Author's note: This is Part 2 of my series concerning my family's ordeal with cancer. Please for Part 1.
My mother called me at work, 30 minutes before a late morning press conference on new veterans’ housing in Nassau County.
“It’s malignant,” she said.
There was a brief moment of silence as I processed the information.
“Damn,” I sighed. Absent a biopsy, all tests indicated a high probability that it was a high-grade glioma.
I asked Scott to visit her since he endured a grueling battle with cancer, too. His wife, Karen, also offered support.
Bob Pemberton, Brian’s father, drafted a power of attorney and a living will. He accompanied me to the hospital and advised my mother how to complete them.
She also wanted a second opinion on her brain tumor and discharged herself later that day. Scott helped us coordinate an Aug. 12 visit to Memorial Sloan-Kettering in Manhattan.
We had a morning appointment with Dr. Philip H. Gutin, head of neurosurgery at Memorial Sloan-Kettering in New York City. My mother shook his hand and lightheartedly said, “Now doctor, I want you to know that I’m not shaking your hand to be sociable but I just want to see if you're steady.” He laughed.
She explained her symptoms to him: there was a soreness on the left side of her face a week before her seizures. What she thought was due to a toothache or possibly air conditioning was the result of an aggressive tumor pushing on her brain.
Dr. Gutin recommended an immediate, surgical removal of the tumor. He would cut the scalp and skull around it to access the brain underneath. This procedure is known as a craniotomy (Click here for Dr. Gutin’s video regarding “Surgery for Brain Tumors”).
Death has a very low probability of occurrence; however, complications from surgery such as blood clots, infection, stroke, or edema (“brain swelling”) are more probable results.
She asked if it were possible to postpone the surgery for about a week. My sister was taking college classes in Italy and would be home then.
“No, this is something you should not wait to do,” he said.
I asked, “May we have some time to discuss this?” “Certainly,” he said. Dr. Gutin and his nurse left the room.
My brother, aunt, and I pleaded with her not to delay this procedure. We assured her that we could coordinate my sister’s return trip home in time to see her before surgery. The emotional weight of the past eight days pressed on her decision. Her eyes welled up with tears and she finally agreed to the operation.
Brian helped us arrange a visit to Charles McQuair, a local lawyer who found the time on short notice to assist her with a will.
I sent the following e-mail to local news organizations and members of the Republican Party:
To whom it may concern:
Due to an unexpected family emergency, I will not respond to questions from the press, hand out political flyers, attend political events, "campaign" at public functions, solicit campaign donations, or advertise my campaign for Nassau County Legislature in any form until further notice. I may continue to write articles for my blog on GlenCovePatch.com. If you have any further questions, please contact Giuseppe Abbondandolo, my campaign manager, in the "CC" line.
Today was preoperative preparation at Memorial Sloan-Kettering in N.Y.C. A functional MRI mapped the parts of her brain around the tumor. The surgeon's hands must assiduously navigate through the areas that controlled different bodily functions; inaccuracy could have debilitating effects.
She also received a nuclear stress test that measured blood flow and looked for weaknesses in the heart muscle. A person is injected with a radioactive isotope for imaging purposes and then asked to walk on a treadmill or ride a stationary bicycle. The test took 4 hours.
I asked myself, "In less than 24 hours, could she walk or ride a bike again?"