Saturday, March 26, 2011

Into His Hands

Somehow arriving from the Caribbean to brain surgery was less than exciting but still I was glad to be finally there. A friend of mine’s parents, Jim and Jan, were going to let my wife and I stay at their house and were kind enough to pick us up from the airport despite our late arrival. Surprisingly enough, I actually slept fairly well with almost no random thoughts that night but woke up early to get a few things done.

I got up and ran over four miles, wondering how long it would be before I’d get to run again. I wrote down a few thoughts to myself and some notes to remember. I wrote a note to my wife as well but in the end threw it away because it felt inadequate, saying little more than I love you and the only reason I want to come back is because of you and Kiana. It came across as cheesy and predictable. I had already given her a card that said “Grow old along with me, the best in life is yet to be.” For a guy who had always talked too much, been a preacher, spoken publicly in various places, words for the love of my life always seemed so less than adequate.

We drove to the hospital, one of the least/most exciting half hour drives of my life and checked in at one placed to have this blood test, that MRI, get admitted, have an IV put in (over my hospital stay I would keep track of the number of times they took some prick from me or a needle and it was over a dozen; always having been a pansy about this stuff, people were amused I was calmer about MRI’s and brain surgery than I was about needles). I had steroids being put in, this presurgery medication. There were some amusing moments like when they asked me before the MRI if I had any metal in my head. I have some titanium screws from the biopsy but somehow what came out of my mouth was:

Me: Adamantium
Nurse: Huh?
Me: Adamantium, no wait that’s from X-men, I have titanium

I couldn’t stop laughing about this for a while as the joke that I had received the most often was the fact that I was going to walk away from the surgery with superpowers and I was trying to already put them in.

Finally after some more conversation/tests, Dr. Allan Friedman, the main reason I had come to Duke came in and talked to me. I had chosen to delay putting on hospital gear as long as possible and was still wearing a shirt a friend had given me that read “It’s not rocket surgery”. Dr. Friedman never noticed it; (his assistant would later explain that he’s incredibly focused on your face when he meets you, wondering if something is being triggered and never even looks at people’s outfits). Friedman mention¬¬ed surgery would be about two o’clock the next day, asked about how my marathon went, blatantly but honestly pointed out that they weren’t going to cure me, just hoped to buy me time. Their hope was to remove 60 to 80% of the tumor and that they would be going underneath my brain. As he looked carefully at my biopsy scar, he was clearly both surprised and disappointed at how big it was and stated openly that they would have to incorporate it into the surgery and that came across as a complication. This was Wednesday, surgery would be on Thursday and they expected me to be in the ICU until Saturday and released from the hospital Sunday or Monday. He asked if I had any questions and I went through my list of a variety of things about the future of returning to work and life wherein he explained that most people have six weeks after before they are back to normal in energy levels, and wherever speech and memory would settle which could both possibly be less. Thoroughly impressive was the fact that he never seemed in a hurry and answered each question as if it was something significant. I suddenly realized ¬why this was the man into whose hands I would commend my spirit.

My older brother Alonso, mother and stepfather showed up late at night because their flight had been delayed and brought some food. My wife had already left to go back so we just had some growing up family time. We were up until almost midnight and talked. There was some good/awkward conversation and some great affection but there’s no way around that there’s nothing clearly to say that’s adequate for the night before brain cancer surgery.

Shortly after they left I spent a few minutes wondering how different the guy going to sleep the next night would be but after I fell asleep I again had no problems sleeping. One has to wonder whether the people who thought I was in denial or the people who thought I had accepted it with grace were the ones who were correct.

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