Richard and I have switched places. I am now home, and he is there.
I drove our boy to the hospital on Sunday afternoon so we would be there for surgery intake at 5:30 am. The doctor paid for a room at the hospital's Hospitality House. Our boy had been fine on Saturday, but he was very sick on Sunday and we were frightened. We almost called the ambulance to take him. Instead, we gave him the steroid and waited 2 hours and he got a bit better, and I was able to drive him there.
A lovely man hired by the hospital to greet arrivals at the main entrance came up to me as I hurried back from parking the car, having left our boy sitting in a wheel chair vomiting bile into a plastic tub. I told him where I needed to go. He helped us. God bless him.
Richard came Monday morning just as they were wheeling our boy out of the MRI scanner with fiducial markers on his head to guide the surgeon, and we went with him to surgery holding area and said goodbye, and then waited.
It seemed an eternity, but the operation itself only took an hour. The surgeon was confident he got it all. Yes, it was cancer; not the primary tumor, though. It had the characteristics of a tumor that had spread from somewhere else. Earlier, after our boy had met the surgeon for the first time, he said “I was expecting this crabby old dried-up man, but this guy, he lit up the room when he walked in.” And he did, too. He is young and sparkling, and I am grateful to him.
Our boy, with his head swathed in a white turban, was alert and conscious in the neuro ICU, and was able to talk coherently to some friends who showed up unexpectedly. We were thrilled. They were very impressed that he could talk so intelligently and pull stuff out of his memory banks so easily with all the anesthesia and pain medication in his system.
He was in the neuro ICU until noon on Tuesday. All the other patients in the neuro ICU had traumatic brain injury, and he was the only one who could interact with the nurses and respond. They took to calling him “Nate the Great.” After the anesthesia and the pain meds stripped away his layers of conscious control, the sweet gentle person that lives in there came out, and all the nurses were so attentive and kind to him and to us.
They moved him to the neurology ward yesterday. And he did very well on the mini mental state exam, just a few points below normal. Quick: Count backwards from 100 by 7. Can you do it?
I sat with him in his room all day yesterday. I lost the hospitality room because another patient's family needed it, so Richard and I decided I would come home at 6 pm and he would come up today.
Just as I was getting ready to leave, the radiologist came in. I stayed for a minute, and heard him say “...thinks it spread from a melanoma from somewhere else...” and “...radiation to the brain where they took out the tumor,” and I heard my son say, “...is this fatal?” and he said “well, it probably could be, but let’s not worry about that right now....”
And he started examining our boy, asking about sunburn... “does this hurt if I press here...? “does this hurt if I press here....”
Melanoma. We did sunscreen, we put t-shirts on him when he went swimming. Melanoma. "Now, that's just the preliminary diagnosis. That's not the final report."
Twice in 8 days I am hit hard in the gut with a 2 x 4. I could not hold it together for our son. I should have stayed to hear the rest of what the radiologist said. I did not. I left.
On the way home I passed an Amish family in their horse-drawn wagon, a mother and father in the front and in the back, two little girls in their black bonnets and dark blue dresses. One of the girls turned and waved at me as I passed. Oh.
I come up on another horse-drawn wagon up ahead about a half-mile. This one with 3 men in the front, and in the back, two little boys, smaller versions of the men, sitting side by side, engaged in serious conversation, talking with their hands. Little boys in straw hats. Little boys...