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  • Writer's pictureThe Useless Runner


Updated: May 1, 2023

Horror [noun] ~ /ˈhɒrə/

"An attack of extreme nervousness or anxiety."

I am going to start with a cliché.

Confucius said: “We have two lives, and the second begins when we realize we only have one.”

For me; that second life started on July 10th 2015.

As I sat at the neurologist office on July 14th 2015 at 7:50 PM; tapping my foot desperately against the carpeted floor in the corner of the waiting room. I questioned myself on what had happened in the last 5 days that could potentially change my life forever. Everything went so fast that I did not really have time to sitdown and properly dissect all that had happened to that point.

5 days earlier, on the 10th, I received a call from my Doctor's office, asking me to go in right away as a matter of urgency. A few days earlier I had gone to the hospital for a CT scan of my head, as I was having headaches for a long time which were not going away, and were progressively getting worse.

As I came to my doctor's office that 10th of July, she sat me down. She looked clearly disturbed. I was not sure what was going on, but in my mind it was clear that something had showed up in the CT scan.

After a while, she started talking.

"We have identified an Arachnoidal cyst in your left temporal fossa inside your skull, next to your brain".

'Huh?, What?'. This was all foreing to me, I did not really understand what that meant. I asked for clarification. I could clearly see that the doctor did not have enough expertise in this area to give me any reassurances. She tried to explain the best she could, but that did not fill me with confidence whatsoever. All I could think of on that moment was that I had some sort of brain tumor.

"It means you have a cyst inside your skull, next to your brain, holding liquid". She then went on explaining what the possible causes of this could be, and what I could to at the time to get a proper diagnosis. It was not clear if the cyst was leaking liquid, or if it was a new or old injury, or if my brain was compromised in any way. There was nothing much she could say.

I started crying. I felt like a child whose toy had just been taken away and tossed in the bin. This may sound like an exageration, but I truly believed to my core that this was it for me.

I had just had my second child, merely 14 days before this. Everything went through my head like a rollercoaster crashing down my entire life with such force that I had no time to stop and understand what was going on. All my hopes, my dreams, my family, my kids, my wife. I questioned everything. I panicked, and I cried. I cried a lot. All I could see and hear was the doctor mumbling words, trying to explain this to me in a way I could at least understand it.

As the doctor comforted me, I asked what could I do in this case. I questioned her about my life and what this meant for me. She suggested I go see an specialist in this area as they could give me a better understanding about what this meant and what I could do.

As I walked home from the doctor's office, I had a huge sense of desperation. I cried and was dreading coming home to tell my wife what have just happened. I had lost my mom 3 yeras earlier to cancer, and all I could think about was my family and what could happen to them if I was not present.

I talked to my wife when I came home. I do not have a very good recollection of that moment, is all fuzzy and strange. I remember calling my doctor's office to ask for a referral letter so I could see the specialist, but they said it would take a week. I got angry. I screamed over the phone and threw away the headset towards the wall leaving a black mark on it. Every time I see that mark on the wall I remember that day. It was horrible.

I was able to get a letter on the same day, and I booked an appointment to see the Neurologist on the 14th of July.

As it is human nature, I started researching this topic online, trying to understand its causes and consequences, also what treatments were available. I found a lot of stuff on this topic, bad stuff. Things like surgery and pumps removing liquid from your brain. How likely it is to survive surgery and what quality of life can one have with this type of cyst. It was very scary for me to read all these things, because I had no idea if any of those applied to me. I had sleeplest nights worrying about everything and questioning my future.

And there I was that 14th of July at 7:50 PM. Waiting impatiently to see the neurologist.

The doctor was nice enough to make me feel comfortable. He understood my panic and my worries. He did some tests during the appointment, and asked me to go see the opticians to check my eyes and reflexes. He also booked an MRI scan on July 17th in order to have a better view of the cyst, as the CT scan only showed one plane of imaging.

For the first time in my life I experienced something I had never felt before: Horror. I was absolutely horrified about this thing in my brain. I saw no exit, no good outcome. I did not see any scenario in which I was coming out alive from this. I gave up.

On the 21st of July we got the results of the MRI scan. The doctor saw me in his office and took me through his findings. All the terms he used were very confusing to me, but he took the time to explain things in layman's terms.

He said this was most likely an accidental finding. They identified a "3 CM in diameter arachnoidal cyst, anterior to the temporal lobe, with associated remodeling of the greater wing of the left sphenoid.". What this basically means is a bag of fluid in my brain, which is taking 14 cubic centimeters of space inside my skull, where my brain never developed. The MRI scan layers showed this clearly.

