On August 7th we found out that Craig had a very large, softball-sized, life-threatening tumor invading the frontal lobe of his brain. The doctor told us that if this had grown for much longer... there may have been a completely different ending.
That was SIX MONTHS AGO, today. Over the past 6 months, many of you have asked how we figured it out and how he was diagnosed. Even though we've known for six months, this joureny has been much longer than that. I thought that this is a good time to share with you how this all came to be if you're curious to know. I hope that somehow...writing this down will help someone in some way. <3 ~Charity
Having headaches wasn't something new for Craig. He had sinus headaches and reoccurring headaches when we lived in Montgomery from about 2005-2008. That is what it was in Montgomery anyhow -- sinus problems. Craig started to get headaches again around the Christmas of 2011 and he thought it was round two of his battle with sinus problems. (I had all kinds of allergy and sinus issues while in Okinawa, so it made sense to us.) Craig is not one to complain and he didn't usually say much about it, but every once in awhile he'd say he had a headache.
Around that same time Craig had applied to become a First Sergeant which is a special duty job in the Air Force that he'd have to be approved to do. He was also working very long hours, was taking a college class, and was involved in many of the kids' activities. He was burning the candle at both ends, so when he seemed a overly tired much of the time, I thought it made sense.
Then early last spring Craig failed a PT test (a physical fitness test done yearly to make airmen are fit for duty). This was a huge shock to us and anyone we told about it. In his 19 years in the Air Force, Craig had never failed a PT test before...he had never even come close to failing! To the contrary, (and I'm sure anyone who has ever worked with, for, or led Craig can attest to this), Craig was usually the one at the front, leading the group, and encouraging them to push harder, be better, and to pass those tests. We were surprised, shocked, and wondered if the stress of all that he had going on (and that fact that he was no longer twenty) was getting to him.
After Craig failed his PT test, the kids and I began to notice a very distinct change in his behavior and energy level. He started coming home from work and taking naps as soon as he got home. He became less interested in doing things with us as a family (and Craig has ALWAYS been a family man) and was no longer helping take the kids to their activities. It was not like him... at all! I'd come home from taking the kids somewhere and find him asleep in bed or laying on the couch watching tv. He went to bed right after dinner and woke up later than he ever had in all of his career. He was also more irritable and was not up for joking around the way he used to be. This went on all spring. He got more and more tired, had no energy or desire to do anything that wasn't requried, and was crabby most of the time. I became more and more worried. I thought that he might be battling depression from failing his PT test. I knew failing that test was a big blow to his pride, but it seemed like he didn't even care about it anymore. Because...in addition, as a result of his failed PT test, Craig was required to do manditory PT workouts with a class three times a week. Craig is not a procrastinator (ha! no, that's me in our family). But he was putting off his manditory PT workouts to the very last three classes of the week. Again, not like him. But he was just too tired to do them until he absolutely had to.
Then other things started to happen. Those headaches he had been having turned into a dull pain that didn't go away. Craig has always wore baseball hats. And even Colby's gently tap of his brim (something they've always done to each other) hurt his head. He went to the doctor and they gave him lots of strong sinus pain meds to kick the sinus infection, which is what they thought it was at that time. At the end of the spring he was scheduled to take another PT test (he needed to pass to get the First Sgt job). And again...he failed it.
I had been praying hard all along for Craig. As his wife, I was worried, confused, frustrated, and unsure of what I could do to help. I didn't want depression to be getting to him this badly or to have this strong of a hold on him. I didn't know if this was a way that God was trying to direct his path (about the First Sgt. job) or what was going on. I tried my best to be understanding and to have patience. But those were some hard months. Craig was working alot, having to do manditory PT, I was super busy with the kids homeschooling, sports, scouts, music lessons...and Craig was still sleeping alot more and helping alot less. All along I had been asking him to make another doctor's appointment...and of course (are all men like this?) he didn't. I let him know how worried I was, and that I thought it may be depression.
Then it seemed as if Craig was beginning to feel a bit better. Like he had a little more energy. He also wasn't saying anything about headaches anymore. Now that I'm on this side of it, I think Craig was concerned after I talked to him about depression and I think he was trying really hard to make things all better on his own.
But the change didn't last for long. I was asking for prayers at church, to friends and to family. It was a tough time. Not only because he was always tired and was easly irritated, but because he was starting to have a bad memory. When I realized that he was forgetting things he normally never forgot - things I usually forget, but Craig never does - (his lunch, where he put his keys, what day to put the garbage out), I really started to get more worried. He said he wasn't noticing it and that I worried too much.
Then, one morning last summer, Craig started acting strange. The things he was saying just didn't sound like my husband. He sounded much more jouvenile - like our teenaged boys - and I didn't get it. He was still forgetting things. He was arguing about stuff that didn't seem worth arguing about. I was not only scared about what was happening with Craig, but I was also scared about the direction our marriage was headed down. Craig and I got married young. We had a blended family. And in our thirteen years of marriage we had gone down MANY bumpy roads, had taken several wrong turns, and had been at dead ends where we had thought there was no turning back many times. But somehow, we made it through those rough times and over the past three years while in Okinawa, Craig and I had been working hard at putting God at the center of or our marriage. I had seen SO MANY CHANGES in us both, in us a couple, in us a parents...in our entire family! But last summer seemed like we were backtracking sooo fast. I was scared. I was also at my whits end. I couldn't hold it in any longer...I had to let Craig know how frustrated I was...and it wasn't pretty. (And no, I'm not proud of that.)
That's the day that Craig admitted he was still having headaches.
I felt horrible.
