martes, 21 de julio de 2009

Crónicas de un cerebro enfermo II.

Carmenrabell to Nasser.Atta Jan 4 2008

Today I was able to walk through six floors of my building accompanied by my aunt (Tati). It was raining, so I was not able to walk through the back yard. The better I get, the more restless I feel about staying at home. I can’t wait to be able to do some type of activity to channel my energy. Besides asking about the pathology of the tumor, the second thing I am going to ask is when I am going to be able to swim, exercise at the gym, drive and take an air plain. It is problematic for me to depend on other people. I cannot be alone at any minute, just in case I suffer another seizure. So far nothing bad has happened.

Yesterday I found out that as soon as I suffered the seizure, I took my cloth off as a robot and went to my bed to lay down there in fetal position. When the paramedics arrived, they tried to put my cloth on, but I would not let them. They ended up putting a sheet on top of me and taking me to the hospital naked. So, I almost died as I was born, with nothing, except that for some unknown reason, Jaime says that I kept my jewelry on. I don’t know if any of this is true, since I cannot remember what happened during six hours. However, I believe the story, since I have no problem with taking my cloth off in any circumstance, and I find jewelry more fashionable than clothe. It is kind of unnatural to wear cloth in a tropical island anyway. However, not everybody should be walking around naked because of visual contamination. Well, at least they used a sheet to solve this problem.

I will find out more about what happened and I cannot remember. Now I found out that the memory of my friends and family is not definitely stored in the left temporal lobe of the brain. So, even though we always talk a lot, it is not all about language.


Carmenrabell to amajid Jan 7 2008

Dear Anouar and Melissa,

As you might know, I had brain surgery the 20th of December. I was hospitalized from the 9th to the 23. I was released from the hospital just in time to spend Christmas and New Year with my family at home. The doctor was not able to extract the whole tumor because if he would have done so, I would have lost language comprehension and logic. I know I have talked more than the average human being already, but I can't imagine life outside language. In two weeks we will know the pathology of the tumor, but is very likely that I will have radio or chemotherapy either way since what was left of the tumor slightly affects my sight, hearing, and the movement of my right leg. I am improving a lot every single day. I can read several paragraphs, sit in front of this screen without getting a headache, and I am able to walk again. I am starting from zero, but I am a fast learner. The only bad thing is that I cannot travel by air plane for a year. So, I can only fly with my imagination. Besides, I see this experience as a positive one. This is the only way I would take a true vacation and enjoy of the simple things that matter.

Indeed, I might be one of the few sick people who is in peace and smiling while hospitalized. When I first arrived to the hospital bedroom in El Maestro right after having a seizure, the old lady who was my "roommate" was always in pain. She broke her hip, was a very old lady and almost nobody came to visit her. When she left (not to her home but to a nursery home), another roommate arrived: a 20 years old with a severe attack of a life threatening condition: chrons disease. The first and second day she was in so much pain that she was screaming all the time. This young woman was only visited by her boyfriend (a very nice guy), her mother never showed up and her father came twice only to make things worst trying to talk her into taking an airplane, upon being release from the hospital, to pick up her brother in a boarding school in the United Sates. These people were not only in physical pain, but their family was a pain in the neck.

This made me value something that has no price: loyal friends and family. I was always entertained by friends, family (mom, dad, aunts and uncles), colleagues and priests from different denominations (my uncle, Father Rabell--episcopalian; Father Darío Carrero--Catholic; Pastor Carmelo Nieves--Lutheran; Pastor Mac Gregor--Methodist; Pastor Pridmor--Prebiterian; and Pastor Salvador Cruz, Pentecostal). My New Age Aunt (Tati), my Spiritist uncle (tío Negro) and my Budhist friends were also cunjured around my bed at the hospital. My agnostic Jewish friends (Lidia and Mario) were trying to contact a neuro-surgeon in Jerusalem, and I am sure you were also praying to Allah for my recovery.

There was always someone saying a kind word or helping. The day of the crisis Rosemarie stayed overnight with me till I was better. The day of the surgery, another friend (Alma) came at 6 AM to blow dry my hair, since I had to wash it right before the surgery and she didn't want me to catch a cold for having such a long hair wet for so many hours. The mothers of my daughter's classmates took care of her for two weeks so that she would be distracted from thinking about her sick mother. Kindness and love are around me all the time and that has made everything easier. Faith also plays an important role. Since I know that the only thing we will all experience in life is death, why to worry about the timing? When you accept that, you can only hope that whatever happens is for the best.

