Hi. My name is Sam and I have a brain tumor.
I prefer to stay nonchalant about the whole ordeal. I’ve found that indifference and laughter are the best medicines. But I can't bring myself to laugh about the damage my tumor has done to my love life.
I don’t even know when to tell you that everything started. It could have been years before I fell in the carport while opening my car door, years before I woke up with blood red eyes and a headache resembling the pain of being stabbed in the back of the head with an ice pick. Years before I finally caved in and went to the hospital, only to find a tumor at the base of my brain, clutching onto my pituitary gland.
It happened on the first day of Summer vacation, right before my senior year of high school. I had the (bits of) the tumor removed, and spent 12 hours in recovery with a wad of cotton stuffed under my nose. Within a week from finding out that I had a brain tumor, I was home watching “The Brendan Leonard Show” with only the memory of my little invader.
As a little girl I was avidly involved with all types of dance, and while I was an only child with older parents, I still remained active.
When I went from an extra large in 9th grade to a 3x in 11th, it was attributed to genetics and laziness. And I bought it. I’m from the South where we love our food, and being a teenager in the new millennium meant being a slave to technology, so gaining a little extra weight just didn’t seem that out of the ordinary.
Until my doctors explained that the tumor on my pituitary had affected my growth hormones, which could explain my rapid increase in size.
After having my tumor removed, I had a lot of follow-up appointments with various specialists, including an endocrinologist.
In the interim, I was sitting in an auto body shop watching an episode of Montell Williams when I saw a lady talking about her sudden, excessive weight gain and her loss of energy. Everything she spoke about, I kept thinking, “Check, check, oh yeah, double check.”
She had gone through hell and back, constantly being told that she was simply overweight, and finally had been diagnosed with Cushing’s Syndrome. I had no idea what this was, but I immediately called my mom and told her what I could recall from the interview. A few weeks later, we came across the same woman in a magazine, once again talking about her battle toward diagnosis, so when my next doctors appointment rolled around, we arrived with magazine in hand and questions in mind.
Luckily, my doctor had heard of this rare disease and had even questioned it herself, so tests were ordered. And ordered. And ordered. Test after test, my cortisol levels were not in sync with what they should be to conclusively verify that I indeed had Cushing’s, yet the numbers were definitely not normal either. Finally, it was decided that I had a mild case of Cushing’s Syndrome.
In Cushing's Syndrome, a tumor in the pituitary gland produces too much of the ACTH hormone, causing the adrenal glands to produce too much Cortisol. It basically elevates your Cortisol level and affects various hormones, such as your growth hormone, which is why I gained so much weight, and very rapidly. It is very similar to PCOS, in many ways. Usually, most patients begin to see a difference once the tumor is removed.
So I had an answer, and I had lots of medication to go along with it, but change seemed to be nonexistent. With the tumor gone and a course of action medicinally started, why was I continuing to gain weight and lose what little energy I had sustained? I began to question if the weight gain had been caused by the tumor and Cushing’s, or if the woman on Montel had lead me astray.
I found out about the second tumor in the first part of 2004.
Barely even in college, and I had already been given the gift of two brain tumors. I was lucky with the first, being able to have it removed quickly and easily, but this new little bugger had taken up residence near an optic nerve, rendering it inoperable. While my college classmates were in class, hung over from the frat party the night before, I was shuttling across town every morning for a month in order to go through a half hour of radiation therapy.
My student life was being sucked out from under my feet, but I was determined to stay in school and battle this tumor. I wasn’t going to let it completely rule my life.
Of course, when you are twenty-something, six feet tall, and dancing all around the 400-lb. weight range, most aspects of your life, especially those dealing with love, seem to be determined for you.
Being in college and not having any prospects in the dating world is quite frustrating. I thought that possibly, with my unique view of manly beauty, and penchant for scruffy beards and pot bellies, that I may have a chance of finding that diamond in the rough to fit into my plus sized, well-cushioned heart. Wrong.
Is it too much to ask for an intelligent, creative, bearded individual to be into the chub? Or at least open to giving it a chance?
Being socially inept, I began to explore other ways of finding someone. Of course, I have grown up in the Internet era, so naturally it posed itself as a viable option. I weighed the pros and cons: it’s easier for me to communicate my personality via words, but I could be murdered by some e-psycho.
I signed up for a free dating site when I saw there were some interesting, funny, and non-creepy guys available. And they were in my area, and they were actually attractive.
After taking note of a few, I sent messages or winks or some sort of e-nudge to let them know that I was interested. Maybe they’d view my profile, laugh at my wit, ponder over something brilliant that I said, or simply fall in love with the first glance at my favorite bands.
After months of messages from disgusting guys asking rude questions, or the occasional “Ur Sexxxy” one-liners, I began to give up. I resumed solitude and went back to being fat and happy with my friends, no boys included. And naturally, when you stop looking, things find you.
It seemed so promising. Here, suddenly, was this guy with curly hair, a beard, and a message casually talking about Mates of State. No nasty come-ons or inappropriate comments, just a little band appreciation, as well as Sam appreciation.
We communicated every day for a few months, and all into the wee hours of the night. We not only had musical taste and humor in common, but friends, as well, and I took it as a promising sign when they began telling me that he’d been asking about me.
This guy just really seemed like a winner. He knew my size, my condition, everything that I thought was turning off every other guy in my life. He told me that if I didn’t mind a few extra pounds, neither did he. I believed him. Then, after a less than amazing date, we hugged goodnight and never instant messaged again.
Even when I thought that someone could look past my size and see how wonderful I am on the inside, I got a punch in the gut. Even someone that was also overweight. It must be that I intimidate men; towering over them, this gigantic Samazon, queen of Cushing’s. It makes me want to just wear a big sandwich board stating “I have a disease!” but then I’d be the freak that wears a sandwich board.
It’s not even that I hate being fat. I hate that I cannot control it. People will say “Oh, just exercise!” and I think, “Oh, give me back some of my energy and I’ll try climbing some stairs next time instead of taking the elevator.”
The people that constantly tell me to try harder are the same people that eat twice as much and take multiple naps a day. I do the exercise I can, and I eat in reasonable portions, but I’m trapped inside this body, teetering back and forth on the scale. Maybe at this rate, I’ll be skinny enough to find a guy by the time I’m 60.
I have to believe that no matter what size I am or what caused me to be that way, I will find that man; the man that looks into my gorgeous face and sees my gorgeous personality, and wraps his arms around my fat body.