Changing things up this week, I am introducing you to a blogger who has a huge beautiful family and a wonderful sense of humor. The very name of his blog expresses who he is “Fortitudine“, meaning fortitude. And, oh yea…he has brain cancer. But that is a post script, because as all people with this diagnosis, he is not defined by this condition and it doesn’t “belong” to him. What defines him is the way he sees his life through this periscope that all saints have peered into, which is our temporary passage on this earth. Examining our own route to Heaven as we journey toward Holy Week brings us to the end reminder; that we are an Easter people. Our joy is our God; the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the banner of hope and victory that covers us and leads us to His paradise of salvation. I think you will feel this as you read Jim’s story. Enjoy “Fortitudine“.
“Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” – Psalm 2:11
Dear family and friends,
Good day today! Kendra and I went to UCLA for a joint consult with a radiation oncologist and a neuro-radiation oncologist. Kendra decided that they were “cute” together, and so now feels much better about my prospects for surviving this whole thing. Also, the cherry on top of the cuteness was that they really seemed to know a lot about brain tumors and what to do about them.
They had looked at my brain MRI before coming in to see us, and one of the first things they said is that the tumors are “very treatable.” They dialed back the number of expected sessions from 10-15 or 1-2. They said they thought they could probably eliminate the tumors in a single session. I think my main oncologist was giving me an idea of what could be entailed when he told me 10-15 last week, so this was a nice development.
They’re going to use a very targeted beam of particles and not whole brain radiation. Side effects are unlikely and are unlikely to last long if I do have them. I have a tumor near the area that handles left-side functions, so it’s possible that I could have some numbness and loss of strength on the left side, though it would likely be caused by radiation-induced temporary swelling and go away soon. I also have a tumor near an area that controls speech and some cognition. There, too, side effects are unlikely and are unlikely to last long, but I could have some trouble stringing words and thoughts together for a couple days, they said. All these side effects are around a 5% likelihood, which is a new personal record for likelihood of bad treatment-related effects, so I really feel like I’m doing a much better job. Someone please put a good word in for me with the boss.
They’re going to put me into a CT scan in the morning and use the imaging to perfectly fit to my face a vinyl mask which will hold my head still while I’m getting radiation. Don’t want to miss. I’m told the mask will look something like this:
We got to see the brain MRI and had the doctors talk us through what we were looking at. We had another moment of looking at the misbegotten, villainous scoundrel, cancer. Tumors, right there in the brain. Totally unacceptable! You want to know something amazing, though? So some of the tumors are way up in there. I have healthy brain tissue between the tumors and where you are sitting right now. So how do they get to the tumor without damaging the healthy tissue? We polled the kids at dinner for ideas. The best guesses were:
|Tiny robots – Bobby’s idea|
|Mary Jane said, “They go in yo brain,” which prompted some nonsense
from all the other kids about Phineas and Ferb, Candace’s brain, and cheetos.
It was off the rails at this point, so we got back to the topic at hand.
What they actually do is “program” the particles to “activate” only after they pass through the healthy tissue and get to the tumor. They can also bend these particle beams. Strictly speaking, I think this is called “magic.” I just don’t want Doug Henning to show up and tell me,
|It’s only an illusion!|
On my way home, I stopped at one of our local churches, as I like to do. Our pastor was in there praying, too, and so I took the opportunity to go to confession. So here comes another installment of why I do what I do, why I act like this, and probably why I handle cancer the way that I do. And for non-Catholic readers, this might be a deeper papist dive than you bargained for, but you showed up here, and I’ve decided I’m going to say things to people who show up in my little corner of the internet. Confession is something I depend on very deeply. And I think it’s a pretty misunderstood thing, even among Catholics. For me, it’s not about being overly focused on guilt or on a third party mediator. And I just don’t buy that it’s an invention of the Catholic Church.