I got some great news on Wednesday. I had to trek to Boston to get it from my oncologist at Massachusetts General Hospital there. But based on an MRI taken on Monday, there’s no sign of cancer in my brain. Roughly four months after I learned I had a brain tumor, underwent surgery to remove it and after about six weeks of radiation and chemotherapy, plus a month to let things recover, I’m sort of healed.
Well, that’s not likely. The glioblastoma cells are microscopic but there are no masses of them enough to show up on an MRI. I’ll be getting further chemotherapy to keep up the assault on any that remain. They’ll probably not go away entirely, but might get immobilized to the point where they don’t grow and start a new tumor, which isn’t a cure but would be remission. What the news really says is: you’ve bought some time. How much I’ve bought is unclear but likely a few years of health and mobility at least. But with MRIs every other month and chemotherapy, if it comes back, which is likely, I’ll have plenty of warning and the oncologist will have plenty of opportunities to take further action to mitigate its spread.
But as my doctor said, this is about the best news possible at this point. It’s also consistent with how I feel in general, which is very healthy. I think I was also helped by a positive attitude. I still feel I will survive this somehow, although I realize it probably will kill me eventually. But if I can get some years of good health, I can savor life.
This will include an Alaskan cruise in May. My wife and I are now actively planning more cruises and vacations because I also learned that it’s unlikely that new symptoms will show up quickly. This means I can be far from home on, say, a long cruise of the South Pacific, and be confident that an issue won’t become so chronic that it requires me to be flown off a ship in the middle of the South Pacific. I just need to work my life around these MRIs and chemotherapies, which shouldn’t be hard to do.
I also learned some new facts. During my surgery, the surgeon removed the tumor not just from the surface of my brain, but from inside my brain as well. The mass was about one cubic inch. So obviously it helped relieve a lot of pressure in my brain. My brain has sort of reshaped itself into a more normal and symmetrical look, with the new gaps filled in with spinal fluid. My brain looks healthier.
I imagined living to be an old man. I’m 66. For most of human history I’d have more likely died by 33. Today though 66 is not that old. I assumed I would live into my late 80s, like my parents, and maybe my 90s. I had plans to enjoy all that time, and I expected minimal health complications. But if I now live to 70 or 75 because of the glioblastoma, I can’t be happy about that. But I can do my best to keep symptoms at bay. And all that money we carefully amassed can at least in part be used to see the world in style, mostly from a cruise ship.
Dying has got to suck, but I’d prefer to delay it as long as possible and check off as many items on my bucket list while I am hale and hearty enough to enjoy them. And that’s what I intend to do.
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