Monday, November 17, 2008

E.R. Anniversary

Okay, so I can't always remember where I put the car keys, and even though it's the one I call the most, I rarely remember my husband's cell phone number (probably because I just push "Jared" on the speed-dial). But mention November 16, and I remember vividly what happened on that date three years ago.

After my third seizure that day my husband took me to the emergency room. I had a fourth seizure on the way there. We didn't know what was happening, but we knew it needed medical attention.

The ER doctor insisted that I wasn't having seizures, and after the C-T scan was negative he sent me home with the reassurance that this was just one of those weird things that will just go away, and we'll laugh about it six months later.

Neither he nor I had any idea that glioblastoma cells were busy at work, and without intervention they would have consumed my brain within six months. The doctor even said, "It's not like you have a brain tumor..."

Thanks to a perceptive dermatology resident who wasn't afraid to nag his sister over the phone ("You're having textbook seizures! Get an EEG!"), and a handy neurologist who prays a lot, we got to the right answer a few days later.

I've told this story many times before. I should explain that I hold no ill will against the ER doctor, who was probably sincere in his confidence that he was right. I'm grateful that circumstances compensated for his error so that my life could continue. I'm grateful to understand that this experience is safely in the Lord's hands.

Three years ago November 16 was preceded by a Saturday at Six Flags, and it was the last time I rode a rollercoaster. My husband's company has a private party there each November, and we go every year. We were there again this weekend with all of my family. Once again I passed up the rides that I used to love (there's this thing about avoiding g-forces when you have a hole in your brain) but it was a joyful experience, because it was another survival milestone and an opportunity to spend time with loved ones.

We left the park and headed to our church Saturday evening for another exciting experience. Since I'm not dead yet, and since I still had the capacity for it, I was asked (and able) to write and direct a roadshow for our youth group. The roadshow performances were held that evening, and it was great! I wrote ours based on "Jake the Puppy and Emma the Cat" -- a poem that I wrote as a love story for my children. We made it into a musical, and we were lucky to have a great selection of talented and enthusiastic teenagers to form our cast. And my kids loved seeing "their" poem being dramatized on stage. I was just happy to be there, savoring a day of family, friends, fun, and all that good stuff that makes life so wonderful.

The next day we heard many inspiring talks during our sacrament meeting at church. The concluding speaker told his stories of survival, and the continuing challenges facing his family. Among these are the fact that his wife is a brain tumor survivor, and his youngest daughter undergoes neurosurgery this Wednesday. In the midst of this was his message, which is not to "handcuff the Lord". We should put our faith into our righteous desires, with a willingness accept the Lord's will concerning the outcome. I understood very clearly what he meant, having learned for myself the peace that comes from knowing that the Lord is always trustworthy. I was once again reminded of the great blessings that have been accruing for the past three years.

I personally don't think it was any coincidence that he was assigned to speak to us on November 16 this year, just as I don't think it was coincidental that my brother could diagnose a seizure over the phone three years ago, and that the right neurologist could take a walk-in appointment. This whole experience has been surrounded by tender mercies, so it's not surprising to discover more.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

I have a date for Messiah 2008!

Sunday, December 21
(2 evening performances, each about an hour long)
Artisan Center Theater
418 E. Pipeline Road, Hurst, TX

Free to the public, but reservations are needed (call 817-284-1200).

Audience sings along for the choral numbers.

I get to do my favorite alto arias, and Jared and I get to throw down the gauntlet again and sing the duet, "O Death, Where Is Thy Sting?"

This will be my fifth Messiah performance over the past three years! Each time I get to do this, it's a reminder of the miracles of both life and quality of life, and the One who makes all things possible.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


The twelfth has rolled around again. I've survived another month, for a total of thirty-five since the day I heard "malignant".

I did my own neuro test today, just for grins:

  • I know where I am (I'm right here!) and what day it is.
  • I can draw a clock and a cube (actually gained that ability since the craniotomy).
  • I can count backwards from 100 by 7's (ditto).
  • I can close my eyes and stretch out my arms and touch my nose with each pinky and forefinger.
  • I can walk a straight line on my toes and heels.
  • I can tap my fingers and thumbs together and roll my hands over each other in rhythm.
  • If I run my finger along the outer edge of my foot, my toes curl under like they should. (Did you just try that one?)
  • I can close my eyes and trace a letter or number on either palm and feel what it is.
  • I can spell WORLD backwards (without writing it first).
  • I have coordination, balance, and neuromuscular strength (just ask my sensei about karate class this week).
  • I can still do stuff (like my own neuro test) "just for grins".
  • I can still remember Scarlett O'Hara's opening lines in the movie Gone With the Wind ("Fiddle-dee-dee! War, war, war --this war talk is spoiling all the fun at every party this spring. I get so bored, I could scream! Besides, there isn't going to be any war.")
  • I can still recognize and match musical pitches--which is really important, because another Messiah performance is coming up!!!
  • Although I do it less frequently than I should, I can still write a complete sentence or two.

I'm working, I'm teaching Relief Society and directing the choir at church, I'm enjoying my husband and my kids, I'm serving on the PTA board, and I'm working toward my brown belt. If someone pulls a knife or a club on me, you should feel really sorry for them.

The only signs of brain damage are my really messy bedroom and my tendency to lose car keys and shoes when I'm in a hurry to get somewhere.

But most importantly, I'm alive!

Monday, November 10, 2008

I was there

During our many childless years, my husband and I worked with primary-age children at church, and as we watched them grow and give talks and sing we'd wish for the day when we had a child of our own doing those things.

When I was diagnosed with cancer I felt that longing again -- not for the child (because we had our children), but for the opportunity to be there and enjoy all the wonderful moments a child experiences as they grow up.

Last month my son gave a talk in primary at church. It wasn't his first talk, but it was a special one. He helped a lot with the preparation, and even did his own illustrations to show the audience while he spoke. In my completely unbiased opinion as his mother, I thought it was very charming. And although it was a small moment, it meant the world to me to be there.

Now you get to be there, too -- sort of. I finally loaded the video onto YouTube:

Tomorrow is Veteran's Day, and he has a small speaking part in his school program. It's another brief moment, but I'm really looking forward to being there.

(...and I was!)

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Despite the election, I still want to live

I try not to get too political here, but I will admit that I'm still proudly displaying my McCain/Palin yard sign and bumper sticker. They didn't win, and the potential consequences are sobering, but I don't regret my choice. And if I can survive brain cancer for three years, surely I can survive four years of blue domination. (Those in power may end up destroying the world's best healthcare system, but I also rely heavily on prayer to stay alive.)

This morning I awoke to read the following article, which was both brilliant and timely (in my humble and completely objective opinion as the author) as well as a good reminder of stuff I've preached before: