The First Signs…I Totally Ignored

I can’t specifically pinpoint when the strange sensations in my left leg began, but I recall a distinct moment in late January when I felt something was off.  To celebrate my 34th birthday, I planned a great getaway with some of my best girlfriends and my poor husband (the only male surrounded by 5 women is never easy).  We spent days on the beach in the Caribbean, sipping beers and frozen drinks.  We went dancing every night, so much that all of us came back with sore feet.  We ate fantastic food.  It was one of the best trips, filled with so much fun, joy and love.

One of those days, a few of us began walking the beach, hilariously to the end where the nudist resort began – just for shits and giggles.  However, less than halfway through the walk I had to stop due to that sensation in my left foot and leg.  I causally commented that it had been happening for a little while, but frankly I didn’t take it seriously whatsoever.

 As the early months of 2014 continued, the episodes came more often and they grew more intense.  I remember walking down the streets of Manhattan and having to stop until the feeling subsided.  My left foot would essentially become numb with the electrical-type sensations traveling all the way up my leg.  I recall sitting at my desk while they started to come multiple times a day.  It no longer mattered whether I was walking, sitting or laying down.

I know there were a few episodes, but one particular time while working out on an ellipitical machine the sensation wasn’t just isolated to my leg.  This time, it traveled all the way up my left side into my face.  I honestly thought I had just been working out too hard, but this episode did scare me.

So, by Thursday, April 3rd, I finally saw my primary care physician.  Due to a history of multiple sclerosis in my family, my doctor was concerned.  She wanted a brain MRI and blood tests.  I was devastated by the thought of an MS diagnosis.  I had seen what it did to my aunt over all these years.  I just couldn’t imagine it.

I went to my parent’s house immediately.  I was crying when I first saw my father and explained what my doctor had advised.  He was floored, but directed me to keep it from my mother.  Obviously, she had also seen what MS had done to her sister and our family.  My father did not want her to know anything until something, whatever that something was, could be confirmed.  I won’t lie.  That was TOUGH.

On Saturday, April 5th, I went in for the blood tests, but didn’t receive any results.  Those would take days.  The MRI had yet to be scheduled – insurance holdups of course.  Needless to say, it was not the best weekend.

And so, Sunday, April 6th, in an attempt to relieve all of the stress, I went to relax and get my nails done.  My world would never be the same.

The history of my seizure that day is detailed in my post.

https://braincancerbabe.com/2016/05/17/having-a-seizure/

Following my diagnosis, I learned that the episodes had been seizures and clearly, there was no question about the “big daddy” grandmal seizure.  However, there had never been any other symptoms I could pinpoint to have led me to even fathom cancer.  I never had headaches, blurred vision or issues with my speech.

No one prepares for brain cancer.  I can’t imagine anyone even suspects it despite clear symptoms.  I never really even knew about brain cancer.  No one ever really talked about it.  No one publicized the symptoms or what to look out for.  (As an aside, these are the reasons I tirelessly work to raise funds and awareness for brain cancer).

I wish I had known the symptoms and more knowledge of this disease.  Quite possibly, it could have pushed me into that doctor’s office much earlier.

cancer-symptoms-not-to-avoid

The List – The Chronology of Cancer Chaos

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As I delve into the blogosphere and start to read other blogs, I’ve seen that many bloggers list their treatment history.  It was frankly something I had never thought of, but I really think its great!

So, as best as I can, here is “The List” – the chronology of my cancer chaos:

January – April 2014

Episodes of sensations in my left leg began – My left foot would essentially become numb with electrical-type sensations traveling all the way up my leg.  Several episodes, in which the sensations traveled all the way up my left side into my face (Later learned these were seizures).

Thursday, April 3rd – appointment with primary care physician – brain MRI and blood tests ordered

Saturday, April 5th – blood tests, but no results;  MRI yet to be scheduled – insurance holdups, of course.

