This has been a very strange summer.
It started out fairly normally. As we often do, we started the summer with a family vacation that includes my extended family (parents, brother and sister-in-law and their kids). This year, we were heading to Nantasket Beach, a vacation spot on the south shore of Boston at which that we'd spent every summer as kids. It was going to be a very nostalgic vacation.
Back home, we had arranged for our upstairs bathroom to be redone during this time to minimize the inconvenience of being shower-less for a number of days. The plan -- to which now I just have to say "man plans, G-d laughs" -- was that Jordan and I would stay with the family in Nantasket and Arnie would head back home mid-week to deal with the contractor and the bathroom while he worked, and that he would be with the family on the weekends.
Everything started out fine. And then it didn't.
On Wednesday, which was my birthday, Arnie called and said that he went to the minute clinic in town because he was feeling lousy. We both had colds, so I wasn't that surprised, but then he said something about needing more testing. "What?" I was trying to understand. Something about blood in his stool. Anemia. "What?" I was still very confused.
After a few phone calls, it became clear that something else was going on besides a cold. Arnie had blood in his stool and he was anemic. He was at his regular doctor's office, and he was going to need an upper GI at our local hospital. I needed to head back home to take him to the hospital for the test.
I quickly threw everything into my suitcase. Jordan decided to go with me. Luckily it is less than an hour between Nantasket and home.
I actually can't remember what happened next. The next thing I remember is taking Arnie for the upper GI test. When it was over, we met with the GI doc. Arnie had a "bleeding nodule" in his intestine which was the cause of the blood in the stool and the anemia. This needed to be removed. The doctor thought it might be able to be done laparoscopically. He was going to check with the surgeons there. In any event, Arnie wasn't leaving the hospital. He was admitted.
Again, I don't remember much except that Jordan and I visited him a few times in the hospital, and we arranged with my brother to meet halfway so Jordan could re-join the family the following day. I was staying for the duration.
Arnie and I waited much of the next day (Thursday) in his hospital room. Eventually, the doctors decided that Arnie needed a more specialized surgeon, and that he needed to be transferred to the Massachusetts General Hospital. Finally, in the early morning hours, he was transferred. I headed over there in the morning. We met the surgeon, Dr. Ferrone, who would be performing his surgery. She was setting up a team for the surgery, and didn't know when it would all come together. Suddenly someone came in and said: it's happening in 15 minutes.
This was Friday. Arnie was in surgery from around 1:30 pm until about 7:00 pm. I waited in the family waiting room, walked around Boston, and waited some more. I sent text updates to family and friends. At around 5:30 or 6:00 one of the nurses called to say the operation was almost complete and was successful. It wasn't until after 7, though, that two young surgeons came to speak with me.
What Arnie had is called a GIST: a gastrointestinal stromal tumor. This kind of tumor is rare, and it's more common in people who have NF1, which Arnie has. They got all of it out, and hopefully he wouldn't need any follow up.
Little did I know that this was just the beginning of this journey.