This is a question I’ve been asked a lot, mainly by people who have this worried look on their face like they’ve been suspecting for years that something was terribly wrong and that they themselves might have a brain tumor.
Friends, I’m happy to tell you this: chances are you probably don’t have a brain tumor. (Caveat: If you’ve had a headache for more than four weeks, I’d recommend getting an MRI just to be sure.)
That’s how it all started in fact. I’m no stranger to headaches (from boozin’, getting my head too hot from running up mountains when it’s 100 degrees out, normal things like that). But this headache was different. It wasn’t all that painful, it was just… not going away. First for a week, then two weeks, then holy-shit-it’s-April-why-do-I-still-have-this-stupid-fucking-headache?
Every morning I’d wake up and shake my skull a bit to check things out, and it was always there. It wasn’t getting worse, but it wasn’t getting better. Eventually I stopped taking Advil, because I didn’t want to be hiding anything or ignoring anything– I wanted to know if it was still there. And it was. For four weeks.
That and the weird dizzy/deja-vous spells. Those were trippy. One time when I was cooking, one time when I was jogging, one time when I was just talking with a friend, I’d suddenly get this intense surge of memories, kind of like deja-vous but different, as if someone was pressing their finger on the little spot in my brain that contained a particular memory. I’d get this intense wave of sensations, like I could remember what it smelled like, felt like, sounded like to be in whatever particular situation I was remembering. It was pretty amazing actually, one of the things I’m glad I got to experience. It’s sortof like getting this weird inside tour of your brain and how it works: apparently what was causing it was the actual tumor growing and pressing on some of the memory spots in my brain. But we’ll get to that.
So those were the symptoms. Oh wait– I also passed out twice. Only for a second or two each time, but I did! I got the vapors and spilled to the floor, eyes rolled back like a Prohibition-era dame who just witnessed a bank heist. Then I’d wake up nary a moment later thinking “Why am I lying on the floor with this spatula in my hand?”
It wasn’t all unpleasant though– one of the nice side effects (which would appear after the dizzy/pass out/deja-vous spells I mentioned above) was this intense refreshing sensation. It felt as if I had just returned from a six year vacation. The first time I passed out, when I woke up I felt like everything around me was brand new, like I was in a foreign country, even though I was sitting on my own couch. For someone who feels most alive when traveling foreign countries, it was really nice to feel this way. And that sensation continued for the whole month. So aside from the dull headache, the having-a-brain-tumor-growing-inside-my-head thing was actually pretty neat in a lot of ways.
Anyway, neatness aside, it was pretty clear that there was something going on upstairs that was a little goofy (or at least more goofy than normal), and I of course wanted to get to the bottom of it. As luck would have it, a friend of mine who is a doctor (in French Canadia) happened to be in town, and she was extremely helpful in pinning down what the cause of all of this might be.
The possibilities she came up with were the following:
- Migraines (there’s actually this one rare type of migraine that has very similar symptoms to what I described above)
- Or the worst case scenario: a BRAIN TUMOR.
I think from the beginning I kept assuming the worst, since it would be easier to accept if that happened to be the reality, but part of me thinks that I knew all along it was a tumor. Something about it just felt like that, like there was this physical pressure inside my skull, like things just didn’t fit in there the way they were supposed to or the way they used to.
Which is exactly what wound up being the case.
But anyway, I didn’t know that until I went to Hong Kong.