Incidentally You Have a Brain Tumor and Your Van Won’t Start

I’m not whining, for the record, I’m recording. Those violins are entirely coincidental.

Ever have an experience that was so thoroughly insane that you wondered whether God-in-heaven had just bragged about you to Satan, “Have you considered my servant, X?”

March, 2014. I had pneumonia. Not walking pneumonia, mind you. Although I walked from the parking lot into the doctor’s office, mewling, and kept it up while I waited for them to work their magic and make everything better.

“Well… what have we here?” asked a motherly Indian doctor. I cried. I gasped. She said she doubted I had pneumonia but she’d do a chest x-ray just in case. I didn’t even say I told you so. Breathing the words required too much effort.

Dr. Thank-God gave me some superhero antibiotics, steroid lung mist, and a codeine cough syrup that made me think I was hearing choruses from The Grateful Dead. I looked forward to being not dead and grateful.

Convalescing is lovely for kids and old people and anyone else who can afford two weeks on her back. Not me. My refrigerator was empty, and the minions were hungry. No, starving. They’re always starving. We go straight from full-of-orange-chicken to desperately languishing. It takes five minutes, I tell you, and a mother can only take so much whining.

I shuffled into Aldi, weak and shaky, and considered turning around and going back home, but I’m prideful and didn’t want to admit weakness the kids would flog me for returning empty-handed. As I pushed the cart down one aisle and then another, I felt weaker and weaker, like my knees couldn’t be trusted. That being an entirely new and unwelcome feeling for me, I became alarmed. My heart raced, and no matter how much air I gulped, it wasn’t enough. I began to fear the very real prospect of fainting in Aldi.

It took herculean effort to put those groceries on the belt and gasp into my phone. Come… get me.

In all our 20 years of marriage, I have never asked Bob to come get me.

On a bench in Aldi, quite the spectacle, I waited. Bob was taking forever (7 minutes), and I regretted not calling the squad. I’m going to die in Bob’s car.  Because I couldn’t feel my arms and legs, because my heart was completely out of control, because I couldn’t breathe– I sincerely believed I might be dying. What a relief to make it to the ER. Much rather die there.

The intake nurse asked if I ever had a panic attack before.

No. I don’t have panic attacks. I’m here for you to fix this whole weak kneed, heart pounding, head hurting, unable to breathe thing I’ve got going on. Don’t judge me, just fix it.

I think the strategy in ER’s is to make you wait until you either 1. die or 2. get better on your own. My symptoms worked themselves out while I lay there waiting for test results. #2 for me.

The doctor told me they didn’t know what caused my presenting symptoms, but they had found something else while they were in there looking around. An incidental finding, he called it. A mass, he called it, about 7 millimeters diameter in my brain.

[record screech]

I know metric measurements, and I know what diameter is. And I thoroughly know masses don’t belong in one’s brain. Still, I held up my fingers and asked: This?  Like a marble? Yes, that. He was a nice-enough guy. He was just punching me in the gut with his incidental finding. It’s hard to like someone when they’re doing that, even if they speak like Buddha and gently touch your skull while illustrating. I wouldn’t lose sleep over it, he told me. Just see this neurosurgeon…

Don’t lose sleep over it?  I have pneumonia and a brain tumor and I still don’t know what mutiny happened inside my body to bring me in here in the first place.

Have you considered my servant, Kelly?  Only that could explain the ridiculous pile-up of medical afflictions with which I found myself. Don’t lose sleep over it, snort.

Bob put his arm around me, and we hobbled to our van, aware we still had a trunk full of groceries in the Aldi parking lot. I was in shock and beat down and mumbling bits of Scripture to myself.

The van was dead. The whirring, moaning sound it made left little doubt. In my mind I laughed that I-can’t-believe-this-is-happening maniacal laugh reserved for the truly absurd. I wouldn’t be more surprised than if we walked out of the ER to a couple of dairy cows in our parking space.

What I know now, without a doubt, is there is no hedge and no escape from the brokenness of our world.  Anything can and will happen. Jesus tried to warn me (John 16:33b), but I’m more of an experiential learner: In the world you will have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world. 

He has, I tell you– overcome. It’s been more than a year since they discovered my marble. I find it a handy excuse when I forget things or am generally scatterbrained. Maybe I’ll have it cut out someday if it gets unwieldy. Life gets unwieldy sometimes, like that day. But then there’s a next day, and a next. And eventually you can look back and laugh, not even maniacally. You can look back with Jesus and watch your personal storm together like you’re watching a movie, and he looks at you and you look at Him, and He winks.

Advertisements

25 thoughts on “Incidentally You Have a Brain Tumor and Your Van Won’t Start

  1. Your writing is beautiful. I’m glad you are carving time out to share what’s in your head and not keep it all to yourself. Look forward to reading more. Although I hope you don’t have many more awful, horrible, no good, very bad days like this one!

  2. Hey this is going to sound very flippant in the circumstances, but that was a really really good read. I mean it’s not exactly worth it I’m sure, teetering with thoughts of life and death just to create good material. But, you wrote about it in a way that made me share your experience briefly, thank you !

  3. Wow! This is an amazing post, Kelly. I read the title and thought the brain tumor was hyperbole. I should have known better.

    My best friend Helen had a cancerous brain tumor removed 8 yrs. ago. It was the size of a small egg. She’s alive and well and loves to encourage others in her shoes. (If you wish to learn more, you’ll find a blog on in on my website, or message me. I’ll give you her phone number.)

  4. Fine writing. These brain tumours seem to be more common that I expected. A future son in law ???? collapsed in Germany 2 years ago and found he had one and they were able to operate and remove it even though it had attached itself to the brain stem! He’s back playing rugby and living life to the full. Amazing what is possible today. Glad you pulled through.

  5. You have the best writing style. I dig your flow, kellY! Prayers to good health, vans that start, and minions who might feel full.

  6. Pingback: Carpool* – Kelly Griffiths

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s