The Back Story, part 1

Many have asked how DOP got to this point of having a brain tumor. How long has she had it? How did we discover it? And what do the doctors say?

Well, I can’t sleep the night before she goes in to have it removed….so here you go.

Four to six weeks ago, DOP started getting headaches in the back of her head. They weren’t too severe. They came and went. Simple aspirin helped. It never seemed like a big deal. It did go on for a couple of weeks, but again, it was off and on. We really didn’t think much of it.

Then they went away.

On January 1st of this year, she complained of seeing double. This was a little disconcerting because she just had an eye exam in October and everyone was fine….20/20. She’s never had a problem with her eyes before. The next day, it was still there and she was watching TV with only one eye. As a parent of a nine-year old that loves attention, you’re never really sure when to believe that something is wrong unless there is obvious blood, puke or a child is simply missing. The one-eye-in-front-of-the-tv bit moved to one-eye-all-the-time. Brandy become more concerned and, admittedly, I figured she was seeking some attention.

Then the ear started rumbling.

On Saturday the 4th, DOP complained that her right ear rumbled like a volcano. She did have a mild cold and she said that the rumbling got louder when she blew her nose. I figured it was a sinus issue, but I too, thought something wasn’t right at this point. Brandy scheduled an appointment with DOP’s pediatrician for Monday afternoon. The doctor ran the normal tests right there in the room, and she passed everything. Yet, her complaints (and our observations) didn’t line up with his assessments. So just to be safe, he ordered an MRI for her. He figured the hospital would call within a week and we would get an appointment within a week or two of that day.

Less than two days later (Wednesday) we got a phone call with an opening for Thursday. We’re not sure if this was simply providence or if the doctor actual called and had it expedited. Regardless, we’re thankful for the quick turnaround!

Thursday came and I promised DOP that if she laid in the MRI tube real still for the whole 30-45 minutes, that I would buy her a donut. She was up to the task! The staff in the radiology department let me go inside with her and sit and watch right outside the tube. It was very cool and we both appreciated their willingness to let me sit with her. After about a half hour, the technician came inside the room and said the doctor asked for additional scans of her spine.

This is when I first knew something was not right. Um, why would you be on the phone with the doctor already? And, why do you need to scan her neck and spine also? I didn’t verbalize these questions, but I knew something was up.

The next set was going to take as long as the first, so they let DOP get off the table and use the restroom and get some water. As she was headed back into the room, the radiologist pulled me aside and said he needed to show me some pictures. Here it comes, I thought.

As DOP laid back on the table and began the second set of scans, I sat in the control room and was shown picture after picture of the 2” by 3” mass that lay in the back of her beautiful little head.

Brain tumor. The light grey oval mass right in the middle of her head.

Brain tumor. The light grey oval mass right in the middle of her head.

Brain tumor.

Seriously? What the heck? How does that happen?

A brain tumor? In DOP? We came in for double vision. How did we jump to brain tumor?

Big sigh, Nathan. Big, big sigh.

After a moment, I called Brandy and broke the news. “You need to come down here. Now. Our daughter has a brain tumor. She’s not leaving the hospital.”

Brandy made arrangements for our other kids and headed over. After walking up to ICU from Radiology (all the nurses were ready to receive this new patient with a brain tumor and were surprised she just walked right in!), I sat DOP down on her bed and explained the situation. She just smiled and said she would be okay.

Well, SHE might be okay….but me? I’m about to lose it completely!

While Brandy was on her way to the hospital, she received a call from the original pediatrician that ordered the MRI. He was already aware of everything and as he talked to her, he began to cry. It was a very welcome gesture for him to call and see if we were okay.

While waiting for the ICU doctors to come and explain what was going on, DOP just wanted her donut. Typical.

I stayed the night with DOP while Brandy took care of the home front. It was a little surreal at first. I mean…she looked fine! Aside from her seeing double (which didn’t seem so problematic anymore), she looked great! She walked into ICU on her own and smiled at people as she went.

She has a brain tumor?

Light grey circle in the middle of her brain. About 2" wide.

Light grey circle in the middle of her brain. About 2″ wide.

Yep. My daughter has a brain tumor the size and shape of a kiwi fruit.

It was one of the longest nights of my life.

Part two in a bit….


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