Chief Complaint: Brain Tumor

Chief Complaint: Brain Tumor

Author: John Kerastas


Solving a puzzle and putting the pieces within the frame might seem like child’s play. Each puzzle is unique unto itself and the pieces are specifically shaped to fit within the confines of the outlines drawn in simple and beginner puzzles and smaller, more detailed and delicate on the more intricate and elaborate ones. But, no matter what kind of puzzle it might be the end result is that you complete it and the picture created resembles what is on the cover of the box. Not all puzzles are quite that simple to complete or finish. Some require finding the answers to hidden clues, mysterious happenings and strange events. You might say that sometimes these mysteries require a detective or even a researcher to find out what is causing the problems, the symptoms that a suspect of person exhibits or in this case the changes in vision that one man is experiencing but has decided to table or not seek answers for so that his puzzle will stay unfinished until he’ ready to sort out the small pieces in order to find out what the big picture on the front cover might be. Chief Complaint: Brain Tumor: let’s find out just how our author learned what was happening beneath the hidden recesses of his mind, why his vision seemed to be impaired and why driving a car was becoming not only a hazard to his family and himself but his poor car too.


Before our author would even consider going to the doctor he decided to do some research on his own to start the ball rolling to find out what might be causing his vision problems and what he can discount. He did not have seizures. He did not have headaches. He did not have mental or personality changes. He did not seem to have the basic symptoms of what he would later learn to be a Brain Tumor. He did not have memory problems. But, his right eye seemed to be the culprit. For some reason in the right vertical third of his right eye he states he saw, “ a cascading series of irregular images that looked straight out of a 60’s movie hallucination sequence.” But, the rest of his right eye and his left eye had no problems and his vision and what he saw was like the everyone else.


Putting off till tomorrow what you should have done today helps many people not deal with the inevitable. Minor problems slip under the mass rug and the major ones like these amoebas appearing take the spotlight but have yet to be addressed. You just pretend they are not there or you call them floaters. However, in his case whatever they were would interrupt his train of thought and cause him to lose concentration. But, this did not send him calling for an immediate appointment to see his doctor. Just like most people he decided to put off the appointment. In this way eh would not have to deal with the bad or good news regarding his health. Whether this makes sense or not he went with it until well you guessed it, he could not ignore it any longer. People are busy and most often do not want to stop and interrupt their busy routines, take time off from work to deal with what would come back at him as the startling truth. So, he put it off until he couldn’t.

Serious health issues do not evaporate, vaporize or disintegrate or even vanish. Some can be cured and others require surgery or more treatment. There are those that decide that the bad news as he states can wait a few more days and it won’t make a difference except when those few days turn into weeks and months. Whether it is peace of mind, fear or as he states the calm before the impending storm, whatever it is just might go away by itself, except when it does not.


Next, the author created a poem dealing with his illness that really says it all and showcases his great sense of humor. Putting his monetary affairs was next as he explained that had nothing to do with having an affair with another woman, which he never did. Let’s get that straight. But, to show that he really was trying to handle this in an adult manner but keep his mind active and his sense of fun in tact he shares his will with readers. Cemetery plots are next and of course the final accounting of who gets it all.


First step he survived the operation but the next step was hysterical. Deciding he could go to the bathroom without assistance you might say brought in the cavalry and definitely got nurse don’t bother me in a thither.


Not wanting to read and hoping to pass the time our creative author became addicted to HGTV. Now, don’t tell me you never watched Design on a Dime or House Hunters. So, he watched until they brought him a real treat: green Jell-O not my favorite either. Next, he decided to deal with a real medical problem that he had which was partial blindness.



Sharing his experiences when he first arrives home, how he deals with his family and why his wife created rules that he had to break, you not only get to know John but realize how hard he was working to get his life back in order to be more independent. From listening and choosing the right music to listen to, breaking the rules to use the bathroom at night, (read why and you will definitely agree with what he did,) to being offered a job, John proves that he was not going to ever give up. When his doctor set the goal for him to be walking a mile and half by Dec 2 he was ready to take on the challenge at full speed.


John was determined to get back to normal and with the help of his family and sister, Nancy, a doctor, he would definitely win this battle if he had anything to say about it. When Dr. Rousseau set some goals for him he set three of his own. He wanted to return to his normal activity, which means walking. Next, take advantage of his sister’s doctorial activities and finally regain his normal vision and cognitive skills. John is truly an inspiration for everyone. There are so many people that dwell on the little things, never really appreciate the fact that they are healthy and can learn some really important lessons about values, appreciation and courage from our author. John Kerastas has more fortitude, creativity and courage than most people would after learning that his surgery was somewhat successful but that he had taken a turn for the worse. Still showing signs of blindness in his right eye and now other visual problems in the left plus the added knowledge that he now had some type of infection, changed everything after their Thanksgiving celebration. The end result and what he learns would leave anyone else in a state of depression but not John. What he has to endure and the next phase of surgery you will have to read for yourself to learn just how much courage it took for him to endure more than anyone should and the support he receives from friends and family.


