The story – living through a brain tumor – part I

On November 20th, 2010, I was handling the guest list for the Classic Petra TBN show and taping. It was such an exciting night for everyone, and the first time these 5 members of Petra had performed together in 25 years. My husband works as their manager. That evening, I started to experience a very severe headache with a lot of dizziness. My aching head made it hard to think, and the dizziness was confusing to me. I figured it must just be a strange migraine. I’d had many severe headaches over the past two years. I’d also been struggling a lot with weakness and fatigue that would render me incapacitated, sometimes for several days. Also,my left hand had a strange tremor. I went to the dr with all of these symptoms several times. I had blood drawn. I had hormones checked. But the answer was always the same “we don’t know what is causing your symptoms”. I resorted to the internet (bad idea). I had myself diagnosed with everything from chronic fatigue syndrome to MS. It all had me pretty discouraged. I often said that I felt more like I was 80 than my actual 53 years old. Several times I broke down and just cried and thought I must just be some kind of a hypochondriac. I missed many events last year because I simply did not have the strength to go.

My symptoms (the headache, the dizziness, the fatigue), never left after that night. They began to become worse, and I started to notice that my left hand was difficult to control.

Let me start this out with a clarification; I am not one of the people who is fond of saying “God told me this or that”. I am more of a critical thinker, and I have clearly seen the underlying human emotion that causes many people to say things like that. However, that being said, a couple of weeks later, in mid December, as I reached for something in the kitchen and missed it with my, now, faulty hand, a small voice seemed to ‘speak into my mind’. I know that sounds odd. It said “it will soon be clear what all this is, and then it will be over.” The striking thing about it was that at the moment I heard the message, my emotion went from fear and confusion, to peace. From that moment I knew that an answer was coming soon. I felt a complete comfort from that point on.

The symptoms got worse, and I mean a lot worse. My left hand became almost completely uncontrollable – I could only type with my right hand, and now my left leg occasionally would buckle under me. I started to walk really funny…almost toe first. It reminded me of how horses walk or something. I knew something was terribly wrong – but – trusting the internet, I guessed that maybe I was developing MS symptoms and they would subside in time. My husband seemed to dismiss what was happening to me. I guess that guys sometimes deal with what they are afraid of by avoiding it. We had lost our health insurance a few months earlier, and a simple dr office visit was a huge expense for us. Even the thought of a hospitalization was a complete nightmare.

Christmas was ruined. I couldn’t even manage to walk into the mall. I got a few small things online for my son, grandchildren and a special friend, and that was all. Mike got a couple shirts from me. There was no tree. There were no decorations. My heart was just broken over it. I knew I needed to get to a dr.,. but the doctors were all gone celebrating Christmas now.

On Dec 28, Monday; I called and made an appointment. On Tuesday, I finally went in to the dr’s office. I had typed out the past years of symptoms, printed it out, and taken it with me, because I felt that if I tried to run through it all verbally, the dr. would think I was nuts. I think that, as women, we often have our symptoms dismissed by doctors, who simply don’t know what’s wrong. My advice today is to insist on a brain MRI if any of these symptoms are happening to you. This doctor, however, did not think I was crazy. He was very kind and very concerned. He told me he would refund my office visit charge because he could not help me there in the office. He said I must go directly to the hospital. I had driven myself to the office, and had some crazy idea that I would stop at the pet store on my way home… how I planned to walk into the pet store behooves me today, but that was my plan. Very hesitantly, because the hospital was very close by, the staff let me drive myself there.

Today I look back and see how badly my cognitive skills were failing me. A lot of small things. In this case, although I am very familiar with the route, I took a drive half way around town, rather than directly to the hospital. When I arrived I went into the wrong building. I could barely walk and I remember how much that embarrassed me. I worried that people would think I was being overly dramatic.

When I was finally in the emergency room, they put me in a CT scan. Within a few minutes, a doctor came in with a very sober face and tole me that I had a ‘mass’ in my brain, about 4 cm in diameter, but they didn’t know exactly what it was. My dogs were in the car, and that was all could think about. They would wonder why I was taking so long. They needed water. A nurse was kind and called Michael to let him know what was happening. Our neighbor, Kathleen, gave him a ride to come find the dogs (which, I hear, took them a while since I’d parked by another building). Meanwhile, an ambulance had been ordered to move me to a better medical center; one that specialized in neurology. Skyline Medical center. in Nashville. Mike took the dogs home and got back just before the ambulance arrived. He was tearful and visibly shaken. I was concerned that he would pass out because he was really pale. My demeanor at that point, though, was a calm happiness. There was finally an answer as to why I had been so sick! I wasn’t crazy! I figured that they would simply somehow get this ‘thing’ out of me, and I would be fine! But, looking back, I know that the tumor had started to affect my thinking, to some degree. I kept musing over a modified line from ‘the Grinch Who Stole Christmas’ movie: “There’s a light in her brain that won’t light on one side!”.

The ambulance arrived and honestly I felt a little bit silly. All this fuss over me! I was fine! I didn’t feel that sick. The drivers were two sweet, young people who I enjoyed laughing and joking with. The younger one, a petite young woman, who looked like a kid to me, was the ‘supervisor’ and I teased the older (close to 30) guy about what he had done wrong to let this happen. He responded by teasing me that he would rip off an acrylic nail if he needed to, to get my pulse with his little gadget! I remember being upset that I had once again forgotten my cell phone. I thought that I should be getting pictures of the ambulance ride so I could post them on Facebook.

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