Purple Tumors and Marbles

Room 4, Surgery ICU, VA Hospital, Denver. It’s official: Richard is missing a marble. Or at least a marble-sized tumor. This afternoon, his neurosurgery team removed a purple tumor the size of a large marble from the right temporal lobe of his brain. (Thank you, Dr. Brega and Dr. Ho, for your skill and care.) Dr. Brega was very pleased that they were able to remove the whole thing, it stayed intact as they removed it, and that the tumor was small and well-defined. (“Marble-sized is small?” I asked. “It could have been much larger,” she replied. I’m glad I didn’t know that beforehand.)

“I feel like I’ve been run over by a truck,” he said when I arrived in his room. That’s not surprising. He’s got a sinuous incision shaped like a large question mark running along the upper right side of his skull and curving down in front of his right ear, held together with shiny stainless-steel staples. They cut through his skin, the temporal muscle (one of the ones you use when chewing), his skull (I’m alluded to my experience with the thickness of said bone structure in a previous post), the membrane covering his brain, and into his temporal lobe. He’s attached by a plethora of wires, cords, and tubes to various blinking and beeping monitors and bags. No wonder he doesn’t feel so hot.

But he’s with us. He can move all of his limbs, talk, and he passes the basic neurological tests. I have faith that he’ll recover—although it may take a while. His brain tissue is feeling a bit tortured, his membrane needs to seal up again, his skull has to grow a callus around the titanium plate and screws, his temporal muscle needs to knit together, and the red ridge of that question-mark-shaped incision needs time to subside to pink calligraphy decorating his elegantly shaped skull. But he will heal.

My mind keeps getting stuck on the coincidence of a tumor that is purple and the size of a large marble. The last big–by which I mean landscape-size–sculpture Richard finished this year is studded with small, round colored globes of glass. Yes, marbles. (The sculpture, shown above as he was installing it in an outdoor show, uses three “repurposed” historic building stones. The lower two are attached by hinges that appear to open as if a book; the third is balanced atop those two at an angle. That’s the stone with the marbles. The sculpture, by the way, is called “Matriculation,” and it’s on display at Salida’s SteamPlant Sculpture Park. That’s a detail of Matriculation at the beginning of this post, plus another shot below.)

Purple tumors and marbles–what strange paths life takes us on!

Blessings and many, many thanks to all of you for your support. Know that I’m thinking of you, even if I’m not responding individually. My focus right now is on the guy who now is missing a marble–one we won’t go looking for anytime soon.