Meet Calvin, the Inoperable Brain Tumor

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You can never be sure exactly what is going on inside your body. Well, there are the obvious things, like hunger pains and gas… but beyond that, it is impossible to really have a clear picture of how healthy our organs are, or how our blood looks, or exactly how things are functioning. Of course we know when they STOP functioning, but what about when things are "okay", but may not be perfect?

For example, what if your lungs had some spots that were unhealthy because when you were younger you decided to cave to peer pressure and a smoked cigarettes for 15+years (I am talking about a friend here, duh), or if you decided to smoke marijuana a couple of times just to "check it out" (friend again). We can't look into our bodies and see what kind of damage these choices may have caused.

What about the people who have illnesses due to no fault of their own, but just because it is that way for them? What about time bombs that are just ticking away like cancer, or heart disease, or high cholesterol, or a stroke. Just waiting until your guard is down to strike and cause havoc in your life and loved ones. Too bad we can't have some sort of see-through window that doctors can use to see what might happen to us and our bodies so we can prepare.

My point is that we never know what is going on inside us. Maybe that is a good thing, maybe not.

About four years ago my partner Bluebell began having headaches. Every day. All day. They were worse if she coughed, or sneezed, or bent over to tie her shoes. I made her go to the primary care doctor. They sent her to a neurologist, who ordered an MRI, which revealed a tumor in her brain. Then the neurosurgery appointments began. MRIs, CAT Scans, discussions. Bluebell was diagnosed with a Meningioma (benign tumor of the meninges), which was sitting right next to her brainstem in a very bad (inoperable) spot.

I was shocked. A tumor? In an inoperable spot right next to her brainstem??? Only Bluebell could have this kind of luck. We often joke that when God created her, he mixed up lots of different kinds of health issues and tossed them into her DNA, just to see how she could handle it. We had already been through eye surgery, cervical cancer, a radical hysterectomy, benign thyroid tumor, lymphedema from the hysterectomy, a stapedectomy to correct her deteriorating ear bone. So I mean, really? An inoperable brain tumor?

So we did what we assumed everyone does in that situation: We named the tumor. Calvin. He became her scapegoat. Any time she did something and we got into an argument she said "Oops, must be Calvin." If she forgot something she would say, "thanks a lot, Calvin." Basically poor Calvin was blamed for all her difficulties. I almost felt bad for the poor little millimeter of tissue... except that he parked himself right next to Bluebell's brainstem.

Time went on and Bluebell continued to see her neurologist, Dr P. After a year, Dr. P decided that Calvin had grown just a smidge, and it was time for Bluebell to see someone else about Calvin. A neurosurgeon who specialized in a particular procedure that could help either reduce Calvin’s size, or stop him from growing. So she sent us to see a doctor at Riverside Hospital in Newport News named Dr. Lesnick. He is a surgeon who specializes in a procedure called Gamma Knife Radiation.

It all went as well as they expected, and she was scheduled for a follow up visit in 6 months to do another MRI to see if Calvin was affected by the Gamma Knife. The follow-up MRI showed that Calvin had not grown, but he had not gotten smaller either, but Dr. Lesnick was very hopeful the procedure had worked.

So now Bluebell goes in every year to have an MRI done to see how Calvin is doing. In May it will be time for her

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