Physiology, It’s Not An Exact Science
Lorna’s world is spinning and this time she doesn’t know why. What’s happening?
Our brief roles as fairly Equal Adults in the Chuck and Lorna Show ended and we were recast as Mysteriously Afflicted Invalid and Heroic Health Advocate. Not that I minded to a certain degree. I definitely needed someone to drive Ms. Dizzy to doctor appointments. And the idea of a brain tumor distracted me from asking pertinent medical questions or remembering pertinent answers. But I was still able to function remarkably well on a daily basis, having had all that practice years ago at pretending I was sober when I was totally loop-de-looped. Actually, that’s exactly how I felt. I’d been sober for over seventeen years and was feeling constantly drunk, buzzed, a permanent resident of Bed-Spin-City. At least I had a way of describing my dizziness to doctors so they would understand—at least the doctors who drank, which I suspected were most of them.
The dizziness baffled everyone and really annoyed me, but the brain tumor was my personal rainmaker. The tumor was …
- …real. Not big, but visible on fancy scanners, therefore not just in my head—well, it was in my head, but not just in my imagination. Doctors couldn’t see my dizziness and started to wonder aloud about depression and anxiety, which only saddened and worried me.
- …dramatic. Lots of people get dizzy for lots of reasons, but brain tumors are jaw-droppers. People say nice things about you before you die when you mention you have a brain tumor.
- ….prophetic. When I was young, I convinced myself I would develop a brain tumor and die a theatrical “Terms of Endearment” type death. Blame it on the mind-splitting migraines I developed at five years of age, my melodramatic nature, or some pretty awesome psychic ability, but I kind of “knew” my brain would turn on me, sooner or later.
The brain tumor was on my mind a great deal. I grew as attached to it as it was attached to me. So when the first neurologist we saw told us it was “nothing,” I was insulted. He called it a Meningioma, “just a pea-sized mass” that was lodged between my skull and the sheath that covers my brain. He’d just crack my head open and it would, “pop out and roll onto the floor.” Well, la-de-flipping-da. Dr. Buzz Saw wasn’t going anywhere near my precious
tumor brain. I wanted another opinion from someone who took my tumor a bit more seriously than a flying vegetable.
Dr. M became my permanent neurologist. He was professional, astute, personable, and believed in both my dizziness and my brain tumor. While he told me I should go see an actual neurosurgeon for the tumor, he diagnosed my dizziness as “Basilar Artery Migraine” and gave me medications notorious for helping with such illnesses. Chuck and Dr. M spent lots of time arguing about my diagnosis while I listened and the room whizzed around me. Chuck, being a financial guy and expert on me, thought Dr. M was wrong; Dr. M, being a neurologist and having treated similar cases, felt he was on to something. I was the silent patient, patiently waiting to see who would win the argument. It was a draw.
Chuck needed another opinion on the dizziness and I needed someone to tell me my brain tumor was dazzlingly ominous, so we went to two major medical centers in Boston. The results:
- After ruling out everything from AIDS to Lyme Disease, the best medical minds in Boston decided I had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) even though the only thing I was tired of was all the blood tests and diagnostic procedures involving spinning me around and blasting me with strobe lights. CFS is what you have when doctors don’t know what you have.
- After several fancy imaging procedures that also revealed an anomaly in my basilar artery, the neurosurgeons believed that my tumor was a Meningioma, but they should scan me every six months to watch it and see if it
kickedmoved or grew. I wondered if we should give it a name. They would decide if and when it should be removed. Maybe they would even tell me.
In the meantime, I didn’t skip a beat as a successful college professor, mom, and
patient wife. I was able to drive short, familiar distances and feed and dress myself. If I closed my eyes, I fell over, so I made sure not to close my eyes while teaching or driving—something I learned wasn’t a good idea anyway. For added excitement, I developed chronic nausea (from feeling like I was stuck in the spin cycle of an industrial Whirlpool washer) and a vigorous case of insomnia (from…oh, why not?).
What was a dizzy Lorna to do? That’s when I began writing funny stories about my childhood. That kind of writing was therapeutic and safe. It reminded me of a time when I was almost “too healthy,” gave me something to laugh about, and (should Chuck stumble across what I wrote), I wasn’t writing anything that could get me into any trouble.
Like I needed more trouble…
Is more trouble brewing? Is Lorna too dizzy to notice?