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The worst month. A true story of understanding and acceptance.

Updated on November 5, 2016
Hope Kulin profile image

Hope Kulin is a wife and mother, who also happens to be a brain cancer survivor, candidly sharing her experience the good, bad, and ugly.

One of very few images from my surgery.
One of very few images from my surgery.

The worst month

February of 2010 was fairly normal for my family and I. We knew I was very forgetful which was unusual for me, but we had a three year old daughter, were planning for a second and attributed it all to baby brain. There was not much to write about for that month, but the month of April 2010 was by far the most devastating of my life. Over the course of time and counseling I have come to find many blessings through the tremendous loss we suffered, but before I can write about the blessings of the present, it is important to know the pain of the past.

Prior to my tumor I had a photographic memory. I say this not to be conceited, it was a source of pride for me and one that many will verify. My husband, Brian, and I had bought our house in 2006, had a beautiful baby daughter and were making over six figures in income. Things in our house were comfortable and we had the life we had always dreamed of. Then things went sideways... quickly.

On April 15th David and I were fired from our jobs for inattention to detail. Keep in mind that I had a photographic memory and we were requested frequently by major international corporations due to this memory trait. There were no details from the company about what we had done wrong, or how often, it was simply that we were not accurately recording our audits and they had to let us go. We did not know what was going on nor could we make any sense out of such an abrupt dismissal from a company we had a positive history with for over eight years.

April 16th my family went to a hockey game and on the way home I stopped in the middle of a major intersection long enough that my husband got out of the car and was knocking on my window when I "came back to." When I came back to I pulled out of the intersection causing David to run after the car to catch up. I tried to fight him about driving the rest of the way home but he took over the wheel and started making phone calls to family and friends the moment we got home to tell them something was very wrong with me. I did not know for many years that he was up until 3 am that night to let everyone know that something major was going on.

April 17th David woke up after being on the phone with family and friends all night to find that I had left the house without him knowing. I had gone to see one of our friends who is a chiropractor and had an "episode" in front of him and having been one of the people my husband had called the night before, he knew something was neurologically wrong. As he went to call my husband to tell him to come get me, I slipped out again. (It seems people with neurological disorders are very good at escaping those who care for them!) My husband called and had me stop at Panera where he met in a public place to tell me he was taking my car keys from me until I had gone to the hospital.

We had no insurance and had just been fired, I knew there was no way we could afford a hospital visit but he was adamant. He had already taken our daughter to a friend's house and was not taking no for an answer. He would not even allow me to drive home, we left the car there that night. Upon arrival at the hospital I have never seen things move so quickly. Within hours of arrival I was in a cat scan and MRI. There was absolutely no doubt about what was causing my problems, there was a golf ball size tumor in my right temporal lobe.

For me the most confusing part of being told that I had a brain tumor was that I never once had a headache. It was my understanding that brain tumors caused headaches, blurry vision, pain, or blackouts that eventually led to diagnosis. Since I never had a headache, the idea of a tumor was never a thought, of course I don't think anyone would jump to a brain tumor because they are becoming forgetful with a three year old running around the house. It was not until later that we found out my tumor is a Astrocytoma. This kind of tumor takes over brain matter, it does not push it out of the way.

The tumor was technically a 3 cm mass that showed up as a black spot on my scans. I knew there was one and only one option, surgery. I can honestly say that this was the one and only time I have audibly heard God. I was told "There is one way." The surgeon did not want to perform surgery until my husband gave him a credit card and told him we would pay cash. At that time I was put on the schedule for surgery on April 27th.

At the time I weighed 107 pounds and was having major episodes 20-40 times a day that prevented me from remembering anything at all. I had been having so many episodes that I was not eating, even though I thought I was. I was put on heavy medications to slow down the firings of my brain in order to do as little damage as possible to my brain during surgery and given 10 days to gain as much weight as possible.

April 21 we received a call from the bank. Our home that we had evacuated due to gang violence had been offered three short sale offers that the bank had chosen not to accept and they wanted to notify us that they would be foreclosing on our house that day. With everything going on and the fact we had not lived there for many years it was frustrating but also a relief.

April 24 we had friend shave my head in preparation for the surgery. With a small child we wanted to give her time to see me with no hair prior to the surgery. We did this through a "hair cutting party" that friends and family attended. None of us knew if I would wake up from surgery and if I did none of us knew how I would wake up.

April 27 I entered the hospital for surgery. Upon entry to surgery I had one prayer. "If it is my time, take me, please do not leave me as a burden to my family. If it is not my time, let me know my husband and my daughter. I can and will fight through anything else, but let me know them." After 9 hours in surgery I am still not sure how long it was before I woke up. I remember very very little of my 16 days spent in the ICU, but I do remember seeing my husband for the first time. The only thing I remember saying during that time was "I know you and I know Samantha."

This is how my journey started to where I am now. Without it, not much of my recovery or lessons will make sense. I am happy to answer any questions anyone may have, and will be writing many hubs both for myself and hopefully to help someone else. There are very few pictures, as I did not want to remember this time in my life; however, other forces decided that I must.

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