Keith D. Guernsey writes about the trauma of a brain tumour
COMING BACK STRONG!
It was early 1995 and my girlfriend at the time was complaining that I was having trouble hearing her. I made light of it by telling her I didn't want to be interrupted watching my beloved Pats to do my household chores (which those who know me will tell you I'm lousy at anyways!) Fortunately, she persisted and the bad news was about to get worse. After many rounds of tests, it was determined that I had a benign brain tumor called an Acoustic Neuroma on my eighth cranial nerve (left side). I had no idea what any of this medical mumbo jumbo meant, but I knew it wasn't good. After 21 years the memory fades, but there are several distinct flashbacks that pop into my mind from time-to-time.
The foremost is asking Dr. David Vernick (part of my surgical team) what would happen if I decided not to have the surgery. His response was very simply, "you will die" ( thanks for your candor Dr. V!) Kinda makes the decision for you, don’t you think? I decided to go ahead with the surgery and was truly blessed to have arguably the best neurosurgeon heading up my team. Dr. Peter Black was truly the best of the best. The ten hour surgery went fine but the recovery not so much! While bringing me out of the anesthesia, they misjudged my body weight (hard to do in hospital full of scales) and I sprang up into a sitting position. At this point, I began tearing all the tubes and wires out of my arms and chest. There were fluids and blood everywhere.
It was it this inopportune moment that Mom decide she just had to see her “little baby boy”. The nurses tried to explain to her that this was the worst possible time for a visit, but she persisted (we Guernsey’s are a determined bunch!) She was cautioned that it was not a pretty sight but came in for a brief visit totally unprepared for what she was about to see. I don’t remember that but I do remember being bound and restrained (hands and feet) so that they could put the tubes back in and bring me out of the anesthesia properly this time. Skipping ahead five days, I jogged out of the hospital entrance fully prepared to resume life!
Aside from the permanent hearing loss in my left ear, I felt great and was ready to get back to a job that I loved (ad sales at Cahners). Shortly after that my life took an amazing turn, when I met my soul mate. Susan and I met through a personal ad in the local newspaper (yes kids they did have those before match and eHarmony). We began dating seriously and then moved in together.
Shortly thereafter it was determined that my tumor had returned with a vengeance.
It was time (in early 1997) for surgery number two. Sure was a heckuva birthday present! This one was more complex since they not only had to remove the tumor but scrape around it to remove the remaining tumor cells. The resulting headaches prevented me from sitting, standing or lying down. All I was able to do was drown my sorrows in comfort food. I ate and ate until I resembled a cross between the Goodyear Blimp and the Michelin Man.
It was then that Susan sat me down and explained that the four food groups were not Pizza, Chinese food, Bud Light and Ben and Jerrys.
It was time to commit to what has become a 20 year return to good health. Someone much wiser than I ( which actually encompasses a lot of people!), once said "slow and steady wins the race". I took that advice and slowly began to re-shape my thinking and eating habits.
I am proud to say that with the help of Susan's cooking healthy meals and many hours in the gym, I have reached my high school football playing weight 47 years after playing my last game!
My new goal is to reach the age of 95 so that I can dance with my lovely bride on our 50th wedding anniversary!