- Associated Press - Saturday, September 16, 2017

ABERDEEN, S.D. (AP) - When Briston Bruce went to the doctor to find out what was causing his migraines, he wound up with a surprise diagnosis.

The doctor was simply going to give him some medication to treat the pain and nausea and send Bruce home, the Aberdeen News reported . But his mom, Linda Bruce, pushed the physician to do a little more digging because it wasn’t normal for her son to get migraines.

A CT scan that revealed a tennis ball-sized mass in his brain, and the tumor had to be extracted immediately.

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Lillie Bruce, 24, said her husband is recovering from emergency surgery and anxiously waiting for the day he can return to work as a patrol officer for the Aberdeen Police Department. He’s been on the force about a year and a half and is one of the DARE - Drug Abuse Resistance Education - instructors at local schools.

Briston Bruce, 22, said the tumor was an unexpected obstacle that he’s tackling head-on, not knowing what the future holds.

What he knew when he had surgery Sept. 2 was that the tumor was blocking the drainage of fluids from his brain. That, he said, was causing the migraines.

“The risks of surgery were less than keeping it in,” he said.

When the surgery was done, he said, doctors told him they were able to remove about 65 percent of the tumor. They said there was a “pretty good chance” it would be benign, but that they’d have to run some tests to be sure.

It’s not yet known whether the tumor is cancerous.

Lillie recalled hearing the news that her husband had the tumor from her dad, James Johnson. He had called to say he was on the way over and advised her to get off the phone.

She works from home as a claims examiner and spends much of her time on the phone.

Such news is tough on any young couple, but even harder to explain to kids. The Bruces have three children - Natalie, 5; Liam, 3, and Benjamin, 1.

At first, Lillie said, she wasn’t worried about her husband going to the doctor since he was the third person in the house to get sick.

Ultimately, though, she and Briston had to explain to the kids that Daddy had something broken that needed to be fixed.

“One thing I always tell my kids is I’m unbreakable,” he said, recalling having to remind his 5-year-old of that very fact right before surgery.

Liam, who was recovering from a broken arm, wasn’t thrilled that his dad was hurt.

Lillie said her son’s reaction was, “Dad, you can’t have a broken head. I just got my chicken wing fixed.”

Briston said he wasn’t scared for himself, but he was for his family. He worried about the surgery and whether he would wake up with a different personality.

“It’s definitely kind of a life-shattering thing,” Lillie said.

While Briston Bruce was recovering from surgery in Sioux Falls, his co-workers were lending a hand with some landscaping. The Bruces’ backyard had been tilled with plans to seed it when folks from the police department cut down the weeds, planted grass and put up a tent as a makeshift shed. They still have plans to pour concrete for an air conditioning unit.

“We finally have the support system we never knew existed,” Lillie said.

Co-workers have even set up a GoFundMe account to help the Bruces offset medical expenses.

Briston said it could be six weeks before he returns to work.

The Bruces moved from Aberdeen to Rapid City to start their family before moving back home when he took a job with the police department.

In an odd coincidence, the couple already had time off last week. The Bruces planned to take Briston’s mother to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. Instead, she ended up in Sioux Falls for her son’s surgery before heading to Minnesota for her own medical procedures.

While the need for surgery was a surprise, a bigger surprise was in store at the hospital in Sioux Falls, Briston said.

Divorced since 2009, his parents, Linda Bruce and James Bruce, were both at the hospital with his sisters, Sierra Yang and Shandi Bruce, and his brother, Brandon Bruce. Briston said his father’s and brother’s relationship has been strained since the divorce, but something changed the weekend of surgery and James and Brandon Bruce are now talking.

“I can’t reiterate enough how (God) took something bad and made something good come out of it,” Briston said recalling the joy he felt when he came out of surgery and heard that his parents and brother went to lunch together.

Bruce said the experience has been a renewal of faith, and he’ll only come out stronger at the other end - both physically and spiritually.


Information from: Aberdeen American News, https://www.aberdeennews.com

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