I showed up at the office of Dr. E on a Tuesday morning. It was a small practice in an unassuming office building. I was greeted by his staff, and then moments later by Dr. E himself. He was an older Chinese man with glasses and a confident smile. He asked me what was going on and listened intently as I described my symptoms for him. “Well”, he said, “first things first, let’s check your hearing”. My first thought was “great, another hearing test”. But even though I already knew my hearing was terrible, I went ahead with the test anyway. It came back just as I suspected, just like so many times before. Left ear? Great. Right ear? Terrible. So he poked around a little bit at the other symptoms I had described earlier. “You know”, he said. “This sounds like a very specific kind of tumor. It probably isn’t, it’s very rare. But just to eliminate it as a cause I’m going to order an MRI.” I felt a kind of reassurance as he said the words “very rare”. After all I thought, “when have I ever won the lottery?”
So Thursday morning I walk into the imaging center that Dr. E refers all of his patients to. The MRI went smoothly, and took about 45 minutes. It was a bit expensive, but I was going to follow through with this. They gave me the scans with a smile and I left. Later I learned that is one of the hardest things for an MRI Technician to do. See they already know if you have a tumor, if you have cancer, etc., but they can’t say ANYTHING. The Dr. has to give you the diagnosis. So they smiled. What a horrible feeling that must be. To fight back every urge that you have to say, “I’m so sorry, you have blank“.
My next appointment with Dr. E was not until the following Tuesday. So I set my scans aside and went on with my week. I’m not kidding, I didn’t even peek at them. Why? Maybe I secretly knew already, but I wanted to have a good weekend, a few more stress free days. Or maybe my brain just wasn’t working right that day. Either way I just didn’t give it much thought.
On Tuesday I saw Dr. E and I handed him my scans. He left for a moment to view them and then came back and got me. He led me down a small hallway into another room where I could immediately see my scan up on the viewer. I could see the scan of my brain, all nice and gray on the viewer. And then right in the middle of it, a huge white mass. Before he said anything my heart dropped and screeched to a halt. I couldn’t breath. Dr. E walked over to the scan and pointed to my brain. “Here is your brain. And right here is what we commonly refer to as a tumor.” Later I would think to myself, “Dr. E’s bedside manner sucks!!” But at that moment I couldn’t even think straight. I found myself starting to cry. “You’re going to need surgery”, he said. “I’m referring you to Stanford, don’t worry, they will take good care of you.” “Sure”, I thought. “They’ll take good care of me.”
He led me back down the hallway to the front desk. Where he said he was sorry and wished me well. “Thank you”, was all I could manage to say. I was still crying at this point, though not a full blown cry. I was trying so desperately to hold it together. “Just make it out to the car”, I thought. I still had to pay my bill, so the front desk attendant told me how much. She did so with obvious empathy, it was written all over her face. After I payed I walked out to my car and got in. I must have sat there for sometime, I can’t recall how long exactly. But after awhile I knew I should drive home sooner rather than later. Driving at all in this condition can be dangerous, but I only had a 20 minute drive home and it was after rush hour. I was in a sort of tearful daze as I drove. Thoughts ran through my mind. I tried not to think about it, but it totally consumed my every thought.
When I finally got home, after what seemed much longer than 20 minutes. I walked into the house, dead silence. No one was home. I called my mom, I called my sisters, but no one answered. I left them each a voice mail, but I am fairly certain that they wouldn’t be able to understand a word I was saying. A slurring, crying man. Ugh, how did I get here??