An eye opener

Yesterday afternoon was the first time I saw the cancer that’s living inside my skull. I don’t know what I was expecting to feel when I saw it, but it didn’t feel good. It was more scary than I had even imagined it.

When you’re told you have a tumor, or a mass, or cancer… whatever you want to call it… growing inside your head… you immediately start to think of it as an object. Like, a THING. I guess that’s why people always ask me what does it “feel” like to have a tumor. I had imagined the doctor would show me a picture of what looks like a Skittle or a mushroom or ping-pong ball wedged somewhere in my head. I know it sounds stupid… but you just tend to think of it like a mole or something. A foreign object.

So when the neurosurgeons start telling you they are going to go in and cut pieces of this out, its sounds freaky but you are comforted by the fact they know what they’re doing and once they get in they’ll be able to see the tumor and go ‘”yep… that’s the shit right there”… sorta like if you’re were going to have a mole removed from your arm.

Well having brain cancer is nothing like that. Its really different. The best analogy I can give is to imagine a bruise, because that’s really all it looks like. The MRI and CT scans just make it glow a little different than the area around it.

A fucking bruise.

Its PART of your body. Its not just some thing they can pluck out and dispose of… they would have to cut at the muscle of your leg to dig out all the area it contains. Okay now take that scenario and move it into your brain. I can’t help but have the breath stolen out of my chest when I think of how much of my BRAIN they could have ended up removing to try and clear up this cancer.

Think about it for a moment: how would you remove a bruise? You have to scoop out all the good with the bad. Its like trying to get food coloring out of cake without destroying the cake. Its impossible. I consider myself lucky for everything that “didn’t work out right” during the operating that forced me into having just a biopsy. I still wish it was just a Skittle or object they could grab with some high-tech machine that looks like one of those claw-games you play to win a doll at the arcade… but its not. And the reality is, I still have to fight back.

So in a nutshell: I have these brain cells that aren’t what they should be. They’re imperfect. My body shouldn’t have let them reproduce, but they did and it will continue to happen. Just like any cell in our body, we have good cells that regularly die and need to be replaced… hopefully by another good cell. Its a cycle. Cancer is basically these bad cells replacing good cells.

This is what we don’t want… bad cells. Remember though, just like the bruise, these cells are still me: they’re my brain, my thoughts, my memories, my hopes and dreams and aspirations and everything else that makes me who I am. So its something we attack methodically and cautiously. Instead of whacking away at it with a hedge trimmer, we use chemotherapy and radiation to kill off the bad cells and let my body do the work replacing them with good ones.

I can tell its going to be rough… its going to drain me and exhaust me and take every ounce of energy I have… but I’m okay with that. This experience has opened my eyes so much that it borderlines as a gift. I know its probably odd reading that, but it took something as dramatic as brain cancer to help me realize that what is free in life is priceless and what we pay for is worthless.