How many people could withstand having someone use a staple on his or her heads and not on paper? How many people would survive that and so much more? But, things changed when his doctor returned from her trip. Imagine wearing a helmet all the time in order to protect your brain. Imagine having to deal with having part of your brain or skull chipped away. So, John has to go through surgery completion, which he describes in detail. He also read many blogs of others how experienced brain tumors, cancer and had to undergo serious surgeries. More time spent in the hospital, doctors trying to rearrange the many doses of medications that worked or did not work to cure his infection. All the while trying not to feel sorry for himself,

His eyesight did not improve, His hope to get a job seem to wane. A brain tumor that he nicknamed the Blob and a man who just wanted to his life backs the way it was before being introduced to the tumor that seemed to like its position and status in his brain and refused to shrink and go away. Just how they replace pieces of your skull I will not share with you as you can read that for yourself in Chapter 6.  But, there is much more as he goes through the next phase of his treatment, deals with many different therapists that would use some therapy of their own in some respects as he learns some valuable lessons about life. Can he drive a car? Will he pass his driving test? Just how amazing is Barbara his wife and his sister Nancy? What happens when there are medication mishaps and jobs that you want to get and hope to in the future? Read this well researched book filled with one man’s real life experience and learn what happens when you refuse to deal with the inevitable, refuse to think you are so ill you won’t survive and realize that one brain tumor is not going to over take your life. Blogging, speaking and writing about his experience proved to be a positive way for John to deal with an impossible situation. For those of you that want to learn more you can read his blog: or better yet read this book.


One man’s journey from start and definitely not finished yet will make you laugh, cry, smile, cheer and realize that rehab is rough, caretakers deserve big hugs and yes laughter and a sense of humor in this case was the best medicine. Chief Complaint: Brain Tumor: If I know John just from reading this book this tumor has no chance of survival against him. Hear his words, listen to his inner most thoughts and find out the new words he wrote to one of my favorite songs: Run Around Sue on pages 110-112.

Fran Lewis: reviewer


Special Real life stories

Mud Puddles and Muscadines: Pat Brannon


Imagine trying to pass a simple eye test and winding up in trouble. What happens when one young girl and her class have to stand on line, wait their turn, read the eye chart and hopefully pass a really simple test? Well, sometimes what seems simple is really more complicated as one young nine year old found out. Medical staff setting up in their home economics class, preconceived attitude that country kids are not that smart and waiting in line forever for her turn to show the world just how smart she really is. Reading each of the charts she had no problem and knew that her answers were correct. But, something happens that backfires on our young author at the time. Reading every single line and not making a mistake would alert the school that she just might have a problem But did she? After all she only wanted to show everyone that she was smart and do her “school proud.” Showing her parents and teachers that she was smart well, she meant well. Unfortunately, the outcome was a trip to an eye specialist. Her poor mother had to take her to the eye doctor, not go to work and of course she felt awful. What happens and what does her mother do at the very end after the next test is administered? Read the story titled “Eye Can See Clearly Now,” by author Pat Brannon to find out not only what happens but also a valuable lesson that all kids should learn. Mud Puddles and Muscadines is a compilation of real life stories told by author Pat Brannon in her own special way.


There are quite a few great stories in this book so I will only spotlight a few. Doyle Franklin was a great man whose kindness and caring way left a lasting impression on Pat. Going to a country school and having to walk miles was not easy. But, Pat did it until she did not have to any more. Doyle Franklin was a bus driver who went out of his way for the students on his bus and whose undying love for Pat made her feel special. Living in the country on a dirt road Pat and her family lived a short distance from her grandmother. Meeting Doyle when he came to visit Ma Baker. Doyle had five kids and wife named Stella Ruth. Pat became friends with his five kids. The families were close and that’s how she started riding on his bus to school in the third grade. But, there is much more to tell. With her parents working in town it was hard for them to drive her to school, it was too far to walk and riding on this bus allowed her to not only get back and forth safely but to get to know this great man. Not only did he make sure she was safely on the bus first, but in Junior High and Senior High School he made sure she got back and forth to her basketball games too. Hating the cold she describes how lucky she was to sit near the heater on the bus and how really great her mother was to plug in the electric blanket to keep her warm when she got home. The author tells more about him, dating one of his sons, basketball and how important it was to her and moving to a new house but what about attending Wonderview School? Just how her family worked this is out is truly amazing. Hear the author’s voice, read her story and find out just why Doyle Franklin was the best bus driver in the world, had a kind heart and believe it or not never complained.


