Monday, September 29, 2008

Part 1 of Seamus and the brain tumor

My high school sweetheart, Seamus, and I dated on and off for about 5 years. We have remained friendly, if not exactly good friends.

He used to get migraines, but never got it checked out. He just thought it was something he had to deal with, you know - manly men stuff. About 15 years ago, his mother called me while I was living in Florida to let me know Seamus was in the hospital. He had started having pain in his neck, and was diagnosed with a pinched nerve. Then he started having double vision. While at the doctor for the double vision, he had a seizure. They finally sent him for an MRI and CT scan, where they found a benign tumor the size of a large potato in his brain.

He had surgery and they removed what they could, but they couldn't get it all. Part of the tumor was under part of his brain that controls movement and speech, and they didn't want to mess with it. After the surgery, they hit him with both chemo and radiation, even though it wasn't cancerous. They were hoping that would shrink what was left, and keep it from growing back. Unfortunately, benign tumors are often more aggressive than malignant ones, and grow back it did.

Within 5 years he had to go through it all again. The chemo and radiation made him so sick the second time, they had to keep starting and stopping it, waiting for his white blood cells to recuperate. The second round lasted 9 months.

He told me in no uncertain terms that he would rather die than go through it a third time. In the meantime, all that messing with his brain altered his personality. He had always been very outgoing, but now he became reclusive. He was on permanent disability and he never left his room, never mind the house. He became addicted to the
oxy they were giving him for the pain. He spent most of his disability money on weed. And whereas before he was a pretty funny, albeit kind of aggressive guy, he now had no boundaries. Anything he thought - he said, and it was usually rude, crude and socially unacceptable.

I would visit him occasionally, but stopped having him over to my house and stopped bringing my son to his house because Seamus scared him. Seamus's idea of rough-housing was pretty violent, and my son was not used to that, and usually got hurt.

The more time that passed, the less Seamus wanted to be around people. He went 2 years at one point without returning my phone calls. I still called and left him a message every once in a while.

This past spring I finally called his mom to ask what was going on. The last I had heard, the tumor was growing again. He was scheduled for an MRI every three months so they could keep an eye on it. According to his mom, he just stopped going. He didn't want to know. His mom called me back the Thursday after Easter with the news that Seamus had collapsed on Easter Sunday. The tumor had started hemorrhaging and they had to drill into his skull to drain the blood and take the pressure off his brain. It had the same effect on him that a minor stroke would have. I was told not to visit. I tried calling, but was was told that patients on the brain trauma unit were not allowed to accept phone calls.

His sister stepped up to the plate and took him to her house because he couldn't be left alone when they released him from the rehab facility. She was able to rearrange her and her
childrens' schedules so that he was never alone. But he was not at all the same person, any longer. I spoke with her a couple of times before I spoke with him.

She warned me that he was easily agitated and often confused. He was now very aggressive, and in fact had to be restrained by her husband a few times when he decided the noise in the house was too much for him and he was just going to leave.

I asked who was taking care of his mini-pincher, Sampson. I was sad to hear that Sampson had gotten hit by a car on a busy street, right in front of Seamus, a couple of months before Easter. Seamus had not taken it well, at all. I was told not to bring up Sampson, under any circumstances. Seamus had Sampson for many years. He had that dog trained to a tee. He loved that dog more than he had ever loved any woman. They were
inseparable, because the dog was portable. Remember this part because it plays a key role in Part 2.

A friend of Seamus's gave him a new mini-pincher puppy. Seamus named him Brute, which is as close as I can get to his real name which is German for little brother. Seamus had just started training Brute a couple of weeks before Easter.

When I finally talked to Seamus at his sister's house, he seemed okay. He knew who I was, he knew that he hadn't spoken to me in a while. He didn't seem agitated to me, at all. As a matter of fact, I thought maybe his sister was overreacting, maybe because she was overwhelmed with her blended family of 5 kids, plus having Seamus and his dog in her house. When he and I spoke, he was very calm and told me how much he appreciated the things everyone was doing for him, and how he was now able to tell people how much he loved them.

This was not like him, he was never a lovey sensitive guy. He even told me that he had been thinking of me, recently, and that he needed to tell me how much our friendship meant to him, and that he was thankful that I hadn't given up on him, and that he loved me. He seemed confused one or two times on the phone, but nothing that I wasn't already expecting.

I asked him if he would like to go to lunch the following Sunday. I figured I would get him out of the house for an hour or two, give his sister a break, and give him a break. He had to clear it with his sister, and also his doctor. When I spoke with his sister, it went something along the lines of, "Are you sure you want to take him out?" I said, "Of course, it's just lunch. He's walking by himself, he can feed himself, what would be the problem?"

**I'm breaking this up because it is such a long story. This is a picture of us when we were young, and very much in love with each other, and life, and following The Greatful Dead around the country.


Dr Zibbs said...

Brain tumor's fricin suck. My brother in-law had one removed 7 years ago and he's now in a wheelchair and can't take care of himself. My sister retired 2 years ago to take care of him. She's 45. But you know what? She has the best attitude of anyone I've ever met.

Imez said...

Eagerly awaiting the second installment. What year was that picture taken? Also why did you break up? And what happened to him after you broke up but before his tumor?

JoJo said...

That sucks. Can't wait to read Part 2 tho'. He looks like Weird Al in that pic!!

Aunt Becky said...

Oh wow. How heartbreaking for everyone involved.

Fancy Schmancy said...

Zibbs, yes brain tumors suck big hairy balls. I'm sorry about your b-i-l, and your sister sounds like a saint. How the heck are they getting by financially?

Imez, the pic was taken in 1988 in either Saratoga Springs, NY or Oxford, ME. They all kind of run together at this point. We broke up many times mostly because we were both young hotheads who fought all the time. As with any relationship, there was a lot more to it than that. Too much to put into comments about both that and what happened after. I'll try to put up a post about it at some point.

Jojo, yes he did look like Weird Al, but his nickname was actually Captain Caveman because he was short and stocky and hairy. That was his "Hunnh" face.

Becky, it is heartbreaking. He used to be such a fun, funny guy. He never failed to crack me up.