It was a dark and stormy night, Snoopy typed. I used to wonder what happened next, but as slacker Snoopy never wrote beyond that, it was left to my often over-thinking brain to fill in the blanks.
During a recent Friday evening, my dark and stormy night arrived to blacken my sky. Having had bad headaches and a sore, swollen eye to accompany them for months now, I also had nausea, and I simply couldn’t stand the pain anymore. My doctor-approved pain medication was not helping, not even to take the edge off my misery.
Figuring I had a weird kind of flu, I ended up in Lima Memorial’s emergency room, where I had the first CT scan of my life. After waiting not very long at all, Brittany approached me to discuss the test results. When she reached toward me and took my chilled hands in both of her cold, cold hands, I knew what she had to say was not going to be good.
The fact that she also looked genuinely concerned about me, not bored, and was obviously unhappy to give me the upcoming news, was actually quite comforting to me. Combined with the fact that she made sure I had caring hands to hold onto, Brittany did everything in her power to do the exact right thing for me as she broke the news that they’d found a rather large tumor causing some havoc in my brain.
Then I met Landin, who monitored my heart and vitals during transport to another hospital ER in Columbus. In the ambulance, after checking my blood pressure, Landin told me during the long drive to The James at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center that he had had a brain tumor that had forced him to drop out of medical school. Oh, and not only had he beaten that one and gone on with his life, but Landin had found himself battling – and winning – against a second brain tumor.
“And as you can see, here I am. Free to pursue new goals and dream fresh dreams. What do you want to do? Think about it. Sure, you have a brain tumor. You may be scared. You may be down. But you’re not out. And you’re not alone,” he said. “You can make it through this. And then you can go do whatever you want, girl.”
Because my tumor was so large and pushing my brain into tighter quarters as well as threatening my sight in at least one aching and swollen eye, Dr. Douglas Hardesty, my neurosurgeon, decided instead of just a biopsy, I needed to have the tumor removed.
Dr. Hardesty is one of those rare people who are not only intelligent, skilled and dedicated at their jobs but also kind, compassionate and interested in making others feel more comfortable. I liked the way he talked to me as if I was a valuable human being and not just a, well, job. When it feels like you’re wobbling on the edge of the limits of your endurance, it’s easy to tell when someone’s care and interest are genuine. Dr. Hardesty spent unlimited and unhurried time with me, pulling me back from the edge and preparing me in a way I don’t think I could have done for this major surgery.
I knew I was in good hands and felt as ready as I could feel about the surgery. But the night before my surgery, I began to fall back into familiar bad habits: I was thinking too much about things I could not control. What if I didn’t wake up? There were so many things that could go wrong. What if I woke up, but I wasn’t me anymore? Would I lose my memories, my winning personality? My ability to talk or move or make connections to others?
I did not slip over into panic. But the idea of someone, even a surgeon and a team I trusted, cutting through my skull and rescuing my brain from this big, foreign mass was beyond scary to me.
I did not almost drown in muddy, confusing thoughts, as I might have done in the past. I allowed a few to peek from the tearful shadows in my mind. And then I asked God to hold my hand, my heart and my brain in His hands, and whatever might happen, I knew I was safe, loved and — thank God — not alone.
Dawn Kessinger lives in Lima.