Not being able to resist any opportunity to make a joke and laugh have helped a lot too. Sometimes I think that my life is just a TV comedy. For instance, when my hospital roommate, the girl with chrons disease, got better and had no more stomach pain, she was complaining because she wanted to eat, even though she was receiving nutrients from an IV. Well, while she was complaining, my bed mysteriously started going up without nobody pressing the button to raise it. I called the nurses through the intercom and told them: please hurry, a ghost is lifting my bed, I am about to be smashed against the ceiling, and you don't want such a bloody poster up there. A nurse arrived and while my bed was still moving upward, instead of stopping the bed, she took the opportunity to become preachy and reprimanded me for believing in ghosts. In the meanwhile, while my bed was about 20 centimeters from the ceiling, she started talking about how god (her true god, of course) has given her the power to foresee the future.

While my bed was still going upward, my roommate told the nurse: well if you can foresee the future, let me know when I am going to eat because you guys are starving me to death. The nurse was more interested in explaining the non existence of ghosts and the infinite knowledge of her true god than in stopping my bed from moving upward or listening to Stephanie's noisy empty belly. Since I was still going up, I started using a ghostly voice, raised my right hand and started saying: Stephanie, the spirits tell me that you will have lasagna for lunch, and rice, beans and pork for dinner. Stephanie and her boyfriend started laughing because of the absurdity of the situation, since I was still up there and truly looked like one of those magic tricks in witch a wizard makes someone levitate, and the food that I "predicted" the girl was going to eat was the worst someone with such a disease could eat. The nurse gave up on us, since at this time everybody in the room was laughing because the nurse did not get that I was just joking about believing in spirits and she was so foolish that would not stop trying to "convert" us.

The funny thing was that the nurse asked me if I was truly a witch when, later on, Stephanie got lasagna for lunch and rice, beans, and pork for dinner. I told her: no my dear, I am not a witch, but anybody can imagine which is the stupidest decision that could be made in a hospital in any given situation. Absurdity makes people laugh, and laughing made Stephanie forget for several minutes that she has not eaten in three days. Isn't that magic? Happy New Year!

Love and peace,


Carmenrabell to Jenine.abboushi Jan 11 2008

Dear Jenine:

This is Carmen. I am so glad to hear from you. I am feeling a lot better. I can sit in front of a screen and answer my e-mails. I can walk again, and the doctor lifted most of the restrictions I had the day before yesterday. I can drive accompanied by someone with a driver's license and I can swim with someone who knows how to swim too. I will return to the gym in February, and I am able to take airplanes, even though I have to keep myself away from people with colds or any bug I could catch.

The doctor removed all he could from my tumor, but he could not take it all out without affecting my ability to process language. Can you imagine a Comparative Literature professor without being able to use or understand language? Is there a possibility for me outside language?

Right now, I have the hair style of a punk, but I can look like a regular "professional lady" with a comb over. They clipped my head, but two days ago the doctor removed the clips. Now, my head is loose as it has always been.

The pathology came back better than my doctors thought. I have a diffuse astrocytoma tumor grade II. I want to believe that I have a star in that part of the brain in charge of language, but it means that I have cancer in a very early stage that can be treated successfully. In the worst of the cases, I can live well for over 5 years (Carla will be 17). I am planning to stay here making people's life miserable for at least 25 more years. Besides, I need to go to several places such as Egypt, Palestine, and Morocco.

I will have my first visit with a radio-oncologist this Monday. They told me that they are going to examine and make an MRI of all my body. They need to know if any other strange creature is growing somewhere else before starting the treatment of radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy.

Today is Carla's 12th birthday. Yesterday, Danilo passed his driving learners' permit. He turned 18 in December 17, when I was still in the hospital. The first day I arrived home from the hospital, when I was not even able to walk, watch TV or read a line, Carla asked me when I was going to be back to normal. When I told her that I didn't know, she told me: "My social life is going to be ruin if my father is in charge of driving me around, I will not be able to party!" Poor Danilo! Well, I am getting better soon. However, Danilo and Jaime will be in charge of taking this girl to basketball and soccer games, the birthdays parties of the whole school (including their dolls), dreadful talent shows, Halloween parties, etc, etc, etc. There is some advantage in not being able to drive!

I hope you are doing OK. I am sending two photos in two separate e-mails.


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