During the fall of 1995, I had just turned 40 and was at the top of my legal profession. But I suddenly found myself getting totally exhausted each weekend. I was of no use to my wife, Ellie, or my kids.
One morning while using the treadmill, I saw stars. I drove myself to the emergency room; the doctors there thought I was having a heart attack. But tests showed no heart problems, so I went back to work -- I had to because I own my business. My internist sent me to a cardiologist and other specialists to see if I had an upper respiratory illness or an inner ear problem. No one found anything wrong.
Since you were recently diagnosed with a brain tumor, ask your doctor these questions at your next visit.
1. What type of brain tumor do I have, and what is its grade?
2. What are the symptoms of brain cancer?
3. What part of my brain is affected by the tumor and what does this region of the brain do?
4. Will it be possible to surgically remove my tumor?
5. Will I need any other treatments such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy after surgery?
6. What are the possible side effects of these therapies?
Then I saw a neurologist, who ordered an MRI. The next day, his office called and asked me to come in immediately. I told the nurse that I was in a meeting and that I'd "come in as soon as I'm done." My doctor got on the phone. "Gary, you need to come in right now."
I called Ellie and said, "I don't know what's going on, but I don't think it's good." It wasn't -- I had a malignant tumor located deep in my brain. The first surgeon I saw wanted to operate the next business day, thought I had three years to live, and couldn't guarantee any quality of life. We said good-bye to him, started doing our research, and found physicians we were comfortable with. It turns out that the tumor was in the lower left lobe, at the site that controls my speech and right hand. Do you know any lawyers who can't speak?
During the surgery, I was wide awake and speaking throughout my operation, and when I started to lose my speech, the neurosurgeon stopped. After recovering, I came home but I couldn't communicate. I would mean to say "yes" and it would come out "no." It was difficult for my 10- and 13-year-old to understand what had happened to their dad. After more than two years of extensive speech therapy, I did regain my speech. I'm one of the lucky ones. I can talk again.