Sunday, April 6th – “Big daddy” grandmal seizure

**Can’t recall the initial consult with my neurosurgeon, but it was around April 10th and later followed by a torturous 2-hour+ functional MRI (A particular scan, which required me to repeat words, move various parts of my body, etc.)**

April 17th – 20th

Initial craniotomy with complete resection of tumor with 3-day admission in the hospital.  Discharged April 20th; Diagnosis of Grade III anaplastic ependymoma

May 27 – July 7th – 30 doses of radiation

April 2014 – January 2015

Eight months of physical therapy for neurological deficits on my left side; Spinal tap (Awful!!!); All clear scans

During this time, life eventually seemed to normalize; Returned to work part-time in September 2014; Began to exercise 4-5 times a week and focused on a healthy diet; Became physically stronger than I had been before cancer

February 2015 – Brain MRI began to show “something” – suspected recurrence

February – June 2015

Follow-up MRIs continued to show the same image; Second spinal tap; By June, the image/lesion had grown and recurrence considered “confirmed” (needed official confirmation with pathology report) and second craniotomy scheduled

June 30th – July 3rd

Second craniotomy with complete resection of tumor with 3-day admission in the hospital.  Discharged July 3rd; Confirmed diagnosis of recurrence of Grade III anaplastic ependymoma

July – September – 5 Avastin infusions

August 4th – 10th – 5 high-dose radiation treatments

December 2nd – December 3rd

Seen by physician assistant for pain and redness at surgical/radiation site; Admitted overnight for potential infection; MRI and blood work showed no signs of infection

As an aside, I had a noon flight on December 3rd to Colorado – I told every person I encountered that I was making that flight!  I was discharged at 9:00 a.m., literally rushed out of the hospital and made it to the airport with time to spare, but with my hospital band still on!

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December 28th – December 30th

Reported to UCC for 5-day migraine; admitted for monitoring of symptoms and medication control; MRI and blood work showed no signs of any issue; Resident tried to push a spinal tap, which I outright refused and which my oncologist agreed was unnecessary (Always have to be your own advocate!)

January – March 2016

Mild sensations begin again in left leg; memory appears to be getting worse; referred to Occupational Therapy (OT) and formal cognitive revaluation

March 31, 2016 – Brain MRI shows “something” – undetermined if the image is radiation necrosis or a 2nd recurrence (apparently the image is more diffuse, as opposed to nodular like a tumor); put on steroids

April 2016 – Begin OT for cognitive issues

May 2nd – May 5th

Following pictures I sent to my oncologist and neurosurgeon of my surgical/radiation area, I was directed to report to UCC for immediate admission for a suspected infection and wound breakdown; Titanium plate was actually exposed

Surgery ordered; Infectious disease called in to evaluate; Plastic surgery called in to partner with neurosurgery team during surgery to clear out infection and create skin flap

MRI showed no change from March 31st scan

Steroid taper was completed, unknown to my neurosurgeon

Discharged May 5th to complete pre-surgical testing and for a night at home to “rest” before surgery scheduled for May 6th

May 5th (Happy Cinco de Mayo!!!) – “Big Mamma” seizure in the middle of the night and return to UCC  ** Believed that the failure to advise my surgeon of the steroid taper contributed to the seizure**

May 6th12-hour surgery to clear infection in the brain, remove titanium plate, excise portion of my abdomen to create a large skin flap to cover area of infection and all of the insane intricacies of finding, moving around and reconnecting blood vessels, arteries, etc. (These doctors are geniuses and I cannot even begin to understand all they did)

May 6th – May 13th

Hospital stay including post-op observation, neuro-observation and standard admission

Multiple, daily doppler ultrasound testing of skin flap to ensure active blood flow and function of the arteries (or, making sure this complex system of the flap, blood vessels, arteries, etc. were working and my body wasn’t rejecting it)

Mutliple, daily arguments over my medications (too annoying and tedious to list) and a complete lack of commincation from the “neuro team” (this nebulous group of residents/fellows/ghosts), who were making major decisions about my in-patient care with NO consult with my treating doctors)

PT and OT evaluations and sessions – out-patients sessions ordered

Discharged Friday, the 13th – Yes, that’s right

TO BE CONTINUED….

                                                                                                                                                                            

Throughout these past two years, my treatment and care have involved scans, medicine administration, etc., but also other practices over various courses of time.  These all include:

  • Regular follow-ups with oncologist and seizure neurologist
  • Regular follow-up MRIs varying from every 6 weeks, to every 3 months, to every 6 weeks again, and so on
  • Therapy with psychologist as well as consults with a psychiatrist for anti-anxiety medication maintenance
  • Couples therapy with psychologist and social worker (This was a God-send!)
  • Cognitive therapy evaluations for multiple issues, including memory loss, inability to focus and multitask, etc.
  • Massage and acupuncture sessions
  • Exercise and fitness to keep my body healthy, strong and to relieve stress
  • Meditation (or as best as I can do it)

I’m sure I’m missing some, but thankfully, I’ve got a LOT of time to update things here.

 

 

 

 

Having a Seizure

I could probably come up with a more witty, more descriptive title for this post, but the experience of having a seizure is too horrifying to encapsulate in just a word or two.

