Disturbing news from me, and not easy for me to tell you, So ….. Straight to the point – I have Brain Cancer.
August 21, 2017, started off as a regular day at work, setting up for the day’s lessons. This day was a bit more exciting than the others. We were going to witness the first total eclipse in North America in almost 40 years (I actually saw the last one in 1979). However, this day did not go as planned, and I never did see the eclipse. Ten minutes into my first period class, I suffered a seizure. I woke up in the Emergency room, confused and wondering why my wife Tammy was sitting next to me. Nothing was making sense. My head hurt, my hip hurt (from the fall during the seizure), and everything was so out of context!
The next few days are a blur. I honestly don’t remember anything other than wanting to know why this all happened to me. With no prior history of seizures, the doctors also wanted to know why. So, on Aug. 26th I had the first MRI of my head and it showed that the seizure was most likely caused by a brain tumor.
Quickly after that, I had another, more comprehensive MRI. It reveled a tumor in the back of my lower right parietal lobe (just to the left of my right ear). Things started to move very quickly after that, and by September 11th, the tumor was surgically removed, On September 20th the results of the pathology report indicated that I have a grade 4, Glioblastoma (GBM-4). The results were/are bad! Don’t Goggle it, the information will depress you. In a nutshell, when looking at historical data, patients with a GBM-4 will live for many months to many years. When you separate the data into smaller subgroups/variables (the science teacher in me), I definitely have more positive markers working for me (longer life prognosis), than negative strikes against me. However, time is now my nemesis and there truly is only one negative that I cannot control; that is that there is no cure. My obvious plan and goal is to beat the odds and extend my time.
OK - now that I have just loaded you onto my emotional roller coaster, pause and take a breath! I can imagine the flood of questions and thoughts that may be running through you right now. Believe me; I have been there and back many times already.
So what is next? First and foremost, I am focused on the battles ahead. I am physically and mentally fit and in a very positive state of mind. I have the love and companionship of my family and friends. I am supported by a large medical team from Kaiser and Stanford; and know that they all have my best interests at heart. In my mind, remaining positive is the key to successfully working through the many different issues this challenge presents.
What is the treatment plan? Well, starting October 9th, I will undergo standard radiation and oral chemotherapy treatments; the initial treatments will last 42 days. Additionally, I have asked the medical teams to keep me informed of current and future medical trials (always the science teacher) that may be beneficial to me, and others, now and in the future. To better answer your questions about GBM-4 and other medical related questions, take a look at the document that I have attached from the American Brain Tumor Association. It provides lots of the applicable information regarding GBM-4. Much of which may apply to me. http://www.abta.org/secure/glioblastoma-brochure.pdf
Many friends and family have asked what they can do to help. First, I want you to help me remain positive. I must maintain my physical and mental strength to fight the battles ahead. Currently, I feel pretty good, but do not always have the energy I need. Please do not be offended if I do not take advantage of your offers to help. Spending time with friends and family helps, but also tires me out. Please know that I do want to hear from you, and stay connected with you. At some point during our life’s we have lived, loved, laughed and shared special moments in such a way that we are forever connected. I thank you for those times and memories, because they helped us then and now to live better. Moving forward, it will be the small things that will help the most. Maybe we can pick a time to have a coffee, a beer or go for a walk in the park. You can reach me by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org (mailto:email@example.com) (you may need to update your address book). I may not answer immediately, or respond quickly, but I will try, and truly look forward to hearing from you.
In many ways my life has been blessed. At age 61, I have been married for 35 year to my wife Tammy. I have two beautiful and very intelligent daughters (Nicole and Michelle). I have been lucky enough to travel and work worldwide. As a second career, I chose to work with at-risk kids who struggle on a daily basis and are most often looked over by our society. This is a major reason why I chose to work in Special Education. I have seen it in many countries, and more frequently I am seeing it in our own community. Few people know how often these kids silently struggle with their own personal hardships. Teachers make a difference in their student’s life’s, and they may never see or hear about it. At school I always end my emails with the following two quotes. They have great meaning to me, and I hope that you will remember them over time.
(1) "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." - Nelson Mandela
(2) Sometimes our challenges appear greater than our ability to respond. However, that does not mean that we should stop trying. - J. Glathe
Ultimately, know my goal is to stay around longer, so I can continue to harass each of you as much as possible. I am positive that during surgery, the doctors replaced my tumor with a greater sense of compassion, more empathy, and a better set of ’dad jokes’! I have found some positive thoughts to this surreal situation that I am now in. For one, I realize that things could have been worse. I could have never made it home that evening and never been able to hear/see/say the things that I would have wanted to if I had left this planet in a quicker fashion. Now I have the time to do so, and in ways that are more in my control. I am currently trying not to sweat the little things, relaxing more, and refusing to let myself go too dark (it solves nothing and ruins a good night's sleep). (Oh yea….I am also trying to clean out the garage!) There is no way to know which direction my life’s compass will take me in the future. But, please know that I believe my healing process started before the surgery began. It is my mental strength, physical fitness, and love for my family and friends that has me down the path to meeting my goal.
Finally, may each of you live richly in your heart and reach your for your own goals and dreams. Don’t wait too long, but create and follow a plan to pursue each one of them. It is with great respect and admiration that I wish each of you a healthy future!!!
With Love to all,