“He . . . binds up their wounds.” (Ps147:3)
|This is me coming home from the following adventure…|
Remember when I told you I was going to be able to delay the need to have brain surgery? Just kidding! On Monday March 7th, I had a seizure at home which resulted in a fall. That night, Kendra and I decided that it wasn’t a good idea for her to have to manage this situation at home, wondering if I might have another seizure and / or fall, So she took me to the ER at UCLA, where I got a fresh MRI of my brain.
The MRI showed that two tumors which had received radiation a few weeks prior had grown in size (#notallowed). This growth led the brain experts (is it just me or do others agree that “Brain Expert” would be a cool thing to have on a business card?) to conclude that the seizure had probably been caused by these enlarged tumors (also #notallowed). Prior plans to put off surgery? Cancelled. These free loaders have been given enough room and board. Between the increased seizure activity, and loss of function in my left arm, it felt like time for a hasty eviction! The brain surgeon (if you’re wondering, I have reached that age when my brain surgeon seems to be about 15-20 years younger than me. It was bound to happen sometime, right? Anyway, he’s great, and he seems born to conduct surgery on brains. Thank God we have people like that!) He made a very convincing case to Kendra and me that we couldn’t delay any longer. It was time to go on offense. So we scheduled no-kidding brain surgery for Thursday March 10, the plan being to make an incision in my scalp, open my skull, then maneuver between two healthy lobes of the brain to get to the tumors and cut them out. Sounds simple, right? I actually think my surgeon believed it was. He does it all day – for his job! Afterward I had no recollection of being wheeled down to the OR, the anesthesia work up, going in to the frigid OR, waking up from being under anesthesia, any of it. I think that is a good sign of a strong performance by the surgery team. I wish I had thought to tell the brain surgeon, “good job.” Stupid cancer and its missed opportunities.
I’m guessing some of you might be asking yourself, “What does a guy who just had brain surgery look like? As Frankenstein-ish as I’m imagining?” Well, if you are asking those questions, I have exciting news for you…
|Most people agree: “He looks dashing in a gown, if perhaps a little immodest, and stylish in one of those newborn baby hats. Also, how about a shave?”|
I had one seizure a few hours after the surgery, but no others since then. The week after surgery was spent adjusting to new medications, working on sitting up in the hospital bed and on the edge of the bed, practicing moving to a standing position, then more sitting up without tipping over, observing seizure and fall precautions constantly, and getting to welcome a small number of visitors.
|Soon after surgery I started benefitting from the generosity of priests who brought communion and who didn’t give up till I was out of the hospital. Thanks, Fr. Matt!|
|Thanks, Fr. Tim!|
celebrate the birthday of Blessed Alvaro del Portillo with homemade Portillo’s cake shakes (thanks, Kendra!)
An observation about my first week in the hospital: It’s humbling to surrender one’s expected, comfortable level of control over the usual daily routine of life. There are many great things about being home now, first and foremost being able to see my family without their having to navigate hospital visitor pass rules. (My 5 kids who are under 12 never did. Instead, we got me permission to go outside and see them). But one thing I don’t miss is other people’s involvement in bathroom use and the answering of their questions.
Anyway, within a week of the surgery, other than some occasional pain after lying on the incision for several hours, I was feeling a lot more back to normal. I did need some assistance getting in and out of bed, getting shirts on and off, shaving,
Thanks to Kendra for the assist. I think everyone would agree that’s a great looking shave.
and other basics, but those things came back fast. I’m sure I have you and your prayers to thank for that. Within a couple days of surgery, I had begun physical and occupational therapy to regain or fine tune motor skills, and a week after surgery I transferred to 2 weeks of inpatient rehab at a different hospital closer to home. I made quick progress with the new therapy regimen and regained my balance so I could walk without assistance and not worry about falling.
Both hospitals had similar visitor restrictions which made it a challenge to see the kids. We went back to using an approach we had used when George was hospitalized two years ago – bringing the patient down the elevator and meeting the family outside the hospital for dinner. This mostly worked well and we were able to have great dinners honoring family traditions on St. Joseph’s Day and the Annunciation (#wafflesfordinner).
|This is Bobby, his hair, and the waffles|
It would have been an unmitigated success if not for the night our kids dove into the bushes (who does that other than a fleeing perpetrator? #tierneykids) outside the ER (#notallowed). We were asked to leave.
