I thought the stress I carried in the last six years of my life were due to witnessing my parents slow, torturous deaths and the aftermath that follows such a nightmare. To this day, living without my Mom day to day, is a triumph in itself. Little did I know I would soon face another frightening challenge. The loss of health. In 2007, (late 2006) I will never forget the odd symptoms that began. The pins and needles in my legs and the excruciating right sided head pain that I often referred to Bobby, as feeling though there was a “bullet in my brain”.
Since a small child I always had an extreme high tolerance for pain, but some days were so debilitating with head pain I thought for sure I was dying. These symptoms followed a horrendous ordeal with taking the anti smoking med, Chantix. I then forced myself to beg my young, new doctor for answers. She repeatedly told me it was “all anxiety from chantix.” I knew deep down something was wrong. I did not doubt it all begun from chantix, but my strong intuition that I always carried, also told me I had a condition that was being missed. As I continued with all the stages of grief and loss over my Mom, I carried on thinking..”maybe I am simply unhealthy and depressed..” While my useless doctor reassured me anxiety can conjure up many physical symptoms. Even though I never had anxiety attacks or panic attacks, I felt at a loss for help if the doctor wasn’t even taking me seriously!
The head pain eventually grew to be a nonstop, every day way of life. As I slowly slipped into a depression that I left untreated, only due to the extreme overly done trait I carried so honestly from my mom. The curse of being so private. In May of 2010, I could not take the pain anymore. As I continued to hide my health issues from my family, I finally had hit my breaking point. Bobby came home from work to find me in tears, another thing I rarely did; cried. While pressing any hard object I could against my head, in hopes the pain would subside. As he told me what my doctor always had..’I was suffering with anxiety and chantix screwed me up..’ and deep down I knew better. I insisted I had to get to the ER for help. Fast forward through a long, ordeal at the hospital..which is another shocking story and I will tell another time, I was given a catscan. I remember sitting by myself, waiting to speak with a doctor who asked for me. Now, I know many doctors are immune to heartbreak, sickness and bad news, from their day to day career and all they witness. I would guess the cold reaction to news they give patients come justly to them. However, I don’t watch gloom and doom every day with health, and I am human with a daughter and husband who need me. A life to live. So, it is of a great deal importance to me. I will never forget it. As the doctor apologized for her ‘cold’..she coughed and sneezed as she asked her assistant for more tissues, she said, “So, you have had one benign lump removed from your breast in 2005, right?”, “Yes, I have.”, I answered. Curious to see where she is going with this. But she continued hammering away at the wonderment if the lump was benign. I insisted, “Yes, of course, it was benign. It’s in my record here at this hospital!” It was such a strange foreign feeling, wanting desperately to know what plagued me the last few years and yet wanting this day to go away, wary to discover what she was going to say. Then, she hit me with her blunt truth. “Well, we aren’t sure but we want to set up a MRI. We are thinking your scan is showing the high possibility of brain cancer.” Oddly enough, I was calm as a cucumber. I knew something was wrong. But I didn’t believe it was brain cancer. Although, I naturally had fear this may be true since my beloved Aunt Lois had died of brain cancer at the age of 42. It was one of the rare times I seen my Mom fall apart. My Mom always told me I was more like Aunt Lois than anyone. What if I was going to die like her too? To this day, it blows Bobby’s mind how under control I was during this talk with the doctor. How calm I was, as he collapsed in my arms in tears. I just knew deep down I had something but not brain cancer.
As the doctor and assistant waited for my response and looked at me as though I was going to start clawing at the walls. I only responded with, “That must have been what the head pain was all these years..” Shortly after, they put me in a MRI. As the sounds of such a scary test banged and clanged around me, my life flashed before my eyes. Where I had went wrong, who I had loved, who loved me and showed it, the mistakes I made, and the good I had done as well, how different this would feel if my Mom were here to guide me with her words, encouragement and love..and more than anyone-I thought of my Drewbaby. How kind, gentle she is and how she thought the world of me. I always considered her my greatest accomplishment. As I told Bobby beforehand, while he was a wreck, “Everything from here on out has to be done carefully, for Drew.” I knew he was a strong man who would have no choice to go on if they lost me, but Drew had to be cared for in a far different manner. What ever I had to endure, I wanted the road for her to be one of ease. I may suffer, but I did not want Drew to suffer in any way. Although, all mothers know we can’t stop the little loves of our lives from suffering the perils of life. This was my greatest hope.
A long four days later, that felt like a year, I received my phone call to the results of my MRI. The results were sent to my useless young Doctor who was fresh out of med school and in obvious shock. I was out of breath on the phone, desperate to what she was about to say. But she never would have known it–again, I’m cursed with being freaky private. “Donda? I don’t understand this.” I had no idea of what she was about to say. My last four days consisted of looking like a deer in headlights and repeatedly kissing Drew and Bobby. “You have lesions on our brain, and you are too young to have Alzheimer’s…I..I just don’t understand..they look like Multiple Sclerosis..but other things need to be ruled out first.” “So I don’t have brain cancer?” I asked. “No, it’s not brain cancer..but I don’t understand, have you had symptoms?” I was then offended. The one thing I resented the most, to be treated like a moron. “Yes. I have come to you for over two years with head pain and pins / needles, you always said it was anxiety.” The “doctor” then nervously said, “Well, you know how people will look at a picture too long they will see Jesus? I just can’t believe I am seeing lesions on here. You need a neurologist.” I abruptly finished the call with the one person who ignored my pleas for help for far too long. I knew I was on my own and she would not be the answer to being my aide in fighting anything.
If you have never experienced it — you wouldn’t understand, but it is surreal how cancer changes ones life when you have been affected and changed by the cruel disease. Watching my parents suffer and die from cancer, while knowing a close friend survived it, puts the person in such a state of fear you become engrossed with it. All I knew was I didn’t have cancer. This was all that mattered at this second. Now I just had to find out what these mysterious lesions entailed. Why did she mention Multiple Sclerosis I wondered. What really is that disease? Like many, I wasn’t sure. I knew it wasn’t the disease Jerry Lewis fought for that I grew up watching every labor day, right? No, thats muscular dystrophy, I told myself. Now it was time for the brain doc himself. The neurologist.