Monday, January 31, 2011

Win Win

A few hours after that half marathon, I went to my last league soccer game. If we won the game, we won the league and while we were down and discouraged at half we pulled it together and pulled it out. Simple truth is that I did very little that game to contribute because, I am probably the weakest player on the team and because I’d run a half marathon that morning. However, this trifecta of wins over the weekend was encouraging because they all were their own type. The tournament gigantically eased my financial worried and showed me how much people cared, the half marathon showed me there were victories that could come without me even focused on winning and the soccer one showed me sometimes you get to win just because you have the right people around you. I would have said no to the tournament, I nearly gave up during the half marathon and providing cheering may have my biggest contribution to soccer. Sunday night I kissed my wife softly on the head and hoped that with the right combination of these type of things at least she and Kiana would be okay. If that was true, then probably everything was okay/

While the new and incredibly frustrating job began, the wins just kept coming for the next several days. My follow up MRI showed no growth (this could be slightly deceptive as this astrocytoma has ‘tentacles’ that could be invading tissue and not be visible). However, it showed that my magnetic personality was still intact because they had to put the machine on overdrive. Okay maybe that’s not a great joke but the one my friend Bernie made wasn’t bad: that maybe I’d been lying about my balls of steel this whole time. (Apparently MRI’s can really creep people out when they feel that claustrophic. That was never a problem for me; I’d freak out during the needles and then fall asleep during the MRI’s). Either way, the lack of growth seemed to indicate that this wasn’t wildfire and even if this was what was going to kill me were talking in terms of years. If there had been growth within that short of a time span, we’d be talking about my life more in terms of months.

I met with my neuropsychologist for a preliminary appointment; he said I came across as ‘amazingly asymptomatic’ and said that my being fully bilingual (Spanish and English) plus having a fair share of 3 other languages (Hebrew, Greek, and Marshallese) might increase my chances of recovering language if we did pursue the surgery route. Images of me coming out only speaking one of those languages would create some awkwardness pretty much no matter which one of those came out.

Along that surgery route, the Livestrong Foundation had connected me to the Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center. This was by all accounts one of, if not ‘the’, best brain tumor center in the country. This, I would later find out, was where Ted Kennedy had gone to get his operation. This was an incredible endorsement as the senator I’m sure had no shortage of finances or research resources. So I sent them an email asking how this would work and what it would take for them to look at my case. The first person to contact me from there was not some receptionist or nurse practitioner, the case with all my local doctors. The first person to call me from Duke was Dr. Henry Friedman the lead neurooncologist himself. He came across as incredibly confident and not at all intimidated by cancer (too many of my doctors did… somehow the overconfident approach, more echoing my own approach was comforting). I’d later google him and see CNN interviews where he essentially scoffed at cancer. However, he said that before they’d look at anything they needed to know that I was willing to come to North Carolina, to Duke for treatment. He quickly diagnosed that I wasn’t ready to fly somewhere that far for treatment so he told me to think about it and get back to him. It wasn’t that I didn’t want the best but to be so far away was daunting as I’d come to realize that part of the reason I was so okay about all this was because there was an ever present supporting community. We got off the phone and I realized he’d given me more of his time on the phone than any of my doctors had at that point. Still, I often advised my friends against getting too emotional quickly in a long distance relationship…

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