Don’t Touch That Dial is the next story I want to spotlight. Granny Hamm is the center of this story. She is her maternal grandmother someone everyone would love to have as their grandmother too. Definitely independent, freethinker and her own person you might agree with our author when she writes, “ she was the real deal through and through.” Not someone who wanted everyone to do everything for her or be catered to Granny Hamm worked in the fields, raised her kids and even picked cotton, canned her own vegetables and never once complained.


Working hard, making sure she provided for her kids, losing her husband when our author was very young, Granny was special and she states a riot to be around. Sounds like my kind of grandmother. Mary Ellen, the author’s mother was her middle daughter. Pat describes her mom as a real jewel in every sense. What a great way to describe your mother. You can hear the pride in her voice as she tells readers about her mother, her abilities and how proud she was of having her as a parent.


Flashing back to when her grandmother lived with them for a few weeks. Granny lived with them during the week and on the weekend she stayed in her own house to tend to business and go to church. But, Granny was great and every Monday, and you can smell the delicious food as she describes what she brought for them for dinner every Monday. But, the most fun she had was making snow cream with her Granny. Sounds great and awfully cold. But, when her school bus slides into a ditch you have to read what happens and when her parents miss a day of work and she missed school well wait until you read Plan A and knowing our author she had a Plan B too. So, what makes her special: she would play with her and her little brother. She made sure her parents could go to work. She knew all sorts of songs and sang them. She even played I Spy and Jacks with them. These are two great games by the way that my nephews still play when I see them today. Jacks is fun no matter how old you are. Now, Granny would have loved my late sister, Marcia because anyone that loves Ding Dongs and milk would definitely have loved my chocolate loving sister. She loved Ding Dongs and Hostess cupcakes and tons of milk. I on the other hand loved Dolly Madison Ice Cream and coffee. But, Pat understood that her grandmother did not try to slight her but she didn’t bother to buy her apples pies and cokes. So, using the dollar her mother gave her she managed to get her own treats. I told you Pat was enterprising and always had a plan of her own.


Granny was human and she tells the reader when she would get upset or agitated. What her younger brother would do to make her go after him with a fly swatter. That had to be hilarious. Now, if she is anything like my grandmother she loved to watch her soaps. That is when you never ever dared to touch the dial on the set or else! The Young and the Restless, The Edge of Night and my grandmother watched Search for Tomorrow and the Guiding Light. But, things happen and wait until you find out what Pat does. Changing the channel when her grandmother was out of the room. What happens you have to read for yourself and just what she does well wait and find out? But there is much more as the author relates more stories about her Granny, how she knew all of the plots of all of the soaps and what she left with her that no one can take away.


Two poems and a story about Annie Oakley follows but since our author loves Basketball I will spotlight Basketball 101. Moving again to the country meant new friends and a new school. Riding the bus was fun and she loved when they would get stuck in the mud or slide off into a ditch. Retelling us about Doyle Franklin and why riding his bus was the best adds to the story. With her mother close at hand she met her new teacher in the third grade. It is great when an educator makes you feel comfortable and welcome. Even better the author realized and shares with us how important it is to have a teacher that helps raise your self-esteem, treats all of her students special and makes everyone want to come to school. But, what she describes next is right out of things I don’t want to do but volunteered for any way. Two people arrived in her school and wanted to know who would like to play of all things basketball on a peewee team. Now, if you read the first two paragraphs on page 63 you will know exactly how she felt about doing this but you know Pat, she raised her hand and well you guessed it she had to safe face, she had to volunteer and what do you think happened next? You guessed it! Guess who would be on the team? Just how did her team do you won’t learn that from me you have to read that for yourself. Did she grow to love the sport and did they find a coach who just might make them into a winner team?  Her team the Wonderview Daredevils were together for four years under Coach Stafford. What she learned and why the team wanted to do their best for him you will have to read the story for yourself. Hear her voice, the respect she felt and still does for this coach and the memories that are precious. So, where does Basketball 101 fit into this story? To find out the answer to this important question read page 73 and the author will enlighten you herself. Not everything remained the same and things changes. Her message to the coach heartfelt and the ending of the story quite compelling. Each story carries its own message and the poem that starts the book Covers sums it up: Her description of her family, how they dealt with the cold and the warmth beneath the special covers not only creates the warmth and love expressed within the pages of this book but within the hearts and minds of readers too.


Fran Lewis: reviewer