Cardiac Myxoma

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They rubbed that weird, phallic object with the flat tip across his chest like it was going to do something. The doctor and his mom stared at that blueish, purply screen like it meant something. Like it wasn't all hieroglyphs and runes. And his mom had her furrowed brow and hand against her mouth like she knew something.

For something called an "ultrasound," the process was eerily quiet. Just cold instruments in a cold room against cold skin, waiting for some message from a clean, inscrutable machine. Here, laying on a steel bed in a claustrophobic room, thirty feet above the tarmac estuaries feeding a river of cars into parking lot oceans, Tim felt like it all missed some semblance of living that he couldn't put his finger on.

"Mm," the doctor let out some some low hum, like something clicked. Tim raised his eyebrows at him, inviting him to share the news. "It's hard to draw conclusions from this ultrasound. We may need to do an x-ray."

"Do we?" Mrs. Wilson's stare was unchanged. Only some subtle distance closed between her nose and her brow. The doctor tried eye contact, but failed to keep her gaze. "Well, what does it look like?"

The doctor sighed. "I'd rather not worry you unnecessarily —"

"With all due respect, doctor, if you'd rather I not worry, then you could start by telling me what's wrong with my son."

He seemed to weigh his options. Tim turned his head back to the window. All of this in here. All of that out there. Laying on the bed for this long, he felt nearly weightless. Like he could just swim to the window and drift out.

"It looks like a growth in the left chamber of his heart." That got Tim's attention. His head snapped back around, and his arms pushed his torso off of the mattress.

"A tumor?" the boy asked.

His mom was quick to put her hand over his left shoulder, and press her forearm down gently across his chest, easing him back into a supine position.

"More than likely," the doctor replied.

"Cardiac myxoma," his mom supplied.

The doctor nodded. "Left atrial cardiac myxoma," he specified. "Sounds like you're familiar?"

Mrs. Wilson nodded. "My mother had it, and her father died of undiagnosed heart complications. I don't think an x-ray will be necessary."

"Tumor in my heart," Tim repeated under his breath. His mom just kept nodding to herself, like it all made sense. Tim huffed, and a bewildered smirk came across his face. "Well, doctor, that's a little scary, isn't it?"

"I understand if you and your mother need some time to process —"

"No, no don't leave until you've given me some idea what to expect."

"Right. Well, from what I could see, it is difficult to tell from just an ultrasound, but the growth looked to be nearest to the aortic valve. Constricting this opening would lead to strained blood flow. Have you always had some difficulty with exertion?"

"We really started to notice it in middle school," his mom answered for him.

The doctor just nodded. "Right. Then we can assume the growth isn't new, which is typical for familial myxomas. They show symptoms much earlier in life. That is good, because that means it can't be imminently life-threatening or else you would know by now. What you can expect, however, is shortness of breath, difficulty with exertion. In your case, it sounds like you fainted from swimming?"

"I was floating, actually."

"Were you stressed? Scared?"

"Excited," Tim smiled.

"That can have a similar effect. Anything that increases your heartrate can make you feel woozy or unstable. Fainting is not uncommon. Other symptoms may include chest pain, cold extremities, breathing difficulty when sleeping…"

"Will it get worse?"

The doctor took a deep breath through the nose. "Well, generally as one ages and the body naturally deteriorates, the effects of something like this could worsen. Your chances of heart failure or embolism will —"


"Blood clot," Mrs. Wilson explained.

"— will increase with age."

"Treatments?" Tim asked.

Mrs. Wilson shook her head.

"The only way to remove a tumor is surgery," the doctor filled in.

Silence. Tim put a hand over his chest. Da-dum, da-dum. A smile crept across his lips. "I can't wait to see the face on Mr. Blau."

"Dear —"

"He's gonna eat it so hard in front of the rest of the teens, and I'm gonna get to watch them run laps from a cozy little seat and laugh."

"Tim, now's not the time!"

Tim rolled his eyes and shook his head. "Mom, cool it, I'm fine."

"You're not fine. Dr. Mauvais, I would like some time alone with my son."

"Of course." He stood from his chair, and made his way to the door. "I will be in the hall." The clandestine white door squeaked behind him, and then ker-chunked into place, flush with the wall, colorless and thus lifeless, like this whole damn building.

"Dear." Tim met her eyes. "You need to take this seriously."

"I am taking this seriously. He says it's benign."

"That doesn't mean it can't grow, that just means it won't spread."


"Tim. I love you, but you're worrying me. You just heard of a tumor in your heart, and in seconds you're here joking about P.E.!"

"It's true! He's going to look like such a fool, all my thirteen minute miles are going to become A's —"

"You're not hearing me."

"I am hearing you, it's just…" Tim struggled to put his thoughts into words. He wasn't old enough yet to give articulation to the bottomless meaninglessness that pervaded through this whole interaction. He hadn't the power to enlighten Edna to the poetry that the beauty of life made him faint — that his heart made him dizzy with the wonders of a passing seal. He didn't yet have a name for his philosophy of life, he didn't yet know why a sooner death didn't worry him. All he knew is that his mother's concerns were annoying, and he wanted nothing more than for her to stop worrying so much. Stop sweating the small stuff. He felt like there was some semblance of life she was missing here.

He sighed, and his hands wiggled in the air, looking for some gesture to realize his exasperation. Instead, he gave in. "Okay. What do you want me to seriously consider."

She took his hand in her left, and then covered it with her right, gently rubbing between the knuckles. "You're going to need to have a surgery."


"Don't Mom me."

"We don't have the money."

"We have insurance, dear."

"Not for this we don't!"

The room fell back into silence. Tim didn't know much about finances, and he wouldn't for almost a decade more, but he knew his parents weren't wealthy, and he knew that a heart surgery would be devastating.

His mom's long pause let Tim confirm his accuracy. He knew she'd hate it, but he couldn't help from smiling again. "Look, it's benign, I'm young. I'll get that surgery. When I have a job, and I can afford it. Right then and there I'll get it. Alright?"

She swallowed. "Dad and I, we'll save up money —"

"Please, don't," he chuckled. "Mom, hear me out, please?"

"I really don't see how this is at all in question."

"It's not! Mom," Tim sat himself up, even as Mrs. Wilson's expression twitched in protest, "just let me get through college first. Alright? I know you and Dad don't like talking about it, about saving up for me, but that's where all the money should go. And then I'll have a job out of college, and then we can all pitch in. But for you and Dad to try to cobble together the funds for both at once? That's crazy!"

Mrs. Wilson opened her mouth, but held her tongue.

"Just through college first," Tim guided.

She pursed her lips. "We'll have to talk to Dad about it. But no strenuous activities, and you're under the knife the moment symptoms get worse."

Tim's grin showed teeth. "Love you too, Mom."

Da-dum, da-dum, da-dum.

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