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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 need to lower my…

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We All Need A Wizard

Dang it, why are there so many cool people out there? I just finished an interview with Refinery29, about the TV show, My Last Days. Yes, that is the horrible name chosen to document six different people diagnosed with a terminal illness, one of which is my story. It makes my body retch to even type it. I physically hate the title, with a palpable rancor, but I understand they’re trying to gain the biggest viewing potential, and that potential could help people. It’s all about pulling people in, about shock value. It’s the world we live in. I just don’t believe I’m in my last days. I don’t describe myself as terminal, although that’s exactly what I’ve been told. That I will die of this. But I know so much more than I used to. I know that a cancer diagnosis is a hopscotch of jumps, just to find a new treatment to outlive each phase. There are no guarantees in life, and that means we don’t know what our life has in store, for example, when we will die. So, anyway, the production company set us up with a public relations agency that’s helping us understand the marketing/promotion process which includes doing an interview or two. Back to my point, I was partnered with one of the PR peeps, and she is a true wizard – one of those spirits that you instantly connect with. The Refinery29 interview this morning held the typical questions, When were you diagnosed? How has this impacted your life? My wizard had addressed all of us subjects in a recent conference call and one specific point resonated with me. I started thinking about what I want my message to be. If I can sum up my goal in discussing my cancer journey, what…

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Does Altruism Exist?

I’m sitting at the JFK waiting to fly back home and wondering to myself how I got so fortunate in life. I just spent the night (as I usually do) with my friends Nate and Miraim, and baby Sol of course, and just being around them is calming, and fun, we talk about everything. It’s engaging and energizing, and refreshing, and fills me with joy. Flash to today where Sol, Miriam and I met up with our friend John (Steph was stuck at work) for lunch and again it’s the most invigorating, expressive, comprehensive friendship. How did I get so lucky to live this life and be surrounded by such amazing humans? These beautiful souls who think deeply, whose hearts are profoundly touched by human suffering or the human cause. I think they all see themselves as just normal people, but I see them as the glue that keeps humanity real, and kind. I hear their words, as they talk on any subject, and they care. They have such huge hearts, it’s the most lovely thing. The shot went well, fabulously well, Dr Germany said something along the lines of, “We’re on a winning team” in reference to my protocol. Man that’s a fantastic thing to hear. I don’t know why I get to live this – I don’t even have a good word for it – blessed life, but I am grateful for every second. And along with living a life that is true to me, and my evolving views, I will also continue my mission to help other tumor patients achieve health, and longevity. The bandaid peaking out reminds me of today’s life giving treatment The thought has crossed my mind that now I’m stable, I could say screw it and just go live my life (while obviously continuing…

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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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The Butterfly Effect

Holy shit I have been lonesome. I don’t normally swear on here, figuring I can probably illustrate pretty well without, but, good God, I had no idea how lacking my life was until I went to camp and met other cancer fighters and survivors in person. Until I bonded face to face; until I spent time laughing about our stories; until I realized that although we have different battles, we’re essentially the same. We have the same fears, the same trials, the same macabre humor, the same fighting spirit, the same heart and the same soul. I have been on this hamster wheel of surgeries, and treatments, and applications of treatments, and with that I’ve been isolated to our house for well over a few years. Obviously, I get out (I just walked four blocks to the grocery store, in fact), but it’s always limited, always within time constraints of the chlorotoxin. I’ve been conditioned to fear seizures, and seizure triggers (heat, sun, noise, thirst, hunger, emotional stress, physical stress), leading me to micromanage my life to an exhausting minutia. I just want to live, and explore, and laugh, and for the first time in four and a half years, in Moab Utah, I felt normal. I felt completely happy, blissful. They got me. They told their stories that I knew in my bones. I felt it. We were the same. I do a great job of recognizing the beauty in life. In every single moment I am tangibly grateful for each breath, each laugh. I have a lot of fun noticing the little details each day (the fresh breeze on a new soft leaf, the color of the sky when I peek out of our bedroom window) but I am not living the way I want to live. Not…

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Winking at Fear

Yesterday, I turned a year older. And, it has officially been 4 years, 3 months, and 25 days since I was diagnosed. I have had three brain surgeries. I have tried almost every brain tumor diet on the planet. I have gobbled hundreds of thousands of pills. I have researched. I have exercised. I have meditated. I’ve dodged seizures; I have endured them. They’ve injected shot after shot to boost my immune system, and to fight my tumor. I’ve done the high dose IV drips. I drop venom in my nose, and I swish it in my mouth. I’ve traveled the country, and around the world, to meet with doctors for second opinions, for surgeries, and treatments. All that, and so much more, and yet I feel like an imposter, like this isn’t my life. I got the email yesterday, a great birthday surprise, that I am included with five other bloggers to be posted on the National Brain Tumor Society website. As I read the other posts I felt like a voyeur, like I didn’t belong. It’s confusing because I relate to so many of the things that they wrote, yet, with others I have no experience: radiation, chemo. It’s as if they were long lost family members; we had never met, but somehow I recognized myself in their faces. I loved the variation of stories, of perspectives, of journeys. The voices, although different, carried similar threads of hope, fear, frustration, gratitude, and determination. Everyone had gone through a lot, whether it had been surgery, or treatments, or a combination. But some of these fighters truly astound me with what they are conquering, what they’re capable of enduring. I read the blogs yesterday but I keep coming back to reread them, trying to soak it all in. When I…

