A herd of deer congregate each morning and evening on the golf course outside our hotel room. We stand on our second floor patio, holding a glass of wine, and marveling at their tender habits.
I wished to take it all back — the MRIs, the too-kind receptionist, the serious dark eyes of the neurologist as she seated me at her desk, my hands trembling on my lap. I knew something was wrong because everyone was too nice and although Sacramentans are known for their good nature, there was an undertone of pity and I knew it … I knew it.
“I’m sorry to tell you this, but you have a very large brain tumor,” the doctor said, her face pinched with the gravity of her words.
The drive to San Antonio from Phoenix takes about fourteen hours and travels through flat Arizona Sonoran desert terrain to the uniquely beautiful Texas hill country. We delay the gratification and stop slightly more than halfway in Van Horn, Texas. I do most of the driving because I seem immune to fears of threading our small car through the gamut of 18-wheelers on rain-slicked hilly roads at 80 miles-per-hour. I’m fearless.
Terror hit me. My hands wanted to cover my mouth to keep it from crying out. Instead, they sat quivering in my lap. I suppose my eyes widened, but I said nothing. How could I? What does one really say when a doctor hands you a 6.5 centimeter brain tumor?
She slapped an MRI image into a light box and pointed out a roundish lit-up area. She explained that my tumor, although larger than a golf ball, was, nevertheless, in an operable position. It squatted deep at the bottom of my brain and, from my perspective, didn’t look so … what did she say? … operable. By then, my eyes had filled with tears. She came around the desk to pat my hands, which only made my eyes flood more.
Below street level, the San Antonio River runs through the center of the city. It’s the famous River Walk and we’re excited to explore its myriad shops and restaurants — a tourist trap for sure, but still it’s rife with history and color. We follow a winding staircase down and step into a guided gondola with a gum-chewing jokester at its helm. Halfway through the tour, we decide we’re trapped on a boat being wheeled around by a smart-mouthed pipsqueak.
I left the neurologist’s office with an appointment with a neurosurgeon scheduled for the following morning. I carried with me an armload of MRIs and a mouthful of jokes to replace my earlier tears. Brain jokes. Tumor humor. A staggering comedy act hardly fit for the days ahead.
I didn’t want to scare anyone. I was frightened enough for us all.
Tomorrow, we’ll explore the staggering importance of a steady-handed neurosurgeon.