By Terrence Adams, Buzzworthy Blogs
Everything stopped and I woke up dirty and bloody and unsure of my own name. This was the second seizure. It was a cold December in 2010. I was living in Brooklyn and was walking around my neighborhood and then I heard it. All of it. Every song I’d ever heard all at the same time. It was so confusing and scary and insane. If the first seizure was concerning, this was my brain telling me that death was imminent. So like everyone else, I pretended that it didn’t happen and waited to move back to Ohio. Fucking idiot.
I had three more seizures that I remember in a seven-month span. I started to have panic attacks. Panic attacks are different with everyone. Mine were close to having auras before a grand mal. My wife (who was my girlfriend at the time) was terrified. Actually “terrified” is not an apt word for her state. Maybe “completely batshit” might work. Regardless, we were both completely batshit when she finally witnessed my final seizure. We went to a neurologist within a week. It took another week for my first MRI. What they saw would change everything—an apple-sized brain tumor on my right temporal lobe that could destroy my ability to speak and/or understand speech normally.
Under The Knife
Basically, my options were to do nothing or get surgery. I opted to let a team of doctors saw my skull open. They were happy to do it and I was happy to let them. I was awake during my procedure. They called it a state of “twilight” where I was numb and drugged-up but able to speak and understand my surroundings. The nurses wanted me to talk about baseball so I did. The nurses wanted me to talk about my fiancé so I did. I remember thinking that this was the reason I did hallucinogens like LSD when I was young—to prepare myself for this moment. My surgery took five hours. After, they gave me enough Dilaudid to put a meth addict in hospice.
I was in a drug-induced daze until the second day when the pain set in. I felt like someone had left a jackhammer running in my temporal lobe. Something every recovering brain surgery patient must do before they can go home is draw a clock. This is to make sure that your noggin is not irreparably harmed. So, the first day I couldn’t draw a clock or understand what it was for. The second day I knew what a clock was for but couldn’t draw it correctly. The third day I could do both. The doctors kept me in the hospital for three days. The real problem was my inability to speak well and my constant lapses in memory.
Cause Behind My Cancer
To this day, my doctors have no idea how I got the cancer. For the most part, they believe that it had always been there and that the only reason we were able to treat it was because of the seizures. You see you don’t have to have a family history of cancer to get cancer. My tumor was most likely a catalyst of too many excess brain cells breaking bad all at once. Like a really shitty game of Jenga. So basically there was no one to blame.
And so…the long road to recovery. Between March and October of 2012, I worked with a speech therapist to get my brain up to par. But slowly my tumor (that rat bastard, that evil fuck) was coming back, which eventually forced me to do radiation and chemotherapy. I lost my hair. I lost my courage. I felt that my body was a foreign entity. My doctor told me that my work was not for naught. My last MRI was hopeful.
My doctor also told me that I should do another, more potent round of chemo just to be sure. I am currently doing this now. It’s not easy. I still have problems with my speech sometimes and it’s been two years. Actually there’s a lot of things that I’m still adjusting to. My hair is different; it’s now thinner and silver! At age 31, I need eyeglasses for the first time in my life; I’ve been smoke and drink free for the past eight months (two favorite things I can’t have anymore).
I also have to re-learn that sometimes a cold is just a cold and not a symptom of my tumor growing. I have to learn that the effects of radiation and chemo are on a long track and will mostly be with me for years. I have to have hope that my brain will adapt and that the things I used to do will come back. The fact that I’m writing is a testament of that. Actually, the fact that I’m breathing is a testament that if you work hard you can beat cancer at its own game. Cancer is not a one-night stand; it’s a marriage.
My game is far from over, but I like my chances. Because fuck cancer. It’s your first love gone insane. It’s your family dog gone rabid. It’s everything you thought about your life turning upside down and though you may first feel that nothing is what it seems, you slowly realize that you are a part of something more important than any job or menial task. You are the next convert of the New Normal.
Terrence Adams is a 31-year-old freelance writer and musician. He lives comfortably in Columbus, Ohio with his wife Morgan, his two cats Creedence and Bubs and his big baby dog Jasper.
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