My Crazy Cancer Story
Why is it a crazy story?
Okay…it’s unusual. Dramatic. Yeah, CRAZY.
It’s not that usual thing that happens a lot. You go in for a routine checkup at the doc’s office. Something weird pops up…and a few tests are run.
MRI, CT, this test and that. Then you’re wringing your fingers, waiting for the results…and next thing you know, the “oh no” news kicks in.
“I’m sorry,” the doctor says, even-toned voice, unchanged expression, “You have cancer. Happy New Year.” Well, in my case, it wasn’t like that. Far from it. What actually happened was a LOT different…
First Came the Brain Tumor Explosion. YES, Explosion.
We (husband Gary & I) were close to finishing the first season of that super-amazing whoa-did-you-see-that show “Breaking Bad” when…well…
Things went really scary…to say the least.
It began with this jaw-dropping scene in the show. We both reacted, “wow-ing” over it, laughing and high-five-ing it–having a blast. In the middle of all that excitement, next thing I knew, something in my head felt wrong. Off. Not right.
I was diagnosed with epilepsy back in 1997...and had three seizures between then and 2011.
Yet for some reason, this time, it didn't feel like a seizure.
It felt different.
It felt a lot worse...
My first thought: Oh not this…another seizure??
Back in 1997 is when I was first diagnosed with epilepsy–that was a huge bummer. And unfortunately, an occasional seizure was part of the “gift-package.” So I grabbed my then-med Tegretol and shoved an extra pill in my mouth, hoping it would calm my system–maybe stop this seizure in its tracks. Thinking back, I don’t know if that was the smartest move, but my desperation meter was climbing high.
Yet in the next moment, for whatever reason, it didn’t feel like a seizure.
It felt DIFFERENT.
I didn’t know what it was–but whatever it was, it was happening FAST.
My head felt rock heavy, like a bowling ball that I could hardly hold up–yet with a growing expanding sensation–it wouldn’t stop. I paced around the house, moving fast, not sure where to go. I thought, what the hell is this?
I’m sure Gary’s concern skyrocketed.
“What’s wrong?” he asked. That’s just a guess…at that point I couldn’t quite hear him. I hurried to the bathroom, splashed my face with water (why, I don’t know) and tried to rush back out to tell him to call 911.
It was something Gary had done a few times before (actually 3) when I’d had those nervewracking grand mal seizures. So my poor husband knew the drill of quickly getting an ambulance here ASAP.
I didn’t make it out of the bathroom.
I collapsed to the floor–but still conscious. I suddenly couldn’t walk anymore.
I was standing at the bathroom sink when all feeling in my legs had totally gone–they went dead. That was a complete shocker. I simply dropped to the floor and could no longer walk–just like that. All I can guess is that whatever was happening in my brain, the fast swelling leading to the brain tumor explosion, must have pressed against the nerves I needed to walk. I don’t know…
"What happened as Gary got me
from the bathroom to the front door is foggy.
I screamed the whole way--the intense pressure and pain in my skull wouldn't stop climbing..."
We ended up on the front porch, waiting for the ambulance. This is generally what Gary told me, since I can’t quite remember it word for word:
Gary: I held you in my lap. We were on the front porch–we waited for the ambulance. They didn’t take long–but it seemed like a LONG time then. It seemed like too long. You couldn’t walk. I didn’t know what was happening. It seemed long, but they did come pretty fast.
Gary’s mom was there at the time and before, he’d ordered her to call 911, had shouted it. From the bathroom to the front door and out onto the front porch Gary said he held onto me.
Gary: I looked down at you–I was shaking but trying not to. You were laying across my lap…you weren’t screaming anymore. Before this, when I pulled you out of the bathroom, we moved to the front door. You were screaming and holding your head.
Your eyes were half closed. I don’t think you passed out. You were really weak and you looked tired. Your eyes were open but not all the way, half open, like you were falling asleep. I kept holding you and telling you that they were coming, to hold on. I heard you breathing…you weren’t saying anything.
Just before the ambulance arrived Gary said I vomited and passed out.
Brain tumor explosion: acute hematoma.
And the impact of the explosion: subdural hematoma.
Brain bleeding...which resulted in a 6+ hour emergency brain surgery.
And a diagnosis of
pleomorphic-xanthoastrocytoma brain cancer grade II.
This is what happened (I found this out a week or two later).
A brain tumor (that I had no idea was even there) about the size of a golf ball, was located in my left temporal lobe. According to my oncologist, it’s something that could have started years ago, decades even, since it’s classified as a “slow-growing brain tumor.”
It eventually exploded. Acute hematoma. And the impact of the explosion–subdural hematoma.
This all resulted in a 6-hour emergency brain surgery and later a diagnosis of pleomorphic-xanthoastrocytoma brain cancer, grade 2.
--Nita Riggs Samuels
"Your health belongs to you. You're the final decision-maker.
You're the one who decides
what to do with it, and no one else."
My Crazy Cancer Story Q&A–Questions People Have Asked Me:
(Work in progress)
- Your 2019 High Point–What Have You Done (So Far) That You’re Pretty Proud Of? - August 8, 2019
- Nita Healthier You Tip #3: Surround Yourself With Encouraging Friends - April 20, 2019
- Live It Up With Lemons–3 Ways They Energize Us, Cleanse Us, Protect Us - July 16, 2018
- 6 Healing Benefits of Our Lovely Strawberries (Video) - May 24, 2018
- Handling Emotional Vampires–How To Avoid Being Bled To Death–Part 1 - March 31, 2018