For his 23rd birthday, Asher Deaver is getting brain surgery. Doctors will be removing a tumor the size of a tangerine from his temporal lobe, and because that’s the part of the brain where speech and comprehension take place, he’ll be awake for the whole process.
Deaver, now 22, is a talented woodworker, crafting handmade one-of-a-kind furniture pieces at Marian Built, a woodworking shop in Ballard. On top of that, he’s a musician, on the verge of recording an album (here’s a link to his original, “The Way it Goes”). He’s also a cook at Kiss Cafe, a cozy sandwich shop in east Ballard. The last week of July will be a big week for him: he turns 23 on the 23rd, will attend a fundraiser for his surgery on the 27th at Kiss Cafe, and on the 30th, he’ll be ridding himself of a tumor that’s likely been growing for seven years.
When Deaver was just 15, he was swimming with his brother and some friends near his home in Arizona. “When I got back to the shore, I felt super dizzy and weird, and just…woke up. Apparently I’d passed out and had a seizure,” Deaver remembers, while he sits on the back porch of his home in Magnolia. “And, I didn’t go to the hospital, which was a terrible idea.”
Deaver chalked it up to the heat, or overexertion, and went on with his life. But then it happened again, when he was 19, riding his bike on a hot day in Tuscon. “Again, I woke up on the ground, and I didn’t go to the hospital,” he says, shaking his head. “I had no health insurance, and thought it was probably just too hot out. I explained it away.”
But just a few months ago at his brother’s wedding in Arizona, Deaver had an experience that served as a wake-up call. He was out on a short hike with his brother-in-law, and says he felt incredibly dizzy, sat down, and woke up to see paramedics hovering over him. He’d apparently been out for 20 minutes. “At that point I knew I needed to go to the hospital.” He went to the emergency room, and doctors gave him medication for epilepsy. But when he returned to Seattle, he decided it was time to see a specialist, and made an appointment at Swedish Hospital.
“I got the scans done, and after a couple days, they called me up, and said they wanted me to go in. That’s when I knew something was going on.” When he heard the word tumor, Deaver said he wasn’t the least bit surprised. “Of course that’s what it is. I knew something was up,” he admitted. He says for the last several years he’s been experiencing what doctors call absence seizures, which Deaver describes as moments where he couldn’t quite comprehend what people were saying to him. Sometimes they’d happen several times a day, and other times, he wouldn’t have one for months. In the back of his mind, he knew there was something big going on. “I suppose it was one of those things where I knew I had a problem, but I were to go to a doctor, I would have to deal with the problem…it was easier to just pass it off.”
Doctors are hopeful the tumor is benign, saying the seizure when he was 15 could have been when the tumor starting growing (typically slow-growing tumors are benign). However, nothing is certain until they do surgery. “The thing they’re most worried about is if they don’t do surgery, it will get bigger, shift stuff around, cut off nerves, and one day I won’t be able to talk or comprehend,” Deaver explains. “That’s the same fear with the surgery. Since it’s so close, they could just hit something, and there you go, I can never talk again. So, that’s a little bit scary,” he admits.
Deaver’s outlook is remarkably positive, saying his situation is forcing him to let go of the little things, and focus on what’s important. “Little things don’t matter, and a lot of the big things don’t matter, either,” he says. “Just the thought that maybe a month from now, I won’t be able to talk again is terrifying, but also laughable. It’s one of those things I would have never expected.” Despite that, he says there’s no use dwelling on it. “If it happens, then there you go, I’ll just deal with it.”
After the surgery, he’ll be out of work for about a month, recovering. Luckily, Deaver has health insurance to cover most of the costs of the surgery, but being out of work and extra doctor visits means he’ll be spending upwards of $12,000. Just a few days after telling his close friends and family of the news, Deaver’s friend Courtney Andrews set up an online fundraiser through Indiegogo to help fundraise for his medical bills. By the time Andrews told him about it, it already had raised almost $2,000. Now, it’s up to over $7,000 with almost 100 backers.
“It just blew me away,” he says of the response. “It’s very humbling, and pretty embarrassing. Everyone has problems, I don’t want to seem like, ‘oh this is my problem, everybody help me.’ I don’t feel entitled to people helping me. But like I said, it’s humbling to see so many people donating money and emailing and just sending good thoughts my way.” It doesn’t stop there; Deaver’s friends are offering to donate everything from music albums to baked goods, artwork and homemade jewelry boxes as gifts for people who donate to the Indiegogo fundraiser.
The Kiss Cafe is also hosting a fundraiser for Deaver on July 27. There will be live music, raffle prizes and silent and live auctions. To learn more about the fundraiser or to RSVP, visit the Facebook page about the event. To donate to his fund, click here for his Indiegogo page.
“It just kind of slaps you,” Deaver says of his situation. He says it’s making him pursue things he’s only ever dreamed about. “Maybe that’s why I’m not dwelling on it, or angry about it. It’s just something that had to happen.”