Saturday, April 17, 2010

one year ago

The Facebook letter I wrote to my brothers David and Sean on the morning of April 16, 2009:

David and Sean,

I don't know what's going on with Mom, but since yesterday, I've noticed that her behavior has radically changed, and to be honest, I'm extremely worried.

I noticed this first yesterday morning when I got home from my walk. Her behavior was extremely passive, and she seemed to be spacing out-- unable to find words, unable to follow a line of conversation, etc. She tended to stare as if she were trying to remember something, and talking with her was like talking to a four-year-old. Needless to say, this was alarming.

This morning, I woke to the smell of smoke. I went upstairs and asked Mom what got burned. She stared at me blankly for a while, then finally said, "I was trying to cook some... some... some chicken." There was no chicken in evidence; just a burned pot of oatmeal in the sink, with water covering the bottom layer. When I pointed this out to her-- "Mom, this is just oatmeal"-- she passively said, "Yeah." When I asked her why she thought she'd been cooking chicken, she said, "I don't know."

I talked to Dad, who said he'd been noticing small signs for a week-- little things, like Mom saying she wanted ice coffee, then drinking the coffee while it was still hot.

Dad and I, in conferring about this, ended up having the same thought: it's a possible mini-stroke.

We obviously don't know what it really is, so Dad is taking her to see Dr. Royfe in an hour. I'm going with them. Mom seems lost, but she's still capable of emotion, and I want to provide her whatever comfort I can just by being there.

Depending on what Dr. Royfe says, there's a good chance I might miss my flight tomorrow to stay home. If Mom is suffering from something serious, it would be in extremely poor taste for me to up and leave.

I just wanted to let you both know what's been going on. There's nothing much you can do at this point. We'll know more in a few hours, I guess.


Little did we know, at the time, that we were seeing the first true signs of Mom's brain cancer, which had advanced to a point where its size created pressure against the brain, resulting in edema (swelling), further resulting in the cognitive symptoms described above.

We tossed out the idea of seeing Dr. Royfe in favor of taking Mom to the ER. Mount Vernon Hospital's ER didn't have the best imaging facilities, but they were the first to determine that Mom's brain held a sizable mass. We moved Mom to Fairfax Hospital, where the mass was determined to be a tumor. Days later, the tentative diagnosis was glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), the most common and most aggressive form of brain cancer, for which there is no cure.

On April 16, one year ago, our family's ordeal began.

UPDATE: My friend Rory, who found out only recently about our struggle and loss, had told me some days ago that he would compose some music for me, and he did. Here's his instrumental piece in honor of me, my family, and all that has happened. Click "play hi-fi" to hear the piece online.



Elisson said...

I'm glad to hear Rory is alive and well. I miss his writing. His acoustic guitar tribute is stunningly beautiful - he's clearly a man of many talents.

Amazing what can happen in a year. Or two. Or sixty-five. Two years ago today, I stood at the hypocenter of the Hiroshima A-bomb explosion. It was... sobering.

Jelly said...

Rory's tribute was really, really lovely. I miss his writing as well. I hope you're doing okay, Kevin. I'm chugging along. I hope to update my blog ummmm, tonight? I find I don't have a lot to say - we'll see. (For that matter, I owe you an e-mail. Thank you very very much for your e-mail. Much appreciated.