On Wednesday, August 13, 2003--exactly five years ago--my wonderful husband, Marc, had his first craniotomy (two more followed within a year's time)--that's brain surgery to the layman. While I would probably say our "illness journey" actually started the Friday before, this was the first BIG event that occurred that hinted this was not going to be a short trial.
Of course, those of you who have been reading my blog know that this very trial is the basis of the book I'm working on: Ailing Body, Nourished Soul. There is obviously a lot to this story--more than what happened on this day five years ago. I'm working on telling it all so you can be blessed by it as much as, if not more than, we have been.
So, in honor of this day, I am posting, here on my blog, the very first thing I wrote about this trial. It was one of my fairly early writing challenge entries (entered on November 11, 2006). I have not edited it for this blog (though I have in other places), to show you at least some of the "rawness" of it - though, of course, the fact that it was written three years after it happened probably takes some of that away. (FYI some of the names have been changed)
So now, without further ado:
Those words echoed in my mind. How could they not? I’d heard them last Friday, and here it was, the following Monday morning, and we knew little more.
Next time, could someone remind my husband not to develop a serious illness on a Friday afternoon?
The ordeal had started less than a week earlier, with a migraine. Marc stayed home from work Tuesday, hoping to sleep it off. He felt better in the morning and tried going in, but the pain came back with a vengeance.
He came back home and went to the doctor, who gave him a shot. It helped, but not for long. The migraine returned - this time with vision issues. We went back to the doctor Friday, and were sent to the ER for a CAT scan.
That’s where we first heard that haunting proclamation. They immediately transferred him to a different hospital, where the best neurosurgeon in the area was on call. A lot of good that did, as it was now Monday morning, and we hadn’t seen him! Other doctors had come by, but not Dr. Stern.
An MRI had confirmed the mass was a tumor, but gave us no further information. So my husband and I sat in a hospital room waiting for news we were fairly confident was NOT going to change our lives for the better.
Marc and I didn’t talk about what was going on. We chatted about our son Andrew, my pregnancy, hospital food, and Marc’s lack of solid sleep (they had to wake him every two hours to test his blood). The light conversation stopped us from dwelling on the possibilities too much.
Finally, two unfamiliar faces entered the room - Dr. Stern and his nurse, Jen. Dr. Stern got right to the heart of the matter. Marc needed brain surgery - and soon. The tumor was likely one of two different types, and benign. The surgery should last four to six hours, and would be performed that Wednesday. The plan was to remove the tumor completely.
Wednesday morning, bright and early, Marc’s parents and I were in pre-op with him, along with our pastor. His wife was home watching Andrew so we could all be at the hospital.
Pastor’s words, in conversation and prayer, were encouraging and comforting, and his presence helped me keep my thoughts away from the "what ifs," and focus on God’s promises: to always be with me, to uphold me, to work everything out for His good. While I was certainly nervous, concerned and, at times, frustrated, panic did not take me over.
I kissed my husband goodbye, squeezed his hand, and went to sit in the waiting room with my in-laws. Jen had said she would give us updates as the surgery progressed. I sat, read, ate, watched TV, chatted, and prayed. I rarely left the room.
The one time I did go out for some air, I returned to find out I had just missed Jen. She had told Marc’s parents that the tumor was deeper in Marc’s brain than originally thought, and the surgery would likely take longer than expected.
Dr. Stern finally came in to talk to us about the surgery - an operation that had ended up taking eleven hours. The tumor was neither of the types he had originally thought, and was actually part and parcel of Marc’s optic nerve.
The doctor, therefore, was unable to remove it completely, as cutting through the optic nerve would have left Marc blind. Instead, he took out only as much tumor as he thought he could remove safely, then closed Marc back up again.
It had been a very long day, but I wasn’t quite ready for it to be over.
"Can I see him?"
"He’s in deep sedation, but yes, you can if you want to."
My in-laws tried to convince me to just go home, but my mind was made up.
"I need to see him."
Marc’s parents headed for their car, and I headed for Marc’s hospital room, where I found him hooked up to more wires and machines than I’d ever seen. But he was breathing, and appeared to be resting fairly comfortably.
I felt the need to touch him. I caressed his cheek, then put his hand in mine.
"I love you, Marc, and we will get through this together," I whispered, tears streaming down my face. I kissed his hand, lingered a bit, then walked out.