Two years ago my husband sent me a text message telling me that he was going home sick from work. This was the second time in a week. He had been throwing up, having headaches and had a general feeling of being unwell. As I sat in my office contemplating the fact that my husband who never took sick days was at home for the second time this week something deep down inside my gut did not feel right. About 10 days prior, he had hit his head on a steel beam while working at our local high school on a community musical. As crazy as it sounded, I connected the two in my head and had the very serious impression that he needed to see a doctor.
"Something is wrong with Daniel," I said to my boss. "He's gone home sick for the second time this week. He's been throwing up with no nausea, and has terrible headaches. I don't know if this is something serious or not, but I don't know what to do."
"Take him into the emergency room now," my boss said.
I made no further argument, and went home.
"Get your shoes on and get in the car, because we're going to the urgent care," I said to Daniel. He resisted at first, but I had my mind made up. They were going to do a scan of his brain, no matter the cost.
We drove up to the local urgent care facility. Immediately a nurse came out and took one look at him and said, "I can tell from just looking at him that he has some neurological problems. Take him to the emergency room for a CAT scan, we can't do that here."
So, off to the hospital we went. As I sat in front of the admissions nurse, doubts began to surface. "He hit his head 10 days ago, and I'm bringing him in for that?" I thought. But, despite how utterly stupid I felt, I insisted that they run a CAT scan. If it was just a concussion, I could deal with the fact that I overreacted.
After some time (I have no recollection of whether or not we were in the hospital for a couple hours or several), the ER doctor came in and said, "There is no brain swelling, however, I did notice something on this CAT scan that has me concerned. Do you notice his ventricles in his brain? They are over twice the size that they should normally be. There is also a small mass in between them that I imagine is blocking the drainage of that fluid. My best guess is that it is calcification that formed some time ago. I want you to see my friend that is a neurosurgeon tomorrow and get an MRI."
Through some connections that my mother-in-law had and with the help of this ER doctor, we were able to get Daniel in for an MRI and an appointment with a neurosurgeon that was booked out for 6 months the next day. When I walked into the doctor's office, my husband was already there with my mother in law. When I sat down he said, "My mom has already seen the MRI, and it looks like a tumor."
I think my stomach dropped to the bottom of my feet. A tumor? Like cancer? Was he sure, he's only 24?! What do you do for brain cancer? Is it treatable? Will you have to do chemo? A million questions raced through my head all at once. One question hung like a big dark cloud, "Are you going to die?"
As we walked in to the neurosurgeon's office, he said that he was pretty sure he knew what kind of tumor this was and how to treat it, but it would be best to do a biopsy first. He said they could do the biopsy the next week. Not wanting to delay, we immediately booked the appointment. The doctor pointed out things like the fact that my 6'4" tall husband weighed somewhere around 140 pounds. His pupils were paralyzed and did not dilate. He couldn't look up with his eyes and had to move his head to look up. The nausea was caused from increased pressure in the brain, as were the headaches. His vision was blurry, and although he had seen an optometrist earlier in the summer, no one had caught on that my husband had a serious problem. Cancer.
Sitting in the doctor's office was a surreal experience. I was 20 weeks pregnant with my first baby. We had just learned a couple weeks prior that it would be a girl. I didn't know if my daughter would grow up knowing her father. I was scared. Terrified even.
The next few months passed like a blur. A biopsy was done. Seven days of recovery in the ICU. I slept on a friend's couch and went to the hospital every day. Daniel withdrew from the semester at school. He began radiation treatment. I'll never forget that feeling of running my fingers through his hair and having a huge clump come out in my hand. I shaved his head. He went on steroids and gained 30 pounds in 4 weeks. His entire physical appearance was altered. I was pregnant, tired, and sick.
|Daniel 1-Month prior to diagnosis|
|Daniel during treatment|
It has been two years since his diagnosis. Daniel has been in remission since February 2010. Looking back, I don't know how I held everything together as well as I did. I suppose I didn't have any other choice. I am so appreciative of everyone who helped me through that difficult time in my life.
And here is where I get really really personal (i.e. spiritual). I firmly believe that my feeling to take my husband into the ER for a CAT scan was a direct message from God. And that it saved my husband's life. And that is something, on this September afternoon that I am very grateful for.