I’ve now suffered two seizures in my life, just about two years apart from one another.  I’ve had some intermittent “seizure-like episodes”, which frankly would be classified as  seizures, but for me they aren’t even in the same realm as the other two seizures.

The first was a grand mal/generalized tonic-clonic seizure – the dramatic type that people generally associate with the term “seizure.”  I remember it starting, but obviously, I had no idea what was happening.

I had been having some strange sensations on my left side, almost like a feeling of electrical pulses or currents creeping up from my foot into my leg.  On one or two occasions, that feeling traveled all the way up my left side into my face.  Of course, I later learned that these were in fact seizures.  However, I thought I was perfectly healthy, in tip-top shape.  I never imagined in my wildest dreams that these episodes were seizures, let alone the first signs of brain cancer.

As for the grand mal “big daddy” seizure, it began with that same creeping feeling beginning in my left foot.  It started traveling up my side and very suddenly, my chest became extremely tight.  There was almost this warming feeling/rush too.  It’s a sensation I find hard to describe, but it’s what they call the “aura” before the seizure.  Although I could technically still breathe, I began clutching my chest.  At the time, I was wearing a baseball cap and lifted it up thinking maybe that would help give me some air.  It was at that exact moment I demanded 911.

Just after that, I lost the ability to speak and all control of my left leg.  I actually recall thinking to myself, “Why is my leg jerking like this?  I’m not telling it to do this.”  Almost like an out-of-body experience, I was looking down at myself and seeing this happening, but having absolutely no idea what was happening.  While I don’t remember the specific chronology, around the same time my left arm and head began violently jerking.  It was then that I lost total consciousness.

Apparently while I was unconscious, but the seizure still continued, my contacts popped out of my eyes.  The portion that happened while I was awake was violent enough.  I still cannot fathom what it must have been like at its peak (I guess if that’s the right term to even use).

I was taken to the E.R. by ambulance.  Looking up at the ceiling and the florescent hospital lights flashing by while I was being wheeled into the E.R., I remember the EMTs asking me my name.  I didn’t know it.  They asked me if I could tell them where I was.  I couldn’t.  All I could utter was, “I don’t know” over and over again.  Even though I can only recall a very brief portion of that time, one thought that still haunts me to this day was the feeling that this was the end.  I was going to die.

After being seen in the E.R., I learned that there was a lesion on my brain, which had caused the seizure.  Obviously, after several more tests and ultimately brain surgery, it was confirmed that I had cancer.  The strange thing though is that the seizure scared me more than cancer and I believe it has left me with so much more PTSD.

Following the surgery, did I worry the tumor would recur?  Of course.  However, if that did happen, I believed it would be a progression that I could sort through/deal with/face over a period of time.  Yet, I would never know when a seizure could happen.  I had no control over where I would be, who I was with, what I was doing, etc.  There was nothing I could do to ever prepare myself.  Sure, I took several seizure medications, but there was always that chance.  Also, for quite a long time, I believed every little sensation was the beginning of another seizure.  I truly lived in fear.

As with most things in life, as time went by, things got better.  I didn’t worry every time I left the house about what could happen if a seizure came on.  I worked out without the fear of collapsing.  My doctors cleared me to drive, although I never traveled more than a few miles on my own.  I even began feeling comfortable on the subway again, which had constantly frightened me.  (Being enclosed in an underground subway car, filled with people who aren’t 100% likely to rush to your aide, without any easy access to medical attention, was the cause of many anxiety filled days).

Ironically, just a few weeks ago I thought back on that intense, overwhelming fear of a seizure and truly relished in the fact that I had almost entirely overcome it.  And then…

As I sit here today, I am not even two weeks out from the second major seizure of my life.  So much of the fear has once again reared its ugly head, and now there’s more.

I don’t know which of the two seizures were more frightening, but as of now, the second one is winning.  If the first was “big daddy” this one was “big momma” and we all know, momma is usually scarier than daddy.

Without fully detailing the chaos that surrounded the second seizure, I had been tapering off steroids in the weeks prior due to some vague blur on my last MRI.  (It’s believed that the taper contributed to my second seizure, as no one had thought to inform  my neurosurgeon of the taper and he would have never reduced the steroid had he known, but… anyway).  During that time, all of the radiation treatments had caused my cells to die, breaking down the skin around my surgical site, and causing a major infection.  It’s never fun to see your titanium plate exposed!  So, after days in the hospital, I was finally scheduled for surgery on a Friday.  In an effort to let me rest, sleep in my own bed and prepare for at least another week or two in the hospital, I was sent home Thursday.

