As Funny as a Brain Tumor! Part 4

Hello again!  Where was I?  Oh yeah, around this time, my younger brother came out to visit me from Buffalo NY.  I hadn’t seen him in awhile and he decided to come out to Boston for a visit.  We had a lot of fun while he was here but the one thing I remember was that the whole time he was here he kept saying things like “What?”,  “What did you say?”,  “Repeat that?”,  “Excuse me?” ……….I was starting to get a bit worried that maybe my brother was losing his hearing!

Finally, near the end of his visit,  I remember he talked to me about enunciating my words.    He asked me to repeat what I had just said and he pointed out that my speech was all slurred and mumbled.  I wasn’t pronouncing my consonants with good diction, he said.  He kept having me say the same phrase over and over again as I tried to use “proper diction”.  Needless to say, I failed the diction lesson in his eyes.  I just couldn’t say the words correctly.  Every time I said the sentence it was slurred, mumbled and hard to understand.   Finally,  he said  “What’s up with you, bro?”  “Just pronounce your words!”   He went home soon after that and I really didn’t think too much of this incident at the time.  No one had ever talked to me about my diction up to this point in my life. The guys I lived with never noticed it or said anything.  The people I worked with never said anything.    It took someone like my brother visiting (who hadn’t seen me in a long time) to notice that I wasn’t speaking like I ought to.

Another story that I just have to interject into the timeline here is the time I had to fire an employee from my store.  Up to this point, I had plenty of experience with firing bad employees.  I fired them for stealing, for not showing up for their shift, for treating customers badly and for just not doing their jobs.  In this one instance, I had to fire an employee who just didn’t do a good job.  He was just lazy in my view.  He worked the midnight-8AM shift which was usually the slowest shift in the store.  That was the time that most of the cleaning could be done.

Every morning I would come in at 8AM and the store should have been clean.  Parking lot swept, trash emptied, coffee area clean and stocked, etc……  Every morning I came in after this guys shift,  the store looked like a bomb had gone off.  Trash all over the place, trash cans over flowing, no coffee supplies stocked, etc……After a few fruitless talks and warning to this employee, I decided I had to fire him.

This was me, but laughing hysterically while doing it! (Little did I know Donald Trump would become president when I wrote this…..)

I called him in my office and proceeded with my “You’re fired” talk.  I had it down by this point in my managing career.  I was like Donald Trump on the Apprentice!  The problem this time though is that I was laughing hysterically while I was giving him the “You’re fired” speech. This guy did not appreciate that one bit.  Matter of fact, I think he took my laughing at his bad situation as a personal insult.  He got incredibly mad and confrontational with me.  I don’t remember the string of insults he yelled at me in my small office but I do remember the last thing he yelled as he left and slammed my door.   “YOU’RE A DICK! F*** YOU!”  SLAM!  Although I felt bad that he took my laughing personally, I continued to laugh alone in my office as he left the store.

The last symptom I remember happened while I was driving to work one morning.  I remember exactly where I was, right in front of LensCrafters on Rt. 16 in Medford Massachusetts.  I was just driving along looking at the road and the traffic ahead of me when suddenly everything doubled.  I SAW TWO OF EVERYTHING!  Two of every car, two Dunkin Donuts signs, two Lenscrafter signs, two of everything………. I  was a bit startled and shocked.  I shook my head and it returned to normal.  I remember thinking “That’s weird!” and then just went on with my day.  It didn’t happen again that day or the next so I just thought it was just some weird random occurrence.

This is basically what I saw when looking at my hand. Imagine driving like this!

A few days later,  it happened again, lasted a few seconds and again went away.  It then started happening more often, about once a day.  It would only last a few seconds and then go back to normal again.  Finally,  it started happening more often. About 2-3 times a day on average.  At this point, I thought I needed to get some professional help from some experts! (I know what you’re thinking, “It’s about time! You live in Boston where some of the top minds in the medical field work.”  Well, I did what any smart, intelligent, twenty something young man would do with vision problems……You guessed it, I went to LensCrafters!

Lenscrafters, for all your neurological issues…..

