Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Charming Girl

After my brother, Greg, asked if he could use my MRI in one of his illustrations and I declined, he suggested I at least keep a journal about my experience. I reminded him that I was already keeping little notes of my symptoms but he thought that if the journal turned out to be interesting, people other than my doctor might want to read it. While I am very doubtful that anyone will find it interesting, I do find some comfort in writing. So here I am...writing a blog. 

During the month of September, I experienced three very disorienting "dizzy spells." Each episode was preceded by a brief but very intense bout of deja vu, which almost seemed like a hallucination. The only way I know how to describe the actual episodes is to say that it felt like my left eye was spinning. My right eye seemed to be functioning fine but my left eye was spinning very quickly, as if I were drunk. The first episode happened while I was at school. I was in one of the offices by myself and I somehow made it to my music locker. I had no idea what my next class was, which classroom it was in, or how to get there. I stood in the hallway of a building where I have spent the last five years of my life, with my hand on my locker to steady myself, trying desperately to concentrate long enough to at least remember where I was. Two weeks later, I had two more dizzy spells in one day.These episodes lasted about two minutes each and after the third, I decided that I didn't just need more vitamins or rest.

After a trip to the health clinic on campus, I was referred to neurologist, which meant that I had to see my primary care doctor first. My doctor ordered a CAT scan for Thursday, September 30th and scheduled an appointment to review the results later than morning. I had my scan and had been home for about 30 minutes when I got a call from my doctor. She asked if I could come back and get an MRI in about an hour. "We're not happy with the pictures," she said. I could have told you it wasn't pretty up there, I thought.

Getting an MRI is an interesting experience in and of itself. I raised my eyebrow as the technician handed me earplugs, but was grateful for what little barrier they provided to my eardrums as I endured the forty minutes of noise. I think the worst part was that the noises followed no pattern. As a music major, I find comfort in rhythms, however simple or complex, but I spent the entire forty minutes waiting for the machine to find any kind of steady pulse or pattern. And the noises that my poor ears were subjected to, were not quiet. Oh no. The technician later sympathized, "It's like you're inside a metal trash can and someone is banging on the outside with a heavy broomstick" and I think she's pretty close. Oh, and to add insult to injury, in the middle of the test, you have to get a shot while trapped on the table.

My mom and I went to the appointment to review the results with the doctor that afternoon at 3pm. Looking back, it is amazing we were able to get all of it done in one day...Anyway, the doctor invited us into an examination room and wanted to hear all about my dizzy spells. I showed her my notes so that I would not forget anything and after she read them over she paused and asked, "Is there any chance you could be pregnant?" I almost made a comment about the possibility of immaculate conception, but instead answered simply: "no."
"Okay, well I've looked at your scan and it shows there is a mass in your brain...Let me show you."
This is the point at which my mom quickly gasped and grabbed my arm.
This is also the point where the computer in this particular exam room was apparently in just as much shock as my mom. The doctor entered and reentered her password to no avail. She eventually said, "This is ridiculous. Let's go to my office."

It was pretty unbelievable once I had the scan in front of me. She explained that it sat on top of my optic nerve and that is why I was having altered vision episodes. My dizzy spells were in fact, peti mal seizures. The tumor is about an inch to an inch and half in size and it must come out. She had already talked to a neurosurgeon who came highly recommended with 40 years of experience in the field. All I could do was nod my head and try to soak in all the information. The only time I got emotional was when she said, "You're going to have to take some time off of school." I'm so close to being done...Why now?...Suddenly my mom asked the doctor to wait while she called my dad. My parents' house is just a few minutes from the hospital, so she handed my mom her office phone. My mom tried to dial the number three times but was unsuccessful. Finally, the doctor took the phone and dialed for her.

My dad arrived and he asked a few questions while he looked at the pictures on the computer screen. The doctor made it sound like she had taken care of everything already so I just kept nodding. Dad wanted to know what she would do if it were her daughter. She responded confidently that she would take her to the same neurosurgeon and if she wasn't happy with what he wanted to do then she would get a second opinion. As my parents spoke outside, she made an appointment with the neurosurgeon herself for the following day. I sat there listening to her phone conversation about me, and all I remember her saying is "She's a charming girl." As if that would be a reason to see me on such short notice...I wondered how charming I really was at that moment...I didn't feel charming. I was in shock. I understood everything she had said but...I didn't want to.

Later, as my mom was waiting in line for my anti-seizure prescription, I wandered around the drug store aisles waiting for my fiancee to answer his cell phone. He had almost finished the drive back down to school when I gave him the news. I could barely bring myself to say the words out loud; he asked me to repeat it twice before he had fully heard what I said. I began to cry in the middle of the candy aisle as I told him as many details as I could remember. I told him not to worry about coming back up because he had a class that evening. Come to find out, he went to class long enough to turn in his assignment and then walked back to his apartment, where he sat in a daze.


  1. I agree Maggie. Keep 'em coming! My thoughts and prayers are with you (as are my Mother's) - I'm looking forward to spending some time at the Hinkle Haus after Christmas!