Glioblastoma Multiforme: Stage 4

Sadie: Dad’s still rattling off cheesy hospital puns and joking around with the nurses. He has a knack for making people laugh so they’re forced to breathe again. He’s got a big laugh, more like a roar. His whole body shakes. The whole room shakes, really. Maybe mom thought he was laughing and that’s why she didn’t move and why I had to call 911 while we both watched him on the floor and forgot whether you’re supposed to hold the person down or just let it happen. He could have been. You know, laughing. It was like he had just collapsed right on the floor at his own hilarity, like he did himself in with his own joke. Some dads have heart attacks because they eat too many chili cheese fries and they tell their wife they’ll cut out sugar with her but secretly stop by 7/11 for a big gulp every morning on the way to work. But they don’t have seizures. Their arteries get clogged because they’re too well fed. They aren’t supposed to fall down all crumpled up with their eyes rolling back in their head. Now for the first time he looks small to me lying in that hospital bed. I’m trying to laugh too, trying to breathe, but both of us seem like we’re overcompensating for something.

Jenaya: “It’s my birthday today and he forgot. He never forgets these things. I’m not just being an oversensitive, attention starved wife. I’m worried about him. And then when he had the seizure..I didn’t know what to do. It was my daughter that called 911. I just froze. I don’t know.”

He had laid there shaking and she just stood looking at him. She had felt curious, like she couldn’t figure out what was going on and needed to watch a little longer to get it.

Now she was standing outside his room explaining what happened again and couldn’t stop thinking about how impossible it all was, how there had to be a mistake or some kind of explanation. She tucked a piece of hair behind her ear. She knew she was blinking too much. She stopped blinking. Her eyes started burning. The hair fell into her face again. The doctor probably thought she was psychotic. Dear God why had she stood there for so long? When they got to the hospital they wheeled him in and pointed at a reception desk. Someone had given her papers to fill out on a plastic clipboard but she couldn’t get her eyes to focus on the words. She wrote the wrong birthday and had to scribble it out. Now she was playing with the pen in her pocket. It was the one the receptionist gave her. She didn’t mean to keep it but it felt good to hold onto something. She blinked again.

“He’s a science teacher. And the baseball coach. Very smart. He exercises. He doesn’t forget things.”

Nurse: He looks happy now but I can tell he knows. He has that deep crease right between his eyebrows that betrays him. That’s not the kind of crease you get from laughing and it sure doesn’t just appear in a week. I’ve seen it too many times. Soon his wife will have one too. Hopefully his daughter doesn’t inherit that crease. He’s charming, one of those guys that’s more worried about whether you, the nurse, is having a good day than the fact that he’s lying in a hospital bed waiting on blood samples and scans and tests to come back negative. But I can tell he knows because when he laughs he always glances down at his lap for a few seconds right after and never quite looks them in the eyes. Maybe he knew before he really knew. Depending on what’s wrong with him this’ll probably be one of those that leaves the hospital for a few days, maybe weeks, and then next thing you know they’re in ICU and the wife has lost fifteen pounds and there’s no more making jokes with nurses, just a lot of creases between the eyebrows.

MRI Tech: Shit, this one’s bad. I’ve seen a lot of bad brains but this one’s really messed up. They better start saying their goodbyes now. Shit. I bet this one won’t even leave the hospital. Glad I just do the scans. Wouldn’t want to break this kind of news to the poor guy. What a way to start the new year. Makes you think twice about all those stupid resolutions people make. All a scam to get us to sign up for gym memberships and diet plans. What the hell does it matter if you decide to eat kale and go on walks if this shit happens anyway. So you spend more hours at the gym and less with your family for their sake because you’re “getting healthy” so you’ll “have more years with them” and then one day you collapse and all those salads didn’t do shit because there’s no superfood that keeps you from getting brain cancer. Tumors don’t give a damn if you jog or if you just got a promotion or if you have a baby on the way. Poor guy.

Dr. Sprigg, Neurologist: Glioblastoma multiforme. Stage 4. Symptoms: Memory loss. Loss of motor function. Probably headaches that he thought were nothing a few extra Tylenol couldn’t fix. Previous health record clean. Squeaky actually. No previous issues except he hasn’t come in for a check up in years. Typical stubborn husband. Thinks he’s invincible until he’s not. Took a seizure to get him in here.

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