I went to bed Thursday evening having to mentally and emotionally prepare for my third brain surgery.  As if that wasn’t enough… I woke up at some point in the middle of the night, violently sitting up.  There wasn’t a second thought in my mind.  This was a seizure.  I don’t even think my body and mind had time to experience the “aura.”  I just knew immediately what was happening.

As I sat up, I yelled at my husband to wake up, screaming, “I’m having a seizure.  Call 911.  Get my Ativan!”  The poor man was barely conscious and yet I was in desperate need of help.  The seizure didn’t begin too intensely even though I realized what was happening.  I was even able to continue yelling at my husband to follow my orders!

The twitching began in my left leg exactly as last time and started to creep up my left side into my left arm and hand.  However, the spasms weren’t bad enough yet because I was able to actually open my pill box and take some Ativan.  Almost immediately after that though, it became very ugly.

My entire left side began to violently twitch and jerk.  My left hand became clawed and my toes were curled under.  My speech became extremely strained until I lost it completely, as I began to literally snort and drool.  I was able to use my right hand to steady myself against the bed, at least keeping me safe from falling off.

I think one of the strangest sensations during the whole experience was that I remained completely conscious, knowing exactly what was happening and worse, what could happen.  My doctor had always told me that if I ever had another seizure, I would have to do my very best to stay calm.  I never thought that would ever be possible, but this time, I did say to myself that I needed to breathe and hope that this would pass.  Frankly, my attempt at staying calm utterly disappeared at the moment I could only communicate by snorting.

And just as it had started, the jerking and twitching began to slowly subside.  I could talk again, thankfully.  However, my entire left side was basically dead.  I sat there trying to move my left leg.  Nothing.  I tried lifting my left arm.  Nothing.  I picked up my arm with my right hand, but it just flopped onto the bed like a dead fish.  My fingers also remained clawed.  I was completely convinced I was paralyzed and a hundred scenarios rushed into my head, while I imagined all the things I’d never be able to do again.

Once the EMTs arrived, I was able to communicate fully, but the sensation on my left side had yet to return.  After a few minutes of oxygen, I began to feel what I thought was another aura, but thankfully, it was actually the sensations in my extremities coming back.  Slowly, I was able to move my leg and my arm, although they were clearly weak.  I was also able to move my fingers around and no longer felt like a clawed lobster woman.  Enough time had passed that it didn’t seem likely another seizure would come on.  So it was back to my hospital, hours early for my third brain surgery with the added bonus of a sudden seizure.

It’s now almost two weeks later and once again, my 12-hour surgery is not what keeps me up at night – it’s the fear of another seizure.  I hope and pray that the feelings that consumed me after the first seizure subside again after this experience.  Unfortunately, it’s going to take some serious therapy, meds and strength of mind to get back to where I was just weeks ago.

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Things can always be worse

 

I don’t expect this to be a long post, or even entirely sensical (I’m just a week out of surgery, so be kind).  My last post described my upcoming, essentially emergent surgery.  So, so much has happened in almost 2 weeks from then.

After several days in the hospital, waiting to determine when the surgery would be scheduled, we finally came to the conclusion that it would all go down Friday, May 6th.  As we suspected, the surgery would not be your “typical” brain surgery.  This surgery would now involve the plastic surgery team cutting down my abdomen and taking a significant amount of skin to create a flap over the previous surgical areas, which were now destroyed by the radiation and infection.  Although we hoped for a quicker surgery, realistically, it would be about 12-hours if all went well.

On the bright side of all of this, my neurosurgeon was confident that there would be absolutely no neurological side effects.  He described this procedure as a “plumbing job”to get rid of the infection, to prepare the flap and connect it properly so that it functioned/survived as living skin.  I don’t pretend to understand it all though…

Knowing my recovery time would be significant, me, my neurosurgery team, the plastic surgery team and the infectious disease team all agreed I could go home for just a night to relax and sleep in my own bed before an extended post-surgical stay. Little did we all know what a terrible idea that would be.

At home, I packed my bag for the hospital.  I took a LONG shower knowing it would be quite a while before I had a decent one again.  I did my best to straighten up the apartment into some kind of order.  I went to bed scared, but I was handling it.

