WORLD IN MOTION PART IV: CELEBRATING ONE HEALTH MILESTONE AT A TIME
By Lu Sobredo
It was a warm summer day in 2013. My husband James had just returned home one day before from an eight-month sabbatical. It should have been cause for celebration. It was not. It became a day of reckoning surrounding my health.
The duration of hubby’s sabbatical was equivalent to one spring semester from university, non-teaching summer months, and the time before a new fall semester was to start. Months away were devoted to his research in Asia and Spain; he squeezed in time backpacking around the globe and another stint at a life reckoning pilgrimage on the Camino Frances across Spain. I was only able to join him for five weeks while he was in Asia; the trip which also served as a long-awaited visit to the Philippines. Forty-plus years before was the last time, I touched my toes on my ancestral land when I went with my parents. After Mom and Step-Papa left for heaven, I had no incentive to make the trip. Thanks to hubby, he persuaded me to go. On that trip I experienced transportation challenges in a third world country. It was when my nightmare began. The visit with family was heartwarming. Seeing islands, I had never visited before was a gift. Spending time with my Mom’s family—Aunt Lucy who chose to retire there, Uncle Mel who left this earth a year ago and thank God I had spent time with him before then, and other loved ones who stayed in touch with me via social media, phone and video chats.
That springtime in 2013 while in the Philippines, an annoying pain in my right knee did not go away no matter how many over-the-counter pain medications I took. The pain took center stage. The heat, humidity and pollution in the cities exacerbated my discomfort, I couldn’t wait to fly home to California and see my doctor, get a referral for physical therapy and put an end to my physical misery once and for all.
Little did I know, none of the medical remedies would work. Two doctors later, there was no definitive diagnosis. The swelling on my right knee ballooned. After four months of a trying physical therapy routine, acupuncture, two doctor referrals and steroid injections, not to mention blood tests and x-rays, I was near immobile. My husband offered to fly home to be with me. I said, “No.” I can manage with the help of our son who would be home full time from his college dorm after spring semester. My sister-in-law Joy before her own illness overtook her kept me company and drove me around part of the time when I became near immobile. My late Mom’s best friend/spiritual sister Ched and our dear friend Steve Montalvo were at my doorstep at a moment’s notice. I was confident that my nightmare would end.
But that one summer day on August 5, 2013 was my life’s turn point. My husband freshly returned from his sabbatical and my son who had already returned home from living in his college dorm accompanied me to consult with another specialist in town about my symptoms. Armed with test results, x-rays and medical records from two other physicians, I was hoping for some hope or at least to get a diagnosis. Diagnosis I did get. Hope from that medical consultant? Not so much. The diagnosis felt more like a life sentence—severe Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), an autoimmune deficiency disease, a progressively crippling disease for which there is no cure. I’ve written much about this day, and my health journey with RA. From wheelchair to walking cane, from life of isolation to traveling to Spain again...and all my battles in the healthcare system and in between to claim my life back.
That’s just the backdrop to another unexpected health drama that turned my world into motion, thus the title to a now four-part essay. Five years after the diagnosis of RA came the diagnosis of a large tumor in the right frontal lobe of my brain. If feeling inclined, read more about it: https://blog.lutravelsabroad.com/2019/08/world-in-motion-parts-1-2-3-navigating.html
So, this spring day, Wednesday, April 21, 2021 was a day deserving a celebration. An hour after a hellish MRI experience at the hospital to get the current reading of the state of my brain, my hubby drove me to see my neurosurgeon for a two-year follow-up visit post-surgery. After going through rituals with different personnel in the neurology clinic, I finally saw my surgeon, dressed in scrubs because he was either coming back or going to another surgery. His first words were, “I have good news.”
And the good news was my brain’s image was clear. No new growth except for a speck that was there after surgery but so inconsequential, he did not even bother to subject me to radiation; something he considered if the speck had grown. This MRI showed, the speck had even shrunken and no new growth. He and his surgical team had scraped deep into my bony skull while in surgery to ensure, they removed all they could without causing neurological damage.
I must remain under observation for another year. I must remain vigilant to any symptoms that could point to anything concerning the brain. I must watch out for headaches that would not go away, seizure, and weakness to the left side of my body. The last one, weakness to the left side of the body will be most difficult. Difficult to discern if the cause is the brain malfunctioning or my RA in fury. The limbs and the side of my body affected most by RA are on the left with the exception of the right knee and all other joints. But I did not let the swarm of details derail my cause for celebration. The tumor they removed was benign, but the grade was concerning enough, my medical team wants to stay vigilant. And celebrate I must. My husband and I deserved it after much nightmarish news about my state of health over the recent decade.
It is with much gratitude and joy that I share these few images, my hubby’s way of celebrating my “good news” day in photos taken on the beautiful grounds of UC Medical Center, the Neurology Clinic and food fest at Selland’s Café Sacramento. One must celebrate one milestone at a time while I still can.
|Hubby By My Side Before Surgery in March 2019 ©James Sobredo|