“… thou anointest my head with oil, my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life …” Ps 23
Dear Family and friends,
I had a call with the brain surgeon today, and he had some news for us. In yesterday’s post, I told you I’ll be getting an update on Monday. While I was writing that post, I got a call from one of the staff members at the brain surgeon’s office. I have a brain surgeon on my team even though I’ve never had what most people think of as brain surgery. Back when I switched to a new drug to deal with brain swelling, this brain surgeon was the one who came up with the idea of using that drug to avoid brain surgery. I point this out to illustrate what an incredible team I have. My assumption is that if there’s one thing the “average” brain surgeon wants to do, it’s brain surgery. But this doctor on my team came up with a really “outside the box” idea to spare me from having them root around in my brain.
Speaking of rooting around in one’s brain, makes me think of Jeff Foxworthy on brain surgeons
Setting aside Foxworthy’s astute observation, and to get back to my point about my brain surgeon, I’m just making the point that I’ve got the kind of professionals you want to have on your team as a patient.
And going even further back, the brain surgeon’s office call to me yesterday – his staff member said, “The doctor wants to speak to you tomorrow.” No further information provided. Does this happen to anyone else out there? This is an unsettling thing to have happen. I’m going to have to drop a note in the suggestion box proposing that they not call patients to raise alarms they don’t plan to explain. But to be fair, I knew exactly what this request meant. It meant the doctor wanted to talk to me about brain surgery. Accept the call or no? Mess with the staff member or no? I mean, he started it, right? Part of me thinks I should have asked, “Can you give me three good reasons I should agree to have a call with the doctor?” But I think it’s better not to make people’s jobs harder for them, so I don’t mess with doctors’ staff even if they unnecessarily give me reason to freak out.
So today…I talked to the brain surgeon. Guess what he wanted to talk about. Well…are you going to guess? He wanted to talk about brain surgery. First I got some clarification on the tumor growth they had mentioned to me yesterday. I have three new small tumors on the right side of my brain. The proposed plan is to blast these with the photon beam, like I’ve had done several times now for previous tumors. Then there’s a tumor on the left side that looks like it’s got a hemorrhage around it – bleeding that brain experts really dislike.
Circled is old tumor with hemorrhage around it
While I hope that tumor and bleeding shrink way down, I’m going to go out on a limb and say, “That don’t look right.” I don’t want that hanging around in the HQ. If an attack is called for, well…boots on, face to the enemy, running to the sound of gunfire.
A few other details from the call with the brain surgeon. In line with the Jeff Foxworthy thing, the doctor told Kendra and me that if they proceed with the surgery, they’ll cut a hole in my skull “about the size of a cookie.” This immediately calls to mind Jim Gaffigan’s great bit about brain tumors being compared to food:
“Well, this guy’s not gonna understand centimeters.”
Size of skull hole being established, we talked possible negative side effects. 1-2% of patients having a surgery like this will suffer one of the following: stroke, speech impairment, cognitive deficit, increase in epileptic seizures. 100% get a scar that no one is nosey enough to ask you about, plus according to Gaffigan, it seems the ability to win all future arguments. He said “no heavy lifting for a week” (there go my plans), no contact sports, trampoline or flying for a week. He said I’d be on my feet the next day, home in 1-2 days, back doing my job in a week. We are scheduling the surgery for 4-5 weeks from now. I will have two scans between now and then to re-assess the area of the lesion. If it grows, there’s some live tumor tissue at work and the surgery will absolutely need to happen. If the affected area shrinks, we will probably cancel the surgery, at least for the short term. I like punches on the Tough Guy Punch Card as much as the next guy. But being able to postpone the cookie-size skull hole seems preferable. Let’s pray for that.
I think the radiation on the other side will kick off next week. I’ll have lots going on with all this over the next month and will try to keep all of you posted. Thanks for your support and prayers. Kendra and I feel very supported.
With fortitude and prayers for you,
Fortitudine means "with fortitude." It was the original motto of the Marines, and I picked the title as a reminder to myself about how I intend to deal with cancer.
Jim – Love the videos you posted. I can identify as I had brain surgery 6 years ago for Parkinson's disease (to implant a neurostimulator). Like you, I had an excellent team of doctors at NIH where I had the surgery. I'll keep you, Kendra and the rest of the family in my prayers and hope you are able to postpone the surgery.
Thank you, John. I'm praying that you stay in good health!
Prayers as always, and I do love your good humor throughout this very extended, quite serious ordeal! You’re a strong man and a good husband and father. Thank you for keeping us updated!
