Thursday, December 16, 2010

Concerts, Big Decisions, and Smoochin'

My first week back at school after the diagnosis was...interesting.

Word had spread fairly quickly in the music department (my second home) that something was wrong but a lot of people did not know the specifics. As I rode my bike to school that first day back, I began to get nervous that everyone was going to ask a lot of questions, but I hadn't anticipated that no one would say anything at all. I sat through all of my classes in a daze. My entire world had been flipped upside down..and no one seemed to notice. It wasn't as if I was looking for sympathy or attention, I guess I was just surprised that the change that seemed so real and so tangible to me, was still hidden deep within my skull. My diagnosis was not written across my forehead in all caps.

The weeks after that first appointment are a blur. I was glad to be back at school because the following Thursday and Friday I performed in a choir concert and a jazz combo concert. Some people might see them as a source of stress but those concerts were an amazing outlet for me. I was barely able to sing "Cast Thy Burden" from Mendelssohn's Elijah, but the lyrics, which are based on Psalms 55:22 and 16:8, brought me great peace.
Cast thy burden upon the Lord,

And He shall sustain thee.

He never will suffer the righteous to fall;
He is at thy right hand.
Thy mercy, Lord, is great 
and far above the heav'ns;
Let none be made ashamed
that wait upon Thee. 

Even though my world had changed, life and school still seemed to be going on around me. I wrote two short essays and one 9 page research paper, took four quizzes, gave a presentation, and received my approval for graduation in Spring all within the five weeks after my diagnosis. I'm honestly not sure how I got it all done but I'm glad I was able to do something productive while I waited for my next MRI. 

The evening of November 10th, my fiancee and I drove back up to my parents' house. The following morning I threw some sweatpants on and was about to leave the house when the phone rang. The technician that was scheduled to do my scan was having car trouble and was going to be late. Normally I would have been happy that I had time for a cup of coffee but I had an appointment to review the scan with my neurosurgeon in Marysville at noon the same day, so we had a pretty small window of time to get everything done. My mom dropped me off at the imaging center and as soon as they took me back she drove home to get me a change of clothes and some breakfast. After forty-five minutes in "the tube" and a quick wardrobe change in the hospital bathroom, we were back on schedule! My parents, fiancĂ©e and I talked about questions we wanted to ask the doctor while I ate my Egg McMuffin in the backseat. None of us really knew what to expect but we all hoped that the doctor would have something encouraging to tell us...maybe even that it had disappeared.

Good 'ol Goomer was still there and he seemed to be about the same size. Seeing no growth, the doctor was comfortable confirming that it was some type of glioma. The doctor suggested that this type of tumor may remain the same size for years and we may just want to "wait it out." The choices were to watch it, biopsy it, and at some point remove it. "Even if we have an operation, it probably isn't going to cure this," he said. "The majority of tumors that look like this...spread themselves out..." meaning that he would get as much of the tumor as possible in surgery, get a pathology report on it, and then either follow it (meaning eventually have another operation) or possibly recommend radiation. He made it clear that surgery came with many risks, and that sometimes intervention is not the best course of action. I told him that if we were eventually going to have to take it out, then I would rather get it out now. I didn't want to wait around for it to get any bigger. We scheduled another MRI for December 14th and tentatively scheduled a procedure for December 15th. My fiancee asked if there were any kind of symptoms he should be watching for in the meantime and the doctor said that if the tumor were to grow I would probably have seizures despite taking the medication. We also asked if it would be alright for me to drive to and from school and he said that since I had not experienced any seizures while I was on the medication that it would be okay for me to drive short distances as long as I felt comfortable doing so. 

As soon as we got back in the car, my dad brought up waiting for surgery until after the wedding and he didn't let it go until that evening when I went back to school. He wanted to see me finish school and get married before I had surgery. But I had already decided that I wanted to get this process started now. It's never going to be convenient to have brain surgery. Ever. But in this case, it seemed like God was opening every door for me to put this whole situation behind me by allowing me to wait until the end of my fall semester. Having the surgery over winter break would give me five weeks to recover and be ready for my last semester of school. I knew my dad was trying to be sure that I wasn't make a rash decision but I'm not one to sit around and wait for something. If I waited for my tumor to get bigger, my symptoms could get worse and my last semester could be hard even if I didn't have the surgery. I would rather be proactive about the situation and try to catch the tumor before it got worse. Another factor I had to consider was health insurance. It might be smarter to have the surgery while I was still on my parents' insurance rather than waiting until we got married. Neither of us may have full-time jobs right after graduation that provide benefits. 

A week after my second appointment we had engagement photos taken. We were originally planning to take them over winter break but I am so glad we moved the shoot up. The fall colors were a beautiful backdrop... 

Also, it provided a great excuse to spend almost an entire day smooching the love of my life...It's cheesy...but it's true! 

Photos are courtesy of gracemorgan photography. Check out her photo blog!

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