So How Did You Know You Had a Brain Tumor?

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)
  • Epilepsy
  • 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.

13 thoughts on “So How Did You Know You Had a Brain Tumor?

  1. You nailed it! When I found out I had a brain tumor everything just made sense. I kept having these agonizing headaches and at times my head literally felt like it was exploding with each of my heart beats. Like it was too full and my heart was pumping blood up there that just didn’t fit. Then my eye started bulging, turns out my tumor was right behind it and was apparently putting so much pressure on my brain and surrounding structures that my eye literally was getting pushed out. This was around the time I also started getting weird visual symptoms and blackouts in my vision (not passing out, just couldn’t see). Stupidly I had tried to ignore the headaches though. I went 6 months before the eye/vision symptoms kicked in and by then needed emergent surgery. Good for you for not letting it drag out as long as I did. Hope all your upcoming treatments continue to go well!

  2. I am a happily married woman to a hunkorama fahntastic man, having said that i think I’m in love with you. Seriously, reading your story has been extremely helpful. I am having identical symptoms. The everyday world is all halcyon blue and golden sparklies. My headache will not cease, it feels like an egg is in my skull, and my childhood toys are strangely surfacing into consciousness montage style. I am awaiting mri results, in Chico Ca no peeking until your scheduled appointment. As a mom, daughter, wife and holder of an incompleted bucket list, I’m beyond terrified. I wish you healing, the planet needs people like you. If all goes well, have a bunch of kids, keep that dna traveling the world for centuries. And i’ll buy that necklace from Etsy. L

  3. My favorite book growing up was Death Be Not Proud by John Gunther. You’re a gorgeous guy and wonderful writer. My thoughts and prayers are with you. My best friend has stage 3 endometrial cancer and I’ve been watching her deal with that all year. I’m going to keep watching your progress with your screenplay here.

  4. hi .. first of all thank you for writing thisi just know it… story .. i have the same symptoms..i mean it!! i’m experiencing the same symptoms.. and i’m extremely afraid .. i told my parents abt it ..and i tried to explain to them that i have the same that mybe i have a brain tumor..but :: they won’t believe me… they’re saying that this is normal….
    but inside of me… deep inside.. i think that i have a brain tumor… just like your case… i just know it…

  5. I have had some really bad headaches-woke me up a few times. No other signs. I am going for MRI tomorrow, very nervous. Pray to the Most High for a miracle. Pray with me please.

  6. I always feek déjà vou all the time.. And i have headaches too. Im only 16 years old. My father just past away from brian cancer so it really scares me. I always feel as if life is a dream, or ive already seen this before.. And my headaches go around my head. Sometimes i wake up migraines sometimes i wake up then an hour later the migrain will come.. Its strange.. My mother says its nothing, but im really scared..

  7. Hi, my brother Paul was diagnosed May 17 2016 with GBM grade 4. Two rejections. All the tumor was removed. August 8 (tomorrow) Paul will go through his 1 radiation / Chem (temador). We were set up to go on a trial called ict 107 but the trial stopped since Paul did not have the HLA2 in his dna. My sister and I are helping with his care.He is doing good now as far as physical and mental. My brother is 48. Thank you for the blog. Information is encouraging.

  8. Hello! For about 5 or 6 months my face was numb, then about a month ago I lost my hearing in my right ear. Felt like I was under water and couldn’t really hear my own voice normally. I thought it was water in my ears, well 3 weeks ago I went to Urgent care in Cincinnati, the Doc gave me medicine for a ear infection, I thought that would solve my problem, so I took all the med, then the hearing came back. Well! My face is still numb on the right side, So I saw my Primary Doctor, she sent for a MRI, well I have a Brain Tumor. I haven’t seen a Neurologist yet, I will make an appointment with his office tomorrow. I’m so Scared!!!!!

  9. I have been suffering from “dull” headaches for the past 4 weeks. It’s not extremely painful but it feels like someone is pressing on the left and right side of my temple. I feel very foggy and not with it. Could this be a brain tumour?

  10. Hi their, im experiencing the same symptoms,
    Last weeks they are growing stronger and stronger. Last night i woke up through a strange sensation shock warning i was going to die.
    Last weeks i have head extreme bizzare headaches like it really is exploding!
    Like you knock your head against a stonewall (i have had that accident, i knocked my head against the under side of a bridge ) so i know how it feels like unfortunately.
    Last month, every day feels like a brand new golden day! so im really worrying here.
    Yes dejas vus aswell, Crystal clear memories from the youth like you can smell and taste , see everything. And at that moment im wondering, how did i do that?

    How can i convince the doctor ?

    Even the signs of skin cancer she ignores totally. So what to do ?

  11. I’m experiencing the same symptoms minus the Deja vous. I’m going on two months of ongoing headaches with those terrible thunderclaps if I strain or push on my head too hard. Something inside me tells me it’s cancer, but I guess I’ll know more after I see the neurologist Monday.

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