May 16, 2022 Latest post:
May 17, 2023
Friends, colleagues, and loved ones,
As some of you already know, I'm facing a serious health issue- and I would love to ask for your prayers and positive thoughts as I navigate this journey. I'm also going to apologize in advance for the length of this post (which shouldn't surprise anyone who has ever emailed with me in the past )
For those who I haven't had the chance to talk to in person, here's the deal... In late May of last year, I had a routine check-up with my wonderful PCP, Dr. Desmond Tee. Near the end of our visit he asked if I had any other issues or concerns. I mentioned to him that I had been experiencing frequent headaches- which I've never suffered from- but attributed them to the stress of leading a school district through Covid, planning for my upcoming retirement, etc. Out of an abundance of caution (thank you Dr. Tee!) he sent me to get a brain MRI. He called a few hours later to let me know that the scan revealed a mass. A high-contrast MRI a few days later confirmed that there is a "large" mass in the right hemisphere of my brain, located on my brain stem.
The good news- a follow up MRI 3 months later showed no growth in the tumor, presumably because of the slow-growing nature of the tumor and the fact that it has no more room to take up in my brain. Other good news- a third opinion from a brain cancer specialist in Seattle (thanks to my baby brother Mike for arranging that) confirmed that the mass is almost certainly not cancerous. It also confirmed, however, that I need to have the tumor removed or should expect to continue to experience some symptoms and expect those symptoms to worsen and perhaps become irreversible.
Because of the size/location of the tumor, and the complexity of the surgery, I was referred to a neurosurgeon at the Mayo Clinic in MN. Dr. Link is one of the top 2 surgeons in the country for addressing this kind of tumor through "skull-based" surgery. Tim and I will be heading to MN next Saturday, and surgery is scheduled for Tuesday, May 17th. We hope to return on May 25th. I am looking at a potentially months-long recovery period but given the quality of care that I am lucky enough to receive, my hope and expectation is that my recovery will be complete- with a minimum of enduring side effects or complications.
I know some have asked/wondered why I have waited this long (nearly a year) to address this, but for me, it was really important to take the time to find my way and come to terms with what I am facing at my own pace. There was so much I wanted to do and see and accomplish, and that's what I've done. I've traveled a lot- taking trips to San Francisco to see Elise, and to Florida to see Kaitlyn, Teddy, and Evelyn (having this time to watch Evie grow and change has been the joy of my life). Tim and I had a great trip to Whistler this winter, and had multiple trips to our family cabins at Trinity Lake and trips to Tim's mom's place in Lake Shastina. We bought a vacation rental home in Sunriver in October and have been able to spend some time there every month since... It is on the Woodlands golf course so it has a lovely view, and is very near the river and the Deschutes National forest; it has become my favorite place to be- especially at those times when family or friends have been able to join us.
I've also had SO much fun doing several superintendent searches (for Beaverton, Mapleton, and the Grant School DIstrict in John Day) with my friends Hank and Krista, and through my work with the Coalition of School Administrators where I am part of a small cadre making up COSA's Superintendent Support Team- and, I've also had the chance recently to do a program audit of a large state program with my friend Chris. I've been grateful for the opportunity to do all of this meaningful work- and I hope to be able to return to it next fall.
I want to thank so many of you for your love, support, prayers, and encouragement- it's really been keeping me going and I'll need that to continue in the weeks and months to come. As I am sure you can imagine, this has been a scary time, but it's also been an enormous, unexpected gift. I'm doing this on my own terms, and have spent the months since my diagnosis trying to be more "present" and deeply aware of my blessings- including family and friends like you. I've also learned to say NO when I should and to pretty much say YES to every invitation or opportunity to spend time with friends and loved ones- something that hasn't always been the case in the past.
I've been so touched and humbled by the outpouring of love and support, and I'm learning to be open to receiving this. Kaitlyn and Elise will use this CaringBrisge site to keep people posted on my surgery and the days and weeks that follow.
I've been so blessed by all of the wonderful people who've touched my life in some way; please know that you have been one of those, and have my okay to share this information with anyone I might have left off this email but who might want to know what's happening in my world.