Sunday, April 3, 2011

Medical Records, Brain Tumor Diagnosis (4/3/92)

It’s hard for me to believe it was 19 years ago…

I had been having vicious headaches for days and was seeing double.

After doctor referral after doctor referral, on April 3, 1992, my mother and I were about to leave UMass and go home. As we got up, my mom asked the ophthalmologist/neurologist if we should call if my headaches go worse. The doctor picked up my chart and said, “Headaches?”, as if he wasn’t aware of one of my two major symptoms. He quickly decided a CAT-Scan was in order…

(from my story on

I will never forget lying down on the CT Machine. There was a sticker with a cat looking through a magnifying glass that said “Don’t worry, it’s only a cat scan” – I wasn’t amused. When the CT technician came in and removed the headrest, she told me to lean farther back because the doctor wanted more pictures from a different angle.

I knew they must have found something. There was no way the doctor would have wanted more pictures if there was nothing there. Every expletive I knew went through my head repeatedly, and I think I even made up a few new ones. Then, I thought of my mom, who was waiting for me outside the x-ray room. I knew I had to be strong.

My assumptions were confirmed when I saw the look on my mother’s face. She told me they had found a tumor in my brain. She was already trying to hold back the tears, so I gave her a smile. I told her the doctors took care of my Crohn’s, and they would take care of this, too. I knew when I told her I really had to believe it, so from that moment on I never stopped believing it. And thanks to my Crohn’s, I knew having loving and supporting friends and family made it easier to deal with medical issues.”

I was admitted to the hospital that night, and the Decadron they gave me helped a lot with my headache. My family and friends surrounded me as soon as they heard the news, and my hospital room became quite crowded. The atmosphere was far from one you might expect for a room with an 18-year-old that had just been diagnosed with a brain tumor. It was more like a party – full of joking and laughter. Even though I was in the hospital, I think my family and friends knew that I wasn’t going to let the diagnosis bother me and I wanted everyone to act like they normally did. That first night in the hospital really set the stage for my whole battle with cancer. I still laughed, still had fun, and still did things with my family and friends. I knew that night in 1992 that I had a lot of people pulling for me to get better. I wasn’t sure exactly how the doctors were going to help me get rid of that tumor, but knowing I had so many loving supporters gave me confidence. My friends stayed well past visiting hours that night, laughing with me in the face of my diagnosis. Thanks to everyone who was there for me on April 3rd of that year – your presence was a vital part to the beginning of my battle with cancer.

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