At some point in the middle of the night, I shot up from a dead sleep.  My immediate thought, “I’m having a seizure.”  I knew it right away.  I could feel the strange, electrical sensations in my left leg, traveling up my side, into my left hand and then into my face.  I was able to at least wake up my husband and direct him to give me my medication and call 911.  Yet, he had never seen this happen.  He was honestly in shock and wasn’t truly able to process all of this.

Then came the intense, uncontrollable shaking and twitching, the complete and utter loss of power over my own body.  I heard my doctor’s voice telling me that despite it all, if a seizure ever came on, I’d have to do my best to stay calm.  So, while I had no control whatsoever of my body, my mind was functional enough to keep telling myself to stay calm, conscious and continuously breathing.  Unfortunately, I then lost all control to speak.  I was snorting and drooling.  I was convinced I was gone.

I frankly don’t remember it all settling down.  However, when it did, I had absolutely no use of my left side.  I was paralyzed.  I kept trying to send signals to my foot and hand, “Move, just move”, but nothing…My left hand was basically clawed and I couldn’t straighten any of my fingers.  My left side just felt dead.  Hundreds of things flooded my head.  Would I ever walk again?  Would I have to spend weeks in a physical rehab center?  What about my surgery?  What if this happened during surgery?

By now, the police and EMTs were in the mess of my bedroom.  I had regained the ability to speak and thankfully, the EMTs had good senses of humor.  I began apologizing about the state of our apartment, while they laughed and told me, “You ain’t seen nothing.”  They helped keep my calm, although my husband was still an absolute mess.

At some point, I started to regain movement and sensation in my left side.  So, now it was time to once again trek to the hospital I had only left hours ago.  All I kept thinking was that I should’ve never gone home.  I shouldn’t have been so selfish to have pushed to leave.  Here I was, beating myself up after a major, possibly life-altering seizure.

Now, I was being wheeled back into the UCC.  God knows what other catastrophe awaited.  As if it wasn’t enough that I was scheduled for major, complex, emergent brain/plastic surgery in just hours…now I had to face this seizure too.

I guess things can always be worse.

 

 

 

 

“So, you’re going to need a little bit of brain surgery.”

IMG_1402Two and a half years ago, I took this photo while sitting on Maya Beach in the Phi Phi Islands on my honeymoon in Thailand.  At that point, I was living a pretty damn perfect life.  I was married to the love of my life.  I had amazing family and friends.  I had a challenging, professional career working in New York City.  I led an active, healthy lifestyle.  Yet, I knew how to throw down a few cocktails and let loose.  I am Irish.  I know how to have a good time…

Basically, I was the “girl who had it all.”

Then, on Sunday, April 6, 2014, everything changed in the matter of a heartbeat.

While sitting in my nail salon that Sunday, reading what was likely some trashy gossip magazine and being completely mindless, I began to feel a strange sensation in my left leg.  I had been experiencing this sensation for a few months, but I had naively chalked it up to some kind of ambitious yoga stretch that I obviously hadn’t yet mastered.  First mistake – do not ignore your body when it is clearly telling you something is wrong!

In those prior months, I had simply expected the sensation to just go away.  I brushed it all off.  I mean, I didn’t have time to worry about something that seemed so minor.  I couldn’t work a doctor’s appointment into my demanding schedule!  Who has the time?  However, I soon began to have frequent episodes where my entire left foot and leg would go completely numb.  I would have to stop walking, or running, or doing whatever it was I was doing, until the feeling subsided.  I worked in New York City.  I was constantly in a rush.  This sensation was just getting in the way.  It was an annoyance that I finally admitted needed to be checked-out further, just so I wouldn’t have to stop on the subway steps with hordes of people behind me bothered that I was holding them up.  And yes, that is what finally brought me to see my doctor… not a true concern for my health, but my frustration in this inconvenience to my daily routine.

So, I eventually sucked it up.  On Thursday, April 3rd, I saw my primary care physician.  While relaying my symptoms, my doctor seemed clearly concerned.  Due to a family history of multiple sclerosis, she ordered an MRI of my brain, which would likely be scheduled for the following week.  I sat there in tears.  How could some numbness in my leg be a possible sign of MS?  I had seen what MS had done to my family members.  I suddenly began to imagine my future and it scared the hell out of me.  Little did I know what would come just days later.

Anyway, there I was that Sunday, having a “me day” at the nail salon, attempting to forget about that doctor’s appointment and the nagging feeling that Yes, something was definitely wrong.  Ironically, as I sat with my nail girl, I began telling her about that appointment and what my doctor feared.  At that moment, the numbness in my foot came on and began traveling up my leg, into my left side and down my left hand.  I asked her to give me just a minute, convinced the episode would pass.  Suddenly, I began to have trouble breathing.  In sheer panic, I told her to call 911.  For the next 30 seconds, I lost all control of my extremities.  I was violently shaking, unable to speak.  Then, I lost consciousness.