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The Glass Box

I hate saying this. I hate that this is the situation; that this is how I feel. But, this is a tumor blog and it’s where I go to share my journey, so here goes nothing…. Tonight I went to a couples baby shower. It was at an understated, yet trendy bar full of friends. There was laughter, and hugs, and back slapping, and smiles. The celebration was for a specific husband and wife, but half of the women there were pregnant, so by default, it was a celebration for several along side.  I got the chance to catch up with my beautiful friends, which was lovely, and yet painful. I even cried on the drive home, which is incredibly rare. Throughout the evening, as I got caught up with people’s lives, I couldn’t help but notice the disparity between who I would be if I hadn’t been diagnosed (a career, the ability to drive, financial stability, perhaps children). As I listened to people speak, with a smile on my face, I felt myself mourn for my old self. I mourned the person I could have been, of who I was on track to be. I love watching my friends deliriously happy, so excited with their life’s journey. But it’s also confusing. It’s uncomfortable that being around friends makes me both happy, filled with joy, and yet regretful, deeply saddened. I hate that I feel that way. Currently, I am stuck on a hamster wheel of treatments and won’t be finished for years. My life is lived in 4 hour increments, and I should be thrilled by that luxury since it implies that I’m doing well. But it is also extremely taxing. I can handle the stress when I live in my bubble, when I bound around the house being…

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Fixing The Chinks

Wake Forrest was such a unique trip. We would never have happened upon the destination, but while we flew over the Rockies, I thought about how different my life would be if I wasn’t able to explore the opportunities that pop up in my life. The majority of my success, the ability to jump at cancer fighting treatments, or subsequent programs, lay within the hands of those whom I have loved so dearly, who have supported us emotionally – but above that, financially. I am blessed beyond measure. Dan and I have dedicated our lives to creating our own mini think tank, to include the best doctors for my care. We will fight this scary adversary with support from all angles, and now we’re able to include Lindsey, my strategist who will help me understand the medical world, the research, the opportunities for treatments, and I also have the Take The Fight (TTF) resources of Andy, Dineth, Lawson, and so many others who are working toward their undergraduate degrees while literally changing the world of cancer care. It is thrilling! As a basic recap, Danny and I flew to Winston Salem, North Carolina to meet with a group of students at Wake Forest University (overseen by David Warren who was out of town helping his father fight his glioblastoma). It was for a new program called Take The Fight which will subsequently spread across the country to other universities, and further expand around the globe. It pairs students, one-on-one with cancer fighters. The student uploads all of your medical records onto an online database which is easy to access and modify for those on the TTF team and yourself. You also receive a briefcase of hard copies of everything (even all of your MRIs). Both of these systems (the briefcase…

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I Need To Believe

This last weekend was such a blast! Danny and I were able to pack Emma and a bunch of goodies for a quick road trip to Wenatchee. We didn’t tell my parents we were coming, and they were completely surprised and ecstatic – I’m horrible about keeping surprises secret, but somehow I managed. As we drove closer and closer, I became more and more giddy. I am so lucky to have two amazing parents who give me so much love. They are incredibly supportive. I had been needing more hugs lately, and on Saturday morning my parents engulfed me, it was so healing. I love the fact that I can tell my parents anything. They understand so much because they see things that I’m going through, the struggles, the demands on my body, on my mind, they know so much because we talk almost daily. But it’s different to get a hug 🙂 A hug might be the best support I could ever get. My Saturday morning hug came because I was honest with my parents about how I feel about my future. I have been trying very hard to keep a brave face, to shove down the thoughts of failure, of death, but it’s not as easy as it once was. Unfortunately, in January, a very close friend said to me, “You know, there’s a chance that none of these treatments will work. That there’s nothing you can do.” It was quite possibly the most painful thing that I’ve ever been told, and I said that to her. Obviously, you guys understand that I realize, only too well, that I might just die. That my fate may be sealed. That I’m spinning my wheels to no avail. It’s something that crosses my mind several times a day, then I…

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Love, True Love

My girlfriend Meghan just emailed this photo to both Danny and I. How fun! I had never seen it before. I can’t believe how short my hair was, and how far I’ve come. I’m so fortunate to have such a wonderful man who loves me so deeply. I’m incredibly grateful to have such wonderful friends, and an amazing family. I am not defeated. Last Thursday was a turning point for me. I had breakfast with Jude, and Seanene, and after I jogged home, I called So Cal Patti. I had been living on a 25% belief that I could beat my cancer, but then, throughout the day, something shifted. When he came home from work, I told Danny I was at a solid 75% which is great news because I had been tearful at the drop of a hat before Thursday. And, I’m incredibly happy to report that after this past weekend, I realized I’m back at 100% again – just like the old days. I can’t explain it, it’s just a gut feeling. That’s not to say that I’m not fearful for my journey, but I’m more excited about the future success of my treatments. Somehow I realized, truly absorbed the notion, that I am incredibly healthy. That no one would ever expect me to be ill. That I’m shockingly healthy, and capable, and fortunate. I have been surrounded by a loving and selfless man who continuously makes me laugh uncontrollably, and I have mounds of friends who endlessly hug me, and give me their love, constantly filling up my soul. I have family who will stop at nothing to help me beat this. I have new friends who have found me from this blog, and continue to support and love me even though they have their own challenges…

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