When we did a couple of interviews recently, I noticed that radiation was mentioned quite often. Whitley and I have always wondered what caused my brain tumor, and I am thinking that perhaps it had something to do with an event that took place in the fall of 1993.
One night when we were both in bed (I was asleep), Whitley noticed a purple glow coming from the living room downstairs. This was possible because there was a hall that led from our bedroom to a stairway, and a small balcony at the end of the hall that overlooked the living room.
He was at once concerned because he thought that there might be a fire. He jumped out of bed and ran down the hall and looked over the balcony. What he saw was a ball of purple-pink light hanging in the middle of the living room, just above the floor. Our Burmese cat Sadie was creeping toward it.
In those days before smartphones, he kept a camera at the bedside. He was desperate for any sort of physical proof, because he was being really raked over the coals in those days. He rushed back and grabbed it. At the same time, there was a flash of purple light.
When he returned to the balcony, the orb was gone and Sadie was curled up on the floor, apparently asleep.
Frustrated, he went back to bed. The next morning as we got up, Sadie came crawling down the hall yowling. Her eyes had a purple cast and we could see irregular shadows in them. She appeared to be blind.
We rushed her to the vet, who diagnosed cancer. She was dead in two weeks. Eighteen months later, after we had left the cabin, our other cat, Coe, died of cancer.
When I got my brain tumor, we both were left to wonder if this might have been the cause. Then, last June, Whitley suddenly lost his sense of smell. The doctors were afraid that he, also, might have brain cancer, but the cause of his problem has remained unsolved. An MRI scan showed a normal brain.
So far, he’s healthy, but I have to live with this thing and that is real hard. I read somewhere that living with a brain tumor is like being a character in Alice in Wonderland. I know what that means: I put things down and they disappear; I have to ask Whitley to find my underwear or tie my shoes. I have no sense of time or any ability to judge quantities. I can’t type, so I’m dictating to Whitley. While my tumor isn’t growing, I have lost a lot of myself and a lot of my ability to live life.
Whitley does all the cooking, the cleaning, all the work, and also has to keep writing to make money. I dearly wish that I could help, but I can’t. Ironically, what I can do is be creative, and I am constantly able to give him useful advice and strong ideas. I might not be able to make a cup of coffee, but I’m still a darned good muse—I can still use the right side of my brain—and that’s what counts the most.