October, my favorite month of the year. The skies have been so clear blue the last few days, the wind blows thru my chimes on the porch (I'm sure the fae folk are happy), the air is so crisp (and sometimes downright cold) but clean. Makes old witchy woman so happy!
After reading a friend's blog online tonight of her experience with breast cancer 2 years ago, I feel compelled to "journal" some of my own experiences. Many years ago, in 1992 and right before my youngest daughter's first birthday, I was stricken with a brain tumor. Thankfully, it was "benign" but still I had to undergo emergency surgery because the tumor itself was causing something called "localized seizures" (sometimes referred to as Jacksonian seizures). It had all started somewhat curiously with first a tingling then numbness in my right big toe, the numbness spread upward towards my knee and I then started noting a tendency for my right knee to "give out" suddenly and without warning. I was also experiencing continuous headaches at the time but had chalked those up to "stress". Stress that summer had been quite high. I was the mother of a 13-year old daughter (you know how those teenage hormones are), the stepmother to an 8-year old daughter (who was VERY jealous) who had been with us throughout that whole summer before going back to her mother, and then the "new mom" to a beautiful almost 1-year old daughter. We had what I humorously called a "his-hers-ours" family. Meanwhile, I was trying to maintain my part-time job as a medical transcriptionist to help in our family's finances, my hubby was working as a union sheet-metal worker and not around much during the days that summer to assist in the upbringing of our girls. A lot of stress, which like I said, I was using as an excuse for the headaches. I thought that most of the stress was being caused by the stepdaughter (unfortunately we had experienced an earlier problem when she tried to bite the baby's finger off...literally!...saying she "didn't know what happened" - yeah right!); so I thought that with her departure, so would go the headaches. They didn't leave, of course, and then the right foot-knee problems set in. At that time, I was working for an orthopedic surgeon whom I had known for quite a few years and "trusted his judgment". When I had a rather cursory and quick exam by him, he said "I don't know what your problem is, but I'm going on vacation and we'll check into it when I get back in 2 weeks". *Sighs*. The weirdest thing was that the reflex in my knee was HYPERACTIVE (and still IS!) as opposed to "normal". That in itself should have been a sign to him that something neurologically was going wrong but I guess he was too concerned with his upcoming vacation (that's what happens when you actually "work" for doctors). So, I plodded along until the following Monday. Hubby had been "laid off work" - usual condition for us thru all these years - and I had gone out to my car to start it up to go to work. I couldn't "find" the gas pedal with my foot. And when I did finally "find it", I couldn't keep it in place on the pedal. I knew that there was NO way I could drive like that! So I got back inside, told hubby what was going on, and fearful that something VERY bad was indeed happening, got on the phone and called the clinic where I used to work as a medical secretary for 10 years and asked to make an appointment that very WEEK with the head surgeon (I was his secretary). That was all on Monday, my appointment was on Friday. I had to call in work and tell them I couldn't come in. So for the next 4 days (and hubby went back to work that week), I stayed home; finding it increasingly difficult to even walk across the room. My baby daughter had still not learned to walk yet, and I was SO fearful of dropping her when I had to carry her. Those few days were spent with her mostly with me sitting on the floor and playing with her down there; and literally crawling across the floor in order to accomplish any other necessities of life.
Friday finally comes, my MIL was taking care of the baby, and hubby and I went to the doctor. When I told the doctor all of my symptoms and he himself examined me, I could tell that he TOO knew that something neurologic was going on. So he sent me downstairs to Radiology for a CAT scan with dye. I was to come back upstairs afterwards for the results. Scan was done without incident, at first. We went back upstairs, and while waiting in the hallway of the clinic to be called into an exam room, suddenly I felt a jerking of my right foot. It got worse and worse, the jerking and just TERRIBLE sensation started climbing upwards, and I was scared out of my mind. I started telling hubby, "Something's HORRIBLY wrong...I need help NOW!" The jerking and terrible feeling got worse, in my mind I was thinking if it climbed any higher I would no longer be able to BREATHE, and by this time I was literally SCREAMING at the top of my voice, "Help me, help me!" The nurses rushed over and with Frank's (hubby) help, got me into an exam room and onto the exam table. By this time, I could barely make sense but I saw the kind doctor rush into the room and he ordered an immediate injection of Dilantin to stop the seizing. Boy, did THAT work wonders! He then proceeded to tell me that unfortunately he had bad news....the CAT scan revealed a tumor which had to come out immediately. The seizures had probably been caused by the severe swelling the tumor was causing (thus causing the headaches too) and the CAT scan dye had "tickled" the tumor into causing the seizures.
What I didn't know, and he had no way of knowing beforehand, was that my entire right leg was numb. I didn't know this until I went to get down off the exam table and having no sense of proprioception (space & time sensation) within my right foot, my foot had actually curled under itself and when getting down instead of stepping squarely on the sole of my foot normally, I apparently tried stepping down on TOP of my foot. I cracked my ankle on top of the brain tumor. Damn! After he, Frank & the nurses finally got me into a freaking wheelchair, he went out of the room to make phone calls up the street (UAB Medical Center) to the head neurosurgeon there. I was to go immediately up there, not even wait to go home and see my baby! and come back later, to be admitted for surgery the next morning. Gawdalmighty, I was so damn scared! But I tried to main calmness so as not to frighten hubby any more than possible. I had him wheel me to the phone station at the nursing desk so I could call my Mama and let her know what was going on. She's gone now, to Heaven or as some call it, the Summerlands; she herself dying of a high-grade astrocytoma (brain tumor) 10 years after my own. But I can still recall the horror I heard in her voice that day and how I choked up on the phone. You know, if you were ever close to your mother as I was, how the little girl in you still calls out to "mama" in the depths of your own fear, uncertainty and horror. How I wish she were still here with me!
But back to "my story"....someday I will relate my "mother's story" *smiles*. So hubby and I drive down the street to the neurosurgeon's office. They got me admitted to the hospital and I was to undergo an MRI of my brain. Hubby had to leave me, in order to check on our baby girl - Katie - and make sure that my oldest daughter - Tiffany - was made aware of the goings on and that she could stay with my mama. Well, in 1992, MRI scans were still fairly new "inventions", and UAB was proud to boast that they had the best state-of-the-art kind. I guess they did; all I know is that unfortunately NO ONE bothered to inform ME that it was going to be the loudest "ride of my life". Early on, they didn't bother to offer a patient ear plugs which is now of course common practice. It literally scared the SH** out me. Didn't help matters either that one has to lie perfectly still throughout the ordeal. By this time, with Frank's departure, I felt that I could finally cry and squall to my heart's content. Utmost worry??? That I had CANCER, that I would DIE before even seeing my baby girl take her first steps and so on! And I knew that my oldest daughter, age 13, also needed me at this crucial time in HER life. OMG, I prayed so hard during that entire noisy ordeal, that God would let me live at least long enough to see my "baby" graduate high school and be able to take care of herself.
He/She "God/Goddess" heard my prayers that day, I'm still alive these 18 years later, albeit with a few "side effects" of the brain tumor. My "baby" DID graduate high school this past Spring; and my oldest daughter made me the proud "granny" of a beautiful now 7-year old girlchild named after the Queen of the Witches herself - Aradia:) I still have a lot of those "side effects" I mentioned up above, but I AM still here. I will go into more "postoperative" details, if you're interested (and if you're not, I don't give a d**n ha-ha!) in another post, on another day. This one has proved to be too lengthy tonight anyway!