Tuesday, October 5, 2010

"My Son Has A Brain Tumor"

Wednesday, September 29, 2010 ~

     With everything going on in our lives, my time at the office had come to a screeching all-time low in the last little while, so I knew that Wednesday needed to be a very productive and full day there.  Thankfully I am able to perform many of my office-related tasks from home, but there comes a time when my eyes just need to see what all is accumulating and deal with it! 

     Around 11 a.m. my cell phone rang, and it was the neurologist's receptionist calling to tell me that the doctor wanted to see Heath and me in his office as soon as possible because something abnormal had shown up on one of Heath's tests.  I explained to her that Heath had gotten a ride to school that day and wouldn't be back until after 6 p.m. and that I really needed to be at the office that day because I was scheduled for surgery the next day.  My plea was for her to please just give us some information over the phone so that we could figure out our next move, but instead she transferred the phone call to the doctor so that he could talk to me.  The only information he gave me was that the EEG had come back normal but that he had been faxed a report that something was seen on the MRI that was of concern to them and that he was thinking we would want to go to a larger center for further diagnosis.  That was all it took for me to realize that we had something really serious happening, and we set it up to meet him at 2 p.m.  He didn't even have the disk to look at yet, so he suggested that we could pick that up from the hospital before coming into his office. 

     I pushed the end button on that phone, gave it a little toss onto my desk, and instantly broke down into a mess of tears.  I was so frustrated, scared, nervous, bitter, disappointed -- you fill in the adjective.  My dear sister-in-law, Steph, happened to be working at the office that day too, so she immediately came over to console me and pray with me and figure out the next step.  We decided that we would grab Vance from his office and all go into Harris's office to tell them together.  The four of us decided that our plan of attack would be for Harris to go fetch the disk and drive up to Clinton to get Heath so that I could try and get as much done as possible at the office before our appointment at 2 p.m.  Vance offered to pray with us, and Harris left shortly thereafter because his ability to focus on work was completely gone again.  He has been through such a difficult season of life as he's watched his dad endure a three-year battle with prostate cancer.  Now our son is diagnosed with something just three weeks after his dad passed away?  When will this nightmare ever end?

     Totally consumed with the health of our son, I sent out a quick email to just a few people and asked them to pray for us.  I flipped through my pile of paperwork and dealt with anything of urgency, and before long it was time to make our way to the neurologist's office again.  We handed over the disk to the receptionist, and in just a few moments, the three of us were ushered into the doctor's office.  Heath was asked a few questions, including whether or not he had been taking the Dilantin, and we could instantly tell that our decision not to have him do so was not music to the doctor's ears.  He advised us that Heath should be taking it to prevent more seizures.  He then invited us into a different office where we were able to view the MRI image on his computer screen. 

     It seemed as though we had to ask all the questions, and his answers were very short.  He called it a 1cm growth, a little smaller than a marble, inside Heath's brain, near the surface, in the left occipital lobe.  He really just gave us the opinion that he knew absolutely nothing more than that and that we would have to go to Iowa City or Mayo Clinic next.  He didn't have a preference where we went, so we are opting for Iowa City because it is so much closer to home.  Since then, we've heard outstanding reports on their neurosurgical department, so we are very encouraged that we have made the right choice. 

     While the receptionist was working on calling and faxing things to Iowa City for us, I kept hearing her refer to this "growth" as an "innercranial tumor."  I was looking at the paperwork that had been handed to us, and the terminology in there referred to it as a "mass" and as a "neoplasm."  After really pinpointing her on what in the world this thing really was, she rather reluctantly said to me, "Well, growth is a sugar-coated way of saying tumor."  Thank you very much.  We certainly don't know the difference between all these terms, and my personality would just rather know the gut-wrenching truth than be told some sugar-coated version of what we're really dealing with. 

     Later in the week I had a conversation with a friend whose son had a brain tumor in the middle of his brain (praise the Lord -- it's gone now!!), and she enlightened me that we could put that disk in our computer at home and see the images, so we took the liberty of saving it to our computer and labeling it so we could share it here. 

     After leaving the neurologist's office, it was a pretty silent ride back to where the three of us had met.  Once the vehicle was shut off, the conversation started flowing a little more because we realized we had some decisions that had to be made.  First of all, we had to decide what we were going to call it when we told family and friends.  We figured people would have the same questions we did about growth vs. tumor vs. mass, so we just decided to bite the bullet and call it a tumor.  We had to decide how and when certain people were going to be told, and we decided that it would be best to tell the other kids as a family after youth group was over and the girls were home for the night.  We had to decide whether or not I was going to proceed with my surgery the next day.  We had to decide whether or not we were going to pick up the Dilantin prescription and who was going to do so. 

     Harris went to the office, and Heath and I proceeded to drive to Wal-Mart to pick up the prescription.  He was hungry and thirsty, so he decided he'd go get us a snack to eat while we waited, and I proceeded to walk up to the pharmacy counter and get his prescription filled.  Before I knew what had happened, the most horrific set of words came spilling out of my mouth:

     "My son has a brain tumor." 

     A very new reality was really starting to sink in for me.  I sincerely hope and pray that if you're reading this, those words never ever find their way coming out of your mouth.  They're bothersome; they're scary; they're just downright troubling. 

     We sat and ate our doughnuts and had some interesting conversation together, just the two of us.  I'll probably never walk by that little bench again without vividly remembering that moment in time.  We did manage to even laugh a little! 

     The rest of the evening was spent making phone calls and coming to grips with our new set of circumstances.  When the girls walked in the door after their swim practice, Heath and Haley ended up in a hug, and Heath's body was shaking as tears were flowing from his eyes.  Obviously our plan to tell the kids later was foiled.  We did manage to keep it from Keaton until I had a chance to just sit alone and gingerly explain it to him.  The stress level had been pretty high for all of us up until this point, and this certainly didn't help.  Recently when people would ask me how I was, the word "fine" or "okay" or "good" was the only thing that seemed to come out of my mouth, even though I knew in my heart that what I wanted and needed to be saying was, "Only by the grace of God are we getting through each day."  Never before were those words more important than now.


  1. It is only by the grace of God that you get through each day and make the decisions that have to be made. I am very curious about what the nuerosurgein is going to say today. We just found out that Jake has had numerous smaller growths develop in his brain these last four years (that is how long it has been since his last MRI). This explains the increase in seizure activity in him this last year. Fortunatly none of them are in a spot where they are blocking blood flow, so we are going to try and control them with medications. As we continue on our own journey to see if brain surgery to remove growths for Luke is an option, my heart breaks because I know how hard this is for you. Keep up the good work on the blog, when I read it I can see myself and you are doing a brillant job. You have raised an extraordinary family and the support you guys have is tremendous. I have faith that all will be okay in the end, it is just the journey that is difficult to get through. Hang in there you are not alone :). Oh and keep posting. When all is said and done it is amazing to witness how God brings you through these bumps and curves in life. Love ya guys! Thank you for always being there for us and know we are here for you.

  2. "This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is Thy faithfulness."
    - Lamentations 3:21-23

    Praying for you. New mercies every morning will sustain you!