Magnetic Resonance Image looking downward on Marty’s brain with tumor at left


On Saturday, March 4, Eddy and I visited our local FedEx store to work on printing marketing materials for the American Association of Pastoral Counselors. Seated at a computer station, I noticed a sudden sensation of losing eye focus, my head began moving side to side, my breathing changed to a rapid snort, the left side of my face began to sag and my mouth began to drool. I thought, “If I don’t get control of myself, people will soon notice me losing it here.”

About that time, Eddy said, “Are you all right? Do you need to lie down? What can I do to help you? What do you need?”

I thought to myself, “this is either a stroke or the effect of a brain tumor. I surely do hope this isn’t fatal. I must tell others to call for help and get me to an emergency room as quickly as possible.” I was having a practical clear thought, complete with appropriate words, but no ability to speak. I was able to reach out my right hand, grasp a pen and scrawl “S T R O K E?” on a sheet of paper.

Eddy said, “Do you want me to dial 911?” I was able to nod my head to communicate. Our FedEx helper intervened and an ambulance arrived in what seemed like two minutes.

I was able to speak very haltingly to the first responders: “Please take me to Providence Portland Center emergency room.”

“No, you have to go to the nearest facility, which is Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) Hospital, in case you are in an active stroke.”

Within minutes, at OHSU Emergency I was lying in a CT machine for a quick brain scan. As I was being wheeled back to a waiting room I spotted six people clustered around a computer display with very serious expressions on their faces. I thought: “They are looking at my images because they are noteworthy — not a good sign.”

Soon, a doctor with “Jacob” embroidered on his emergency-room style jacket entered the room. He said: “You had a seizure. Seizure is the appropriate term for this event; your brain became overwhelmed and temporarily shut down. You are recovering from the seizure and will probably have no permanent damage. But we must address the question of what caused your seizure. I regret to tell you that we think the cause is a mass in your brain, which given your history is probably a melanoma tumor. Keep in mind that we now have several options to treat this and we need to collect more information to decide whether surgery, radiation, immune-therapy or a combination is best. It looks as though the tumor is accessible for surgical removal and we have an outstanding neuroscience department, and our chief surgeon is famous for his skill.”

I’m thinking, “this is beginning to sound like sales persuasion,” and said, ”thanks for the reassurance, but I’ve been preparing myself for this moment and I am not shocked by this news.”

I agreed to an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) to provide a better image, as well as to immediate IV medicines including anti-seizure medicine, steroids for brain swelling, and blood-pressure-reducing medicine.

As day 2 dawned, I was told to expect further procedures and was denied food or drink. I imagined being onboard a runaway train chosen for me by the luck of the draw, scheduled to disembark at an operating room very soon. I was angry and longing for consultation with my trusted oncology team at Providence for help with treatment. With Eddy’s help,  I rebelled and wrote an advanced directive stating that treatments at OHSU would be refused pending consultation from our Providence oncology team.

Staff on the NeuroScience floor in OHSU Kohler Hospital listened and responded with care, sustenance, and assistance in consulting with Doctors Page and Curti at Providence. By day’s end, we had a firm recommendation to proceed with craniotomy to resect the tumor.

On day 3, I was wheeled to a Functional MRI machine and given tests that created a map of areas of my brain around the tumor to help guide the surgeon in resecting the tumor without damaging important brain functions. By this time, I was deep in doubt that major surgery was the best option for several reasons: Recent advances in stereotactic radiation and immune therapy are improving outcomes for melanoma patients with brain metastasis, my tumor is larger and probably more involved than I had suspected, and the list of dangers on the consent for surgery form starts with bleeding, continues with functional impairment and ends with coma and death.

As day 3 ended, timely visits from family, friends, and fellow cancer survivors brought me to mental and emotional exhaustion. I awakened to mental clarity after midnight. Eddy and I arose and walked the circuit on the floor explaining our thoughts and feelings of fear and frustration. About 3 a.m., Eric, the night resident, awakened us and offered to discuss the surgery consent form, if that would be helpful. Ready to proceed, we completed the form and slept.

On day 4, the operating room awaits.

19 thoughts on “Progression”

  1. Marty, I am so sorry! You are in my prayers. Having seen photos of you out and about I thought you were out of the woods. Of course immediately on my prayer list, and I will be checking this regularly now that I know exists.

    Diana Robinson (going back to our Coach U days, and of course Webvalence)

  2. Marty, you are a survivor. We are praying for you here in WA. May the Lord surround you with his healing power. Lots of Love from your classmate, Gail

  3. Dear Marty,

    Erik and I have not let one day go by without including you in our prayers. We began our prayers for you when you first disclosed your melanoma several years ago. We will continue our prayers for you, Eddy, and all those you love and know.
    “Be strong in the Lord, and His mighty power. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and rest in the grace of Christ, Jesus.
    Toni (Hess) Pedersen

  4. Oh my god, Marty! My wife Jan and I are very worried (and depressed) for you. You may have been prepared for this shock, but we weren’t. Your account of this event was beautiful and sprinkled with just the right amount of detail, just like all your writings. I certainly miss being able to sit with you, Ryan, Cal and the others, and exchange stories we’ve written. Please make sure to tell the brain surgeon that you have many more stories to come out of that precious brain of yours and share with your fans, like me!

    Best wishes for a very speedy and complete recovery. I really miss seeing you and hearing you read your stories, so you’d better get well soon!

    Wishing You the Best of Luck and Surgeon’s Skill,

  5. Thank you so much for keeping us in this loop of love…Marty, we will put you with us every minute until your surgery tomorrow, which is your Thursday…and then as is tradition here in India…I will make a healing alter at home for you and Uncle Bill…This type of alter is small, but it becomes a daily reminder to say a blessing for those you are sending prayers…

    The alter being in the center of one’s home, means the people for whom you are sending prayers, become the central focus of your daily energy and thought.

    Marty, you are a man of great courage, and a man who faces adversity with calm and grace. These same qualities are mirrored by your loving partner and wife. Eddy, you know with all your heart, my meditation practices will put you both at the center of my breath. These admirable attributes of faith and goodness will continue to be both your strengths throughout this upcoming adversity.

    Joan, as you know Richard & I adore Uncle Bill…you must please keep us up in detail about the progress of his breathing following this procedure. I just sent him an Azalea bush for Valentines in honor of your moma…he wrote me the most gorgeous story about Aunt Nannie being his beautiful Azalea that he plucked up and stole from Charleston!

    Sending everyone so much love…We will all be spiritually connected with each other these next few weeks for the strength that comes from our family “love” that interconnects us through time and space.. Namaste

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