Enter Sean. And a little backtrack into the background behind my part in my dad’s story.
So on Wednesday evening I had called my dad to ask him a favor. The coming Saturday was an Elder’s Quorum campout planned but I hadn’t brought a sleeping bag to Provo so I was hoping he could bring one down to his work in Orem and we could either go to lunch together and make the swap then, or I could just come down to his office and pick it up after I was off work. Luckily he agreed to the first. I was pretty dang good at schmoozing him into taking his poor college student to lunch. Okay, in all honesty, it wasn’t very hard. Dad loves spending his money on us?! Haha, my siblings will second that even though Dad would try to deny it.
On with the story. I hadn’t noticed anything weird talking to my dad on Wednesday but he asked me at the end of the conversation just to give him a call in the morning to remind him before he left the house to pick up the things I needed. That’s exactly what I did. The conversation had seemed normal enough to me. We decided to meet at Costco for lunch at 1:02…just enough time for me to get out of the office and drive across the street. I called him when I got there and he had forgotten about the time. I didn’t think much about it. When he got there we walked inside and I started chatting, with not too much response from my dad. Here is where I need to enter a VERY crucial sidenote. My dad has never been a huge chit-chat kind of guy. You can hold a conversation with him if you are physically together, but don’t expect any filler, especially on the phone. You just get to the point. It isn’t that he is rude, he will totally talk to you, he just doesn’t do fluff talk. Just remember that. So we were walking along, me talking, asking questions, but he was pretty unresponsive. He wasn’t laughing at my HILARIOUS jokes, and I could tell that something was bothering him. He seemed preoccupied. I asked him a couple questions before we got in line for food that he didn’t really answer to and then we picked up our food and that was when the red flags really started waving.
We sat down at our table and started eating. I asked him what was the matter. No response. He was just looking at me. What the heck was wrong? He was never THIS quiet. This was almost rude. Even if he wasn’t a chatterer, he was never one to flat out ignore or not respond at all. Honestly I was getting offended (and shame on me, I know, but I had NO idea about his headache earlier in the week). I started hammering him with every kind of question I could think of. Do you feel sick? No answer. I took that as a passive no. Did something happen at work that you are mad about? No answer. I took it again as just a passive no, but by this point I was sort of sick of him not talking to me. My mind was racing a bit. Maybe there was some sort of financial trouble? Investment gone wrong? Nausea? SOMETHING, there was something wrong, but I could not get him to even speak a single word to me. After repeating questions and still getting no answer (sometimes he was just staring around as if he didn’t hear me) I even asked him if he could hear me. I told him he was acting weird and that I was annoyed. I noticed he wasn’t eating his sandwich and asked him AGAIN if he felt sick, and I was very in-his-face by this point. He said no. I asked him if he just didn’t want to talk about it? No response. And my final question was, “Fine. Does Mom know about it? Can I call her and get her to talk to me about what is the matter with you?”
By this time I was way perturbed. Why wouldn’t he talk to me about it? I mean seriously, not even more than 2 words the entire half hour we were at lunch? And less than two bites of his sandwich? Well, I told him two could play at this game. “Fine. I will just call Mom after lunch. I guess I will just leave you alone…And I’m not going to talk to you either.” *insert pouty two-year-old face, a firm foot stomp, and arms crossed over my chest with a nice “hmmmph!”* I know people. I was acting like a big dweeb. And seriously a catty, little girl dweeb at that, but I honest-to-goodness was so flustered and now my mind was just racing. Lunch ended without much more talk…I gave in and said a few more words haha, but to no avail. We walked back out to his car, he drove me over to mine, I grabbed the sleeping bag from behind his front seat and then I put my hand on his shoulder as he stared at me and told him thanks. It was one of those weird stares though. I was pretty worried about him. I didn’t really like that he was driving back to work, but I really wanted to get a hold of my mom and see what was bothering my dad. As soon as I jumped in my car I looked back up and my dad was still parked in front of my car staring at me, then he slowly drove away. I followed him as I dialed my mom.
