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Where do brain tumors come from? I want an answer

Posted Oct 20 2010 7:29pm
My posts have been few and far between over the past months because, well, I was preparing for my wedding. And I was working. And on chemo. So those are all good excuses. If you are still following along I appreciate your support and the time you spend reading about my world. It is weird typing (and later proofreading ), thinking, "Wow, does anyone care what I have to say about all this?"

Sometimes I think this whole blogging thing--especially personal blogs where the author has no "professional" expertise in the subject--is a self-indulgent act. Yes, I realize that just because I blog that does not make me an accomplished writer. However, I could argue that a brain cancer blog written by a medical professional would lack the personal touch of an actual patient, or in my case, the flair of a certain punk rocker from northern California. But let's get back to the cancer stuff for the moment.

As I mentioned a few blogs back, my medical team was taking me off Temodar for two months so I could get married and go on a honeymoon and feel relatively "normal." I also experienced what it is like to have energy again! And holy shit! It is amazing to go for most of the day without crashing, though I will eventually get sleepy and need a nap anyway. (Or maybe that's just a normal part of the aging process?) My next MRI and appointment is in two weeks. I hope for the best.

A few months ago I found out that my maternal grandfather, who is 88, has a brain tumor. When I learned that I was like, "Holy smokes! I wonder if brain cancer is hereditary--at least for my family."

There is no real known cause of brain cancer... there are just theories. I immediately called Super Awesome Nurse at Kaiser and told her all about it and wondered if there where are links, warning signs, anything I should do. Should I go out and ask all my blood relatives to get brain MRIs?!

She said no. Brain tumors are not familial. Plus my grandfather is 88! Something will eventually get you if you live long enough.

My grandfather lives in New Jersey and lives with my aunt and uncle. I haven't seen him in at least 18 years. I have very fond memories of him from my childhood.

When I found out about the tumor I asked all kinds of questions like Did they do a biopsy?
Are they going to remove the tumor?
What is the pathology?
What's the treatment?
Etc.

But from what my aunt and uncle say, my grandfather's doctor's say is he is too old to withstand a brain surgery or a biopsy and so they performed radiation and gave him chemo. Of course, I was freaking out when I heard this thinking, "How can they give radiation and chemo when they don't even know it's cancer? It could be a benign tumor!" But I feel powerless here on the west coast.

I guess my grandfather accepted all the suggestions his medical team offered. And from what I hear he hasn't put any effort into getting well. My grandmother--his wife of 45+ years--passed over a year and a half ago. Maybe he is ready to go join her. I don't know.

Sigh.

My mom is getting ready to visit New Jersey and I might join her. But I am scared because I haven't seen that side of the family in a long time. And I am afraid my visit will seems superficial ("Hey grandpa, I haven't seen you in a long time but now that you are dying I am right by your side!"). I am also afraid that seeing him in that state with a similar (if not the same) malady will only reinforce my own mortality. I am afraid I will find it too hard to absorb, and I am afraid that will come off as shallow and self-indulgent. (If you haven't figured me out by now, I am somewhat occupied with the fear that others will think bad things about me. I really need to grow a pair.)

Then all of this stuff makes me remember the time I visited my old friend Logan Whitehurst just three weeks before he died from brain cancer ( medullo blastoma ) in 2006. I remember what he looked like, and how he didn't talk or barely open his eyes. But I stroked his hand with mine, and he once mumbled, "That feels good." And if it felt good enough that he was able to get that word out of his mouth in the state he was in, then maybe it is worth it to get over myself now and see another dying man who might get more out of seeing me than I will ever know.
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