Chapter 40

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The next morning, after she had eaten and taken her medication, she called her parents. Just as she had expected, they were shocked and worried and wanted to come to New York to be with her. She talked them out of it, asking them to at least wait until after her appointment with the oncologist the next day. They were concerned about her going through this alone, but she assured them Brian would be there with her.

Her appointment was the following morning at 10:00. She didn't sleep very well the night before, in part due to the pain in her head, in part due to nerves. She was scared. She'd never once thought that she could die before she was elderly. She was only 32. She wasn't ready for her life to end. She tried not to think of that, the possibility that she could die now, but her mind always went back to it.

"Earth to Melanie," Brian said as he drove her to the oncologists office.

She looked over at him. "What?"

"You were a million miles away. You doing ok?"

"Yeah. I was just thinking."

"About what?"

"About how quickly your whole life can change. Three days ago I had no idea I might be dying."

"Don't say that."

"Why? It's true," she said, turning to look back out the window.

Brian didn't reply. He didn't know what to say. It was true, she very well could be dying. He didn't want to face that possibility and tried to block those thoughts from his mind. He had told her countless times she was going to be ok, but he knew she was tired of hearing that. There was too much uncertainty.

When they got to the office Melanie checked in then filled out some paperwork. Afterwards, as she sat in the waiting room, she fidgeted. Brian reached over and took her hand, trying to calm her. She looked at him and he squeezed her hand.

"Melanie," a nurse finally called. She and Brian got up and followed her to an exam room.

"Dr. Drake will be in in just a moment."

They sat down and within a minute the doctor came in.

"Hi Melanie," she said, extending her hand.

"Hi."

"And you are?" she asked Brian.

"Brian. I'm the boyfriend," he said, shaking her hand.

"Nice to meet you both. I'm sorry it's under these circumstances."

"Me, too," Melanie said.

"Ok, let's just get to it. I have your scan right here," she said, affixing it to the light box on the wall. "As you can see the tumor is isolated in the right frontal lobe. It looks like we might be able to get all of it out during surgery. Of course we won't know for sure until we get in there. We can do the biopsy after the tumor is removed. If it's benign, and we can get it all, I'd say you'll be in the clear."

"What if it's malignant?" she asked.

"Then we'll start you on chemotherapy and/or radiation right away. You'll only need the radiation if we can't remove all of it during surgery."

"What does the surgery entail?"

"We'll cut out a small section of the skull, called a bone flap, so we can get to the tumor. Once that is removed the bone will be replaced and the skin will be closed with staples."

"Staples?" Brian asked. "That sounds horrific."

"It sounds worse than it actually is."

How long will the surgery take?" Melanie asked.

"Typically it takes 3-5 hours. If there are complications obviously it could take longer."

"Will you need to shave my entire head?"

"No, just the area where the surgery will be. That'll be done during the pre-op."

"How soon can I have this done?"

"I'd like to get you scheduled as soon as possible. I'm sure you want to get this over with as well. Sit tight and I'll go set it up."

"Thank you."

"This sounds promising," Brian said once Dr. Drake had left the room.

"I suppose."

"C'mon. You have to stay positive."

"That's easy for you to say."

"Hey. Don't do that."

"I'm sorry. I just want to know what I'm dealing with."

"I know," he said, reaching over and taking her hand.

Nearly ten minutes had passed before Dr. Drake returned.

"How does this Friday work for you?" she asked, sitting on the stool in the corner of the room.

"That sounds great."

"Excellent. Be at the hospital at 6:30. You'll need to fill out some paperwork then we'll get you prepped for the surgery. Nothing to eat or drink after midnight except water, and that should be kept to a minimum."

"How long will I be in the hospital?"

"Anywhere from 1-3 days. It'll depend on how the surgery goes. And you'll need to take it easy for 3-4 weeks following the surgery. If your job is not labor intensive you can go back to work as soon as you feel up to it. But no driving for at least two weeks."

"I'm actually a nurse," Melanie said.

"Is that right? Where do you work?"

"Lenox Hill in Manhattan. I work in the ER."

"I would definitely plan to be off for a few weeks then. Not so much because it's hard labor, as the long hours."

"Ok. I'm sure it won't be a problem."

"Alright. Any other questions?"

"Not that I can think of at the moment," Melanie said.

"Ok. Well, I will see you Friday morning then."

She stood and held out her hand. Melanie stood and shook it, followed by Brian.

"See you Friday."

As soon as they got in Brian's jeep Melanie started crying. He got out and went around to her side, opened the door and pulled her to him. He held her close as she sobbed uncontrollably.

"I'm so scared," she said between sobs, gulping for air.

"I know sweetheart," he said, stroking her hair. "But you're not alone. No matter what happens I will be right there with you."

"I'm not ready to die."

"You can't think like that. You have to stay positive. Nothing is certain yet. I think it's a really good sign that Dr. Drake thinks she can get all of it. Let's focus on getting through the surgery. We'll worry about the results after. One thing at a time."

She pulled away from him and wiped her eyes.

"I'm sorry," she said, looking up at him.

"You don't need to apologize. It's completely understandable. Let's get you home, ok?"

She nodded, and he kissed her forehead before closing the door.

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