I got a call from Dr. Alvarez Friday morning saying they are concerned the lesion could be a lymphoma. When I spoke with C., I could hear J., his roommate, carrying on in the background about his own health. C. was upset and overwhelmed, and I was worried about how to get him to our appointment that afternoon at Mission Neighborhood Health Center (MNHC henceforth), to get an order for an MRI.
I gave my boss a call and explained the situation and he said it will be fine to work from home for the time being, and that I should feel free to come and go as needed for appointments and not use vacation time. I wouldn’t have minded using vacation time. I just don’t want to lose this job.
When I spoke with C. a bit later, he was in a peaceful mood, no longer frazzled. Some things he said:
“I lost the connections.”
“There’s just no way that I can connect myself into it right now, huh?”
“You’re saying ‘Put on your air clothes’?” (The clothes one wears outside.)
“I’m really lost in the found or found in the lost.”
“I’m in a lock, like.”
I went over to C.’s, spoke with J. and restored good relations, and C. and I made it to our appointment at MNHC. While we were in the waiting room, on the Spanish-language TV came a pretty woman with very heavy makeup, including pink lipstick on very full lips. C. gasped and said, “Oh! Look at her labium!” And then he said, “I thought that and I didn’t think I was going to say it, but then I said it.” With C.’s permission, I repeated the labium remark to Dr. Alvarez and he thought that was funny, and C. beamed at having his humor appreciated.
Dr. Alvarez explained to C. that there is a lesion in his brain where the two lobes meet, and C. said, “Hmm, interesting.” He was entirely undisturbed. He asked, “Could this be because Spanish was my first language and then I had to learn English?” Dr. Alvarez said something like, “That’s entirely possible. I wouldn’t discount that,” which I found very touching. What a remarkable person Dr. Alvarez is. I think that was 90 percent excellent bedside manner, but that he also is entirely open to the mysterious ways the universe communicates. I’m incredibly grateful that we have ended up in his care. He was a new doctor for C.
After MNHC, we wended our way back toward our places. I was hoping to get him as far as his bank so I could peer over his shoulder while he deposited a paycheck and try to get his PIN, so I could attempt to keep his finances in order, but he wouldn’t walk that far.
For dinner, we had pasta with homemade tomato sauce and avocado again at my place. The good thing about socializing with someone with a brain tumor is that you can serve the exact same thing dinner after dinner and have it greeted with the same surprise and delight each time.
Yesterday morning on the phone, C. said he didn’t know what to do. I suggested he have something to eat and get dressed, but that was a bewildering sequence of ideas, so I said, “Why don’t you have something to eat and call me back?”
He said, “You’re saying I should have something to eat and call you back?”
I said, “That’s right.”
“I’ll have a piece of toast and call you back?”
That was the last I heard from him. He never called back and when I tried him, I got his machine. Finally I called his roommate, and J. said that C. had gone out about noon. By 5 p.m., I was starting to be very concerned: was he lost? Did he still know how to get home?
Charlie and Don and I agreed it was time to call the police, so I did that, but I also called SFGH, where someone immediately said he was there, in Zone 2.
“He’s there? What’s Zone 2?”
“Zone 2!”, the person snapped, so I got off the phone, and Don and I headed over to the hospital. Zone 2 seems to be some kind of overflow for the emergency room. C. was there, in a perfectly good mood, with the kind and capable Carolina, who'd known C. for decades and who explained that C. had called a friend and sounded so confused that the friend, lacking a car, sent Carolina to take C. to the emergency room. Since the idea had been for C. to go to SFGH and have an MRI, anyway, they went ahead and kept him there.
As the evening wore on and he was prevented from eating and also from putting his own clothes on and leaving, C.'s mood became less good. He refused to have his blood pressure taken at shift change, and was promptly injected with a sedative. As he became woozy, he reached for my hand and said, “Ayudame,” which was heartbreaking: “Help me,” in his first language.
He fell asleep after that, so I decided to go home, as there wasn't much point in sitting there watching him sleep. Charlie had offered to give me a ride home if it was a reasonable hour when I left the hospital, so I called him and he came and fetched me, which was a big help.