A picture of a Happy Ending
Brain tumors usually do not have happy endings, and this time, usually is the “operative” word. I received the call in late 2003, that it was my “baby” cousin Lee’s turn to go under the neuro-surgeon’s knife, regrettably following in the footsteps of his aunt, my mother, who did not live happily ever after for very long following the surgery for her brain tumor many years earlier. It just twisted a knife in my gut to be honest. Lee had a tumor on the right side of his brain and an Arteriovenous Malformation (AVM) on the left. He does things right, our Lee Bradley, have to give him that.
As the middle grandchild, I am in a unique position to share one set of memories with older cousins, Sherri and Sandy, and a different set of memories with my younger brother, Hal, and finally Lee. I remember Lee as an infant, a toddler, a preschooler, high schooler, a college graduate, a working teacher and a husband and a father.
Some friends are like family, some family are like friends, but Lee is, and always, both of those and so much more. No one says “Har” like he does and the thought of never hearing him say that again was not one I was prepared to entertain for even a nano-second.
On December 12, 2003, Lee underwent surgery to remove the tumor and the next day, gamma knife radiation brain surgery to destroy the AVM.
It was Lee’s mom, my Aunt Barbara, who called me the first day to let me know the tumor removal went well and his wife, Suzanne, who shared the joy the following that the AVM had been zapped away and the doctors were very pleased. As gratifying as that was, I needed to hear it from Lee himself.
Lee also suffers from hemophilia which turned his recovery into a 2 week hospital stay where he received a steady stream of fresh frozen plasma – and visitors.
Although University Hospitals of Cleveland has no formal visiting hours, the daily gaggle of relatives and friends would make their exit shortly after 9 pm and around 9:15, when I figured Lee would be alone, I would give him a call.
There would be the obligatory few moments of chit chat; who stopped by, who sent a card, the latest medical updates and then around 9:25, Lee would say something to the akin of “I am a getting little tired, but I would like it if you would talk to me for a little while longer and I’ll just listen.” Around 10 minutes or so later, I would hear a sleepy “thanks, Har.” We continued that for the next 13 nights.
Funny how life works out: Lee wanted to hear my voice though this began with me needing to hear his. Some connections are too powerful – even for brain tumors.
This ended with a complete recovery and a full return to his job, his wife, his children, our family, and his life. This time, we all lived after, and happily.
“G-d must have made us cousins because one with whom I share so much could not have been created by man.”
I would like to specially thank my cousin Suzanne for her help with this challenge and we would both like to take a moment to honor the skills of Lee’s surgeons, Dr. Robert Maciunas & Dr. Doug Einstein for making this all possible.
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