Unusual, I thought. We weren’t expecting anyone. I went to the door, opened it and — wouldn’t you know it? — there he was. The Big C. He had a twisted smile on his face, a “gotcha” smirk that really ticked me off. I said, “Bug off” and slammed the door.
Three days later I woke up in the hospital. I was hooked up to the usual plumbing and paraphernalia: IV there, surgical tape here. Suction cups were scattered across my chest like lily pads in search of a pond.
Hospital gowns have never evolved — in shape, style or color. They cover you in all the wrong places. Someone should really get in touch with Michael Kors or Armani about this.
I turned my head to the left and saw my wife sitting there. The right side of my head felt weird. I raised my hand. Bandage? No. Something metal. I traced my fingers down along a picket fence of metal staples that was lying just underneath some wisps of hair. Wait, my hair isn’t that thin. I touched the metal again. This isn’t looking good.
My wife came over and stood bedside. “How are you doing?”
Here is what I learned. I had suffered a grand mal seizure and had fallen on top of my wife. She’d had to crawl out from under me to get to the phone to punch in 911.
The cause of the seizure was a brain tumor, a glioblastoma multiforme, one of the most aggressive forms of brain cancer out there. A quick MRI at the hospital — Northwestern Memorial in Chicago — showed the tumor at its ugly best. They had to open up a good portion of the right side of my skull to get to it. And that was where the Frankenstein braid of stainless-steel staples came in. The staples started just behind my right ear and marched some eight inches, curving a bit, up the side of my head.
The tumor was a Grade IV. Later I learned that when it comes to this kind of tumor there is no Grade III or II. So I got the top grade, so to speak.
And then three days later I was out of the hospital. I had a headache the size of Cuba. I was thinking that a hospital bed, with all of its controls and symbols for arranging up, down, levels and planes, which probably cost a million bucks apiece, was still, much like a hospital gown, a work in progress, so goodbye to that mechanical marvel and hello to my really nice bed at home.
Glioblastoma multiforme (or GBM, as it is commonly known) is found in only two or three people per 100,000 in Europe and North America. And it is more common in men. The reason for that is not clear. But it may be due, the experts say, to the fact that “males eat more and increase their chance of eating something that is virus-infected.”