the prevalence of brain tumours in Canada. 

I like being able to read info where the word ‘tumour’ is spelt correctly 😉


I have to say, I have so much respect for everyone involved in the world of medicine. It really seems like the work of super heros, but such lofty status is within your reach. GIVE BLOOD.* You could save a life, and one day you may need someone to return the favour for you. 

I received blood during my surgery and wish I could donate in return, alas because I grew up in the UK I am not allowed due to Canada’s concerns with vCJD.

So maybe someone could donate for me? See it as a challenge 🙂

*For readers in the UK.

Update: April 3rd, 2009

The nurse who told me I received blood during surgery was thoroughly wrong. My surgeon told me yesterday (and checked my surgery notes to confirm) that I lost no more than 2 thimbles of blood, and tolerated surgery very well. You should still give blood though 🙂

Craniotomy’s are things of horror movies, or TV shows like Grey’s Anatomy. It never crosses our mind that these things happen in real life, but they do. Many times a day in the city that you live in, whether planned like mine, or unexpectedly due to an accident for example… they are happening.

This is a series of clear diagrams and annotations from the Mayfield Clinic that shows how a craniotomy is performed (I take no credit for the information below, it belongs to The Mayfield Clinic). My neurosurgeon explained this to my husband and I verbally, but this is exactly the picture that formed in my head. It is good to be aware of all the layers of your head that need to heal afterwards so that you can truly respect the recovery time needed… and it’s a while considering you can look perfectly normal on the outside.


Figure 1. Craniotomies are often named for the bone being removed. Some common craniotomies include frontotemporal, parietal, temporal, and suboccipital.


Figure 2. The patient’s head is placed in a three-pin Mayfield skull clamp. The clamp attaches to the operative table and holds the head absolutely still during delicate brain surgery. The skin incision is usually made behind the hairline (dashed line).


Figure 3. A craniotomy is cut with a special saw called a craniotome. The bone flap is removed to reveal the protective covering of the brain called the dura.


Figure 4. The dura is opened and folded back to expose the brain.


Figure 5. The bone flap is replaced and secured to the skull with tiny plates and screws.

Ask your nurse…

March 23, 2009

I wish I had this list when I was in hospital. There are a series of things you should ask your nurse that will positively impact your stay in hospital. Toronto Expect RN’s Consulting Inc. provides this handy list:

  • Informed Consent explained, and what Doctors don’t tell you
  • Patient’s have more rights than they think…
  • Personal EHR – viewing your chart
  • When and where to get a second opinion
  • Medical and medication errors, what you should know
  • Infection control in hospitals, behind the scenes
  • Keeping track of all the personnel who are assigned to you
  • Communicating your concerns and complaints effectively
  • Accessing your complete medical records
  • Individuals and agencies with the authority to intervene on your behalf
  • Getting information on tests and results made easy
  • Hospital Secrets -finding out what went wrong when you feel something is amiss
  • The importance of establishing Power of Attorney for Personal Care

More information can be found in their book “The Ultimate Empowered Patient” that educates Canadians who want to negotiate their health system in an informed manner.


I blogged about early detection of brain tumours a while ago. Turns out the Brain Tumor Foundation has made this a reality through the Road to Early Detection initiative. 

“Road to Early Detection is an initiative of The Brain Tumor Foundation aimed at broadening public awareness about brain tumors and the urgent need for preventative brain scans. With the introduction of this campaign, widespread early detection of brain tumors will be available to everyone.”

“The launch of the Mobile MRI Unit in November 2008 marked the start of the first-ever national campaign promoting early detection of brain tumors. Road to Early Detection focuses on outreach to communities – particularly for those under-served in the five boroughs of New York.

The Mobile MRI Unit will continue to set up in places where people work, study and live in order to make brain scans, and thereby early detection, accessible and cost free. Dr. Patrick J. Kelly, Founder and President of The Brain Tumor Foundation, maintains, “The only way to detect a tumor early is through the use of MRI brain scans. Regrettably, by the time brain tumors become symptomatic, most are incurable.” In the 4 short months since the Unit has been traveling, several brain tumors as well as MS, Alzheimer’s and other abnormalities have been discovered.

This year more than 300,000 Americans will be diagnosed with brain tumors. About a million are walking around with one and don’t know it – 25,000 of them are in New York City alone. While there are no preventive measures as yet, the impact of brain tumors can be vastly reduced. Detected and treated early – they can be completely eradicated. MRI brain scans are safe, painless, non-invasive, emit no radiation and take only ten minutes. Scans are available by appointment only and can be scheduled by calling 877-SCAN-NYC (877-722-6692) or visiting www.roadtoearlydetection.org.

This service is for those who are asymptomatic and in the US. Hopefully this service is sucsessful and the idea spreads North to Canada.


“WHEN  actively promotes the primary prevention of environmentally linked health conditions such as cancer, asthma, immune system related conditions and others by advocating the reduction of toxic emissions; more efficient, renewable energy sources; affordable public transportation; a shift to safe production models, biological agriculture and lawn care and more.”

