Monday, June 13, 2011

The Beginning - One Day While On a Run

On Saturday, October 23, 2010, my husband picked me up at the airport as I returned from a business trip, and as soon as I was seated in the passenger seat he said, "Your dad was running this afternoon and had to be taken to the hospital by ambulance."

I need to give a little background to this:  my dad, an avid runner/biker/swimmer since before I was born, had had lots of accidents over the years related to his workout regiment.  I guess my family had become somewhat desensitized to it after so many close-calls and even a few "hits;" my dad was hit by a car while running at least twice that I know of and while biking at least three times, not to mention the many of emergencies like falls, sports injuries, and other things like heat exhaustion he'd had.  Like a cat with nine lives, somehow Dad always ended up ok after something happened to him, although a few times he'd ended up with broken bones and needing stitches or at least debris picked out of his skin as a result.

So the first thought that went through my head after the news was delivered was the question of whether he'd injured himself or if someone else was involved.  My husband told me the rest of the news that he had at the time, basically that Dad had some trouble on a run, had not been able to get in touch with Mom because she was out of town, had given out my aunt's phone number so she could be called, and then an ambulance had taken him to the hospital where he had had a seizure and a "large mass" had been detected in his brain.

Instinctively, I wanted to hurry to the hospital where he was, about a 3-hour drive from my house.  I frantically called my aunt, my Mom, and my siblings to see what everyone else knew and what they were all planning to do.  Somehow we decided that one of my sisters was going to drive Mom from where she was to the hospital, where they would meet my mom's two sisters, both of whom were at the hospital with Dad already.  My sister that lived in L.A. was going to get a flight the next morning so I would pick her up at the airport and we would go together to the hospital.  At the time, I was convinced that the findings were wrong or at least that if there was a mass in his brain it would turn out to be easily treatable; in my mind, it was a short-term emergency that we would just add to the list of things that he pulled through, and he would be back running in a few days.

I don't remember much of that night or the drive the next day.  I do remember that, as I was taking things out of one suitcase from the previous trip and throwing them into another that first night, I tossed in a spiral notebook because I'd read one time that when someone is in the hospital, everything should be recorded to watch for mistakes and to keep a log of things.  I remember thinking how completely surreal everything seemed as I picked up my sister at the airport and we drove to the hospital.  The shock was all-consuming; it was easy enough to move forward because we didn't really think this stuff was happening. Dad was awake and alert and evidently had been planning to play a joke on us, and so when we walked into his room in the Neuro-ICU, he acted like he didn't recognize us.  Our other sister and our mom recognized that we were about to panic, and they "busted" Dad.  It made us feel good, though, to see that he was up to his usual pranks, even though he seemed a little confused as to what had happened that resulted in his ending up in the hospital and very noticeably did not have any sensation in his left arm or leg.

We were told that the neurosurgeon would be doing a biopsy in a few days and thus began the waiting and the slow-motion panicking as we tried to find out everything we could about what was happening and what was going to happen.  We were told by the surgeon that cancer was suspected and even told what type of cancer he thought it was, glioblastoma multiforma.  Denial had its arms wrapped tightly around us, which was comforting and helpful in many ways at the time.  "THIS IS NOT HAPPENING, OR IF IT IS, THEY ARE WRONG IT ISN'T CANCER" became our mantra.

We didn't want anyone to be negative in front of Dad; he asked over and over what was wrong with him and what was going to be done about it, at one point even saying "I get that it's a mass in my head, but I know it isn't cancer!  I'm way too lucky to end up with brain cancer."  We agreed with him wholeheartedly!

To read about what happened next in our story, click here.

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