Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Angels Among Us

I was up at 5:30 this morning for an 8:30 appointment in Midtown Atlanta in the dark and pouring rain. Thank you to (my BFF) Ginny for driving me and for being there. Dr Wray said the tumor looks well-contained. 99.9% of this type are nonmalignant, but it's of a size that it needs to come out.

It arises from the nerve root between T3 and T4, but because it is outside of the spine (thank God!) he's not the man for the job. He is referring me to Dr. Refai at Emory Spine Center who specializes in this very thing. Dr. Wray's office will handle all the up front (getting me in, records transfer, etc).

Next step? Phone call from Dr. Refai's office setting the appointment day and time.

On the one hand it feels I am no closer to getting this thing out of me. But on the other? I googled Dr. Refai and he is Director of Spinal Oncology at Emory Spine Center. Now THAT humbles me. THAT brings grateful tears to my eyes.

Never, and I mean NEVER, underestimate the power of your angels. And if you think all angels are invisible, think again.

Mine are all around me: living, breathing, hugging, crying, cheering, praying, lifting me up and just being there.

For me. Some don't even know me. But they know somebody who does.

And because they can.

Thank you, Angels. Thank you.

~ Olivia J. Herrell

P.S. I just thought of what the tumor looks like. A big, fat turkey fig, ripe and ready to pluck.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

I Have a Tumor

Maybe I should start at the beginning.

Almost three months ago, I bought a new car. Two days later I was rear-ended, my head slammed in to the headrest creating jaw, neck and head pain. Fast forward two months and I'm still having bouts of shooting jaw pain, plus now paresthesias in both arms, burny pins and needles in my right one and occasional numbness in my left hand.

On a referral, I ended up last week in a neurologist’s office. This past Tuesday they did a nerve conduction study of my hands, arms and upper back (ouch, ouch and triple ouch). No nerve damage. Good news.

Thursday I went in for a double MRI, first of my neck from C1 through T2ish and second of my brain. The brain scan was clear. The neck MRI showed something in front of my spine, enough to make the tech seek confirmation from a neuro that we should repeat the study with dye. We did.

I’ll cut to the chase. I have a right-sided mediastinal mass at T3-T4. It is in front of the spine, does not extend in to the spinal cord, but does travel up the foramen (where the spinal nerve comes out at that level).

The differentials as proposed by the radiologist are a Schwannoma and a couple other nerve tumors that are usually found only in children. None of them are typically malignant. But the neurologist vehemently insisted I consult a neurosurgeon right away to have it removed.

When I had the presence of mind (and apparent audacity) to ask the results of the rest of my neck, he obliged me by nutshelling the findings, then immediately directed my attention back to the ‘eight hundred-pound gorilla in the room’. His words.

Next step? Find an experienced neurosurgeon who can take me right away. My friend Ginny made a phone call. It sounds like I’ll be able to get in with hers at Piedmont. The radiologist recommended a CT scan with dye, biopsy the bugger to make sure it’s not malignant, then cut it out. Get it all and it won’t come back. Ever. And life goes on.

The miracle? I know that I have a tumor growing in my chest because a young woman flew over a hill, barreled down a straight away and ran smack-dab in to the rear end of my car.

God is good. He’s carried me this far. I don’t believe for one minute that he intends to drop me now. But pray, prayer warriors, pray. Pray for me if you will. For God’s grace, for his protection and care, and that his will be done.

Am I okay? Absolutely. My family, friends and church have stepped up and surrounded me with an outpouring of love and support.

I believe that nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in God’s world by mistake. And that good always comes out of bad.

And guess what? Tumor or no tumor, I’m doing NaNoWriMo. Day Three and I have two thousand words written.


~ Olivia J. Herrell
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