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UCLA Tumor Board Results

Dang it if brain tumor life isn’t confusing. At least in my world! I can’t be the only one who has these types of yoyo results. I mean, it’s better to have differing results than a truly horrible, obvious situation. The ups and downs, though are insane. If you don’t want to watch the whole video (3 min 44 sec), the short is: tumor is growing, albeit slowly. (Think millimeters.) I believe the two treatments I added in the past two months, are helping – who knows, maybe the tumor had grown more in the interim, and now they’re even shrinking it? Who knows! I rule out nothing. My neurosurgeon at UCLA offered a brain surgery to remove whatever she can, or she said she is “comfortable” waiting 2-3 months for another stealth (pre-op) MRI. I opted for the latter, and agreed that if I had furthering symptoms, I would move up the scan. Some people might think I’m crazy to push-off brain surgery, since I have a growing tumor in my brain, but there are inherent risks involved. Remember when I had to learn how to walk, talk, read – learn the alphabet again?! I do. We will never know for sure if the decisions that we make are the best ones, but a decision is what we have before us. For now, we try to do the least invasive approach. If that isn’t enough, we will evolve as we always have. It’s confusing because the symptoms of my seizures are the same symptoms that tumor growth would cause. The main take away right now is that it’s important for me to stay the course on exactly what I’m doing treatment-wise, and perhaps even add a few non-toxic, whole body health boosting things. And I really┬áneed to lower my…

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UCLA MRI Results: Surgery Needed

I finally received my secondary results from the MRI. Unfortunately, UCLA believes there has been interval progression, and they are recommending brain surgery. I don’t know if I could stomach a fourth surgery, but before I can commit to that anyway, I’ve requested a f-DOPA pet scan to verify that it is indeed tumor growth. F-DOPA pet scans can differentiate between tumor cells vs scar tissue or inflammation. It’s confusing to hear conflicting results from two different centers, but that’s nothing new for me. At this point, I’m waiting for insurance to approve the scan. Next, we’ll schedule the scan, and then we will review the results to see if we are dealing with a recurrence. Between now and then, we scramble for alternative plans for survival. I know that sounds alarmist, but I say it with tongue in cheek. As always, I’ll keep you abreast. (That word always makes me laugh, so I had to throw it in there.) PS It’s my brother’s birthday today, so if you see him, please don’t say anything until tomorrow! xo

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UW Radiology Report

University of Washington just emailed me my radiology report, and since I can easily copy and paste, I thought I would post it here in case it might be helpful to others. UCLA doesn’t provide a radiology report at their Tumor Board, however in the last post I included their opinion on my brain scan (hint: they think my tumor is growing). Now, because of the differences in opinion, we wait for the private third party review from Iris Radiology to determine if I’m in the early stages of a recurrence or whether the differences in findings are more a matter of MRI reading techniques. Narrative EXAMINATION: MRI BRAIN WO/W CONT CLINICAL INDICATION:History of left parietal infiltrating astrocytoma status post resection. TECHNIQUE:MRI Head Tumor (Primary) contrast plus post GD SAG T1 (Glioma /GBM)(B 2PT) Non-contrast Head: Axial T1, axial T2, axial diffusion. Post-contrast Head: 3D FLAIR (Sag, Ax, & Cor), axial diffusion. Axial, coronal & sagittal T1. CONTRAST:Prohance 15 ml 10/24/2015 08:10 AM INTRAVENOUS COMPARISON:Multiple prior MRIs of the brain, most recent dated 3/22/2015. FINDINGS:Post surgical changes compatible with left parietal craniotomy and tumor resection again noted. Surrounding FLAIR hyperintensity is unchanged. There is no evidence of new areas of enhancement at the resection site or elsewhere in the brain parenchyma. A right frontal developmental venous anomaly is noted. Incidental note of small intracranial right vertebral artery flow void again noted and unchanged from 3/22/2015. Otherwise, the major vascular flow voids through the circle of Willis are patent. The ventricles and sulci are unchanged in size. There is stable ex vacuo dilatation of the left lateral ventricle due to volume loss. Orbital structures and extracranial soft tissues are normal. ATTENDING RADIOLOGIST AND PAGER NUMBER ##############

