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Surgery gives way to golf, light work

By MAUREEN BYRNE

© St. Petersburg Times,
published July 2, 2001


SEMINOLE -- Paul Trexler is tired.

After having brain surgery in May, fatigue haunts the Seminole City Council member daily. When it hits, he stops what he is doing.

And for someone who underwent a major operation, Trexler, 54, is doing a lot.

He went back to work part time less than three weeks after neurosurgeon Dr. Casey Gaines removed a benign tumor from Trexler's brain.

The five-term council member attended two meetings last month. And there is golf. He has played a couple of games -- only nine holes, though, and he rode a cart.

"I came out of this so wonderfully," Trexler said of his May 23 operation at Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg. "There was a lot of fear prior to it. So far, I'm really happy with the outcome."

Trexler was released from the hospital two days after surgery. That first week home he slept a lot, didn't eat much and took extra-strength Tylenol.

"I had quite a bit of pain (from the 4-inch incision on his skull), but I felt really lucky, too," Trexler said.

He knows the outcome could have been different.

Trexler said he allowed a St. Petersburg Times reporter to spend time with him the day before, during and after surgery because he wanted to share his story with others. He said he wanted to give hope to those who had been diagnosed with a brain tumor.

"You have to have faith," he said. "I tried to keep a positive attitude through the whole ordeal. Attitude does make a difference."

But Trexler wasn't too upbeat earlier this year. He started having headaches in November. His doctors couldn't find a cause, so he kept taking pain reliever.

On April 27, doctors at Largo Medical Center discovered why Trexler's head hurt. He had been taken to the hospital that day after having a seizure at a Clearwater machine shop where he works.

A CAT scan and an MRI showed a 2-centimeter mass in the right temporal lobe of Trexler's brain, the part that controls the understanding of sounds and spoken words, as well as emotion and memory.

The American Brain Tumor Association says about 185,000 people are diagnosed each year with a brain tumor. About 36,000 of those cases are primary brain tumors. They begin and grow in the brain, and their cause is unknown. About 150,000 diagnoses are metastatic. They begin as cancer elsewhere in the body and then spread to the brain.

Seizures are the most common type of symptom of a tumor in the temporal lobe. Mental changes can occur, including problems with memory, speech, communication and confusion.

Trexler said he has trouble concentrating, so reading is difficult. But he expects his concentration to improve. He said his memory, communication and balance are fine.

He has lost 10 pounds because he still doesn't have much of an appetite. And he is taking it easy at work, doing a lot of little jobs that he lined up for himself before surgery.

And there were those council meetings. "That was a struggle, too," he said. "But I wanted to do it."

Trexler said he has met with Gaines once since the operation. "He told me I was doing good," he said. "In fact, he was shocked at how good I was doing."

Trexler had an MRI done Tuesday. He said he doesn't know the results yet, but he feels confident that he is fine.

He expresses a deep gratitude for the support he received. He said he received more than 100 cards from people wishing him well.

And he thanks his wife, Sue, for being there. "She was wonderful," he said. "It would have been a struggle if it wasn't for her."

Mrs. Trexler, 60, said she wasn't too happy when her husband went back to work so soon.

"I was concerned about it," she said. "Every time the phone would ring, I would jump. After that phone call I got (in May), you do get worried."

She feels blessed that her husband's tumor was benign and that his recovery is going well.

"We are very lucky," she said. "We had a lot of prayers."

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