Tuesday, June 4, 2013

As a matter of fact, it is brain surgery.

The family caravan to the OR.
On January 4, 2012, I wrote a blog post entitled Tales from the Waiting Room. Today is June 4, 2013, and I’m sitting in the exact same spot as I was one year and five months ago ... waiting. 

I feel like in the past few years I’ve learned more about the human body and various things that can go horribly wrong with it than I ever thought I’d want to know. I’m not complaining – it’s actually interesting, but a little disconcerting when it’s going on in the body of someone you love. 

What I am complaining about is how someone can live her whole life trying to eat healthy, exercise regularly, take vitamins and do all the other things you’re supposed to do to keep your cholesterol down, your blood pressure down, your weight down, your skin out of the sun, your muscles toned, your heart healthy … then all that gets thrown out the window by some random seemingly insignificant ache or pain that ends up rocking an entire world. 

In retrospect, it’s been a blessing how things have happened (as hard as it is for me to admit that.) It began with a nagging backache that just wouldn’t go away, which after various treatments, led to a CAT scan, which revealed a cancerous kidney. Kidney cancer? It doesn’t run in our family and there were no symptoms other than a backache, yet the resulting nephrectomy (told you I knew all these big words now) showed a kidney the size of a small football and one amazed surgeon.

Maybe because of her healthy, active lifestyle, doctors were again amazed when she left the hospital only two and a half days after having a kidney removed. Even more spectacular, she got on a plane to Florida less than six weeks later. Not much keeps this woman down. 

But there was more in store. A routine, follow-up CAT scan six months after what we call “the kidney incident” confirmed my belief that if you look hard enough, you’ll find something. Test after test finally revealed cancer. Again, not hereditary. In fact, one of the rarest of all gynecological cancers out there.

This road wasn’t quite as cut and dried. After much research and discussion, weighing of pros and cons and consults with doctors and nurses alike, a game plan was reached and we all tried to settle in to a “new normal”, which now consisted of other words I don’t normally toss around like “carboplatin,” “doxil” and “CA125.”

It’s tough to watch someone go through chemotherapy, especially when it’s for a disease you really don’t see. You don’t know if they’re getting better. You don’t know if the poison being dripped into them several times a month is doing its job or making things worse. You worry that quality of life is being sacrificed for something that may come back. Which it did. Chemo, Round 2. Life’s not getting any easier, and I see that optimistic spirit and energy tempered by a feeling of “enough already.” But her oncologist said, “I’ll tell you when it’s time to stop fighting and it’s not yet time.”

At one point another doctor told her, “Hey, at least you’re OK from the neck up.” That was before the splitting headache that came out of nowhere. The vomiting. The feeling that her skull was being ripped off her head. The trip to the ER. Another CAT scan. Another MRI. An angiogram. And now, as we sit here in the same waiting room we occupied almost a year and a half ago, brain surgery. 

It will be fine. She’s in the best place she could be for what’s called an orbital zygomatic craniotomy. I think that is by far the best series of words I’ve learned in the past two years. She was told she’ll be here for two weeks. She negotiated seven to 10 days. I’m predicting right now that she’ll be home in five, six tops.

She’s worried about the scar, and how she’ll cover it with her hair. She’s worried that because of this she’s going to miss her last round of chemo (which she will.) She’s worried about her family and feels bad that we’re sitting here … waiting. But there’s nowhere else we’d rather be right now. 

Our family is strong – from the matriarch to the patriarch and everyone they brought into this world.  We rally together during times like these and I can’t imagine what I would do without a family like this.  Now that I think about it, despite these challenges and the seeming unfairness of it all, we are lucky. She is lucky.

It’s not brain surgery. Well, yes it is. But after writing this blog, I realize it’s not brain surgery to realize how blessed I am to have the family I have, with strong wills, unconditional support and sometimes a little inappropriate humor. It’s those things that get us through times like these … sitting here in this little room … waiting.


  1. Bless you all.

  2. Remember you have a strong network of friends who love you too. Help, a shoulder, and a nice long walk partner are a phone call away. You all are in my prayers.

  3. Amy, I'm always praying for your Mom. May the Lord restore her quickly. Keep writing. I keep reading.


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