My Husband's Tumor

First comes love, then comes a brain tumor.

This is our story: a collection of snapshots and memories of love, brain surgery, cancer and life

We’ve been planning to take a chemomoon since the day after our wedding, when we pulled our car into the hidden parking lot of the radiation center and watched the snow swirl gently down onto our windshield.

We’ll go when it’s over, we said, but it was never really over so we never got around to it.

We went lots of places in between chemo treatments and radiation and brain surgeries. We went to Lollapalooza and Disneyworld and New York City. We went to California and Arizona. We went up North. We went to small towns around Minnesota, down to Atlanta and back to New York.

They were happy trips, but short ones, jammed into the spaces of the Cancer Agenda.

I always looked down on beach vacations. Maybe because I’m too pale and Irish to look good in a bathing suit, or because I’m physically incapable of relaxation, but I told myself that tropical vacations are for the unimaginative, for the lazy.

And then Belize happened, and I had to take it all back.

Our eight days in Belize were just what our little family needed: a total break from the reality of March snowstorms and persistent brain tumors in a country so beautiful it brought tears to my eyes every single day. 

We spent four night at Sleeping Giant Lodge in the rainforest, and I half expected dinosaurs to come popping out of the trees like a lost scene from Jurassic Park. Instead, Bryan and Berta (pictured above) swept Ralph up in their arms and Purm and I drank fruity drinks and went on hikes and explored the Mayan ruins and were just like any other young couple who brings their baby to a luxury resort. Guests stay in their own cabins, and share meals in the restaurant at the lodge. It’s intimate and private at the same time, with just a handful of other blissfully happy families crossing in and out of your vacation orbit.

We wrapped up our trip with four days at Jaguar Reef, which looks and feels just like a post card.

Even though we’d pinky sworn to Aaron’s doctors that we wouldn’t do it, we snorkeled on the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef. I feel like it’s okay because I’m a former Life Guard and I made Aaron wear a life jacket, and also because being able to witness a stingray making his majestic way across the sea floor while singing Under The Sea with your husband through a snorkel is a memory you just can’t trade for anything.

We had eight solid days together to spend however we chose. Ralph experienced the ocean for the first time (not a fan) and had a drink at a swim-up bar (milk). We laid in hammocks and read books and at night, he and Aaron slept so soundly I checked their breathing to make sure they were both still alive and hadn’t died of happiness.

The country is as beautiful as you expect but the people. The people are beyond kind, beyond friendly. They’re so warm and open and loving that you’ll hand over your first born son to a stranger who offers to hold him while you order your dinner. They take you on delightfully unexpected detours to point out a waterfall they just found, or chop you a coconut because you mention that your son likes coconut water.

Aside from Minnesotans, they’re the most genuinely loving, kind people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, and I can’t wait to see them all again.

Belize 2015…who’s in?

One reason why I can’t die soon: it’s the golden age of comic book movies.

**I sent this email out tonight. Maybe you got it, maybe you didn’t. Either way, if you read it, we love you. Mucho, mucho.**

Hi Guys,

Aaron had his monthly MRI yesterday and there was a change from what they showed a month ago.

To Recap:

For the past three years, Aaron’s been fighting a tumor in the front of his right brain. We took it out (by we I mean a very skilled surgeon, but I didremove a staple), did chemo and radiation. It came back. Took it out again, and it recently came back in smaller ways, in more places. 

All of this action has been on the right side of his brain, in the frontal lobe. 

This is significant because the front of our brain is basically the same on both lobes. It takes care of our memory, personality, and what makes us, us. If one side is damaged (like Aaron’s), it’s not the biggest deal, the other side can just keep things moving along.

There’s a part of the brain that connects both lobes called the something-I-can’t-remember. It’s a big bundle of nerves that passes messages back and forth. 

Why this is important:

During the last month, while Aaron was taking chemo pills every single day, while he went to the hospital for treatment and did everything he was told to do, when he was told to do it, the cancer cells made a move for the left lobe, through this little nerve highway. 

If it moves too far, that’s bad news for who Aaron is and for his quality of life.

What we’re gonna do:

His option now is to stop the current treatment (more pills than I can count, plus that monthly stay in the hospital) and go back to what he did in 2011: taking chemo pills at home, and doing 5 weeks of radiation, starting next week. 

We’ve been here before, and we know what to do: we set up a Google document and all of our friends and family sign up for days to take him to the hospital. If you’re interested in seeing that, let me know. You must relinquish all control of the radio while Aaron is in your car.

How you can help:

Your mission is to join us in the present moment and not fret too much about a future that we cannot control. 

Today, the sun is shining. The world is spinning. Aaron has a new shirt from J.Crew and we’re a part of a big, loving family that includes all of you (and lots of people that I forgot to put on this email, please don’t be offended).

Love eternally,

Aaron, Nora and Ralph