ďI was considering this to be a big problem.Ē
I am completely absorbed in the drama of the situation I find myself in. I think my wife and my son could die. I think my son will be completely paralyzed at the age of 15. My stomach is in knots, and I haven't been able to eat. I canít sleep without horrific thoughts entering into my head. I canít think about anything else. I canít go to work. I canít deal with people. I canít remove myself from this state of panic.
Imagine that you have been married for 17 years with a fifteen year old son. Imagine you are successful and happy with your life. Then imagine three months ago some of the best doctors in the country told you your wife has to have a large kidney tumor removed immediately. The reason the kidney tumor must be removed right away is so she can recover enough to be able to endure a second surgery where her entire pancreas will be removed. There are many large tumors in that organ as well. While grappling with the proposition of your wife undergoing two major surgeries, which would ultimately leave her living without a pancreas, which is possible to do, imagine that you encountered a much larger problem. If you can imagine your wife having a kidney tumor removed and then her entire pancreas removed to not be your biggest problem, than you probably can imagine having some big problems.
At the same time your wife is going through her own panic about what is happening to her, your teenage son is diagnosed with a brain tumor and a spinal tumor. Imagine his brain tumor being described as a "big one,Ē and imagine his spinal tumor being described as the "biggest spinal tumor they had ever seen." Imagine the doctors telling you there is a high probability that your son will be totally paralyzed. Imagine receiving input from another specialist that your 15 year old boy, your baby, the love of your life, has tumors that are inoperable. If you can imagine these things, which many people cannot unless these kinds of things have happened to them, then you can imagine what itís like to be me in September of 2010. These problems my family is experiencing are the realities of what is happening in my life.
These problems are real because they are actually occurring, but I also have another problem that is just as real. This other problem is with me and how I am dealing with the situation. The other problem is how I am reacting to the problems with my family. I am not being the strong confident man I need to be, I want to be. I am not being the man who handles these problems for my family. I am not being the man who figures a way out of this, and even if I can't figure a way out of this, I am not being the man my family needs me to be. I am being a weak, fragile, nervous wreck, and that is not helping anybody.
My son, Jesseís, problems are more of an immediate priority. My wife, Cathy, at least has a prognosis where she can survive. I left work two weeks ago to have Jesse checked out by the doctors at the National Cancer Institute. Those doctors have given me their opinions and now I have standing in front of my house with the phone in my hand thinking about who to call next. I need someone to point me in the right direction. I need advice from someone more qualified than me. My friends donít know what to say to me. My friends want to help, but I can tell they are uncomfortable talking to me about it, I can feel that. I can tell that anyone who hears about this is thankful it is not happening to them. People shiver at the thought of receiving this kind of news. People donít even want to think that this kind of thing could ever touch their lives. I am sure my friends are hugging their own children and thanking God they are not me. My family gets upset when I call them because they love Jesse too. They want to do anything they can to help, but they donít know what to do either. I know my parents and my brother and sisters are feeling my pain, but not how I feel it.
This kind of pain is foreign to me. I thought I had suffered in the past. I thought I always had more difficulties in my life than most people. This is different. This pain wonít let go of me, not for a minute. I lie awake at night trying to watch the TV, but I can only watch certain shows. Seinfeld is light and doesnít draw me into my troubles as much. I used to always watch the news and political channels. I see the Dow Jones plummeting, and I think who gives a ****. I listen to commentators talk about how to fix the country, and I canít believe people have so much passion and energy trying to defend their points. Donít they know how silly they are? Donít they know they should be happy that they are healthy and they should celebrate every moment that their family is not being attacked by tumors? I stare at the dark wall next to my bed in the middle of the night and just try to focus on the wall. I canít stop the thoughts from coming in. The thoughts are screaming at me. Your son is going to be paralyzed! You have to tell him that! I scream back at my thoughts. No! I will find someone that can fix him. You donít know who youíre dealing with! **** you thoughts! Shut the **** up!
People are telling me everything will be OK. What the hell do they know? They werenít there when I spoke to the doctors or they would be just as horrified as me. People are telling me they are praying for me. Iím praying too. Please, please God, help Jesse. I know Iím a Jew who hasnít gone to temple in over thirty years, but my wife goes to church every Sunday, and my son goes to a Catholic high school, thatís got to count for something. Iíve never hurt a soul in my entire life. I try to help everyone I know. You know Iím a good man. Please help me God. Havenít I suffered enough in this life? Iíve walked through twenty years of surgeries with Cathy. Iíve had a tougher childhood than anyone I know. Iíve had to pick myself up and reinvent myself over and over again in this life. Am I supposed to undergo the most unbearable suffering imaginable? Is that who Iím supposed to be, the man who has to endure anything?
Cathy and I are both teachers and the school year just started. I canít imagine going in to work right now and planning lessons, grading papers, and trying to act enthusiastic about teaching. I canít even fathom the idea of getting absorbed in all that while I am absorbed in all this. I am afraid I will lose my job if I donít go back soon. How long can I stay out of work without losing my job? I need the medical benefits. I canít lose my job. How can I go in though? How can I face anyone without crying? A few months ago, I was telling my friends at work about how Cathy might have to have her pancreas removed. They were all telling me how sorry they were. Now I am telling them about my sonís crisis. It doesnít even sound believable. Who has these kinds of medical problems? I feel like I am double dipped in ****.
Iím like a scared kid, and I need an adult to talk to, but there are no adults. People have always shared their opinions about what I should or shouldnít do, but not this time. I canít remember a time in my life when there wasnít at least one person willing to give advice to me. No one I know would dare make a declaration about what the right thing to do is here. The choice of who operates on Jesse is mine and Cathyís. I have not met a doctor who feels confident about handling this thing yet. There must be some genius doctor in this world that can make me feel confident that I am giving Jesse his best possible shot at a positive outcome. We have spent twenty years reading the poker faces of doctors, and so far our decisions about who to use have been perfect, and I mean perfect. I can tell when doctors know what to do and when they donít. Cathy has had dozens of serious surgeries, and every single one of them has worked out flawlessly. She has retained almost perfect health over all these years, but even Cathy has never had a prognosis like this one given to Jesse. I canít help thinking that Cathy and I have been walking in between the raindrops for too long, and we are about to get really wet.