Ten years ago, my life fell apart. My dad had two heart attacks, my husband had an affair and one of my best friend's brain literally exploded. My dad recovered. My marriage healed. But Jeanne's brain could not withstand the resulting trauma of a ruptured brain aneurysm. Since then, there have been countless moments where I ached to pick up the phone and to hear her stilted, low laugh.
But none of those moments compare in magnitude to now.
What were the odds that Jeanne would be my college roommate; that she would call two weeks before our freshman year to say, "What color is your bedspread? We should coordinate." What were the odds that despite her earnest questions and eager demeanor (or maybe because of it) I would feel like her sister after one short week of close quarters. She was so goofy. You could not NOT love her.
Over the next fifteen years we would share a love of over-the-top romantic blouses, french fries and maxi-pads. Our kids (three each) would be born at nearly the same time. Our weekly (sometimes daily) phone calls were often loud and included lots of stereotypically Italian hand waving at the injustice of it all. We had mutual outrage over husbands, budgets and our massive, motherly lack of sleep. She helped me plant my first garden. I sent her mix CD's. Then, a brain aneurysm burst and felled her. For the next two years, she lay in a semi-coma wasting away in a nursing home.
Experts estimate that approximately five percent of people have a brain aneurysm. So I suppose it isn't so crazy to think that someone I loved might die from this frightening condition. What is surprising is that two weeks ago, I joined Jeanne in that five percent.
After an MRI ordered to determine the cause of a rainfall of seizures I've had since April, the neurologist called to say, "Juliet, we think we might see something that looks like a small aneurysm."
"I'm sure it isn't," my mother said. "I have a good feeling about this."
I didn't have a good feeling about it. Still, I was hopeful. I mean, what were the odds?
Right, so I haven't processed this yet - the fact that if it bursts, it's about 20% likely that I might survive with good cognitive function - or the fact that only 20% of brain aneurysms never burst.
Am I going to die from this? Will it be soon? Will my children suffer the kind of agonizing grief and confusion that Jeanne's felt? Should I write letters to my kids for their birthdays - weddings - for when Lilly becomes a mother or my boys become dads, you know, just in case?
The neurosurgeon says, "It's a waiting game. Right now, the aneurysm too small to risk the complications related to brain surgery." Wearing a monogrammed coat he shrugs, "In six months, we will do a new MRI to see if it grows." If I make it that long, I think.
Right now, I am tired from all of the medications, afraid of lifting heavy objects or taking an Advil for my headache. I'm watching my blood pressure because high blood pressure can contribute to a brain bleed. I'm not salting my food and I am trying to exercise for thirty minutes every day but not too strenuously. The number of doctor's appointments I've scheduled, pills I'm popping and visits to the pharmacy could rival that of any seventy-year-old grandma. And quietly, as I lay in bed with my eyes open at five AM, I'm wondering if they have matching bedspreads in the afterlife.