Latest Brain Tumor advisory: Slightly less Grizzly
Today I got to see the results from my Monday (7/11/2011) MRI scan . The report I received from my neuro-oncologistbwas better than anything I would have allowed myself to hope for going in. My worst fear was that the neurological decline and increasing left-side weakness have experienced since my last scan in May (seeScaring the Neighbors 2: Meet Half Ass
.) could only mean that the GBM tumor mass on the right side of my brain had swollen up like some malignant, leaky, water balloon. Instead, Dr. George Bobustuc gave me the good news right away: “I think this is definitely better.” The new scan showed significant improvement since May, meaning that the course of 17 radiation treatments I completed in June had the desired effect of beating back the disease inside my head and, perhaps, giving me more time to stay alive and actually enoy it. “The mass effect (of the tumor) is almost gone.” The only caveat in the report was the appearance of a new growth nodule at the edge of the tumor zone, which will give us something to keep a close eye on when I get my next scan in six weeks.
All in all, I’melated, if not “cured.” Doctors treating glioblastoma multiforme brain-cancer patients such as me don’t keep “Mission Accomplished” banners stored in their clinics because they know such a banner, realistically, cannot ever be unfurled and hung on the wall. In my two-year battle with GBM, I’ve learned to respect the disease enough to know not to put too much weight on any single scan. I’ve had scans indicating everything from zero disease progression to “you may have just a few weeks left to live (such as was the case with my May scan.)GBM can sometimes seem as exhausting and frightening as having a relentless Grizzly Bear on my tail as I run and search frantically for the best route out of the dark woods. Pinning one’s hopes on one good MRI scan is about as comforting (and also futile) as climbing a tree thinking you may have escaped, until the instant you remember, Oh , yeah, bears can climb trees, too.” I’ve already taken the well-worn treatment paths ofhospitalization with major brain surgery (three craniotomies), radiation (two courses totaling 47 treatments and many, many combinations of chemotherapy in both intravenous and pill form. Sometimes the bear slows down a bit or seems to get distracted when it’s hit by the most powerful medicine, while at other times it seems to just rear up on its hind legs and swat away the latest batch of new-and unproven-chemo pills like so many rubber bullets. Then I just turn around and start running again as the bear crashes through the timber and underbrush behind me, always making some fearsome roar that comes out sounding like the words:”Next scan!” “Next scan!” T least that’s how the roar always seems to echo in my head whenever I wake up and lie there awake and thinking in the dark woods of 4 a.m.
After today’s report, I feel like I’m still running but I don’t feel at all like I’m close to being out of room or about to climb a tree. I’ll just set abouttaking my newly prescribed chemo medications,go on managing my condition and neurological symptoms as I have been and just keep waiting forthe next scan. Just like the bear says.