In the past few weeks and days my life and health situation have undergone some significant changes. Since some of you may know most of the details, some of you may know a few details and some of you may be unaware, I wanted to take this opportunity to bring each and every one up to date on my situation and status.
On Tuesday April 26th, Karen and I had lunch at a restaurant near our house. We were driving the SX and Karen drove on the way back home. Half way back I noticed my left shoulder felt somewhat numb and like it was asleep. No pain, but the numbness and “pins and needles” feeling went on down my left side all the way to my l left ankle and never left. We stopped at a local emergency clinic and they recommended we go on to the hospital emergency room, which we did. We were checked in to the ER and they told us they were concerned that I might be having a stroke. They performed the classic physical exam looking for things that indicate a stroke. I “passed” all those tests. They did a CT scan of my head, looking for bleeding inside the skull which would confirm a stroke, but they didn’t see any bleeding. However, they did see three lesions which showed up as medium size black spots in the scan on the right side of my brain.
Wednesday evening they did an MRI of my head. On Thursday afternoon, the cardiovascular surgeon, who would be the doctor who would operate and work on me if I had a stroke, came in and told me that definitely there was no stroke and he showed me the pictures taken by the MRI. There were three small tumors about the size of grapes in the same location on the right side of my brain toward the rear just past and slightly above the ear.
Later Thursday afternoon, April 28 about 5 PM, the Physicians Assistants of the Neurosurgeon came in for a consultation. They said that the tumor looked like a glioblastoma multiforme which is the worst kind of brain tumor since it is a really fast growing kind. They recommended it be removed as soon as possible as there was no advantage in not doing so. We discussed the risks of surgery which could be brain damage and its’ effects on my body and especially my left side since the tumors are on the right side of the brain. They said they were ready to do surgery to remove it Friday morning, April 29 and that’s what we did.
The surgery started about 8:30 AM and was finished and I was in Recovery at about 11:30 AM. The surgery consisted of opening a hole in my skull over my right ear through which the tumor was removed. I was a little weak after surgery, but I did well. No pain but a slight headache, I was able to get around well, no significant weakness, speech was good, and I slept OK. I was not really hungry, food didn’t smell good and my appetite was poor. I was moved from Intensive Care back to a room on the stroke floor on Sunday evening May 1st. The neurosurgeon said I had done well, they had removed as much of the tumor as they could and the next phase of my treatment would be radiation and chemo treatment which would be handled by an Oncologist. Anyway based on my condition I was released from the hospital at about 6:00 PM Monday May, 2nd.
As luck would have it, my son, Michael, met up with the Oncologist as we were leaving the hospital. He told Michael that he had seen the preliminary pathologist report and the tumor was glioblastoma multiforme grade 4.
I had my first office visit with my Oncologist to discuss treatment in his office on Wednesday May 4. My treatment will consist of one short (about 5 minute) radiation treatment once per day, five days per week for 6 weeks. At the same time I will be on chemo which will be one pill per day 7 days per week while the radiation continues. This Chemo will be a type used with brain tumors and it will be a more “gentle” type than the “normal” chemo treatments that you usually associate with other cancers like breast, liver, etc. The reason they don’t use the “normal” chemo treatment is that those treatments don’t penetrate the blood-brain barrier well and so are not as effective. The pill I will take has much less side effects and I should not have nausea or if I do it should be mild and easily controlled. They will do their best to eliminate the remaining tumor and reduce and eliminate its’ growth. Assuming that happens as planned I should have another 1 ½ to 2 years and possibly as much as 3 years. However, they are only able to prolong life. There is no cure. The expectation is that as my life continues I should have an acceptable quality of life but inevitably toward the end I will start to decline rapidly. Of course they will monitor things on an ongoing basis and do what they can.
My radiation treatments can’t start until about 3 weeks after the surgery, so I will start my first radiation treatment on Thursday May 19. After my radiation treatments are complete they will do another MRI to determine the success of the treatment at that point. They don’t do any MRI’s during the course of the radiation because during that time there is some inflammation and possible swelling due to the radiation and that would show up so no valuable information would be gained on the final radiation results only that I had inflammation which would be already known.
OK. What follows is both a philosophical and religious discussion of how I perceive where I am in this situation and where I am/may be going. You may or may not believe or see it my way but it’s how I see it and you are free to see the situation differently depending on your own thoughts and beliefs.
First of all I’m really not seriously down or despondent about the whole situation I have found myself in and I want to emphasize that. You must remember that no one gets out of this life alive. Every one dies. Not only do we not get to choose whether we live or die we don’t get to choose when we die. Read over a few obituaries. Why do some die at age 56 or even age 36 and some die at age 96? No one knows. You can choose to do some things that may reduce your opportunity of a long productive life but never-the-less you and I will die. So, neither you nor I are in control although we might like to be or think we are. God is in control. Also, where I am in this situation is not a measure of faith. Again, faith does not determine if you live or die. If it did, someone like the Apostle Paul might still be among us today. Faith determines where you might be after you die.
I now have the opportunity thankfully to do a life review. In doing so, I have had what I believe to be a productive life and I have a great legacy…my family. I have a wonderful wife, Karen, two great sons, daughters-in law- and 5 grandchildren who have what I believe to be good and productive futures ahead of them. They, all of them, are my legacy and I’m proud of them all. I mean, really, what more could I hope for.
I am a Christian, that is, a follower of Jesus Christ. He is my savior and redeemer. He has paid the penalty for me for the things that I have done wrong in my life. Using that faith I look forward to spending eternity in His presence. He has promised that I will be able to do just that and He is faithful and just in keeping His promises.
For now and in the near future my family and I are taking all this one day at a time. I will continue to undergo my treatment and support them and fellowship with them as long as the quality of my life will allow. I am grateful for the love of God and my family and for the skill and caring of the medical community that has worked and is continuing to work and provide for my care.