Praying every day that you win the "cancer free" card. So much grace in your posts. Thank you for sharing your journey.
If you're right, it probably comes of praying for fortitude from the get-go. And funny things happen in every type of situation. One just has to look for them. 🙂
Bonnie, the "No Evidence of Disease" card a lot of punches between Cancer 1.0 and 2.0, but it has gotten pretty dusty, wherever it is around here. Gotta find it and start carrying it around. Thanks for the prayers. All of you remain in mine.
Praying. Thank you for being honest and open and matter-of-fact. My little sister is going through some serious chemo right now and I don't know…the way you wrote your update gave me lots of peace and hope. "Running to the sound of gunfire" – Your courage is beautiful. And the humor is fantastic. God is good. He loves you. All will be well and I will absolutely be praying for you.
Keeping you and your beautiful family in our prayers!
I just signed up for an Eucharistic Adoration "day" as part of the train that is being organized for your family. I actually haven't done adoration in probably 30 years, but thanks to my late mother I do know exactly what it is and understand the power of it . Thank you for the opportunity/motivation. Your wife's blog was helpful to me in my earliest months of motherhood and I am happy to support your family in that way.
I had not seen the Gaffigan clip and found it funny. My husband has taught our kids to ski and as you may know, in order to slow oneself down in skiing, one needs to make a triangle shape with the skis – front tips together. While teaching the older boy, he was always calling it a snowplow and yelling "Snowplow!" to remind him to do it. Snowplow was the term he was taught with, although I've heard other parents out there using the term "pizza" it wasn't what he said. With the younger boy, I noticed he was using the term pizza instead and also that to remind him to line up his skis when he was ready to go faster, he said "french fries!" I asked why the change in terminology and he said the younger one responds better to talking about food. It is 100% true. You have to meet people where they are, especially if you want them to listen in stressful situations.
Thank you, Coco! You are always in ours.
That's great. Way to be tuned in, dad! Thank you for your support. Your family will be in my prayers, too.
I am surprised you didn't ask what type of cookie to which he was referring. Those small Famous Amos bag types would be nice! Many prayers for you, Kendra, and the rest of all your teams!
Good catch. He did tell us it would be "about a 3mm hole – about the size of a cookie." So he used both centimeters and food, which I simplified for comedic effect. Busted! We're praying for you, too.
I have too many little kids to be able to handle a full scheduled hour of adoration right now, but it's always out when we go to confession so I always get a few quiet minutes on my knees. I'll be offering them for you this Saturday at 10.30am GMT.
I will also be noting to God that it would be great for my spiritual purification if he could keep you hanging around on earth a little longer 🙂 You and Kendra have both been deeply influential in me figuring out how I want to do this whole "Catholic" thing as an adult convert.
Also, I'd love to hear at some point how you guys are handling this with your kids (of various ages). I'm guessing you give them more information than the average and help them through the emotions that come with that, but I'd love to know what that looks like in real life. My parents were always super-cagey about their health issues, so I've been struggling with how to communicate with our nearly-4yo during my recent pregnancy-from-hell. (I don't think the nearly-2yo-even noticed!) I want to acknowledge that there's something wrong but let him know he doesn't have to worry. (Because in my case he really didn't – I just needed to have the baby.)
Thanks for doing what you're able as a busy mom. I'm sure whatever effort you are putting into praying for me is having a tremendous impact. Don't worry – I'm planning to stick around quite a while longer. Being a Marine, I will fight like one until I get relieved of my post and ordered to move to my next duty station. I am planning to do an episode of my podcast The Dad Project on talking about health problems with kids. The summary is that we are honest and up front with the kids. We are sure to share all the reasons my doctors have given us cause to be optimistic, yet we share the risks I face, too. We try to share these things in a way that makes clear the faith we have in my prospects for being cured and also the trust in God we have despite the challenge we have been asked to accept. We are thoughtful and intentional about the lens we give them to view all of this through, and I think we've managed to be honest without causing undue worry and anxiety. It also helps tremendously that Kendra models a serene and graceful positivity that the kids can emulate. In this post (https://fortitudine-withfortitude.blogspot.com/2018/08/gratitude-for-anniversary.html) I talked about how she has done this from the very beginning in 2007.
Oh great! I'm in a book-light, podcast-heavy phase of life at the moment, so have already listened to all existing Dad Project episodes!
Be assured of my prayers for your sister. Cancer peeps get through it together.
Aiming to get it recorded and edited soon.