Now this visit to LensCrafters (they make eye glasses here in the U.S.) deserves a few paragraphs of it’s own because it was quite the experience.  I walked into the store and asked the receptionist for an appointment to get my eyes checked out.  I was laughing the whole time I was talking to her, shaking and bouncing up and down like Tickle Me Elmo.  She first asked me “What are you laughing at?” and secondly  “Are you having any vision problems?”.   To answer her first question,  I skillfully lied and told her I had heard a funny thing on the radio as I was driving there.  She looked at me skeptically……  I then answered her second question,  by telling her that a couple times a day I was seeing double and then it would go back to normal.  She called the Optometrist in the back and I repeated what I had told the receptionist to her also.  They both looked at me like that was a bit strange (I was still laughing and giggling at the funny thing I had heard on the radio while they stared at me……..).

The Optometrist told me she could perform an eye test on me.  I followed her to the back room and proceeded with my eye test.  My vision was fine when I read off the chart and things were going smoothly but the next part of the eye test didn’t go so well.  She asked me to sit in this contraption and put my chin on a chin rest while she looked into my eyes. Now,  any of you who have had eye tests before have probably done this and know that you have to sit pretty still for them to look into your eyes.  I could not do that.  I started laughing and shaking so badly that the  whole device started shaking.  She told me to “Please try to sit still” a number of times but every time I was just laughing harder and harder.

Finally, I was laughing so hard that I had to get off the machine and I’m doubled over laughing.  After a few minutes, I’m starting to regain my composure and we try again.  I’m heading towards the machine and I’m doing good.  I’m serious!  “I can do this!” I tell myself.   I sit down and put my chin in the chin rest and the whole time I’m thinking “Be serious! You can do this! Don’t laugh! Do not laugh! DO NOT LAUGH!”  I’m holding my mouth shut as tight as I can trying to hold my breath.  I start to feel the laughter coming.  I can’t hold it back!   I start shaking and shaking and finally explode into a extremely loud outburst of laughing that makes the Optometrist jump out of her chair.

She sits back down and we try again,  she is finally able to look into my eyes and tells me she doesn’t see anything wrong with them. At this point,  she was suppose to do another test where you sit in a chair and this machine blows a puff of air into your eyes but I think she gave up on that idea after seeing how I acted for the first test.  She asked me about my laughing and how long I had been doing that for.  She looked at my chart from the last time I was there and said that if I had done that the last time she would have made a note on the chart so she concluded that this was something new and that coupled with my double vision I should go see a Neurologist.  She said it sounded like something to do with my brain.  I still remember leaving the “LensCrafters” and seeing both the Optometrist and the Receptionist standing at the window waving to me with these concerned looks on their faces.  In retrospect, who would have ever guessed that I would get the best medical advice I could ask for from a “LensCrafters”……………

Now at this point,  you are waiting for my next paragraph to  read that I immediately went to the local hospital to see a Neurologist.  Right?  Well……..I didn’t do that.  I can’t remember why or what I was thinking but even though I was a bit worried,  I think I thought if I didn’t go then it would just go away and I would be fine. I think they call this “DENIAL!”  Well, I had it big time.

About five days later, I went out to a Chinese restaurant with a good musician friend of mine and the result of that dinner just might have saved my life.  I’ll tell you about that in Part 5.

Steve About Steve

Steve Neff has been playing and teaching saxophone and jazz improvisation around the New England area for the last 30 years. He is the author of many effective jazz improvisation methods as well as founding the popular jazz video lesson site


  1. Dude! Leaving me hangin’ here!! 😉
    I’m riveted Steve. And the more I read, the more I’m glad it’s you that I’m hearing this story from.

  2. …and NOT somebody else on your behalf (is what I meant by that).

  3. Avatar Sonia Dickson says

    Wow Steve,
    I’m totally rivited by your story and very, very glad that you are around to tell it!

  4. Avatar Barbara Garofano says

    Wow, can’t believe your leaving me hanging here. I am rivited by your story also.
    I know someone that just had a brain tumor removed, so I need to read the rest of your story now. I guess I have to be patient, along with everybody else.

    • Sorry. I can only type so much with my arms and hands as I can sometimes have problems with tendonitis. I’ll try to get to it soon. Steve

  5. Avatar Barbara Garofano says

    No worries. Take your time, I am looking forward to reading the rest of your story.
    I am happy also that you are here to tell your story.


  1. […] continue later in Part 4.  See you next time………….I have to go to the bathroom!  : […]

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