General Question

KrystaElyse's avatar

You have a brain tumor...

Asked by KrystaElyse (3598 points ) December 30th, 2008

Though there is no discomfort at the moment, this tumor would unquestionably kill you in six months. However, your life can (and will) be saved by an operation; the only downside is that there will be a brutal incision to your frontal lobe. After the surgery, you will be significantly less intelligent. You will still be a fully functioning adult, but you will be less logical, you will have a terrible memory, and you will have little ability to understand complex concepts or difficult ideas. The surgery is in two weeks.

How do you spend the next fourteen days?

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19 Answers

millastrellas's avatar

In prayer and with my family.

eambos's avatar

I’d decline the surgery and live the next six months of my life as spectacularly as possible.

I’d rather go out with a bang than live the rest of my life mentally incapacitated.

gimmedat's avatar

Recording my life as it is before the surgery.

One of my former students suffered a traumatic brain injury in sixth grade. Before the automobile accident, she was an above average student who excelled in academics and sports. Her frontal lobe was damaged and she emerged from a drug-induced coma a totally different person. She had no reasoning skills, no concept of personal boundaries, and began to act out sexually. She was such a sweetie, and the only thing that kept her family together was memories of what she was. It was so tough to watch this family struggle with the complexities of suddenly having a special needs child. They gave her love, support, and compassion. She was able to complete a work study program and currently holds down a full-time job.

That’s not a little depressing, huh? But really, I would want to record every part of by life and give myself little hints or tips on appropriate actions post-surgery. I would also ask close relatives and friends to record themselves describing me and good times we’ve shared. What a difficult position.

xxporkxsodaxx's avatar

Hell yea, Eambos is right, if I had to live my life with an intelligence just above that of a candy bracelet I would rather take the 6 months and just live it up, or even spend it in the hospital, the fanciest the Arabs can build I should add.

cak's avatar

Having gone through more than one brain surgery, I pray. I laugh. I joke about another Frankenstein surgery. My husband, parents, kids and I make jokes about what they might find…like the forever lost sock. I cry, laugh, get angry and make plans for the future. I live. What else should you do? After a few, I thought I had the answer…but it changes, every single time. :) Oh…and the tumor that is there now, we named it Bob. It needs to stay there for a little while, but eventually, Bob will be evicted. :)

augustlan's avatar

If I could be happy, and not too big a burden on anyone, I’d go ahead with the surgery. I’d spend the time before hand with my husband, children and friends, soaking up every bit of love and life that I could.

wundayatta's avatar

I doubt if I’d change much. It’s only two weeks. There’s a lot to prepare for—like finding good care and occupational therapy for afterwards. I’d be pissed about it, but I’d also try to look on the bright side. I believe that if I were stupider, I might be happier. However, if I remembered being smarter, it would be enormously frustrating, and I’d get angry.

Actually, that’s the case now. The meds I’m on hurt my memory, and make it hard for me to retrieve words, like I used to. Sometimes I’ll have to research a word that I want, but just can’t find. It makes me feel stupid and foolish. People can tell me something about themselves, and it’s gone the moment they say it. I have no short-term memory whatsoever.

I was never good at names, but now? Forget it! Schedules? If I didn’t have an electronic memory system that beeped me before each appointment, I’d miss them all. It’s weird, though. A lot of people in my situation go off their meds. I’m kind of afraid to. What if this memory stuff is due to age, not the meds? I like to pretend I’d be fully functioning if I were not medicated, but I don’t want to prove it.

The killer? I’m not happier.

ekglad's avatar

i would prepare things so the transition would be as comfortable and painless as possible for everyone. then i would say all of the things unsaid in case my longterm memory failed.

seekingwolf's avatar

I wouldn’t go through with the surgery. Seriously, I wouldn’t. What would be the point of living if I couldn’t be the person that I was before? I would be so unhappy, as would my family. Sure I’d be alive, but I wouldn’t be me.

