Spring is nature’s way of saying, “Let’s party! – Robin Williams
The brain is hot these days. The continued evolution of our own understanding of the most mysterious and complex of all organs rolls along at a rapid pace. The convergence of biology, chemistry, technology and other realms of knowledge as it relates to the gray and white matter inside our skull rages like so many rivers combining into a (bit?) torrent of information.
In a recent New York Times article there was the news that “The Obama administration is planning a decade-long scientific effort to examine the workings of the human brain and build a comprehensive map of its activity, seeking to do for the brain what the Human Genome Project did for genetics.”
Beneath the twenty-two bones and three membranes lies an organ, the largest of any mammal related to body size, weighing on average around three pounds, with 100 million miles of blood vessels. 100 billion neurons (the gray matter) are organized into 100 trillion total connections. The white matter is made up of dendrons and axons, the network needed for sending signals. The brain is not coiled but folded and if laid out flat would cover about 2.8 square feet. The brain is the fattest organ in the body and is 75% water. I did not know this when I was eating sauteed goat brain in Puerto Rico many moons ago. Yum.
How funny, and not, necessarily, ha ha funny, that I had not thought much of the brain, my brain, or any one else’s for that matter before “this.” One could argue I had not done much thinking to begin with, at least on some level as I bounced and careened through life, a mostly-fun roller coaster ride with rickety wooden Coney-Island rails. Until now. There is nothing like a little humility of ill-health to slap your soul into orbit. And all I can come up with for the moment is “holy smokes I am a lucky man.” It has been a week since surgery and I am up and about albeit some pretty good bouts of headaches and some unsteadiness. But why complain? What would be the point? Barb, my parents, daughters, family, friends and the incredible team at Massachusetts General Hospital were the wind in my sails once again. Perhaps I can sail with a full wind for a while before the next storm.
After brain surgery #3 in two years time, I was mobile two days later, giving the nurses a hard time by pretending to drink from my bedside urinal containing not what was intended but instead apple juice. Unlike several on the Neurosurgical ICU ward, I could talk, see, hear, touch and taste.
After the surgery some of the leading pathologists analyzed the tissue which will be further studied at a genetic level. Some notes:
“Findings consistent with recurring glioma but specific tumor type elusive although trending towards mixed ependymoma/astrcocytic as it would be unusual for ependymoma alone to recur so quickly.”
I will know more when I see my neuro-oncologist next week and discuss results from mutation testing- I believe he will provide a menu of options, including chemotherapy: temozolomide, Avastin, etc.. We shall see.
In the meantime I am moving towards (but not completely) a modified Atkins/Ketogenic diet. Life is indeed too short to not enjoy great food but life indeed will be shorter if I enjoy some of the foods with more indulgence than necessary. Incidentally, a bottle of red wine has fewer carbohydrates than an apple, as hard as this is to believe. Go Willamette Valley Pinot! Fresh feeling.
The world is mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful. – E.E. Cummings
A little Madness in the Spring Is wholesome even for the King. – Emily Dickinson