|St. Joseph’s Day dinner by the supremely capable Anita, just minutes before we were asked to leave.|
On a happier note we made some good Spotify playlists for St. Patrick’s Day (“St. Patrick’s Day Hooley”) and “St. Joseph’s Day”. The St. Patrick’s Day list has many songs that are near and dear to my heart and draw on the family culture of my upbringing. I could go on at length about my reasons for choosing any of them.
|With every family visit, even though I might have nearly been kicked out of the hospital, at least I had the bonus of an enthusiastic kiss from Barbara|
As I sign off, I want to make sure I state my gratitude to my parents, Kendra’s parents, my sister and brother, and Kendra’s sister for dropping everything to come out and support us, watching the kids so Kendra could spend days with me in the hospital, or visiting with me themselves. I should also express my deep gratitude to our friends from our school, homeschool, and church communities, and even friends from our old neighborhood who prayed for us nonstop, fed our family for weeks, got our kids home from baseball practice, and regularly called to check on us. What a great support all of you were! If I ever have to do something like this again, I’ll be picking you for my team! … and I’m not doing it without Kendra.
|A more-than-appropriate amount of fun at a Lenten Friday Stations of the Cross|
She takes such good care of all of us, especially me. If you’re not married, search the world over for a spouse like Kendra. When “in sickness and in health” turns to sickness, you need a spouse who is a champion of almost everything …
|Turns out she can be beaten in Battleship. Take THAT, Kendra’s patrol boat!|
who sets the tone of family life in challenging times … who helps kids know how to deal with hard times with grace … who loves you even if you can be kind of a jerk when you’re sick (and when I say, “you,” I mean you. We already knew I’m kind of a jerk when I’m sick. Just trying to help you out here.
There are some of you who I’m sensing want me to shut up and tell you how I’m doing right now. Okay, fine. I’ve been home from the hospital for two weeks.
Stitches are out and the incision still has some healing to do. Physical and occupational therapy continue with therapists who come to our home. I went back to work remotely last week and will stay remote for at least three more weeks. I feel like my old self, though I still have some reduced mobility and dexterity in my left arm and hand (Sorry – took a while to type this update). I expect to regain those abilities, and my doctors have given me hope that I will. Most people I see or speak to tell me I don’t seem any different, which is encouraging. Morale is high and I feel like I’m winning.
With fortitude and prayers for you,
Great to hear from you, Jim! I'm keeping you and yours in my prayers "for the duration".
Thanks for the update. You and the family are always in my prayers.
You are and have been in my daily prayers – cancer free and healthy.
Thanks, Steve! Your wedding gift to us hangs on the wall in our kitchen, so we think of you and pray for you daily!
Chris! Just today I thought of you and said a prayer for you. As I was finishing this post, I came accross the business card you gave me in SLC the last time I saw you. it was under my keyboard on my home desk. No coincidence I'm sure. I hope all is well with you.
Prayers that you may continue to regain strength and to recover from this … major surgery (although when you tell about it you make it sound like a snap). Whew! Glad that is over. Take care. With prayers from Atlanta for all the Tierneys
Continued prayers, Jim. This post was a tear-jerker.
Jim, So glad you are home and that you are feeling better. I am continuing to keep you and your family in my thoughts and prayers.
Thank you for this excellent update! Love the continued sense of humor and continued liturgical living…yay! I offered my St. Joseph Novena for you. Prayers continue for your complete healing!
Thanks, John. Always great to know you're on our side!
Thanks, Katie! Keeping up my daily prayers for your intentions at my morning offering.
sincerely – not trying to make ladies cry!
thank you! I'm not aiming to downplay something that I know is a nearly big deal for many people. But I do feel pretty good right now.
This was the best update! Your writing is so endearing and I alternate getting teary-eyed and wanting to laugh out loud. Which I tried not to do because I'm at the office. Thank the Lord that the surgery was a success and that you had such amazing support. Continued prayers!
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Aileen. As I always say, I'm not trying to make ladies cry. In fact, I'm trying to avoid it. And I hope it's not confusing to want to laugh at the same time. I'm aiming to have the funniest cancer blog on the web. And why not? All the humor of family life is still here every day. And then there are the absurdities of dealing with and living through a serious illness at the same time. I see humor in all of it, and I figure if I share those observations, it might help someone who has had intense suffering from cancer to recalibrate the way they see life, realizing that each day definitely has its gifts and joys, even if they're cutting a hole in your skull. Criminy! I'm pretty sure this is NOT what I ordered. But then again, there's what God wants. And who am I to dare question that? (https://fortitudine-withfortitude.blogspot.com/2019/03/very-treatable.html )
You are handling it in such a gracious and dare I say entertaining way! Thank you for everything you care to share with us. God bless!