In 1996, visiting a mall during an out-of-town trip, I suddenly felt dizzy while descending on the escalator. The sensation rapidly resolved, but to be on the safe side, I went to a local emergency room. My evaluation included a CT scan of my head; the results, I was told, were “normal.”
Shortly after returning home I received another call. The CT results were not normal, and I should see a neurologist to have an MRI scan.
I panicked, as anyone would, but I had more reason than most: I’m a medical oncologist. I knew the implications of this news, and they were mostly quite dire.
The MRI revealed a brain tumor, likely “low grade.” I found this a bit reassuring–but still, it was a tumor in my head! And its specific nature was unclear.
I felt tremendous sadness and fear for my family and for all that I would miss. I was only forty-six. My son was to enter Northwestern University in the fall, and my daughter was a junior in high school; their lives were just beginning. My wife would be a young widow.
After consulting with my physicians, I decided on watchful waiting, with monthly …