My 80-year-old grandfather discovered a Meningioma tumor in his brain in November. At the time it was considered benign, as are most meningiomas, and the diagnosis was to observe the tumor's growth over the next year and see how it was progressing.
Unfortunately, my grandfather started showing symptoms of the tumor shortly thereafter, having seizures that were taking a toll on his fragile body. After more MRIs in mid-March, the tumor appeared to have grown in size by about 20 percent. Surgery was now a necessary reality.
So how did I take this news? That my grandfather, whom I very rarely get to see because he lives in Florida half the year and two hours away the rest of it, was going to be having life-saving surgery? I packed my bags and booked the last flight out on Friday evening after work.
It's not really as heroic as I make it sound. I didn't perform the surgery. I didn't NEED to be there I suppose, but I certainly wanted to be there to give any extra strength and support that I could to my family.
My dad, my sister, my uncle and I flew down Friday evening. We spent the weekend in the sun at the ball field with my grandfather, playing games and enjoying meals together in the evening, and celebrated my grandmother's birthday with a Sunday brunch. You wouldn't even know he was sick or that this roughly 4x4x3 cm monster was slowly wreaking havoc on his brain, aside from his limp and need to walk with a cane.
But when Monday morning came, my aunt showed me pictures of the tumor in his brain from November and from now, and shared with me her research she had done on the tumor type, the hospital where he was to have the surgery, and the surgeon who was to perform the surgery. It made it all very real.
We took my grandfather to a few more appointments that day, to prepare him for the surgery the following morning. We said a family prayer the night before the surgery, all of us in Florida gathering around the phone while other members of my family made a conference call from Maryland. Hand in hand we prayed around the phone.
That phone became the center of my world the following day. Once my grandfather was taken off to surgery, all we could do was wait and pray. A nurse called from the operating room every hour with updates. She would call at quarter to the hour, every hour. It became a habit to sit and stare at the phone at x:45, each hour. When the nurse would be late making the call, I was willing the phone to ring, fearing what it would mean if she didn't call. We were told the surgery would likely take 5 hours, so you can imagine our surprise and anguish when the five hour mark came and went and the doctor was still carving away at the tumor.
Eight hours passed before his status on the waiting room television changed from "OR In," to "OR Out," and then finally to "Recovery In." I about jumped out of the waiting room chair when I saw the status finally change. The doctor successfully removed 95 percent of the tumor, and said my grandfather won't see the tumor again should he live for another 15 years. It was all over, and it has all just begun in so many ways.
We were able to see him about 90 minutes after the surgery. To our delighted surprise, he was already coherent and talking and recognizing our faces as we greeted him in pairs in the Neuro ICU. He was a vision. He was holding our hands and telling us he loved us and that my aunt was his hero and savior.
My aunt who lives in Florida has been his caretaker from the beginning. She did all the research and made all the decisions for his treatment, consulting with the family and keeping everyone informed of the goings-on while we all prayed from afar. She handled the entire thing with such grace and patience, being the beacon of hope for the family, and the rock which my grandmother needed to lean on throughout this entire process.
I learned so much from her over the few days that I was able to spend with her and the stolen moments and conversations about my grandfather, ourselves, and life in general. I came away from this trip with a sense of calm and clarity. A new outlook on what really matters in life. All the stress I put upon myself for things that don't matter... pressure (or a lack thereof) at work, pressure to live up to the expectations of my peers and society, the opinions of others... those things do not matter in the end. Family is what matters. Having things does not matter. Having a sense of purpose in what you do, matters. Giving yourself to those around you that are important to you, matters. Prayer matters. God matters.
Of course I didn't want to return home. My grandfather is making great progress in the hospital, and I would have loved to have seen him make his trip home before I returned to my own, but with my vacation time run out, it was time to return to work and my regular routine.
While I was away, I missed 20+ miles of training, my dear friend's bridal shower, and my husband and puppy; but I know I was in the right place and I was where God wanted me to be. I thank my family, my friends, and mostly my husband for supporting my decision to be with family during this time. Now the next step, or goal as it were, is finding out God's purpose for me and where I should go on from here with this new-found clarity. I have years and years to figure that out, and blessedly, my grandfather will be around for quite a few of them.