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  • Writer's pictureMatt

The Beginning

All of this started with a headache. In May I was getting what I thought were migraines but, on June 6th, I lost the peripheral vision in my left eye, prompting a visit to the ER in Owen Sound. There, they ran some tests, including a CT Scan which showed something. The attending neurologist, however, indicated he wasn't too concerned about what he was seeing but that he would schedule an MRI as a follow-up. In the meantime, the headaches continued. I was able to get in for the MRI ahead of schedule due to a cancelation, and on June 21st I learned that I had a 1 inch growth that was pushing into the temporal lobe on the right side of my brain. The same neurologist reviewed the results with me directly following the MRI and told me that it wasn't something to be too despairing about as it could likely be treated with good results. I was referred to a specialist in London and told to wait for his office to contact me. In the meantime, the headaches continued.

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When I didn't hear from the specialist, I called his office and learned that he was on holidays that week, but when he returned the following week he would deal with his referrals based on priority. So while we waited, we finished up the school year, celebrated Canada Day and welcomed the beginning of summer vacation. On July 4th my headaches got worse as the day progressed and Kristen took me to the ER in Owen Sound after supper that night. After starting an IV with pain medication, the attending doctor ordered a CT scan and this time the growth was apparent. After consulting with the neurologist that did the MRI, he told us that the tumour had grown in the 2 weeks since the initial tests. This was the first time that anyone had referred to it as a tumour. This doctor was not content with waiting to hear from a specialist and admitted me to the hospital that night saying that I would be transferred to London as soon as a bed was available, which would mean that I got to see someone sooner rather than later.

Thursday morning we learned that a bed would be available at University Hospital later that evening and that they wanted me to go via medical transport. After I had another MRI, Kristen went home to pack some things and the kids came to the hospital to join us for lunch and say goodbye. Two young guys from Voyago drove me to London and were kind enough to let Kristen (and our bags) come along for the ride.

When we got to London, a resident doctor came to check me out and was surprised to learn that no one had shared what he seemed to think was a fairly obvious diagnosis. After doing a few neurological tests and reviewing the imaging one more time he told us that he couldn't be certain until surgery was performed, but it looked like I had a high grade glioma that had grown from 1 inch to about 1.3 inches in less than two weeks.

After sharing a hospital bed with Kristen for a long night in a noisy room with 3 other patients, we met with the neurosurgeon, a social worker and a nurse practitioner. The neurosurgeon took the time to show us the images from the MRI, confirm that he agreed with the resident who had spoken with us the night before, and tell us what he planned to do during surgery on Monday morning, as well as the risks involved. Because of the location of the tumour there was a slight risk of permanent loss of vision, and an even smaller risk of loss of motor skills on the left side of the body. However, he was confident that these risks were very low.

After two nights in the hospital, we were relieved when they let us know that we could leave until Sunday at 4:00 pm as long as we stayed close by, so we rented a hotel room and went out for dinner with Kristen's mom and had friends join us for coffee afterwards. Friends drove our kids down to meet us on Saturday morning and we were able to hang out with them for the day and eat food that wasn't served on a tray under plastic lids. They spent the night with us at the hotel and Kristen's family and a few friends joined us in London on Sunday for Kristen's birthday lunch.

Birthday Lunch at Beertown in London

After saying goodbye to everyone we headed back to check in at the hospital and had dinner in the cafeteria before visiting with more friends who had driven to London to spend some time with us. We said more goodbyes, played a game of Yahtzee, then settled in for another long night.

With so many changes and so much new information in a few short days, we were doing our best to keep everyone up to date. As word spread, we were overwhelmed by the number of people who texted and reached out with kind words, encouragement, love, prayers, jokes and helpful gestures. Even though we were both feeling scared, shocked, tired and generally emotional, we felt comforted and supported by the army of good people in our lives. We are blessed to be surrounded by friends and family who not only love us, but are also able to show it in so many ways.

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