Tumorversary 2022

Today marks the thirty-eighth anniversary of my first brain surgery. As I’ve written about before, on Dec. 12, 1984, surgeons at SUNY Upstate Medical Center (now named Upstate University Hospital) in Syracuse, New York, removed a large craniopharyngioma that had engulfed my pituitary gland, leading to stunted growth and delayed puberty in my teenage years, as well as lifelong hypopituitarism.

The tumor has returned over the years, requiring follow-up surgeries and Gamma Knife radiation. It’s something I’ve learned to live with, and I’m grateful my condition is manageable.

Here’s a poem reminiscent of that initial post-surgical time period:

Craniopharyngioma (Youthful Diary Entry)

Craniopharyngioma gave me
an excuse for being unattractive.
I had a problem inside my head.
I wasn’t my fault
I stood four foot eight inches tall
and looked like I was
twelve years old instead of eighteen—
and then nineteen
instead of twenty-four.
I couldn’t be blamed for
my sans testosterone body
straddling the line
between male and female.

The brain tumor
spurred questions
about my appearance,
aroused ridicule
and provoked sympathy.
I heard voices whispering:
“Guess how old that guy is?”
And, “Is that a dude or a chick?”

And while I waited for my
body to mature, to fall in line
and to achieve normal progression,
I remember wishing the surgeons
had left the scalpel
inside my skull
before they closed me up,
knitting the stitches
from ear to ear.

I prayed the scalpel
would twist and twirl
while I slept at night—
carving my brain
like a jack-o’-lantern—
splitting the left and right
hemispheres,
and effacing the memory
of my existence.

Standard

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