I later learned that I had suffered a grand mal seizure.  When I eventually returned to my nail salon, the girls explained that the seizure had been so violent, my contact lens had actually popped out of my eye.  By some miracle, one of the salon employees had experience with seizures, and was able to care for me until the EMTs arrived.

The next thing I remember was being wheeled into the ER.  My immediate thought was, “I am dying.  This is what dying is like.”  I recall the EMTs asking me my name.  I didn’t know it.  They asked me what was happening, how I was feeling.  All I could muster was, “I don’t know.  I don’t know.”  I have no idea how I got into a hospital gown or into a hospital bed, but when I finally realized where I was, I screamed out, “Please call my husband.  Where is my husband?”  Thankfully, the nail salon had been able to contact my friend, who was then able to call my husband.  Life lesson – never underestimate the value of a great nail salon!

When my husband arrived in sheer panic, it was like something out of a movie.  He rushed into the hospital room, throwing back the curtain.  I had never seen him look so scared.  He is the strong, silent type.  This had clearly rocked him to his core.  I immediately became hysterical.  In between gushes of tears and attempts at catching my breath, all I could say was, “I don’t know what is happening!”

In a way, as strange as it may seem, I feel blessed for how the seizure happened.  I wasn’t driving.  I wasn’t alone.  I wasn’t, god forbid, on the subway where people likely would’ve just assumed I was some crackhead, who had a bad dose.  I was somewhere safe, where everyone knew me.  I also wasn’t the one, who had to make the devastating calls to my family and friends to tell them what had happened.  Where would I have found the words?  I also cannot overemphasize the glory of anti-anxiety medication!  The ER doctors were kind enough to administer those soon after I was fully coherent, so I was at least highly medicated when I learned what had actually happened.

A calm, soft-spoken neurologist eventually came into my hospital room, which was now filled with family and friends.  I recall him putting his head down, eyes to the ground, telling me, “Your scans show there is some kind of lesion on your brain.  Whatever it is, it will have to be removed, and it will have to be removed sooner rather than later.”  Frankly, I hadn’t even realized I had undergone any scan.  News to me!  I also couldn’t fathom that just days earlier I had believed I was in perfect health.  Now, I had something in my brain that had caused my entire body to entirely shut down, nearly killing me.  What was going on?

The next few days in the hospital continue to be a blur.  Again, meds are amazing.  I don’t know how I would have even begun to process everything without being highly medicated.  It is amazing what our minds do remember though.

One of the few, crystal clear memories I had was getting our family lawyer to draw up legal documents.  One such document was a Living Will to ensure that my husband and family would not have to make the dire decision to keep me alive under extenuating circumstances, like ya know, becoming a vegetable only being kept alive by machines.  As an attorney myself, it didn’t even occur to me what the significance of those documents meant to my family.  For me, it was just business.  For them, it was devastating having to think about such possibilities.  I even had my two dear friends, who are also attorneys, come to sign and witness the documents in the hospital.

Another significant, overwhelming moment during those next few days was trying to arrange brain surgery – definitely not something I had ever in my wildest dreams thought I would have to do.  You know that saying, “It’s not brain surgery.”  Well, it was, and now I was faced with the biggest decision of my life.  Who was I going to trust with my life, to cut open my skull and remove something in my brain?

Another frightening lesson I have learned through all of this is that the doctors you choose really do mean life or death.  While the ER doctors were extremely competent, I would not have trusted that hospital to perform brain surgery.

Through various connections, I was beyond fortunate enough to get an appointment with one of the top neurosurgeons in the country.  He is my hero for so many reasons, but one of my favorite things about him is how he broached the topic of surgery.  I distinctly remember him walking into the room during our first consult.  He was not wearing a lab coat, but in “business casual” as you’d say.  I got the sense immediately that he was not going to be one of those pretentious, “holier than thou” physicians, although given his credentials, he would have all the right to be.  He introduced himself casually and sat down on the chair next to the exam table.  With his legs crossed, sitting back, he looked at me and said, “So, you’re going to need a little bit of brain surgery.”  All I could do was laugh.  At one of the worst times in my life, there I was… laughing.

And so, in just a few short days, my life was turned upside down, inside out.  My life would certainly never be the same, but thankfully I’ve got a lot more life to live and a lot more to write about.