“So, I don’t know how much you know, but what in the heck is wrong with Dad? Do you know why he wouldn’t even talk to me today at lunch?” My mom told me about the headaches my dad had been having since Tuesday and that she had been really worried about him. She was going to call Greg and have him pick my dad up from work and take him to the Dr.’s office (Greg and my dad work at the same office). We decided it would be best to get him to Salt Lake to the InstaCare in the same building as our family doctor. We hadn’t been able to schedule an appointment for him until the next morning but if we were in the vicinity and there was need of more help than the family doctor maybe could swing by. My mom wasn’t able to get ahold of Greg so she called me back after I had split paths with my dad and was getting back to my apartment and told me to go instead and just get my dad to the doctor ASAP. I didn’t even go inside to change out of my shirt and tie but turned around and headed to go get him. I gave him a call to give him the heads up, told him I was on my way to pick him up whether he liked it or not and all I got was “Okay”. MAN, Dad was being SOOOO darn weird. He would normally fight that and say he was fine, but I know he knew something was getting pretty wrong too. After narrowly missing a collision (seriously don’t know how I missed this kid that ran a stop sign and hadn’t seen me coming. Miracle.) I get to the office and go inside to get my dad. He wasn’t in his office so I went to the receptionist to ask and she said she had just barely seen him come back from lunch. I figured he was in the bathroom and started walking back there when I saw him come out the restroom door. He was walking slow. I went to him and told him that we were leaving and asked if he needed anything off of his desk and then we went out the front door. As I opened the passenger door to him I explained what we were doing. “We are going to Salt Lake to the InstaCare at our doctor’s office unless you tell me differently now.” He just stood and stared at me. By this point I was so freaked out. My mom had alerted all of my siblings (most of them live in the Salt Lake Valley besides two sisters) and so each of them was texting and calling to check up on us. We got on the freeway. I was trying to cry without letting my dad see, seriously panicking inside my head. Should I really take him all the way to Salt Lake? As we got on to the freeway my dad spoke and asked where we were going. ‘I just barely told you.’ More panic. “We are just heading down to Salt Lake to see the doctor.” My dad replied, “We should go somewhere closer.”
People I cannot explain to you the war that was going on inside my head. Should I really listen to my dad, who in my mind was basically incoherent and way out of whack, or should I follow the plan my mom and I had decided upon and get him close to home and his doctor? I decided to follow his request and immediately exited the freeway in Orem as I called my mom to let her know the change of plans. She told me just to get him to the closest place possible. I knew Timpanogos Hospital was a couple streets down, and my dad was actually the one that corrected me a couple times to help me get there. Even when he indicated streets to turn at with his hand I still was struggling whether he really knew what he was saying to me or not.
We got to Timpanogos Hospital and got out of the car, but as my dad stood up and took a few steps he sort of doubled over in pain (that rush of blood to his head did a real number on him). I panicked even more than I already was and rushed to his side, put both my arms around his chest, asked if he was okay, then slowly walked into the ER with him in my embrace as the panic inside of me was silently rushing out in tears. In that state we made it to the nurses’ station, but there was nobody at the desk. I could see a few ladies just a bit further back behind the empty nurses’ station. The only words I could choke out were “my dad needs help” as I tried to hold back the sobs. The employees understood the fear in my voice and we were immediately assisted. They started asking my father questions about the date, who the President of the United States was, his birthday, who I was, etc. To my surprise he was answering with a little lag time but seeming ease and all of his answers were correct. By this point I was feeling like a ridiculous fool. ‘Oh great dad, I walk in here in hysterics making this look like the most dyer situation and you are acting like a normal person now.’ Luckily the nurses continued with their checks and within a matter of 10 minutes blood had been drawn, a CT scan done and a doctor was in our room explaining to my dad the unfortunate results of what they had found. It was bleeding in the brain. They didn’t know what was underneath it, but it seemed to be being cause by a mass. My head was racing, the word aneurysm was thrown out there, and the doctor was suggesting two options. We needed to get to a hospital that had a neurological facility that was more advanced than the one they ran. We could either 1 – Go to Salt Lake to IMC Hospital, which was much closer to home, or 2- go to Utah Valley Regional Medical Center. In the words of the doctor, “Because of the urgency of the situation” preparations were being made to go in an ambulance to UVRMC. I wasn’t about to object. With a few moments of silence to ourselves while preparations were made, I tried to give a brief priesthood blessing to my father as my mind raced. They brought in paper work that my dad signed as I called Greg and Whitney to tell them to change their course and go straight to Utah Valley Regional (they had left to come meet me when I first was getting to the ER). I then texted Ryan, our oldest brother, and told him that I would like him and Jeff (another brother) to come down. Both rushed out of work and were immediately on their way. I tried not to sound too dramatic but I don’t think I did a very good job at hiding my panic.
