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  • One of my least favorite words since I was raped nearly a year ago is victim. I deplore that word. Yes, I was raped, but, to me, the word victim means I lost the battle, I gave in and let the rape somehow continue to keep me down even after the culprits left. However, rape is such a strong, horrible experience that to get out up underneath of it requires work if I am not to remain a victim…I know this and yet, here I am in a third world country where psychiatric help is scarce for me as I don’t not speak the tongue and the ‘professional’ help, I have mentioned this earlier, that I did receive seemed to be another effort to make a victim out of me. Thus, I am alone in my quest to not become a victim of rape, in my quest to overcome this event and become a rape survivor rather than a rape victim.

    Luckily, I have my past to build upon and in my past, as you know, was a man named Jon Veitch and as you also know, he survived a deadly tumor for over 20 years.

    Now, living with a brain tumor is no walk in the park. A brain tumor is like having a potato in your head. Doctors can remove tumor tissue to a certain extent but once a primary site brain tumor occurs in one’s brain, it means it has taken root and those roots are always there, so even if the doctors can remove some of the tumor mass, they never can get all the roots without rendering the patient a vegetable. This is why a primary site brain tumor is a terminal cancer. Medical advances have yet found a way to get all the cancerous tissue in the human brain.

    Jon’s tumor acted up every couple of years. It did so a couple of years after Jon and I started dating. Jon somehow knew it. He looked at me one day while I was sitting at our kitchen table teaching school online. I was conducting a class via Skype when Jon walked into our living room and lay on the floor. I knew something was wrong but I couldn’t talk to him as I was plugged in to my class. However, as I watch him writhe on the floor, I realized that Jon was not joking around…something was up. I somehow closed my class and took off my headphones.

    “What’s up?” I asked.

    Jon groaned, “We have to go to the hospital now. I think I need a brain surgery.”

    WTF?

    I didn’t even ask him if he was serious, because I could tell he was, so we loaded up my Toyota with Jon and drove to Loma Linda’s Emergency Room. By the time we got there, Jon was in a world of pain. He was grabbing his head and groaning. He had lost all sense of humor and I knew it was bad.

    When we entered the ER, the place was a mess. A recent shooting had occurred in some neighborhood near by and the victims were being hauled through the place with police and the families in tow. Jon and I had been to the ER enough times by now to know that this was going to be a hell of a night in the ER and it might be hours before Jon was seen. Therefore, to use a Jon phrase, we began to use ‘some tricks.’ So, I found an empty wheel chair, put Jon in it and rolled him up to the admission desk where Jon’s name was like the 117th on the list. I whispered to him,

    “Act like it is really bad,” I whispered.

    He managed to say that he would have no problem doing tat, so he started to let his pain show while I stood behind him in the wheel chair with a sign I scratched on a notebook paper that read,

    “Stroke victim, please help us now.”

    I, then, turned that sign to any medical professional that walked by. However, they kept walking by and walking by and walking by. In fact, it took over 4 hours that night before Jon was beckoned out of the waiting room to receive any medical attention. When we finally did, we went into the room where they take the vital signs.

    “What is the problem?” the callous nurse asked.

    I answered for Jon, “This man has a brain tumor and he needs a MRI now…something is up.”

    “We’ll decide that,” the nurse snapped. I wanted to scream at her about the fact that in the most civilized country in the world, medical patients were treated as sub human, but I restrained myself as Jon had already taught me that honey works better than vinegar, so I managed a smile and looked down.

    They then reeled Jon into a back room where we laid all night long. The nurse gave Jon something for his pain, so he was able to sleep but I lay there wide-awake. At about 7 in the morning, after being in the ER for over 14 hours, a doctor finally appeared. He walked into the room, looked at Jon up and down, but didn’t examine him. He, then, went into the hallway, grabbed his prescription pad, and scratched something on it and then handed it to me.

    I looked down and read the word, “Motrin.”

    I looked up at him, completely exhausted, “Does this say Motrin?”

    “Yes,” the doctor said confidently.

    “So, you want us to go to Walgreens’ and get some Motrin for a brain tumor, sir?”

    He nodded confidently.

    This is when I lost it…too little sleep and not enough food is a bad mix for me especially if agitated, so all of sudden, all my manners went out the door and I, what some people might say, ‘lost my shit.’

    I started grabbing my hair and screaming at the doctor,

    “Are you fucking kidding me? This man has astrocytoma and has already had 5 brain surgeries and you are going to send him home with something to relieve his menstrual cramps? Are you FUCKING KIDDING ME!?!”

    Nurses began to gather around.

    “Ma’am, ma’am, calm down.”

    “I will not calm the fuck down. We are not leaving this ER until they MRI his head, do you understand me?”

    The doctor whose confidence had turned into absolute terror started to yell back,

    “What do you want me to do? I’m not a neurosurgeon.”

    “Don’t ask me what to do, asshole. I am an English teacher. What I want you to do is get us a neurosurgeon now or I am going to start calling our lawyers now. Do you understand?”

    We didn’t have lawyers but I suspected that if stroke hadn’t worked, then lawyers might.

    And it seemed to because within a half an hour, Jon was being wheeled downstairs to the MRI floor. The MRI must have been bad because as soon as they did it, they came out to me and said that they were preparing a room for Jon on the 8th floor.

    By the time Jon got to the 8th floor, we had been in the hospital for nearly 24 hours. We were both exhausted although they kept giving Jon drugs to let him sleep.

    In the early evening, one of his neurosurgeons, Dr. Hsu, came in. We liked Dr. Hsu. We had only visited with him in his office a couple of times when Jon had check ups with him, but we liked him and had begun to have a friendship with him as this was how Jon got things done…he made everyone his friend because as he pointed out,

    “You never know when you are going to need a friend, so load up.”

