MIAMI (WTVJ/NBC) - Ray Becerria had brain surgery at University of Miami Hospital 13 days ago. While surgeons were removing his brain tumor, he was alert and talking.
"I could feel everything that was going on," he said. "There was no pain, but I could see. I could feel them working on me and tools and things."
Becerria, 64, was deeply asleep for the very start and end of the surgery.
"The tumor involved the left temporal lobe on the left side, which in the vast majority of patients does control language," said Dr. Ricardo Komotar, a neurosurgeon at the University of Miami.
Difficulty speaking was Becerria's first warning sign that something was wrong.
"I just couldn't get my thought process going. A week later it got bad real bad. I got to the point I couldn't read. I'm at work, I'm looking at the computer and I'm 'What is this?'" he said.
Dr. Bruno Gallo was the neurologist interacting with Becerria during the surgery. It's part of the mapping technique used to remove the tumor while sparing brain function.
"There are specific things I'm looking for in case he starts to slur his words versus not being able to speak," Gallo said.
If the surgeon touches a part of the brain and that causes a language problem, Komotar said, "We know to stop and move to another area."
They were able to completely remove the tumor, which was a glioblastoma. Becerria also needs chemotherapy and radiation.
"Every day I'm getting, I feel progress every day. I feel better, I can speak better," he said.
But he still has some trouble reading.
Becerria will be getting treatment where he works, at UM Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. He is a health information specialist, working on his bachelor's degree.
His December graduation has been postponed.