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Updated MRI Results

I’m in my happy place, Green Lake. I mean, don’t get me wrong – Edmonds is my home. We’ve grown roots and continue to be nurtured there, but Green Lake has held my hand throughout the majority of our cancer journey. I always find myself at Peet’s Coffee & Tea shop at Green Lake sipping on a matcha latte (unsweetened, almond milk – please don’t forget the extra scoop of matcha) when I’m dealing with MRI madness. It’s my treat on MRI days. It’s where I go to celebrate reports, or stress over the ambiguous findings.  I’m here in the city for a last minute doctor’s appointment, and have been managing the details of our “recurrence” all day (emails, phone calls between doctors and insurance). Here’s the information from UCLA.  UCLA: They reviewed your scans last week [at the tumor board] and feel like there are mild subtle changes so it is suggested that radiation would be a good thing to start at this point. They also mentioned a clinical trial involving an IDH1inhibitor. Perhaps you should meet with them [radiation oncologist & neuro oncologist] to discuss your options. Me: When the tumor board meets, and there are recommendations given, is there a report that I can access and review? I assume there is some sort of documentation of the process. UCLA: We don’t really have a written report per say that I can provide you. Me: I’m curious because, when you say there has been progression, I would like to see the measurements, and assessments of the increased disease. As you know I send the copy of the UW’s MRI scan to UCLA, along with the radiology report from UW, and their report didn’t reflect your findings. It’s confusing to me that you would find changes that they did…

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UCLA Tumor Board

Morning Guys! Usually you never want immediate results from your doctor. Fast phone calls after an appointment or scan is often because they have something report. You never want something to report. That being said, I received a phone call from UCLA Neurosurgery yesterday morning. They had received my radiology report (in record time – it usually takes weeks) and they were emailing me instructions on how to upload the images. (Good thing I hadn’t mailed the disk yet!) They recently upgraded their computer system and after a dead end at the library, I was able to go to my friend’s house and upload the report. It took a total of four minutes! Talk about fast. That’s way better than the several weeks it usually takes. It’s not that the US mail takes that long, it’s the web of the UCLA mail department, then the physical disk has to be uploaded by a UCLA employee. And since I was able to bypass all that noise, and uploaded it on a Tuesday, I was told that my brain scan will be up for review today at the tumor board. Now, we were pretty excited about the UW radiology report of my brain, but after uploading the images, I scrolled through my brain and was reminded of how huge the tumor is. The amount of haze. The thick white area, and the diffuse area which spans, probably, a fifth of my brain matter. It’s disturbing. And scary. After the last MRI we chose not to look at the images, it was too upsetting. That means it has been a year since we looked inside my brain. Na├»vely, I keep hoping that the tumor has shrunk, but no such luck. If we’re lucky, we should have an update on the status of my…

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Impending MRI Impending Life

I don’t want to share this. I don’t want to say it. I hate that I have to release, but the truth is that I can’t handle my feelings. I have best friends, and I know that they would do anything for me. They know that I hurt, but they don’t know my pain because I can’t tell anyone, not even them. I’ve never told anyone how I badly I hurt. The pain of this, the diagnosis, the hamster wheel I live on. I give pieces to Dan, to my mom, to my dad, but if I gave any one person my whole sadness, it would be the meanest gift, and I refuse. Yet here I am, I can’t stand it anymore. But it’s a choice to read; close the window if it’s too much.I would rather cry alone, than burden my friends. I would rather hurt, and sob, by myself, because my friends have their own lives. No one’s life is easy. It has taken me years to understand that, but I get it now. I’m a ghost that is here, but that doesn’t live. People see me, or my hologram, but they don’t know me. I just float.I was meant to be a mother. I was meant to be a mom. What is my life without that? I found the most kind, handsome, generous, thoughtful, fantastic, man, but he always expected a family too. But now he worries about me. ME. He should have kids by now, he should have that beautiful love from his own children, that sticky snot filled, accidental wet bed, picky eating life, and I can’t give that to him. And what is a life without children? Seriously, to those of you who read this, can you imagine your life without your kids? That is the life…

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Moving Up The MRI

Oh man, my face has broken out into blisters. Good grief, I am a ball of stress. This always seems to happen in the days/weeks before an MRI. Seriously, sometimes I feel like I’m a woman trapped in a neurotic miniature chihuahua’s anxiety problems. Between the seizure and my skin, I am getting some major warning signs that I need to get this MRI over with. I’m scared, like usual, and no matter what I do (nap, meditate, walk, garden, clean, work) things do not seem to be getting better. Last night I was texting back and forth with my bro, and I sent him this quick pic to make him laugh (and illustrate the blisters). What is it with skin; when you have skin problems it cuts you to the core. And hell, it isn’t even necessarily the vanity, these suckers hurt. To try and abate the issue, I just called University of Washington to push up the scan schedule. I should be getting a call back within 24-48 hours to see if I can just get it over with on Saturday (it was supposed to be April 4th). That would give preliminary results on Monday. As you guys know, I get my brain scans here in Seattle, then I mail the disk to UCLA and they usually submit to the tumor board. I tend to get their results in a few weeks, but since the scan takes place at UW, I can head to the UW medical records department and get a copy of the radiology report. That would give me the results I need. Good or bad. Scary or not. I could have answers by Monday. Monday. Wow. That just made me lightheaded. Isn’t it weird how scary it is to get an MRI when the truth…

