Brain Cancer: Atypical symptoms, Part I

When I began Finding Merle, my first post was about my grandma and included a one-hundred-year-old letter. My love of family history led me to create an entirely new blog this year (THE MALEVOLENT MATRIARCH), but life happened and my focus has changed. One day, I’ll get back to Orah Myrtle Smith, my feisty great grandma and inspiration for the new blog.

For now, I’m home at Finding Merle to share our story. I’ve created a new category–Brain Cancer–where you’ll be able to read the ups and downs, the joys and sorrows, the story that is now our life. Bruce wants his story shared.

Aside from Bruce’s desire to help others, what I witnessed in early September and again by mid-November screams, “KAREN, THIS IS A TEACHING MOMENT!!” Why? Bruce’s symptoms were not typical. Read that again. Now I hope I have your attention.

For Bruce, and anyone wanting to learn, here goes:

September 8, 2018

This is my first recollection that anything was wrong. Three significant events happened that day. Our son flew to Germany for an indefinite length of time, we met up with my step-cousin Milton whom we’d not seen since 1978, and Bruce was acting extremely tired considering the light events of the day.

Bruce is used to quite a bit more activity, but he asked me a couple of times if we could go home, at 8 or 8:30 pm. He’s always been an early riser, but this didn’t make a lot of sense. Noted.

September 9-24

I watched Bruce like a hawk. With each passing day, I knew with every cell in my body that something was terribly wrong. Over these two weeks, I made mental and physical notes about what I was seeing.

The list of common glioblastoma symptoms include: headache, nausea, vomiting, confusion or decline in brain function, memory loss, personality changes, irritability, difficulty with balance, urinary incontinence, and vision issues (Mayo Clinic, 2018).

This is what I saw:

  • He’d nod off in the morning before leaving for work, after a full night’s sleep
  • He’d come in early from work and fall asleep in the chair, sometimes around 1:30 or 2 pm
  • He began driving 10-15 mph below the speed limit; before, he drove a teensy bit on the faster side
  • When driving, he seemed to be not in a fog, but behaved as if he was processing, thinking, or concentrating more. There was an air about him that wasn’t typical.
  • He started not completing simple tasks, such as closing doors. Picture each and every type of door or cupboard in your home left open. Garage doors, house doors, freezer door, vehicle doors…all had been left open.
  • He was confused in conversation, forgetting things I’d told him previously
  • He began misplacing his wallet, keys, or glasses on a regular basis
  • He’d pour a glass of milk, place it on the counter, and then pour another, forgetting the first
  • Plates and dishes held in his left hand were tilted, and food would fall off
  • Once, walking down the two deck steps, he nearly stumbled
  • Over the previous months, he began sleeping a lot longer each night than ever before. He used to go on six hours and work a full day without issue.
  • He seemed to move in slow motion. This one is hard to describe. He got in and out of the truck slower, he walked slower, he moved slower. He’s always had a lot of energy, so the slowness didn’t make sense.
  • The bank called one day after we’d stopped by to deposit a couple of business checks. An addition error had been made. He’s always excelled at math.

Of the ten symptoms listed by the Mayo clinic, Bruce had three. He showed confusion, short-term memory loss, and balance issues. That’s it. 

Think about that. Bruce never had a headache, never had a seizure, and there was no nausea or vomiting. Bruce only had three symptoms on their list.

Yet, from my perspective, nothing added up. This wasn’t my Bruce. These symptoms came on fast and while none were severe, there were many and they persisted. The sudden onset had me reeling. Something told me I was about to become a squeaky wheel.

This seems like a good place to stop. I’ll continue with our journey in Brain Cancer: Atypical symptoms, Part II. Bruce was far from being out of the woods.

A diagnosis of glioblastoma has changed our lives irrevocably. We want to share our story. A couple of months ago I nearly deleted this blog. Now, Finding Merle seems to be the perfect place to open discussions about a very important topic.

Blessings to you, and thank you for reading. ❤


Scenic Montana, Bruce’s favorite vacation spot, 2017

Featured image: Mt. Henry, near Yaak, Montana, 2017.


  8 comments for “Brain Cancer: Atypical symptoms, Part I

  1. December 22, 2018 at 3:45 pm

    I’m glad your sharing Bruce’s story!

    Liked by 1 person

    • December 23, 2018 at 1:32 pm

      Thank you, Ann. He is, too. ❤


  2. Susan
    December 22, 2018 at 2:43 pm

    Thank you for sharing your experience. I know it will help others, and I hope it will help you and Bruce.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. December 21, 2018 at 8:52 pm

    Keep writing. It’s important.

    Liked by 1 person

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