At that point I had so many questions.

Is it leaking?

Is it growing?

Am I going to Die from this?.

There were all valid questions.

The doctor explained that it would need to be checked out again in 6 months to a year, in order to have a proper diagnosis on the cyst, and to see if there were any changes.

One thing the doctor mentioned that gave me piece of mind, was that the growth of the cyst showed that the brain growing around it does not touch it, and it had gray matter in-between, meaning that it was most likely that my brain developed and grew when the cyst was already there. It could have been that I was born with it, or that when I was a child I hit my head badly which could have caused the cyst to appear. There is no certainty about the origins of the cyst.

And there I was. Going home to start the long year wait to have a new MRI booked.

It is hard to explain all the emotions that went through my head all that time. I would constantly think about it, waiting and waiting when the time came to get it checked out again. My daughter turned 1 the week before my new MRI appointment. I just wanted it done. I think is the uncertainty that really gets to you when you are waiting for something to give.

What do you do for 12 months knowing that something may be growing inside your brain?.

Finally, on the 12th of July 2016 the MRI scan results came back, and I went to see the doctor in the evening. Everything checked out OK, and the cyst showed no signs of growth. It was exactly the same as the previous year, and the Doctor discharged me.

That night, he said something to me that I will always carry with me. It brought me back from a dark place.

"Forget about me, and have a good life."

And that was that. Those 8 words changed everything. After a horrible year of wondering where was my life going. A year of dreadful memories and battles that consumed most of my time, thoughts and energy, I was free.

I had a second lease of life, I felt whole again. I moved on. I am by no means perfect, but this experience truly changed me.

Only a handful of people know this story. Maybe 4 or 5, tops. I am glad I was able to tell my dad about this before he passed. I had a great sense of relief when I told him.

I am not really sure why I have not shared this with anybody before. Is just one of those things you don't talk about in a social setting. 'Hey, how are things?', 'All OK. By the way, I have a cyst in my brain taking up 14 cubic centimeters of space.'. Doesn't really have a good ring to it does it?.

It perhaps is something I may have felt embarrassed to talk about, because it involves talking about your own humanity, and is probably not a very comfortable conversation for either party. I just kept it to myself, and in a way it helped me fuel my desire to do difficult things, to push and test my limits.

C'est la vie.

By this time you may be wondering why the title of this post is 'Lance', and why have I pointed at the cyst in the MRI and labelled it with the same name. That is the nickname I gave my cyst, as a reference to cyclist Lance Armstrong, one of the greats of all time, who later confessed to using performance drugs during his 7 Tour De France titles. It was a shame.

But this nickname has nothing to do with drug use at all.

Lance Armstrong was a very arrogant person, who loved to crush his competiton at any cost. He chose winning over anything else, and he never gave up. Even when he had cancer and almost died, he pushed on, and he survided. That is why I consider him a winner. A winner at life. The other stuff is unfortunate and I completely hate it that it ended up like that.

And that is why the cyst is called 'Lance', because above anything else, I choose to live. It is something that will always be with me, and at times wants to crush me down, but I do not let it. I face it head on, and I will always be in a constant battle with it. But it will not beat me. Ever.

This fueled my desire to do difficult things. Hard things. Things that are not considered normal.

Sometimes people ask me why I do all the things I do. Why do I train so hard, and why do I take on Ironman races, triathlons, cycle up mountains and take multi-day bike rides. Why do I put myself through so much pain and effort. Why the suffering?.

Here is your answer.

We all do the things we do for very personal reasons, sometimes for no reason at all. But we also do things that scare us, things that look so difficult that they seem unreachable. I do it for my parents, to honour them. I do it for my children, to set good examples about discipline and commitment to achieving something no matter how difficult it is. I do it for myself, to create good habits and do things that seem impossible. I do it because it matters to me.

But most importantly, I do all these things for a very simple reason:

Because I am alive.

Because I am here, now.

The pain and discomfort make it real. I don't enjoy it, but I embrace it. It fuels me. It drives my desire to continue. It brings me down to earth, for those who are on longer here and left us way too early.

For mom, for dad, for auntie Olga, for Isabela Rico, for Lucero

Be the best you can be. Whatever the 'Lance' in your life is, face it and crush it. Just like Lance Armstrong's attitude: 'Let's fuck some shit up!'.

Thank you for reading.

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