Friday, April 23, 2010

Final Post (God Willing!)

I can't believe it's been over 2 years since I last posted here, and almost 3 since my initial diagnosis. I've been thinking about making this final post for quite awhile, now. I've frankly been waiting because 1) I still have some trouble typing; 2) I haven't had as spectacular a recovery as I'd hoped. But, as my boss and friend, Mark, reminded me the other day, few people survive brain cancer - let alone 2 pulmonary embolisms (which occurred less the 1 week after my brain surgery) - and I have a lot to be thankful for.

And I am so thankful:
- to God for preserving me through my various trials
- to my family for hanging in there with me (I know I haven't always been the easiest person to live with)
- to my friends at church and at work who have given much needed comfort and support when I needed it m0st
- and to all of you who followed me and prayed with me through this blog.

Thankfully, most of my memories of being in the hospital and acute care center have mercifully faded into a kind of mental fog. But some memories are vivid:

1. I remember my friends from work coming to see me in the hospital a few days after my surgery. I couldn't express myself very well verbally. I do remember saying to each one, "You are blessed!"

2. I remember being awake for a few minutes in the ICU after my embolisms, with a breathing tube down my throat, and my wife telling me how much she and the kids needed me. That really made me want to fight to live!

3. I remember my family coming every day for the almost 2-months I was in the hospital and in acute care.

4. I remember my pastor coming to see me in the hospital and struggling to communicate by pointing at pictures on a laminated board. I even remember what I wanted to say so badly: "Turn off the light"! Seems so simple, now.

I still struggle with weakness in my right arm and leg. Though I do exercises almost daily, I'm still not where I'd like to be. There have been some set-backs along the way - I've had a couple mild seizures, a volvulous (a twisting of my colon which required the surgeon to open up my abdomen and perform a resection), I fell and broke several ribs.

And I still struggle mentally as well. As I blogged long ago, I was never the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I prided myself on being one of them. My mother used to tell me that no one would be able to take my mind away from me. But though she was right about a lot of things, she was wrong about that. God could take away my mind - or part of it, anyway.

The most obvious deficiency is in my ability to speak. I used to be so articulate - I am no longer. I can still write reasonably well, but I'm not as verbally proficient as I used to be. But the most frustrating thing is that I don't think as quickly as I once did. I simply can't make those mental connections. I don't make as many witty comments, and all those things that once came to me so easily, befuddle me.

I used to get excited when I could teach a class or give a presentation at work. Those days are long gone. I've returned to the venerable Gospel of John class - the one I was praying in front of when I had my first seizure - but I only teach once a month (it takes me a full week to prepare what used to take a couple hours). And I have to give a couple presentations to my superiors and peers at work next month, about which I'm apprehensive.

I take that back - the most frustrating thing for me is the growing distance I feel within my family. My wife has encouraged me to develop more of a relationship with my kids, but I know I embarrass them and they find me annoying, so it gets easier and easier to just throw in the towel and not try anymore. And my wife's patience ran out long ago.

God is surely testing me! It's so hard to trust Him through this trial - to trust that He intends this for my good and His glory. But I can tangibly see some things He is already teaching me:

1. I'm learning patience; I hardly ever raise my voice in anger
2. My faith is growing again
3. I'm learning to take my deficiencies in stride

Hebrews 12:5-6 teaches us to love the Lord's discipline, because He knows what is best for us, and passionately wants to conform us to the image of His beloved Son. This fact is not always welcome, but it is always necessary.

In many ways, I feel my greatest trials - and potentially my greatest rewards - are still ahead 0f me.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Back At Work Full-Time!

I've finally returned to work full-time! Hurray! I got all the "t's crossed and the i's dotted" from the insurance company (bet they're glad not to have me around anymore!).

The results of my MRI were fantastic! I'm cancer-free! That one "anomalous finding" was nowhere to be seen. Praise His Holy Name!

The results of my language evaluation were decidedly more mixed. The good news is that I've retained all my thought process; the bad news is that I've a rather marked defiency when I trying to think under pressure, quickly, or multi-task. I've been advised to make the most of my cognitive therapy, focussing on these areas, while keeping these areas minimized as best I can in the rest of my day. The positive news is that - potentially - it can improve, albeit slowly.

I've explained the situation to my boss, and he's willing to let me procede at my current pace, for which I'm very grateful!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Belated (very belated!) best wishes for a joyous Christmas!

