September 19, 2017
San Francisco

Brian Kelly Brian's Gray Matter

First post: Dec 5, 2018 Latest post: Jan 9, 2019
In no particular order, Brian is: A proud uncle, a political scientist, a diligent professional, a happy dog dad, a humorist, Will, and Cate's Bri-Bri, a steadfast friend, a superstitious person, a golfer, a happy but reserved man, an eager traveler, a classic Catholic, a private person, a public servant, a son and brother, a strategist, an optimistic person, sometimes an old soul, a smiling stranger, a chatter and a flirt, a citizen, a nature lover, a sweet and strong husband, and most recently a brain tumor patient.

Brian has been diagnosed with glioblastoma. We are devastated and terrified but as anyone who knows Brian will know that he’s more determined than anything to turn those feelings into pride and joy. He’s determined to keep a positive attitude and to keep his hardworking spirit going to ensure that he’s got a future to be proud of and that he wins over cancer.

On October 29th Brian was having a normal and productive Monday. A little after lunchtime, he was near the front of the office working with a colleague. We are so thankful that he had made his way to the front of his office because he began to have a major medical event there. Court security officers got to him within 30 seconds. He had a major seizure, lost consciousness, and stopped breathing. Sergeant John Carleton worked on Brian and just as importantly, continuously let Brian know he wasn’t alone.

Sergeant Carleton retired about a week ago. We’re just so thankful for his service and that he was still working when this happened. The nature of Brian’s job does not allow for specifics but I knew who Sergeant Carleton was and that Brian liked him very much. That said, I can’t overstate how grateful I am to him and what he did that day. He’s been a great friend through all of this and we owe him a debt we’ll never be able to repay.

Brian was taken to Carle’s emergency department and all told, he was unconscious or unresponsive for about 13-15 minutes. Our good friend, Gordy Hulten had made his way to pick me up and take me to Brian in the ED. I don’t remember much about the car ride there or seeing Brian initially. I do remember that his boss and our friend, Katie Blakeman was there. I also remember another friend and Brian’s colleague, Chief Deputy Sheriff Allen Jones was there. Brian looked okay, awake and alert but he did look very tired and a little out of it. Allen came over to us and put a kind arm around my shoulder as he reiterated what had occurred at the courthouse. I’m so thankful for Katie and Allen staying with Brian until I got to him. I know they would have done the same for any other colleague knowing their kind and caring spirits. They are both good and true public servants.

The rest of that first day was a mean whirlwind of activity. His heart was quickly given an all-clear, and they began to concentrate on his brain. He had quite a few scans that day. I believe they started with a CT and that was quickly followed by an MRI both with and without contrast. They admitted Brian to the hospital for the night for observation and more testing. There were two areas that appeared to be lesions or tumors. Even nearly six weeks later, writing that just takes my breath away.

The next day is just a blur. Brian did have more testing done. We were thankfully given the news that a body scan had not shown any tumors in his body. I believe this was in the form of a CT but this was good news because his doctors knew that the brain tumors were not metastasized from elsewhere in his body.

We met with a neurosurgeon who we both immediately loved. He was kind, clearly brilliant with a demeanor that we felt safe and confident in. He advised that we’d need to go ahead and do a biopsy. Only one of the two sites were surgically accessible. The biopsy would not be a needle biopsy but real brain surgery and the only way to see what we’re dealing with. The neurosurgeon was already sure that he could only take enough tissue for pathology. He would not be able to take the tumor out as it was too wrapped in the surrounding areas.

Brian was held overnight once more and we did have one more visit that was so important. We met with Brian’s neurologist who’s overseeing his seizure care and treatment. His neurologist is another doctor that we’re just so thankful that he’s available to us. Immediately liked and trusted him, just like Brian’s neurosurgeon. Really, everyone that’s helped care for Brian since minute one has been so good. This community really is so lucky we have Carle and their providers.

So we finally went home to wait for surgery. Brian was handling all this so much better than I was. I was hysterical and the waiting didn’t help much. Surgery was finally scheduled for November 6th. Brian was as cool as a cucumber. Our biggest worry was that he’d experience some weakness in his right upper body and arm. He handled surgery like a champ and came out to recovery just fine. He was flirting with his nurses and showing us all that he was experiencing no weakness or paralysis almost immediately. They put him in ICU overnight and he recovered through the next day. He met with physical and occupational therapy the next day and did beautifully with them as well. His neurosurgeon may have been indulging him a little but he did remark that he was impressed with how well Brian was doing after brain surgery. I was so proud and relieved. They moved him to a regular room for one more night and then sent us home to wait for the pathology to come back.

Carle sends all of their brain biopsies to Mayo to be studied by a neuropathologist in addition to Carle’s pathology department. So at this point, we were waiting on the pathology reports to come back, allowing Brian to recuperate, and for his surgery wound to heal. Treatment can’t start until these three things are done. We’re almost there. Last week his team at Carle got the final diagnosis of grade IV glioblastoma. So the treatment is going to be six weeks of daily radiation and daily chemo by a pill. We’re meeting with his radiation oncologist and his medical oncologist later this week. We’re just so anxious to get started. His wound has been a bit difficult in healing. We haven’t done anything wrong with it but this time of year with furnaces going and his regimen of steroids have made healing take a while.

So that is basically where we’re at. Brian is strong and not a bit interested in talking about prognosis or getting sick. He is ready to take this on and keep his life as normal as possible. I am getting there too. We’re so thankful we’ve got so many people in our lives that care about us and will help us get through this. We’ll periodically use this space for detailed updates. The first of which will hopefully be coming soon with a finalized plan and start date for treatment. Thank you so much for reading this. It’s a bit longer than we anticipated but we’ve not really discussed what’s going on with so much uncertainty. We’re so thankful for the care and support.

Megan Kelly
December 4, 2018