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Out of The Shadows

Ugh, the dread in my body in having/needing to write this post has been weighing on me for quite some time. Like months. How embarrassing! Why can’t I be fearless? Why didn’t I just start talking about it from the beginning? That way there wouldn’t be a buildup. I avoided it because I didn’t want to deal with people’s opinions. I hate bringing up controversial subjects (unless it’s face-to-face where there’s an open dialog), and I hate to be judged – which is weird because I have been taking control of my health, no matter the cost, definitely to the chagrin and disapproval of several of my original doctors. I’ve been dragging my feet because I don’t know where to start. And there are so many details as to what helped me make my decision. I know that I can’t include them all because it would be exhausting, and verbose, and complicated. I’m nervous because I feel like I’m not going to be able to really explain myself. Suffice to say that I have joined private groups, and read the research, and talked to, and met with, 40-50 cancer fighters who have shared their private stories about personal cures and cancer stabilization. What is it, you ask? It’s hemp oil. Also known as Phoenix Tears, or Rick Simpson Oil. You can also just call it medical marijuana or marijuana extract processed into an oil. There’s a lot of names out there, and they’re not all exactly the same, but they’re pretty similar. I have several cancer friends who are using it in very large doses (1-2 grams a day) with dramatic results, and I have other friends who take it in small amounts and they’re still getting results. Does it work for everyone? Unfortunately not. But, as a person who…

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How do we celebrate?

I never thought I’d feel this way. I never thought that I would use these words, and for good reason. Doctors don’t use the term “remission” for brain cancer, because “it always comes back”. At least that’s what all of my doctors have said (minus my neurosurgeon at UCLA, I haven’t heard her speak in absolutes). But today, I feel like I’m in remission, that I’m cancer free. I’m sure I still have cancer cells in my body, like we all do, but something feels different. I feel lifted, and whole, and healed. Does that seem crazy? It feels crazy, but it feels right, like I’m on the correct path with the appropriate protocol.   I don’t want to jinx myself, so please knock on wood, but for the first time since diagnosis, I feel human. I feel normal. I feel like an epileptic (that may never change), but not a cancer patient. I’m continuing all of my current treatments, but now I’m doing it by choice not out of duty. And I know that this shift alone will do wonders for my psyche. I never thought that my MRIs would get pushed out to 6 month intervals. It crossed my mind once or twice, but it was like imagining a unicorn. A wonderful thing to smile about, but not a reality. But the world tricked me, see – unicorns DO exist, and I love them! I keep thinking about this insane tumor diagnosis and how much it has changed my life. I have gone through so many wild things, like the awake brain surgery, or the hematoma that caused major brain damage, forcing me to relearn everything from using a fork, to learning how to run again, and read again, and regain my vocabulary. There were times when I couldn’t…

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October MRI Results

Of course, of course, of course, the day I go to get my MRI results, I have a seizure. (I was at 4.5 months seizure free. DAMN IT.) In fact, not to be outdone, I had two in quite close succession (a window of about 60 minutes. And it took forever to come back down from that short circuit. So stupid. It was humiliating, too. I was in the shower, and started feeling “off”. I got out but was confused. I was walking back and forth in the house trying to figure out what what happening, all the while, curtains are peeled back throughout the house and I’m a drenched cat, totally naked. I couldn’t think to dry off. Or manually get clothes on. Hopefully I didn’t terrify pedestrians walking by. In those moments it’s too difficult to even function. And the more you do the more it spurs increasingly aggressive seizures. So I made my way to the bedroom snatched a phone and hit redial. Lucky my mom answered. All I could say was, “mom, I am alone. I’m having a seizure. It’s worse than normal. It’s going to get bad. I may lose consciousness. Please call Dan to come home.” Then I hung up. Once in bed I couldn’t move, I was paralyzed. I couldn’t feel my right side, then came the painful throbbing. It started in my right arm, and spread up to the brain, then it flushed out from my right hip until my whole pelvis was throbbing in pain. I had never had effects on my pelvis, so that’s a new seizure detail. I also don’t think I’ve ever had two seizures in one day. Not a record I wanted to break. I still made it to the hospital this evening – just before they…

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