On Friday morning, January 29th my wife, Annalisa, took me across the river from our home in Arnold, CA to the ER at Sonora Regional Medical Center because I was having stroke like symptoms (loss of speech and loss of feeling in the right side of my body from my tongue all the way down to my foot). There a CT Scan discovered our worst fears. There was a large mass on the left side of my brain and my whole life began flashing before me as I was quickly rushed by ambulance two and a half hours away to UCSF where I underwent an MRI that showed a large brain tumor (what surgeons would later describe as a softball size atypical meningioma).
On Monday morning, February 1st, a team of doctors performed a procedure called an embolization (much like an angiogram) where they went through a main artery in my groin all the way up into the skull where they were then able to cut off the main blood vessel that was supplying blood to the tumor in order to ensure that during the brain surgery there would be less blood loss. Two days later I went in for the main event which would be a full craniotomy (cut from ear to ear) in order to remove a large enough piece of my skull to extract the softball sized tumor! The surgery lasted a total of seven hours (which was a good thing because I had lost almost two liters of blood) and they had originally projected the surgery could last as long as 12 hours! The surgery was successful when the surgeons had removed the cause of all my bizarre and sometimes scary symptoms (from speech loss, to memory loss, to severe migraine headaches that would last sometimes for 26-30 hours!) that I had been experiencing over the past five to six years. In fact, the doctors believe that the tumor had been slow growing for as long as a decade of my life, allowing my body to adapt to its presence except for the occasional “episode” or bizarre symptom that would preclude a migraine headache. Then over the year and a half before my brain surgery, the bizarre symptoms went from occasional (every three or four months) to monthly, to then almost weekly where I was afraid to leave my house out of fear that I would experience an episode away from the comfort of my home and care my wife provided so caringly and lovingly. Then in late January me and my family’s life would never be the same.
Following the surgery and 3 days in the ICU at UCSF, I spent two and a half weeks in a live in rehabilitation hospital in San Franciso called CPMC where I would need to relearn simple things I had spent the previous 34 years perfecting and taking for granted. I would have daily therapy sessions from speech therapy, to occupational therapy, to physical therapy… relearning how to walk, take a shower without falling, take in the stimulation of city life that would so easily overwhelm me, speaking, thinking through how to make a bed, etc., etc. I felt like I had become an infant again, reborn into a world I was familiar with but had to go through the painstaking process of readapting to all of the things I had always taken for granted like turning my head while walking, or simply sitting in the passenger seat of a moving car. Thankfully it didn’t take long for my brain to relearn these basic skills and I was released from the full time care I was receiving at the rehabilitation hospital and was able to go home for the first time in a month. While at home I was able to continue my rehabilitation for the next three months at a local therapy clinic in Angels Camp, CA.
Ironically enough, our third child we were expecting in early May came six weeks early on Friday, April 1st, 2016 (April Fools Day), in the same hospital my wife had driven me to just eight weeks earlier! And since our new baby needed to be in a NICU the closest hospital was an hour and a half away in Modesto, CA where he would live the first 15 days of his life. It’s there where we named him Charles Alden Christian and on April 16th we were able to introduce him to his older brother and sister who were eager to meet him! It was a special day!
I had found out earlier during my hospital stay that the pathology report indicated that my brain tumor was neither malignant nor benign but “atypical” so I would need to begin radiation treatments the last week of May back at UCSF and the treatments would last through July 1st. I was able to live with my in-laws in San Francisco just four miles from UCSF which made it easy to get back and forth for my daily treatments (30 in all).
Needless to say my family and I have been through a lot since the beginning of the new year! But God has sustained us and has provided for our every need. Our family, friends both near and far, and church family at Mountain Christian Fellowship and beyond have loved us and have been so incredibly supportive to Annalisa, our children, and I. We are so incredibly thankful and blessed for life and to have such an understanding and supportive community that were praying for us and lifting us up daily to our God who was not surprised by the events we were going through but we found he had us in His arms through it all. The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 9-11:
“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
I have learned one thing: You never what tomorrow holds… but thanks be to God, He does. He knows my entire story from my first cry to my final breath. No matter where I go, how good or difficult my life is, He is near and He knows my every need.
This coming Labor Day Weekend I will be getting back in the saddle again, and selling my art in Arnold at a two day craft fair so come on out to see my new prints I was able to get done in December and January before going in to the hospital. I haven’t been able to do any new paintings since everything has happened but have been sketching and coming up with new ideas to be done this coming Fall and Winter so stay tuned!