Whitney and Greg were the first to Utah Valley, followed by my dad, me, and then Ryan, Jeff, and our home teacher and former bishop Todd Douglas. On the way to the hospital I followed pretty closely to the ambulance and may have taken a little advantage of the situation in following the ambulance around every traffic block that stood in our way. Aunt Wendy and Uncle Roger also made it in time for them to take my dad into the MRI, to give him a priesthood blessing with consecrated oil, and when we received the results.
Enter MRI screen shots.
It was a massive, aggressive tumor in the brain. They could only tell so much, but they knew that it was fast growing because some of the inner parts were black and dead due to the speed at which it was growing and the lack of blood supply to keep all of it alive. It was about the size of a tangerine/tennis ball (3 inches around is what the surgeon told us after they took it out this morning). The cross section needs a little closer look, but you can see it towards the front of the brain. (They cut out everything in front of that along with the tumor in surgery. Can you believe you can live without an entire frontal lobe of your brain and still be completely normal?! Absolutely amazing) The tumor was concerning because it was on the left side of my dad's brain, which is his dominant side. There had been no outward signs of the tumor because the right side of the brain had already started taking control of the functions that the left brain could no longer perform. It had probably been in there no more than 3 months. They were telling us this as they showed us the images that I put here above. It doesn’t take an expert to realize that that huge weird thing was out of place. The tumor was putting pressure on the major bloodlines to the brain and the bleeding of the tumor had caused the pressure that caused the headache. They would be operating soon. Each of us took a moment to make phone calls to the rest of the family that was not there with us, including my mother who was still in Denver and waiting for her flight that would be taking her back to Salt Lake that night as early as she could get here. They moved our dad up to the Neuro Shock Trauma ICU to be monitored closely until his surgery which would take place on Saturday morning. They would make sure his blood pressure never went anywhere above 150. He got hourly checks throughout the entire day and night, asking him to answer questions like where he was, what year it was, who the person holding his hand was, etc.
My first Facebook post does a pretty good job of summing up the next day and a half. AMAZING staff, with more than amazing support, calmness, peace, and best of all my dad seemed to just get better and better as he rested and as the anti-inflammatory medicine helped ease the tension in his brain. I think many would be surprised if they could have seen all of us yesterday. There was always laughing, always joking…maybe seeming to some to be taking it too lightly (one of my favorite jokes, or at least one that I remember pretty well was while the nurses were trying to put in the IVs. Apparently my dad has some TOUGH skin. They could not for the life of them get a good stick under the skin. He was too thick. Some sort of compliment was made that Dad really was made out of iron followed immediately by, “But don’t let that get to your head.” (pause…realization…) “Literally! There is no room for more pressure up there!...Too soon?” (or something to that effect. Trust me. It was funny.) Everyone was laughing, especially my dad. All day long. He seemed tired, but he was back to being normal, snippy-sometimes, wise-crack, “I’ll-show-you-what-I-can’t-do” Dean. And we all loved it. Now I think it is time that I pass the baton to someone else to continue our story. I apologize for the length of this. Mostly it is for me. I want to remember every detail, every tiny thing, because I feel it is full of the Divine signature. Our Heavenly Father’s hand orchestrated the perfect coming-together of events that needed to happen so that we could get our father in and worked on before the situation turned any worse: the miracles that first brought me to be working again in Provo this summer; a call to my dad for a favor leading to a lunch where I could see his questionable condition; a car accident that never happened even though I swore I was staring at the place of impact where our cars should have met; following my dad’s prompting to get him in even if we weren’t near his physician; being sent to a hospital the opposite way of home but where we were able to employ the hands of two of the most able-bodied neurosurgeons who have now safely removed his tumor with minimal effects to his functioning; the support, love, and fasting and prayers of countless friends, family members, acquaintances, co-workers, classmates, teachers, leaders close and far; even the fact that my father’s healthy living habits led to the hemorrhaging of a tumor that could have gone on growing silently until there would have been no way of stopping it. Our family has come together to now put into action the faith that we were raised nurturing and searching for and striving to strengthen. Our mother is the perfect example of how that is done. Please keep us in your prayers. The journey has only barely begun. Tomorrow our dad starts fighting. We are not going into the “what-ifs”. We are putting on our strongest faces and helping our Ironman make it through his new race. We are facing brain cancer. We are facing an uncertain tomorrow. We are each trying to shoulder the burdens that have come crashing down on our lives and allow our Savior to share in that load and make them light. We are going to take it one day at a time. We are definitely going to make it through this.