It's been about 6 weeks since I last blogged, and a lot has transpired. First, I really enjoyed the Holidays with my family. We had a quiet Christmas, but we had a New Year's Eve party with several friends and their families.

Next, I underwent round 4 of chemo treatments, starting Jan 2, and I just finished up round 5 last night. I'm getting pretty good at predicting when I'll have a "down" day. It seems like my worst days are day 3, followed by 1-2 down days about a week or so later. As I only do treatments 5 days a month, the second set of down days occurs well after my treatments end.

Next, I've returned to work on a half-time basis. I wanted to get back to fulltime ASAP, but my insurance company says I may need to get my doctors to agree. I'm sitting here, waiting for final word on my status.

Finally, I had a follow-up MRI on Monday. I'm awaiting the results, which should be ready tomorrow. I have a Language Evaluation at UCLA next week, and then Dr. Liau will read both the MRI and the results of the LE the following week.

Please continue to lift me up in your prayers! I know they're effective!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Chemo Treatments on Hold Till After the Holidays (Yeay!)

I met with my oncologist yesterday, and requested that we hold off on the Chemo treatments until after Christmas and New Year's. He said, "Sure! I have no problem with that." He explained that these "agents" aren't subject to a rigorous schedule - that reasonable delays are OK. So, I should be pretty much at full strength for the Holidays!

I also told him that Dr. Liau had recommended extending the Chemo regimen by 3 months. He must have been in an agreeable mood - he said, "I'd actually have no qualms about extending it indefinitely." I understand that as long as the drug is well-tolerated by the patient, there's not a hard/fast rule about when to discontinue.

I'm hoping the extra 3 months will do the trick. Though I'm not having any major side-effects, the fatigue is still significant hurdle, although certainly tolerable - especially given the alternative!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Positive Reports from Neurosurgeon and Radiologist

I saw Dr. Linda Liau December 5 and the Radiologist (Dr. Yamplowsky) the following week. Let's take the radiologist first. He basically told me what I already knew - that they thought the cancer was gone; and that there was just that one little questionable area to keep an eye on. But it was great to get that confirmation; Dr. Yamplowsky was the only doctor that even mentioned that "non-specific" region at all.

Now, on to Dr. Liau. She was very positive. She said she recommended another 3 months of chemo treatments, solely as a precaution. She said that 6 months - up to a year - was sort of the UCLA "standard," provided the patient tolerated the drug. So, that means I'll do my next round immediately after the holidays (if my oncologist agrees), then three more months after that.

She offered to write prescription for occupational therapy (to improve my handwriting, which she said was often the last thing to come back) and "cognitive therapy" (a sub-set of speech therapy) to help clear up my thinking a bit more. Of course, I said 'yes' to both!

I really like Dr. Liau. She's very calm, positive, and has a pleasant sense of humor, which was definitely on display in this office visit (I guess humor would be quite out of place in my previous visit). The first thing she said was, "My, but doesn't everyone just look so ... normal!"

She also was the only doctor that actually reviewed the films of the MRI. She showed me a couple images of the cavity that used be the 'home' of my tumor. I'm glad it got an eviction notice from Dr. Liau!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

It IS Good News!

I had an appointment with my oncologist on Friday, and he said: "You are no longer on my worry list!" He told me the report was almost as good as I could expect, and not to worry about the non-specific finding - it was probably just a result of the healing process.

He said there was no physiological cause for my symptoms - leaving the possibility open that they are psychological, or are the result of some subtle damage they can't see. If the latter, he said the overwhelming number of his patients continue to experience improvement for up to a year, so there's good warrant for believing I'll also improve.

He gave me the names of some counsellors who specialize in treating cancer patients, and one appears to be a provider for United Healthcare (I'll know for sure Monday).

Meanwhile, I'm still going to see my neurosurgeon, Dr. Liau, on Wednesday. I'm sure she'll give me a good report as well, but I want to discuss my continuing symptoms with her.

My intention is to try to work through some of the confusion-related issues by returning to work part-time, starting Monday.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

MRI Results - Appears to be Good News!

I picked up the MRI report today, and it looks to be good news! I'll know more tomorrow when I see the doctor, but if I'm reading it correctly (and I think I am), it's very positive. There's only one questionable spot where they have to keep a close eye on, but even that was "non-specific" (i.e., it was tiny and unclear).

Thank you for your prayers! They appear to have been answered!