A few days in a life – uncertainty comes calling

You may or may not know, but I spent a chunk of last week in the hospital.  I’m fine, but my son was having surgery.  There may not be anything more gut wrenching that the health of your children.  Their health, when it is anything but healthy, becomes your primary focus.

In December 2004, almost exactly 8 years ago, I got a call about 5 pm.  I was near the end of a major systems migration/upgrade project and I was explaining to a key user that while, yes a few things still needed to be done, this had gone smoothly and they had 98% functionality restored by 3pm on day 1, when I got a call.  My son had a brain tumor and I needed to get to Sacramento immediately.  I was in San Mateo.  That was a 2.5 hour drive in the best of circumstances; it was closer to 4 or 5 at that time of day.  Thus began our cancer year.

Since October 2005, my son had been cancer free.  First semi-annual and then annual scans showed that to be the case.  Until October.  There was a growth above his ear.  It might be a benign growth – though nothing in the brain is benign – or it could be a different cancer, both could be brought on by the radiation used to eradicate the previous cancer.  I do a pretty good job of compartmentalizing my feeling and fears, but I was a wreck internally. 

One positive sign was that his blood work came back negative.  We were all pretty hopeful that this would not be cancer.  Hopeful does not equal sure.  At various times reality would set in and I would have to work hard to keep my façade up.  It generally surfaced when I was alone, but not always.  The fact that this son does not live with me did not change anything, your children are your priority.  Feeling helpless, after all there was nothing I could do to change this, is not something I am used to or like.

We sat in the waiting room on Wednesday.  The same surgeon was performing the surgery.  Last time there was a 2cm tumor at the base of his skull, preventing the brain fluid from leaving the brain via the spinal column.  There were growths that had metastasized to his pituitary gland and his spinal column.  This time it was (as related to me) 2cm growth behind his left ear.  If it was cancer, it could be boring into his brain, with possibly horrific results.  Or it could be an encapsulated growth sitting in his meninges adding pressure (Meningiomas).   Surgery was scheduled for 2 hours. 

Because we did not have enough stress, the surgery started 30 minutes late.  30 minutes in we got a call in the waiting room.  The tumor was removed and everything went well.  What did this mean?  Then we got a call he was sleeping in recovery.  Again, was this good news or bad news?  The waiting was ridiculous, but we were hopeful.  After a bit, the surgeon came to tell us what we hoped for, it was the best possible news – it was not cancer.

My son’s 3 day hospital stay was cut to 2.  It is inconceivable to me that after brain surgery on Wednesday morning, my son was walking Wednesday afternoon and released on Thursday afternoon.  Other than wanting foods he was not allowed to have immediately, my son was his normal self.  I am still a bit in disbelief.

It was a comfort to have the thoughts, prayers and wishes of all our friends during this period.  There will still be some follow ups and treatments, but the worst is behind us and this not being cancer is the best possible result.

If you and your family have your health, you already have the holiday gift you may not recognize you received.  If you know someone who did not find this gift in their home, give them a word, a note or a hug.  It helps more than you realize. 

Leave a comment


  1. lotuslust

     /  December 9, 2012

    My experiences don’t come close to yours in regards to children’s health. I can only say I have an inkling on how you have been feeling. As soon as my son was born, he had to go to Children’s Hospital. He was premature, born with one kidney and imperforated anus. He had many surgeries before the age of 3.

    I saw your tweets about this, but after the fact. My thoughts have been with you and your boy. So happy to hear the hospital stay turned out well.

  2. Anonymous

     /  December 9, 2012

    Our children’s lives mean so much more to us than our own health and well-being. I’m so glad things turned out so well. If you held it together at, then you have my admiration.

    • Anonymous

       /  December 9, 2012

      I so agree. I barely kept it together. I didn’t have the option not to. I was a single mom and he had to have home care for awhile.

      Thank goodness for both of our kids.


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