My Journey
Living with a Brain Tumor

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Chapter 6

by Sandra Beardsley

God Said Ha!

I recently rented the video, God said Ha! It is a one woman performance by former Saturday Night Live comedian, Julia Sweeney. She recounts the nine months that her parents came to live with her so they could all care for her brother Mike. Mike had lymphoma. During this time Julia found out that she also had cancer. Hard to believe, but this account is not only touching and very personal, it is also full of laughs. Some of her tale includes experiences that my husband and I could really relate to. It got me thinking about all the times we shook our heads and said "God has a sick sense of humor!"

For example- as I previously mentioned, our cat developed a sympathetic tumor on his thyroid and had to have surgery at the same time as I did.

Or the time we traveled for a week in our VW van, camping in Canada, and no one knew we had a large stack of MRI's with us. The MRIs were needed in Spokane the following week. I kept imagining what the border patrol might say if they discovered them. Maybe they would think we were spys smuggling secret documents disguised as my brain.

Or the fact that every time we turned on the television to escape for awhile, we happened upon a show that had the word tumor or cancer in it. I swear we avoided hospital shows like ER but sure enough somehow this still happened. And then we stumbled across a regular program from the University of Washington that was the Ground Rounds from the neurology department. Here doctors and interns discussed specific cases complete with slides of patients brains. It was too surreal!

We were also constantly reminded of how many times the word brain is referred to in everyday conversation... Brainless, brainwashing, brain dead, harebrained, etc... One day I received a sample of a teacher's magazine in the mail titled Brainwaves. I had to laugh.

While in the hospital recovering from the biopsy, I was aware of some loud noises during the night. Later my nurse came in and said, "Don't worry if you hear some yelling, we have a patient that is being committed to the local mental hospital and he's not real happy about it." It really wasn't that funny but I just couldn't help thinking... just my luck!

One day we were in my neurosurgeon's waiting room and I looked over at the magazine rack. The latest TIME cover glared back. On the cover was a huge photo of a skull. Feeling particularly ornery, I jumped up and grabbed the issue, saying, "This is really bad taste to have in a neurosurgeon's office!" I then threw it in the garbage can. I noticed a woman watching me with a slight smile on her face.

People care about how you're feeling, and sometimes show this by suggesting ideas they've heard about that might help with healing. One day I was talking to a relative on the phone and he told me about a book that suggested drinking your own urine. He said he knew someone that had been cured that way. I do not want to put down any technique that may help someone, but for me personally, I have to draw the line somewhere! But I remember thinking, hmmmm... maybe with a shot of tequila and a little salt and lime...


Ironically, as soon as I finished typing this, my husband and I watched a movie that just happened to be on television called Phenomenon, starring John Travolta. We had seen it a couple years before but had forgotten the details, in particular the ending. It's a story of a man who sees a big light in the sky and is knocked flat on his back by the force of it. Afterwards, he is a genius and has the ability to move objects with his mind. He can read a book on Portuguese and in a few minutes speaks it fluently. He creates amazing scientific experiments, solves difficult math problems instantly and becomes an incredible gardener.

Later, he collapses and is taken to the hospital, where he gets an MRI. The next scene shows him in a hospital room with friends and the doctor. I turned to my husband and jokingly said, "He better not have a tumor!" Of course, the doctor then tells him the reason he has all these special powers is that he has a brain tumor called an Astrocytoma! And it's not operable (same as mine). We about fell off the couch laughing! And then I started yelling at the doctor, "What about radiation?!"

I did get pleasure out of knowing this tumor gave him an incredible IQ and amazing abilities. There's hope for me!

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