I’d wait a few months at home, saying goodbye to people/things, and then put me in a nice hospice (like the kind I work at now). You know, a small facility with nice people who will make sure that I am comfortable and happy.

wundayatta's avatar

I’ve found that “the old me” is gone. This is now the new me. My family is happy to have the new me, instead of no me. Life is too precious to throw away over a silly concept like identity—something that is really no one knows what.

loser's avatar

What surgery?

KrystaElyse's avatar

LOL @ loser ;o)

seekingwolf's avatar

@daloon

that’s an interesting point of view. Quite different from mine.

I guess what the question is really asking (when deciding to have the surgery or not) is what is more important, life or identity?

For me, identity is more important, as well as quality of life. I know that I would be miserable losing higher brain function…my quality of life would go down so much that I wouldn’t think life would be worth it. What is life when you’re miserable/angry at yourself for being less intelligent, you can’t do the things you once did, and your relationships are forever changed because of it? Some say it’s worth it to keep on breathing and living, but I say nay.

wundayatta's avatar

That’s interesting, seekingwolf. I wonder why you are so attached to the particular identity you have at this moment.

I have to admit that it is very disturbing to change rapidly, and to be able to watch yourself change, and wonder which you is you. I’d rather not have the experience, if I had a choice.

But, even if I were stupider, there would still be elements of me that were the same. I can learn not to be angry and miserable because of the change. I can learn to be happy with the things I can do, instead of upset at the things I can no longer do.

My relationships? Well, they change all the time, anyway. Whenever I’m depressed, I tell my wife she should kick me out. Why she doesn’t, I don’t know. These events worry and scare my wife, because she never knows which daloon might show up on any given day.

All I’m saying is that there are possibilities. It’s not the end of the world when you become someone different. There are still things to find that might be good. Not that I’m any good at identifying the good. But that’s my problem. Oddly, it unites the two mes that appear intermittently.

If you’re dead, you have no possibilities at all. Sometimes that seems like all too blessed a condition, but so far, I’ve not tried to turn my fantasies about that into action.

jessturtle23's avatar

I already have all of those problems so I would go with the surgery. At least then I would have an excuse.

seekingwolf's avatar

@daloon

Yeah I don’t know why I am attached to it, because identity itself isn’t permanent, and nor is life. I don’t think it’s particularly good to be really attached to either, but if I had to choose, it would be identity.

I mean, sure we change all of the time, that is part of life. But to lose higher brain function? That’s a big part of me. That’s a change that would cripple me in ways that I wouldn’t want to experience. Life just wouldn’t be worth it to me. I know it’s different for others…some may want to be alive for their children, parents, family, etc. But just being alive and with the people I love isn’t enough for me.

And is death really so bad? I’ve seen a lot of people die in hospice and somehow it doesn’t seem so horrible. I think it’s the “unknown” factor that makes people afraid.

By the way, this thread is reminding me of the book “Flowers for Algernon”. Wonderful book. Please read it.

wundayatta's avatar

I read that book long ago, and it has stuck with me. Of course, I never expected to find it happening to me.

Sometimes death has a big attraction for me. Usually when I am feeling a tremendous amount of pain. I think that it would be the end. So much nothing that I wouldn’t even know there was nothing.

Then fear kicks in. Even depression is better than never having a chance to wake up again. Life is such a precious gift. How could I ever give it up voluntarily? Well, I’ll tell you, I never expected to be dealing with that question, and considering nothingness as even a remote possibility, much less a fairly close possibility.

Sometimes I’m so sad and unhopefull in every cell of my body that I would do almost anything to stop it.

seekingwolf's avatar

@daloon

Well, I hope you (or anyone for that matter, including myself) won’t have to be in this dilemma. Of course, it is possible though.

What do you find so scary about death? Is it the unknown? Or just the fact that you can never come back to life. I don’t really see death as a “sleep” I think a part of you goes away to something else, whatever that may be.

wundayatta's avatar

Like I said, death, I believe, is the end of everything. It’s like sleep in that we are unconcious. It is unlike sleep in that it never ends, and there are no dreams. I can’t imagine wanting to die, normally. When I’m depressed, I can’t imagine continuing life. Go figure.

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