Bing Crosby: “Accentuate the Positive”
The Zen of Groucho: “I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I’m going to be happy in it.”
Tuesday, December 6th, 2011
DHMC, Norris Cotton Cancer Center, Lebanon, NH
As if being pelted by hundreds of bean bags, the feeling of being pounded upon and the welling up of tears came out of nowhere. When these moments occur, as they seem to with increased frequency, there is no better metaphor than a tsunami wave. I see myself standing on a beach, hypnotized as many become, by what is about to occur. I know it’s coming and there is no way to stop the wave. And then it comes and I am buried, drowning, tossed about in the churn of detritus and darkened waters. The waves usually form when I am alone, walking in the woods, driving in the car or running into a friend who has been or is going through the same ordeal. Words need not be spoken. The water drowns out the sound anyway.
I had to stand up from where I was sitting and walk across the room to the sink. It was too much, all of “this.” I stood there, back to Barb and our fantastic nurse practitioner, Roberta Silveira, APRN, MSC, and gathered myself, holding the sobs at bay. The news was good and so were the tears. Bloodwork was fine, with an elevated white blood cell count as a result of the continued healing from radiation. The MRI, (an amazingly beneficial instrument with its share of claustrophobic and aural torture) which took about an hour, revealed no indication of new cancer cell growth. While such growth would have been highly unlikely anyway so soon after the surgeries and radiation, the scans looked good. As you can see from the images, I also have a nice empty space in my head. I was expecting to see a mouse on a wheel. It is now filled with cerebral spinal fluid, or so I am led to believe. The amazing elastic brain.
My “team” consisting of Roberta and the equally amazing neuro-oncologist, Dr. Fadul have been, and will continue to be, my caretakers. I am lucky to have such magnificent, human, humane people in my life.
This most recent MRI will now be the baseline, the “new normal,” for all MRIs to follow. I will have an MRI every two to three months for the next year or so, given the aggressive stage III and relatively unknown nature of this kind of brain cancer in adults. (anaplastic ependymoma)
I have asked for the installation of a USB hub in the back of my head but have yet to find any willing parties. I was hoping I could simply store information on various flash drives: film, photos, music. databases for work, etc. My guess is that this notion is not that far off from soon becoming a reality. Imagine the possibilities. Cooking? “Where is my Italian cuisine flashdrive?” Or better yet, forget the USB and just go wireless and use the “cloud.”
This “bad craziness” as a friend used to call our lives, has certainly focused new and captivating attention on elements of life which prior held only fleeting interest, namely cancer and the brain.
On a historical level, as far as the brain is concerned, images which come to mind are those of the pseudo-science of phrenology and those fantastical maps.
“The basic idea upon which phrenology rests is that the form of the head represents the form of the brain and thus reflects the brain’s relative development. The Austrian physician Franz Joseph Gall—very much interested in the works on physiognomy by the Italian Renaissance scholar Giambattista Della Porta—formulated his phrenologic theory at the end of the eighteenth century.
At the beginning of the nineteenth century interest in phrenology grew rapidly. People used the advice of phrenologists for all sorts of things, including the diagnosis of mental illness or psychological afflictions. Phrenology seriously attracted the likes of G. W. F. Hegel, Honoré de Balzac, the Brontë sisters, George Eliot, James Garfield, Thomas Edison, Walt Whitman, and Queen Victoria.” SOURCE: University of Missouri
On a whole other level, a must-see are the images collected by Dr. Carl Schoonover in Portraits of the Mind. When I look at the empty space in my brain, I am startled by its ability to modify and compensate. I have mentioned before and will again the book “The Brain That Changes Itself” by Dr. Norman Doidge which aptly addresses the incredible elasticity and compensatory abilities of the brain.
In the meantime, after four months of terror, tears, fear, hope, despair, joy, and love (in no particular order) we learn to wait with the weight of this devilish, beguiling disease. I continue to try to find new footing as I wrestle with headaches, insomnia and coping with this new reality. My depth of gratitude for the support and love from friends, family and community is without end. I will carry on. We will carry on. Smile. Laugh. Love.