Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Welcome to the rest of your (fractured) life!
Shortly thereafter, my wife, Barbara, and I went to the ophthalmologist’s office to see the results of the MRI.
Barbara is a very steady soul to have with you at times like these. While she will yell and scream and turn red when the Chicago Bears have a dumb turnover or stupid penalty, she is relatively unflappable when somebody had a serious health issue. Growing up in the Detroit area, she paid her own way through college by working two jobs in the summer and working part-time jobs during the school year. Unlike me, she looks about ten years younger than she really is. She’s a fabulous mother, loves “Project Runway” and eats less than most birds. We’d been married over thirty years and neither of us had yet had a major health problem.
The ride through the tree-lined streets of the north shore suburbs to the ophthalmologist’ office, though, seemed longer that the four or five miles that it was. My memory of that ride was that we talked about everything except the reason for the ride – the nice the weather, possible movies we should go to and, maybe, the piles of leaves in the gutters above the third-floor attic.
But I knew that, this time, something was wrong, something that wouldn’t be easily fixed. My fear was that I had some horrible eye problem that would require surgery. My parents had both had cataract surgery and it sounded unnerving.
So I stewed on the idea of eye surgery (What else could it possibly be?) during the drive and, in the process, torqued my nerves so tight that I would’ve needed a socket wrench to loosen them.
We took an elevator up to the ophthalmologist’s office and, unlike previous visits, were quickly shown into an examination room.
Almost immediately, the doctor entered the room and shut the door. Then in a no-nonsense tone-of-voice he told us that I had a brain tumor and he could recommend a very good neurosurgeon.
My tongue tied itself up, slightly loosened, and I sputtered out something like “brain tumor?”
I was stunned.
I was shocked.
I wasn’t even sure what a brain tumor was other than bad—very bad.
What do you say to somebody who’s just told you that your life is going to change forever…for the worse? “Thanks for the really bad news?” “Please excuse me while I start to freak out?” “Where’s the scotch? And not the Black Label, I want the really good Blue Label stuff!”
I have no real memory of what was said other than some comment about sending me to a neurosurgeon that specializes in brain tumors.
There was a discontinuity about hearing life-changing news on an absolutely beautiful autumn day. The warm fall weather hadn’t changed. The streets were teaming with students who just escaped from grade school. But I had just heard the worst news I could ever remember hearing. And the only people who knew it were me, my wife, and the ophthalmologist’s medical team.