My brain was never that great, but now it seems to be less so
This past Monday I went to visit my friends at the Good Samaritan Hospital emergency department because, to be honest, the other person who lives at my house said I had to. Actually, my family doctor also told me to.
You see, they were both concerned about the stroke-like symptoms I'd been exhibiting for three or four days. I was having trouble finding words, getting them out of my mouth and, to top it all off, I had an episode Sunday night — while we were watching "Call the Midwife" — where I could not get past a single syllable that I just kept sort of stuttering.
After spending nine hours and 13 minutes in the ER, during which I had a CT scan, an MRI and an assortment of other examinations by doctors, nurses and physician's assistants, I was informed I have an irregular-shaped mass in the left front part of my brain and that I need to see someone who specializes in neurological issues and the brain.
They did offer preliminary assurance that I probably had not had a stroke — and that it's apparently not metastatic activity caused by my almost 22-year-old prostate cancer. Up until Monday, my top medical story was the cancer that seems determined not to leave my body, but this little revelation trumped all my other health problems, of which there have been quite an assortment over the past couple of decades.
For many years now I've known that when a bunch of us were eyeing the last cookie on a plate, I had a cancer card I could play. But now I have an ace in the hole. If I really need the sympathy, I can say, "Sorry, mate — cancer and a brain tumor." Sorta like aces and eights: the dead man's hand.
The immediate result of this whole thing is, I'm not allowed to drive a car, so I'm being chauffeured everywhere by the woman who married me almost exactly 55 years ago. This is relatively significant because she kinda stopped driving some time back. Because we're together all the time, she got rid of her old Honda Civic, and I was doing all the driving myself.
It's probably also worth pointing out here that this is someone who hates driving with the white-hot intensity of a thousand suns (to borrow an expression from my old colleague, Christina Lent) — largely because of the crash she was in on I-5 in which a hit-and-run scumbag ran her off the road in his white van and left her shivering on the shoulder overlooking the waterfront. So, driving is a fairly big deal for her.
OK, I'm back now. It's been a couple of days since we talked last.
On Thursday I had a date with my first neurology expert, a Dr. Kuether at Legacy Emanuel Hospital, to determine what it is that's taken up residence in the folds of my little brain — and what we should do about it.
The news, as it turns out, was good. According to the good doctor, my "tumor" is so tiny he doesn't think we should do anything but watch it. And by tiny, he means the size of a BB. There is some sort of larger shape surrounding the BB, he admitted, but they don't know what that is, either. It could be fluid, or air, or just some ghostly shadow thing. At any rate, he's not that worried about it. And, if he's not worried, I'm not either.
I would also like to add that this is a neurological surgeon we're talking about and, in my experience, a surgeon's answer to almost everything is to operate. In this case, he said, we'll do an MRI in three months, and if that BB hasn't grown or changed, we'll wait another three months. After that, we can switch to every six months.
So, I can drive again, we asked him? Yes, he said, adding that the symptoms I had may or may not occur again. So, he did not say my wife should have to do all the driving for the rest of our lives. She appreciated that very much.
I do have an appointment with another brain specialist in Tualatin in another couple of weeks — I'm not a complete idiot and I know the value of a second opinion. If there's anything new to report after that, you can rest assured I'll be back with the details.
Meanwhile, don't be surprised if I continue to pounce on that last cookie, shouting, "Dibs! The cancer kid with a tumor gets it!"
Mikel Kelly retired from newspapers in 2015 and now spends most of his time going to an assortment of medical professionals. In his spare time he yells at kids to get off his lawn.
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