Specifically, “Lower Your Doses is a WHEN campaign aimed at raising awareness about the toxins present in our everyday household environments. Taking action for prevention is key to reducing our health risks.”

If You are able, attend their workshop on March 17th in Toronto.

The Cosmetic Database* is an eye opener. Have you ever counted how many cosmetics or personal care products you use in a day? Chances are it’s nearly 10. And chances are good that they include shampoo, toothpaste, soap, deodorant, hair conditioner, lip balm, sunscreen, body lotion, shaving products if you’re a man, and cosmetics if you are a woman. And what about your children? On any given day you might rub, spray, or pour some combination of sunscreen, diaper cream, shampoo, lotion, and maybe even insect repellant on their skin.

Here’s a list of things you should most definitely try to avoid.

These are some of the safer cosmetic products I have switched to so far as they have very low chemical hazards:

This Lady Mitchum Clear Gel Unscented Deoderant I am trying scores very well, as does this Almay One Coat Triple Effect Mascara (Blackest Black) that has a low risk.

It’s a long process and I am still looking for body moisturiser, shower gel, and soap. Giovanni line of hair products looks worth a try, and that’ll be my next experiment.

So far I have not had to compromise on product performance, or pay any extra, but it takes some time to find them in normal drug stores so be prepared to shop around in new and unfamiliar territory.

* Thanks for the link Justine.

Books to read

February 17, 2009


My next two reads:

The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge MD.

It is a plastic, living organ that can actually change its own structure and function, even into old age. Arguably the most important breakthrough in neuroscience since scientists first sketched out the brain’s basic anatomy, this revolutionary discovery, called neuroplasticity, promises to overthrow the centuries-old notion that the brain is fixed and unchanging. The brain is not, as was thought, like a machine, or “hardwired” like a computer. Neuroplasticity not only gives hope to those with mental limitations, or what was thought to be incurable brain damage, but expands our understanding of the healthy brain and the resilience of human nature.

There is also a film based on this book. There is a shorter version that was shown on CBC’s Nature of Things so here’s the episode in full.

Proust was a Neuroscientist  by Jonah Lehrer. 

Lehrer explores the oft-overlooked places in literary history where novelists, poets and the occasional cookbook writer predicted scientific breakthroughs with their artistic insights. The 25-year-old Columbia graduate draws from his diverse background in lab work, science writing and fine cuisine to explain how Cézanne anticipated breakthroughs in the understanding of human sight, how Walt Whitman intuited the biological basis of thoughts and, in the title essay, how Proust penetrated the mysteries of memory by immersing himself in childhood recollections. Lehrer’s writing peaks in the essay about Auguste Escoffier, the chef who essentially invented modern French cooking.

Olfactory groove meningiomas

February 15, 2009

“Olfactory groove meningiomas are benign tumors that grow along the midline floor of the anterior cranial fossa. Delayed diagnosis is the rule rather than the exception. Despite advances in imaging and therapeutic measures, the average size of these tumors at the time of surgical resection has not changed over the past few decades. 

Olfactory groove meningiomas comprise about 14% of all basal meningiomas. The peak incidence is between ages 40 and 60 years, and twice as many women as men are affected.

Cranial radiation is a definite risk factor for developing meningiomas. Patients with a history of cranial radiation therapy have a 4 times greater rate of meningioma formation compared with the general population.

Surgical resection is the treatment of choice for most olfactory groove meningiomas. A bifrontal craniotomy is the preferred surgical approach. Using this technique, the bony skull covering the anterior frontal lobes is removed and the dural layer opened. Through an interhemispheric approach, the tumor, adjacent brain parenchyma, and the vasculature are visualized. The blood supply to the tumor is identified and detached. The tumor is removed by debulking along with the affected piece of underlying dura and bone. The dural layer is then closed using an allograft substitute, and the bone flap is replaced. Radiation therapy is generally reserved for recurrences that are refractory to surgical resection.

Recovery is typically slow, but as the edema in the frontal lobes subsides, the patient’s clinical status improves. It is only at this time that any residual permanent neurologic deficit can be assessed.

Morbidity and mortality associated with operative treatment of olfactory groove meningiomas have improved greatly over the past 3 decades. A 15% mortality rate reported about 20 years ago has decreased to nearly 0% as a result of current microsurgical techniques and advances in perioperative care.

Olfactory groove meningiomas, despite being slow growing and relatively uncommon, are among the largest tumors found intracranially. Advances in diagnostic and therapeutic measures notwithstanding, these tumors continue to grow and achieve astonishing sizes before they are discovered. This is because the tumor is located in a relatively “silent” area of the brain, which allows the mass to continue to grow slowly before neurologic decline is evident.”



*Every source states different statistics. These just happen to be the ones I found today.

Research but not too much, that’s when you freak yourself out.

The basics from the Mayo Clinic

The community at Meningioma Mommas*

Reality from Brain Science Foundation

* Liz Holzemer has a great book to go with this site, “Curveball. When Life Throws You a Brain Tumor”. I admit I regretted reading it as her tumour was way more serious then mine, but she had great resources at the back so it was worth it.