If you are sensitive to graphic descriptions of medical situation’s you may want to skip this post.
I can’t sleep. Life with metastatic cancer can be scary sometimes. But I know Anna would want me to write this down and document this journey. Not just to share with our friends and family, but also for others that are going through this journey so they can learn from our experiences, mistakes, or simply not feel alone.
It is the Easter long weekend and I thought we were getting back to normal. Anna seemed as though she had begun to process the whole brain metastasis/craniotomy/gamma-knife thing, if that is even really possible. We decided to get out of the city and head to Collingwood. Both of us were craving a normal long weekend with the kids, ending in an epic easter egg hunt and over indulgence of chocolate. Cancer has had a way of stealing these moments from us in the last little while, so we were due for some quality family time.
Earlier this afternoon Anna had a “Grand Mal” or Generalized tonic-clonic seizure. For anyone who has never witnessed a loved one having a seizure, it is extremely scary. I thought she was dying in front of me. This type of seizure is typically characterized by overall unconsciousness, convulsions, and muscle rigidity. Our afternoon went from Anna and I listening to a book tape while the kids played together to Anna foaming at the mouth with her eyes rolling into the back of her head. When I realized she was in a seizure, I immediately pulled her down to the floor and forced her on her side. I then called 911. It was difficult to remember our address and explain Anna’s situation, while tending to Anna and distracting the kids from watching. Her seizure went on for about a minute I think. Thankfully the paramedic/fire station is located at the end of our street. Paramedics arrived in about 3 minutes. Post seizure, Anna was confused, unable to speak, understand me, or control her body. I learned later that this is very typical for this type of seizure and other seizures.
I sent the kids away to play in another room so they didn’t have to watch the three paramedics work on Anna. I had no idea what was about to happen. Queue every terrible image you have every watched on ER, Chicago Hope, Grey’s Anatomy, that is what I feared. It took a little while to get Anna down the stairs, but once she was on her way, I went to check on the kids. They were sitting in the upstairs bedroom watching Anna get loaded on to the stretcher. Elliott was explaining to his sister, “When mommy goes inside the ambulance they will turn the lights and siren on and they will take mommy away. The lights are the best part.” Seeing Anna have a seizure scared the shit out of me, having our kids watch, broke my heart. Not fair for a 3 and 5 year old to have to see their mommy this way. Fuck you cancer.
I got the kids organized and we were off to the hospital. I called a friend to help enlist our support team, even though I had no idea how and what support we needed. I was in shock. Probably still in shock. We arrived to the hospital through the ambulance area and ran in to the three amazing paramedics who looked after Anna. They walked us in and took us to the waiting room while the nurses got Anna comfortable. As we parted from the paramedics, the one who seemed to be in charge told me that Anna was speaking and telling them all about the plans we had for the weekend. I was relieved. Speaking was good.
I explained Anna’s disease to the young ER Doctor. I have gotten good at listing all the surgeries, diagnosis’, metastasis locations, and drugs she has been on or is currently on. I could even remember most of the dates this visit. They went through the regular tests… EKG, CT Scan, and Blood Tests. She passed them all with flying colours. After the ER doctor spoke with the on-call medical oncologist at Princess Margaret, Anna was discharged and told to get home to the city. She will require some more tests and most importantly a detailed MRI to help determine what exactly is going on. Just before we were about to leave, the young ER doctor wanted to make sure that we understood Anna can no longer drive. She will be loosing her license. We both expected this to happen, but I can tell it hurt Anna deeply. Her ability to drive represents her independence, her freedom from the house and our neighbourhood.
In some ways we were lucky this happened the way it did. It could have happened in a couple weeks when we were scheduled to be in the US for a conference, or when Anna was driving, or when Anna was home alone with the kids.
We are back in Toronto tonight. Everyone is a sleep. I have set up the easter eggs, chocolate almonds, and treats for the kids when they wake up. It wasn’t the long weekend we planned, but its the one we got.