It was Thursday, November 12th, 2009 and I was 8 months into my new job. The weather was unseasonably warm that year which was a nice break knowing we were headed into another Edmonton winter. I had been feeling somewhat fatigued and seemed to be battling an annoying headache for the past couple of weeks; I thought it was just stress from trying to adapt to my new responsibilities. By the time I got home from work that day the headache had really set in so I thought I would just lay down on the couch for a nap before supper. When my wife called me for supper the headache still hadn’t gone away and I really didn’t feel much like eating; so I just went up to the bedroom and tried to sleep for the night. Maybe the headache would be gone when I got up in the morning. A couple of hours later I woke up with the urge to vomit, which seemed odd to me since I rarely vomited and this time I really didn’t have anything on my stomach except some water I had taken upstairs with me. Not thinking much of it and feeling the headache had not subsided any I just went back to bed and tried to get some more rest. Then, a few hours later I was in the bathroom vomiting again but this time I was a little unsteady on my feet. My wife was there by that time so she told me to sit down while she went downstairs to get me some more water. While she was gone I thought I would head back to bed, so as I stood up and turned toward the doorway I lost my balance again and actually fell right into the bathtub this time. After a little more vomiting we figured it was time to head to emergency to see if the doctors could figure out what was happening to me. By this time it was the early hours of Friday, November 13th.
I vaguely remember being helped into the car and then arriving at the emergency doors of the hospital. My wife parked in front of the doors and went in to get a wheelchair because by that time I was really unsteady on my feet and wouldn’t have been able to walk into emergency on my own. I do remember being asked some questions by a doctor as he shone a light into my eyes but beyond that things became very vague and sketchy. There are ‘snippets’ of time that flash through my mind but I honestly cannot recall a series or sequence of events that happened after being wheeled through the doors of emergency. My first memory of events after that was waking up in recovery.
Apparently, in emergency they took me for a CT scan to see if there was something they could determine to be the cause of my vomiting and lack of balance. What they could see was a mass on the brain but they wouldn’t be sure what it was until they were able to operate and see for sure. The two likely options they thought it could be were: 1) a bleed which they would then just cauterize or 2) a tumor which they would try to remove; they couldn’t be sure until they operated. The operation was scheduled for 9:00 AM the following morning, Saturday, the 14th and what they found was a tumor, the size of which was between the size of a golf ball and a tennis ball (those were the words from the neurosurgeon). Because of its position and the way it had ‘tentacled’ deeper in the brain they were only able to remove approximately 75% of it and the rest they thought could be treated with radiation and chemotherapy. As it was there was minor damage to some functions on the left side but only for a week or two. Actually I was blessed to have had a brilliant surgeon who had the knowledge, skill and good judgement to only venture so far into my brain without causing permanent damage. Within a couple of weeks my functions were back but it took a little longer to get really comfortable with my balance again.
About a week after the operation I was released to go home and continue my recovery there. It would be a month or so before we heard the results of the biopsy. During that time I attended physio a couple of times but quickly realized that I could continue my recovery from home by doing a couple of exercises they gave me to help improve my dexterity.
Approximately a week before Christmas we got a call from the neurosurgeon with the results of the biopsy. Now, I have to say, before the phone call it seemed like life was getting back to normal. My ability to function, climb stairs, walk in a straight line, button my own shirt, etc. was all coming back. Although I didn’t have any seizures prior to or after the surgery I still didn’t attempt driving for another month or so. Since things were coming back to normal so quickly we really weren’t expecting any terrible news. We knew that it was a tumor but were hoping that it was benign and the treatment would be minimal. When the phone call came both my wife and myself were on the phone to hear the news. I’m not sure what I was expecting to hear but when the doctor told us it was a glioblstoma multiforme stage 4 it left both of us (as my wife says) in a puddle on the floor. The news is so stunning it leaves you a little numb for that moment; there just aren’t any words that make sense or even come to mind for that instant I can’t remember if the doctor kept talking or there was a long silence; I was just lost, numb and empty. When I spoke again, I remember asking the doctor what was next and I believe he suggested an appointment to meet with him the following week where we would discuss treatment.