The past few weeks I have noticed that my memories are now framed in the context of its temporal relation to the discovery of my tumor. Because I have been told that this was a slow growing tumor, one that was probably present at birth, even experiences I recall as a child are now thought of in relation to this mass in my brain until finally at age 31 the tumor grew big enough to cause the double vision that prompted my diagnosis. It’s almost as if I was living with a time bomb in my head.
I remember at age 9 playing against one of the top tennis players in the state, and losing in three sets. I remember being torn apart by the loss. By nature, I am not competitive with others. I am competitive with myself. This particular loss did not hurt me because of who I lost to, but because I felt it was a reflection of my shortcomings; maybe if I had practiced longer or hit my forehand better, I could have won that match I thought. I recently thought of this match; however this recollection ended with the thought that the tumor was growing then.
I had a flashback to my days in college; leaving my mom and step dad for the first time was traumatic for me. I cried and cried after leaving them. My roommates, now my close friends could sense this distress as each and every one of them tried to cheer me up (with lots of alcohol). I remember nervously calling this girl (my now wife) to ask her to an event a college club was hosting. Luckily, she took my invitation. Every time I look at my wife, my mind drifts back to the days of college, unfortunately I now also think of those days as not only great experiences but I point out to myself that the tumor was only years away from its 4.5 centimeter size as found during surgery.
Tick Tock Tick
When I step into Sparrow Hospital, my thoughts do not automatically converge on my month long post-operative stay there; no actually I first think of my days there as a first year resident. I remember being scared of the idea of treating and managing patients. The exhaustion that came with the long hours spent at the hospital, the overnight shifts that made up intern year is a feeling that’s hard to forget. I do remember the knowledge that I gained with experience. I remember thinking, I know this. I can handle this. As I transitioned from intern year to second year my fear turned to confidence, as I felt with my knowledge and experience that I could handle anything thrown my way. When I have this nostalgia to the early days of my residency, I cannot help but think that the mass in my head was nearly fully grown by then.
Tick Tock Tick Tock
Then on Monday morning March 18th of 2013 I awoke with double vision.
The rest of my memories are now reflected on as times with the tumor out of my head.
I hate to liken this tumor to a bomb in my head as it didn’t kill me; but I cannot deny that it changed everything forever. I cannot help to impart to you that this ordeal has taught me that we should cherish every moment we have. As clichéd as this is, I literally went from fully functional to handicapped overnight. I am lucky that I lived my life with no regrets, and that when I remember these events, even though these memories are jaded by the thoughts of the growing mass in my head, I regret none of them. My message is to remind you to do what makes you truly happy and appreciate every moment along the way: life is fleeting and that it can all change overnight.