This page last updated: 4/21/2013
Before brain cancer, I was a workaholic-never missing a single workday for my entire working career. At age 52, that was quite an accomplishment. I was a hard-driving "Type A" person, working more and more as my career advanced. I progressed from a Ph.D. in Engineering to a Research Engineer, Sr. Research Engineer, Assistant to a Tax Manager, Market Analyst, Sr. Consultant, Manager, then Director of Financial Planning, Plant Manager, Vice President, and then Sr. Vice President & a member of the Board of Directors. I got to travel all over the world except Australia. No challenge was too great. Simply, my career was my life.
All that changed at 3:05 AM on Friday, May 28, 1999; I woke up to a blaze of light and a lot of people I didn't know in my bedroom. I was wet with sweat and felt cold and clammy. There were the police, emergency medical personnel, my neighbors from across the street, my wife Lynda, and my daughter Karen all staring at me and looking anxious about something but I couldn't figure out what it was. There was a strong taste of peanuts in my mouth. I had eaten nearly half a can that night and figured that it had something to do with all the commotion. They lifted me onto the gurney and rolled me out the bedroom door, then the front door, and finally into the waiting ambulance. I felt fine, I really didn't understand. Finally, the EMT said, "You had a seizure and we're taking you to the hospital." I noticed that the siren wasn't on, so I just relaxed, still convinced that I was OK. There was no hurry.
On Friday, June 4th, Lynda and I went to see Dr. S., a local neurologist, for a reading on the MRI. I remember saying, "Well, what is it?" There was an awkward pause and my anxiety rose as the doctor looked at the floor. He said, almost apologetically, "Well, a picture is worth a thousand words. Why don't you come see for yourself?" He took us into the next office that had lightboxes for reading X-rays. My MRI scans were in position already. I could see immediately that I had a brain tumor. The first scan showed a growth that looked like a miniature chili pepper pointing down into the left frontal lobe. It was about half an inch long and had a corkscrew- like twist. It looked very close to the top of my head, within ½" or so. "Finally", I thought, "a definite diagnosis." To a layperson like myself, it looked very operable. How little I knew.
I had surgery on June 15 at the Cleveland Clinic, waking up unable to speak and paralyzed on my right side. Pathology revealed an oligo 2 w/1p19q deletions and 3-5% mitotic features. As I was recovering from these, I had 54 Gy of external beam radiation therapy through July. However, my short-term memory was down to the 4th percentile, it took 50% longer to do things, and juggling multiple tasks was difficult. I went back to work part time, then full time on September 1. I was determined to overcome even these obstacles, however it was not to be, and my last day of work was February 15, 2000. I have restored most of my physical abilities with therapy and determination, mostly determination as I had only a few months of therapy. I am taking 500 mg b.i.d Keppra and 533 mg t.i.d. Bromelain(a COX-2 inhibitor like Celebrex). After thirteen years, almost all of my deficits have greatly improved. I go to Gold's gym every weekday, jogging on a treadmill and using machines and free weights. My strategy is to concentrate on doing things that are difficult because that is the only way to improve. I have had scores of MRIs, they look terrible, but there has been no change for ten years.
My priorities have changed: from work to family. I know my personality has changed for the better. Once you have had a brain cancer, all other problems seem trivial. We moved to Southern California in 2005 and travel a lot, now that we have the time. I have been an AARP tax-preparer for the past ten years; Lynda and I have been theater volunteers for the past seven years, and members of two book clubs. We love to visit our our oldest daughter, Melanie, her husband Rema, and our thirteen-year old granddaughter, Cypress in Corvallis, OR. We also see our younger daughter, Karen and her husband, John, who have a three year old son, Mason in Westminster, CO. I am still working just as hard as I ever did, but with changed priorities. I have no problems at all telling people I have brain cancer, even noting their horror that I could discuss such a thing so casually. I view myself almost as a missionary to spread the word that brain tumors don't necessarily mean sudden death. My new goal is to live long enough to die from something else.
I have nothing new to report, but had an MRI on January 5, 2013 that showed marginal improvement. Not bad for a 66 year old geezer who has survived 13 1/2 years.