An Agnostic in a Fox-Hole

Last Wednesday, I woke up with a migraine. This is not uncommon after I have had a busy day prior. I did not want to stay in bed, so I got up and dressed, but I felt so miserable that I laid back down. I heard Andrew in the kitchen making breakfast and then grinding the coffee (and the coffee making is my treasured morning contribution), so I forced myself up and walked to the top of the landing. I saw that Andrew had closed the door at the foot of the stairs, and since I was in considerable pain, I took that as my cue and turned around and went back to bed. Shortly thereafter, Makaela came up to say goodbye, and then either I went down or Andrew came up. I don’t quite remember. The next thing I do remember is sitting in front of my iPad on the main level watching CSPAN. I was nestled into our brown swivel chair facing the coffee table. The Washington Journal wasn’t holding my attention and I wondered if it was me or the gentleman that they were interviewing. Following that thought, my next immediate memory is of laying on the floor unable to sit up. I remember attempting to fight through (or fight off) my body’s utter weakness: as if I was the storied Jacob wrestling an angel in the middle of the night, stricken by the strength of a stranger. As I sluggishly broke through the weight holding me down I noticed I was close to the loveseat. It was up so high. I scolded myself for being weak. I did not know why I was on the floor. I remember thinking “if I could just try a little harder, I am sure I can lift my body up on to the sofa”. After much effort, I backed into the loveseat and used my elbows to support the pull of my body upward. At this point I realized that this was not a normal morning. I thought that maybe I was having a reaction to my migraine medication. I knew that I needed to call Andrew, but I was immobilized. I kept hoping he’d call, like every other day, but due to the severity of my migraine he assumed I was resting. As time passed, I thought I remembered how to use my arms to make a phone call and slowly moved my cumbersome left hand up to my ear, pushing on my ear. For about thirty minutes, I moved my left hand from my waist, to my shoulder, than touched my ear. I held it at my ear, touching the inside like a button, not understanding why the call was not going through. I grew frustrated and decided to lay down hoping that time would help. I did not want to fall asleep, as I did not know if I would wake up. After about twenty minutes of fighting off sleep I saw it, the iPhone, sitting smugly on the coffee table. I sat up and clumsily reached for the phone. My fingers were weak and shaky, but thank goodness the iPhone is user-friendly. Andrew knew within seconds that I had had a tonic-clonic seizure. Disappointment and relief flooded through me: disappointment that it was a seizure and relief that it was a seizure. I laid on the sofa while he called Samantha and Makaela. Sam arrived within 15 minutes to sit with me, and then Makaela arrived, and then Andrew.

My neurologist ordered an MRI for the following Thursday. After nine years of MRI’s, I am comfortable in the clanging, cozy, claustrophobic cocoon-like setting. The thing I dread the most is the IV for the contrast die. Upon my return to the lobby following the MRI there was a gentleman in the waiting room who was called back. The MRI technician said to him, ”you’re back so soon, for another party, right?” They laughed knowingly and walked through the doors. Shortly thereafter, he exited an “employee entrance only” door in scrubs, and briefly returned again. I didn’t think much of it, as I was consumed in my own thoughts. But, when he left in his street clothes, and looked back at me, I knew who he was and what he was thinking. “Did you see that?” I asked Andrew. “I did, and he was thinking ‘she’s cute.’” Yep, but we both knew who he was and what his look said.

We walked into the doctor’s office, my brain on the computer literally and figuratively. “Do you see this enhancement here?” In other words, the tumor has grown, and it is most likely the culprit that caused the seizure. Now there is nothing to do but to do something. Sadly, the “wait and see” approach is off the table. The neurologist explained that the way the tumor is growing, I will keep losing abilities, and that with treatment it will make that loss more sudden than I am experiencing today, but than after some time the losses will plateau off. If I do nothing, I will keep losing abilities until I have lost the game all together. So, that is where we are today. We go in next week to meet with a neurosurgeon and then from there we will meet with the rest of the neuro-oncology team to make a plan. It is sad, but it is also happy. We live fifteen minutes from my neuro-team, and even though there will be some unfortunate losses from treatment, the potential gain of years, is a happy reality.

“The chances of each of us coming into existence are infinitesimally small, and even though we shall all die some day, we should count ourselves fantastically lucky to get our decades in the sun.” ~Richard Dawkins

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