Chapter 1 – “We have to investigate”

Yesterday I accomplished two very small steps for mankind, but giant leaps for myself. I cooked and I clap-killed a mosquito. Like I said, nothing huge, but two things I hadn’t done since the surgery.

One week before I tried making a grilled cheese in my electric grill, but turned it on, went to the bathroom and completely forgot about it. So I wasn’t sure I was ready to focus on properly cooking a meal. But I did it! I made a meat/mushroom/onion pie and it turned out pretty tasty. 🙂

Regarding the mosquito thing, I always had a feud with those little beasts, so I specialized in spotting and killing them. But lately my slow reflexes rendered me unable to catch the tiny bastards. So when that small, lifeless insect body fell down as I opened my hands, I was pretty happy with myself… okay I can see how this is creepy. Moving on!

Besides mosquitos, one thing that bothered me most of my life was (and still is) migraines. Although I have friends (mostly female) who have the worst type of it, even vomiting when they’re afflicted, mine aren’t as bad but neither so mild. I have what they call an aura, a sign that my body gives hours before the migraine kicks in.

This gives me time to gulp down an aspirin, a Tylenol or any other kind of over the counter migraine relief and prevent the malady from ever existing. If I don’t take anything, however, I’m overcome by pain above my eyes and extreme sensibility for light and sound. Sometimes it keeps me from doing anything else, especially things that demand too much reasoning.

I don’t remember when I started having migraines. I know I already had them when I moved out of my parents house and started college, because I recall having to smoke marijuana when Tylenol alone didn’t work. I was 21 by then, but I’m pretty sure I had migraines prior to that.

So I’ve had migraines for at least 13 years. Usually around twice a week, even having them every day in some more stressful weeks.

[Which doesn’t mean stress is the main cause. I traced it down to my bad quality of sleep, which I remember having since I was 10 and my father sent (or sentenced) me to bed early and I just couldn’t fall asleep even after keeping my eyes shut for two hours. So I’d go to the living room, where he would be watching TV, and fell asleep on the couch. That was our daily ritual.

But even after finally sleeping it wasn’t over. I woke up lots of times during the night, which led me to be tired all day and, eventually, being affected by the darn migraines. If I stayed without food for too many hours and/or spent too much time in front of the computer after a disturbed night, it was almost certain I would have it.]

All this to explain how I got to find my tumor. Last december I woke up in the middle of the night with a headache more painful than my usual migraines. Even more unusual was being roused by it, since my migraines always happened with me awake.

I took a RiteAid migraine relief pill and went back to sleep. Got up a few hours later, still with the headache. I never stopped to think it didn’t have the same characteristics as my migraines (this one ached in other parts of the head), since it was just as debilitating.

Before leaving for work, I took a stronger pill. Then, at work, a different one. None worked. The headache lasted for 3 or 4 days, until I got to a point where I had to leave work early and call my wife, Paula, to come with me to a clinic in order to check it.

As I drove to pick her up, I got scared of passing out on the wheel. I had a feeling it could be something serious – although I’ve learned to discard these feelings, since I have a tendency to hypochondriasis.

In Brazil I had seen many doctors about it, but all of them dismissed my migraines as something that has no known cure and, if a common aspirin – I actually took Neosaldina (caffeine/isometheptene mucate/metamizole) – stopped it, why worry?

So I went as a walk-in to a clinic at La Brea x Fountain, Citizens Medical Group, and saw a nurse.


I sit next to PAULA as the NURSE, 21, takes my blood pressure, which is 110/70 as usual, a fact that makes me proud – as if I had any merit in that.

So what brings you here today?

I have a headache that’s lasting four days now.
I’ve always had migraines, 2 or 3 times
a week for the last 15 years, but they
always stop with a common aspirin.
This one hasn’t, and I’ve tried everything.

What do you mean you’ve had migraines
for 15 years? This is not normal.
We have to investigate it.

(Now, as I write it, I’m thinking I should track this blessed woman and thank her properly. What’s the right way to say “I owe you my life”?)

Nurse leaves the room and comes back with a request for an MRI, signed by Dr. Van Tassell. And a prescription for a stronger medication, Fioricet.

She also had my blood examined, which revealed a slightly high colesterol, something expected after 18 months in the U.S. In’n’Out‘s to blame for that.

So I went home and scheduled a head MRI a week from then. Totally unworriedly. So unworriedly that a few days later I reschedule it for five days later and travel to Vegas for the weekend.


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