In the weeks after the mass shooting in Arizona in early January, the question in newsrooms and kitchens alike was: How long would it take Gabrielle Giffords to recover and could she ever hope to return to work in the U.S. Congress?
Never mind that she had survived a gunshot to her head at point blank range, we still wanted to know: How long? Six to nine months? Eight to 10 weeks? Years?
These were the same questions asked during my own medical crisis some 20 years earlier. I remember waking up in an emergency room and hearing talk of seizures (seven) and a brain tumor. Subsequent MRI & CT scans would confirm a tennis ball-sized mass.
The how long questions and answers I heard in the days that followed were hard to swallow. Among them one stands out: Six months to a year and a half was the answer. The question was not about recovery time but how long I could expect to live. The consensus by several doctors was the tumor was malignant.
People involved in traumatic events like that day in Tucson often speak of how things unfold in slow motion. That day in the hospital was no different for me. As a neurologist broke the news, it became very quiet. Even as he continued to speak, quiet. I didn’t cry, I didn’t say a word.