We decided to take the kids to the pool so we could have a nice, relaxing family afternoon after the morning we had just had. We had done that many times that summer...and Craig usually sat in a chair napping. Which is so NOT like Craig who would usually be in the pool dunking (and yes, getting the whistle blown at him), diving, and goofing off with the kids. I though that after our conversation he'd be in the water with us for sure.
But when we go there, he coudln't. His head was pounding. The only thing he could do was sit on the side of the pool. It was obvious that he was in alot of pain. The following weekend we went to the beach for a Cub Scout event. Same scenario. It was evident there was really something wrong. Other people were commenting about it, even.
That's when I KNEW there were no excuses, he HAD to go back to the doctor so they could figure this out. This was NOT a sinus infection! But again, Craig refused to back to the doctor. This was how our summer went. He'd have a good day. Then a bad day of forgetting things and saying strange things and being tired. And I'd beg him to go to the doctor. He' refuse saying I worried too much.
After all summer... I was starting to doubt myself...maybe I DID worry too much. I was really starting to think that something was either seriously wrong with Craig...or there was something serioiusly wrong with me. But I was still noticing things that were not right. The way he was forgetting things, not just where he put his keys...but whole entire conversations, what he had for lunch or what we did last night. He also started to get really sharp headaches that lasted for 5-10 minutes at a time. They were were so bad that he had to sit down and not even talk or anything. Almost like a mini migraine.
Craig decided to take three weeks of leave in the end of July and beginning of August. He just wanted to relax. I thought we'd get some fun, family island time in. He just wanted to sleep all day. Then one evening towards the end of July something happened that forced him to go to the doctor. We were walking in the door of our house when Craig mentioned he had to go to the bathroom. Colby, our youngest, was unlocking the door and I was talking...I turned around to look at Craig. When I did, he was halfway squatting with one hand on the wall, bouncing (like a little kid doing potty dance). Craig likes to joke around, so I thought he was messing around with Colby trying to get him to get the door open faster. Colby and I both laughed and when Craig didn't laugh with us (or stop doing the bouncing thing), I realized something was wrong. Craig had an alarmed look on his face but no words were coming out of his mouth. I freaked. I asked him if he could talk and he shook his head no. I grabbed the keys from Colby and quickly got in the door. I helped Craig in and as he was walking he was dragging his foot. I thought he was having a stroke. I was so incredibly scared. I was grabbing the phone to call 911 and he gasped, "Charity, I can talk, don't call 911...I'm fine now". I should have called 911 then, but I agreed to allow him to call and make a regular doctor's appointment in the morning. I watched after him all night. I didn't sleep for fear of what might happen. I woke him up early the next morning to make him call for an appointment with his doctor. (We later found out that was a seizure.)
When Craig woke up that next morning he was refusing to call to make a doctor's appointment, saying he was okay now. I told him he was NOT okay, and that I was so scared I couldn't sleep...we couldn't let this go on. I knew I couldn't call and make an appointment for him (they don't allow that, trust me, I tried) - but if he wouldn't do it, I'd call his supervisor and tell him what was going on and make him call. I got mean about it. I even let his family and my famly know what was going on. Tough love, I guess. Whatever it was...it worked. He made the appointment. We saw the doctor. I insisted on going with Craig so I could share all the things that were happening that I was seeing after Craig told him the symptoms he had been feeling. (Now that I look back on this...the fact that Craig even let me go with him clues me in that deep down he knew something more was wrong too.)
After asking a few more questions, the doctor gave Craig some more sinus meds (hoping it was sinuses but seeming doubtful) and then ordered a CT scan of his brain and sinuses. It took two weeks for him to get the referral for those CT scans.
On Tuesday, August 7th we went for the scans at 1pm. They told us it'd take up to 48 hours for the scans to be read by the doctor and we'd get a call to schedule a follow-up appointment by the end of the week. We walked into our house after the appointments and as soon as we sat down, our phone was ringing. A doctor called and told us to come back in immediately, that he had seen something in the scans. (We later found out that as soon as the tech who did the CT scans saw it, he ran it straight up to the neuro doctor. It was obvious. And it was huge.)
That was one of the scariest drives of my life. I knew in my heart something was really wrong. Craig and I walked hand-in-hand into the hospital and up to the doctor's office. Both of us were shaking. That is where we found out about his tumor. By Friday we were flying to Hawaii where they would remove the tumor.
As horrible as that news was, there was one thing I was relieved about...that all the symptoms Craig had been having were given a reason. There was a huge tumor pushing on his brain, causing him to be tired, to forget things, to have behavior changes (and many more things we only noticed after they asked about it...like he could no longer smell). That afternoon in the doctor's office I made a promise...not to Craig...or to myself...but to God that I would stand by Craig and be the wife that he needs me to be...strong in The Lord, full of grace, able to handle whatever is thrown my way, and always full of love and joy around Craig...since maybe I wasn't that for him in the beginning of this journey.
We didn't see the big picture before. I am just so thankful it was found and I can't beat myself up over not putting two-and-two together sooner. I was starting to do that, but God put a big stop to that! I thought it was depression because of his failed PT test, when in reality, his failed PT tests and everything else were due to a tumor. I know that my job now isn't to be upset about it not being found sooner, but to be thankful that it was found in time. And that I get my chance to be the best wife Craig could possibly have at this time. Or... to at least try to be that.
It took me a long time to be ok with sharing this much of our story. (Funny, since I'm usually the "open book" - Craig told me to share this a long time ago. :) I hope it helps you to know it. Thank you for praying about Craig and our family so faithfully...for so long. It means so much to us!! May blessings rain down on you and love fill your hearts! <3