My wife Debbie and I have been married for 46 years. I was a soldier; we married young and moved overseas. We had three sons, returned to the U.S. broke, and after a life of hard work and dedication, successfully retired last year. I am a salesman by profession and a storyteller by nature. This is just part of my story.
Metastatic brain tumor symptoms
In 2012, I was diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma and treated in New York, where we lived at the time. By 2015, all of my scans were clean. At that appointment, my doctor said, “See you in August.”
But I thought, “Clean scans? Three-and-a-half years, no new cancer? Let’s go.” My wife was also a breast cancer survivor. We retired and settled in Houston, moving into the house I had impulsively bought prior to my diagnosis. It was close to our grandchildren and close to MD Anderson, if needed.
Soon it became clear that something was wrong, but I managed to ignore, deny or explain away all of the strange, seemingly unconnected symptoms for months. We were happy, but I randomly found myself crying like a baby. I became obsessed with finding the perfect hat for a vacation and had a custom hat made. For the first time in my many years of riding, I fell off my bike twice. I became irrationally angry about a dinner party invitation. It was all so out of character for me.
One day, I actually asked my wife, “Do I have cancer again?” As it turns out, I did. The final straw was when my left leg collapsed. Debbie drove me to the ER with stroke-like symptoms. I was diagnosed with metastatic renal cell carcinoma near my motor cortex. It wasn’t caught earlier because the follow-up scans didn’t screen my brain.
One step at a time
When the doctor told me the news, I said, “Great! We can fix that.” It was actually a relief to learn that I had been experiencing brain tumor symptoms. Neurosurgeon Ian McCutcheon, M.D., removed my brain tumor on July 25, 2016, and I am currently going through post-surgical rehab to help regain movement in my left leg. I am getting stronger each day and remain cancer-free so far.
When I was in the Army Airborne, our training taught us to complete the mission. One step at a time and never more than that. If you look too far ahead, you’ll get lost. I’m using that same thinking now. My goal today is to see tomorrow. When it comes to visitors, family and friends, I have no patience for weepers or mourners. I surround myself with positive people, with flowers, with music and with happiness.
My mental adjustment from being a century cyclist to a handicapped patient is a work in progress. But what am I going to do about it? Cry? No! I’ll learn to walk – or I won’t. In either case, it’s my choice.
Every day we make a choice. Be happy or sad. Be strong or weak. Give up or keep going. I choose to be happy. I choose to live. I choose to fight.
A word of gratitude
The care here at MD Anderson is world-class. The inherent Southern hospitality, kindness and culture of caring is evident at all levels. I see more hugs here among strangers than I have ever seen before. As I’ve shared my story with those I’ve met, I have been deeply touched by the kindness of others here at MD Anderson and from friends around the world.
I am blessed by family, and I dedicate all of my work to recover to our beautiful grandchildren, our sons, strong and loving men, and their wives, our daughters. I thank God for giving me yet another chance at life. The mission of my life is to love Debbie Crane, my beshert love (Yiddish for soulmate). Thanks for loving me through it.