Meredith Mortimer, wife and caregiver to Navy Wounded Warrior (NWW) – Safe Harbor enrollee Lt. Travis Mortimer, shares her powerful story with NWW as a contribution to Warrior Care Month, bringing awareness to the selfless dedication of caregivers.
My husband, Travis, was retiring from the Navy in a few months and we were eager to start the next chapter of our lives. It was the beginning of the summer and we just moved to our new town. Everything was new and exciting for us. But all of that stopped the night Travis was taken to hospital by ambulance after having a grand mal seizure. Tests revealed that he had a mass in his brain. Three long weeks later we received the diagnosis that Travis had a malignant brain tumor, grade 3. I was stunned and felt like a huge weight had been placed on my shoulders. I felt a rush of emotions. I cried. How could this possibly be happening to him? This is so unfair! What are we going to do? I worried that our children would have to grow up without their father. Fortunately, he took the news better than I did and kept a level head. Unlike me, he didn’t immediately think the worst. He said he was going to beat this and that everything would be alright. As usual, he was my rock.
The summer was a whirlwind of hospital stays, surgeries, doctor’s appointments, and trips to the pharmacy. There were countless phone calls to doctors and the insurance company for referrals. This didn’t leave much time for anything else. Since we were new to the area, we didn’t know that many people yet, however, we received an outpouring of help from our church family. People we didn’t know volunteered to bring us meals and babysit our children. It was a wonderful blessing to our family. We also had family members who volunteered to take our children for a few weeks while all of the turmoil was going on –we each drove five hours to meet in order to hand off the children. It was sad for me to see them go, but it was a huge relief to know they would be able to have some fun and not have to worry so much about their dad. He wasn’t his normal self and they weren’t used to seeing him like that. Their dad is larger than life, strong, and always takes care of business. This dad is subdued, weak, and in bed all of the time.
A couple of weeks later, Travis was able to receive treatment at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Fla. It was reassuring to know he was being treated by some of the best cancer doctors in the world. He saw a neuro oncologist, Dr. Solmaz Sahabjem, who confirmed the cancer diagnosis. She insisted that Travis would need to have the brain tumor removed if he wanted to have a chance at a longer life. We learned that being diagnosed with a brain tumor does not necessarily mean it is a death sentence. The doctors assured him that once the brain tumor was removed, the chances were much better for him to have a good quality of life and possibly have decades to live. We were relieved to hear that and wanted to proceed with surgery without hesitation. Neuro surgeon Dr. Arnold Etame performed an awake craniotomy resection, which was a five-hour surgery, to remove the tumor. We trusted in him completely. I am grateful it was a success, and for Dr. Etame’s ability to give my husband a second chance at life.
It has been almost three months since Travis’s surgery and he is doing well, considering all that he has been through. There is always a chance the brain tumor will come back, so he must have regular chemotherapy treatments and follow up to monitor any new growth. Life will never be able to go back to normal again, but our whole family is adjusting and learning to accept what is now our new normal.”
Editor’s note: NWW is the Navy’s sole organization for coordinating the non-medical care of seriously wounded, ill and injured Sailors and Coast Guardsman, providing resources and support to their families and caregivers. Caregivers are critically important to the recovery and rehabilitation of wounded warriors.