At this point I think I need to go back. Like July 2004 back. I was 27, surfing and hiking everyday, mashing around the mountains and desert in my PreRunner, and feeling completely invincible.
One day I felt a weird muscle spasm on the left side of my jaw. The next day I felt it twice–the following day 3 times, and so on, until nearly a week had passed, and it was happening several times each day. The muscle spasms only lasted about 20 seconds, but as the days went on, I started to feel slightly dizzy when they occurred. I made an appointment with my doctor to change antibiotics that I was taking for a sinus infection, just in case I was having some strange reaction.
The morning it all happened, I was driving to the coast with plans to hike down to Blacks Beach for a surf with my regular crew. I remember sitting second in line at a red light, just before entering the freeway, when another spasm started. I knew immediately this one was going to be much stronger than the others, and I managed to get my window down just enough to stick my arm partway out and wave for help.
My next memory was waking up in an ambulance near the accident scene unable to answer simple questions: What city are we in? “Jacksonville?” Who’s the current President? “Clinton?” My answers were coming from a different time in my mind. I distinctly remember how strange that felt.
But before the ambulance could leave for the hospital, the police had a very serious question for me–where should they leave my surfboard? I told them it was too hot for the inside of my truck so it was either the ambulance or a police car. Not long after arriving at the hospital, an officer found me to deliver my board safe and sound. I don’t think the ER gets many surfboards.
Testing began. First a CT, followed by an MRI to confirm. There it was–a tumor the size of a golf ball pushing on my right motor strip, which explained the seizure starting on the left side of my body.
Because I was waiting tables at the time, I had no health insurance, but I had gotten lucky because I was close to Scripps La Jolla when it happened, so that’s where I was assigned a top neurosurgeon. He was very calming and gave me a great prognosis, but the surgery couldn’t be scheduled until I could pay for it. Thus began two months of applying for grants and community benefits, as well as requesting mercy from many of the medical services providers to whom I was already indebted.
Eventually the surgery was approved and everything went well. The surgeon had warned of possible damage to the motor strip affecting my face and hand, but the only thing noticeable was some droopiness in my left cheek. The hospital stay was very short and I was home in about four days. I walked slowly up the stairs from the garage, grabbed my guitar, and headed out to the patio to see if I could still play a bit. Fingers and hands were fine. I was overjoyed.
It’s nearly impossible to explain how much different the recovery was this time around, at least in the beginning. There were some dark and hopeless moments.