    Dr. Hsu loved Jon, so I was horrified when I saw the concern on Dr. Hsu’s face.

    Dr. Hsu looked at us and then he looked at the floor,

    “We are going to have to get him to surgery ASAP.”

    “It’s bad?” I asked.

    Dr. Hsu grimaced, “Well, it’s not good. We need to get him in in the next 24 hours.”

    “What are you going to do?” I asked.

    “A craniomity.”

    Such a scary word. Suddenly, Jon perked up,

    “No problem, doc, I have already had 5 of those things…give me another and make my head feel better.”

    Some people need an aspirin for the ache in their head; Jon needed a craniomity.

    So, the next 24 hours were nerve wracking at least for me…this was the biggest medical problem I had to go with Jon at this point. A brain surgery? What did that mean? Would Jon wake up and look at me with dull eyes and a brain not capable of thought? I asked questions like this to Dr. Hsu.
    “Yes, it can do that, but for some reason, I doubt that is what will happen to Jon.”

    Jon’s survival so far is what gave me strength. Plus, Jon didn’t seem in the least concerned.

    “Don’t worry, Little Little, I got this. You watch.”

    And I did. I watched as the hospital chaplain came in and read Jon his last rites. I watched as they shaved Jon’s head and I watched them as they wheeled him downstairs where the brain surgeries occurred.

    Then, I sat. I sat for days with Jon’s family down in the Loma Linda cafeteria. All of Jon’s family was there even the ones that normally didn’t show up to see Jon in the hospital. This bothered me as it suggested this was serious and I was so in love with him that I had no idea what I would do if he didn’t come out of this…but all I could do was wait.

    After nearly 12 hours of this, our little buzzer buzzed, which meant there was a call for us at the front desk. When I went to get it, it was Dr. Hsu on the end of the line.

    “Jon did great; he’s in the ICU and is about to wake up. You can go see him now if you want.”

    I couldn’t get up to his ICU room fast enough but when I got there, I saw Jon just laying there…my nerves began to act up again. I neared his bed and he lay there as if dead.

    “Jon,” I said, “Are you okay?”

    With that, he opened his eyes real wide, grabbed me hand and pulled my face to him and he started to kiss me quite passionately. It was a little embarrassing as his mother was with me as well, but what the hell? Jon was all right.

    Jon was actually more than all right after his 6th brain surgery. The next day, the physical therapist came to check him. At first, she treated him very fragile.

    “Sir, sir, take it easy,” she said as she helped Jon stand up. She, then, gasped, as Jon not only stood up but started to dance while holding on to his IV stand. She encouraged him to stop. He teased her,

    “Ma’am, I know more about brain surgeries than you. Now I’ve had 6.”

    The physical therapist’s mouth dropped and she told him that she never met anyone who had survived 6 brain surgeries.

    Upon hearing this, Jon grabbed the IV pole and did a little dance, “So, you never met a miracle? Well, then meet me.”

    The physical therapist and I’ mouths both dropped now as we knew what we were witnessing…a total miracle of human life.

    Needless to say, Jon was released from the hospital within 48 hours after his brain surgery. I joked with him that brain surgery seemed to be an outpatient procedure. He replied that it was only for him.

    When we got back home, I assumed our life would start where it stopped. However, something did change. Normally, Jon would sleep through the whole night; however, after the surgery, Jon would get out of bed around midnight and go to the living room. All I would hear was the scratch, scratch, scratching of his sharpie pens. This went on night after night for a week.

    One night, I grew too curious and went into the living room to see what Jon was doing. He was curved over our kitchen table drawing away. When I looked at his drawing, I instantly noticed that Jon’s drawing had a completely different style. Normally, his drawings were infused with hidden hearts and stars; however, these new group of sketches looked like up close drawing of neurons. I pointed that out to Jon. He stopped for a minute and examined them for a minute,

    “Damn,” he said amazed, “I didn’t even notice that. All I set out to do here is do what I have always done after all my brain surgeries.”

    “What’s that?”

    “I spend the month after each surgery trying to grow more dendrites. You know those small little nerves that grew all over your head.”

    I nodded vaguely remembering dendrites from a high school biology class.

    “Growing dendrites?” I asked for clarification.

    “Yeah, it’s something I read when I could read…something like the more you learn, the more dendrites you have, so I always try to teach myself something new or do something different after each surgery as an effort to grow more dendrites.

    I listened riveted…I was always amazed at the immense set of tools Jon used to keep himself alive.

    “Jon,” I said now going back to his sketches, “These sketches are of dendrites, I think.”

    He looked at them again.
    “Damn,” he replied, “I think you are right.”

    We went back to sleep but for the next few weeks, Jon kept at it night after night, furiously drawing dendrites into the night.

    And did it work?

    It did as Jon was fully recuperated and we were able to go to Europe a few months later.

    However, I came across why this may have worked for Jon just recently in my own quest to heal myself from the crime I spoke of early.

    What Jon appeared to be doing was visualizing new nerve growth with his drawings. To put it simply, he was visualizing. According to neuroscientists, visualization is a key exercise in increasing the plasticity of the brain. According to Dr. Marilyn Atkinson explains MRI mapping suggest that this process of visualization makes the brain think that it is actually doing the activity. MRI pictures reveal that visualization shows circuitry between the right and left-brain and strengthens the connection between both.

    Jon’s tumor lay on the left side of the brain and his practice of visualizing dendrites probably strengthened his connection to the healthier parts of the brain.
    Again, I am awe of Jon and his journey to stay alive. I think of this when I look at what I survive which is not much in comparison to him. So, again, I will take this tool of visualization with me as I move my understanding of my crime from the place of a victim to the place of the survivor…will it work? We shall see…but for now, I am off to grow my own dendrites and no, sorry, I will not share.
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