Tuesday, July 28, 2009

New greeting card needed

MRI was good! My doctor was very pleased, and so am I. The plan is to come back in another three months for another perfusion study.

It appears that everything showing up on the MRI is negative for perfusion, which means that we only see necrosis (radiation damage) in parts of my brain. This is much better than cancer taking over my brain. We'll keep doing perfusion studies with my MRI scans, so that we can continue to confirm that nothing else is growing.

As I was celebrating with the nurses, they congratulated me on my radiation damage, and then we had a good laugh about whether there was a greeting card for such an occasion. ("Congratulations -- no more tumor, just more fried brain!") We kept trying to come up with words that rhymed with "necrosis". I finally came up with the following verse (picture this on gray cardstock with little black spots all over it):

There's one thing we know, sis',
And that is: necrosis
Is better than tumor
When it comes to prognosis.

There's no need for psychosis
(And please -- no neurosis!)
It just means grey matter cells
Do less mitosis.

It's not a thrombosis,
Stenosis, or cirrhosis.
And when you have GBM, it's

Congratulations on your MRI!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Life moves fast, except on MRI day

Someone in this picture turned four last month. That's my daughter, Emma. People always think she's older, because she's so tall.

Someone in this picture had just turned 42 that day. That's me -- the Mama. People always think I'm younger, because my kids are so young.

Someone in this picture will be 65 later this year. That's my mom -- the Nana. People always think she's my sister.

Someone in this picture turns 90 this week. That's my grandma -- the Nonagenarian. (There's a neuro test spelling word.) Grandma suffered a stroke last fall, and doesn't really remember who we are. Even so, she still seems younger than her years, and we had a fun time together at her birthday party.

The Emma, the Mama, the Nana, and the Nonagenarian: four generations of people who grew up really fast. It seems like only yesterday when I was four, Mom was in her twenties, Grandma was ten years older than I am now, and Emma wasn't due to arrive for thirty-four more years.

Time flies when you're having fun, and life moves fast, even when you don't anymore.

Not surprisingly, my three-month hiatus from the world of neuro-oncology went by faster than I'd like. It's picture day again tomorrow. I go in for another MRI perfusion study, followed by a three-hour wait before seeing my doctor for the verdict. I'm always very grateful for the cushion of prayers supporting me, because that three-hour span seems to be one of the few times when life slows down for a very long rest. (If I only knew how to make it more fun...)

I got an appointment reminder call from someone who sounded like she expects neuro-oncology patients to have the capability of a four-year-old. Or maybe she doesn't encounter enough long-term patients who can still remember the routine.

"You're supposed to have an MRI before you come in for your appointment. Did someone call you to confirm the MRI time? Did they call you from the Northpark facility? Did they tell you to be there at 10:45?"

"Be sure to bring your MRI films with you when you come in for your appointment."

"Please bring all of your medications in their bottles so we can confirm everything that you are taking. Put them in a plastic zipper bag so they don't get lost." (This one was new -- I used to be trustworthy to remember the two prescriptions that I have been taking for more than three years.)

"Please come fifteen minutes early because we will need you to draw a clock and answer some questions on a form when you arrive. Your appointment is at 3:15, so that means we want you to be here at 3:00."

In case the MRI results are confusing again, I'm armed with tie-breaking evidence of good neuro functioning over the past three months: copies of my black belt certificate, my recent Scrabble scoresheets, and a recently published article that I wrote; my "extra credit" shoes for the walk-a-straight-line-on-your-heels test; and the ability to spell n-o-n-a-g-e-n-a-r-i-a-n. I'm hoping that the verdict will be good and easier to reach than last time, but I know that it is what it is: either something to celebrate or something to start tackling as early as we can.

...starting the drumroll...I'll post again tomorrow with the news...stay tuned...

Saturday, July 25, 2009


Yes, I just celebrated forty-three months of survival, and no, I'm not going backwards. Today I get to celebrate forty-two YEARS of a very good life!

Turning 42 isn't impossible for someone who was diagnosed with GBM at age 38. (With God, nothing is impossible.) It's just not often expected, so it's something extra to be happy about.

I get to celebrate the day with lots of family, including my grandmother, who will be ninety years old next week. (I hope to follow in her footsteps!)

Monday, July 20, 2009

Free Markets Find Cures

Half-brained cancer lady speaks her mind about public healthcare at about minute 2:20:

Friday, July 17, 2009

KRISTA is the new black!

I had half a mind to do it, and so I did it -- I earned my black belt in karate! Proof positive that I am alive AND kicking!

On a sad note, I learned a while ago that I would earn a black belt by hook or by crook when a boy in my son's karate class died in a drowning accident. Our sensei came to his funeral early and presented his parents with a black belt. It was a thoughtful gesture, as this child had been such a karate enthusiast, but I was haunted by the realization that I could very well be the recipient of a similar kindness.

Fortunately -- and thanks again to the many prayers that continue on my behalf -- I survived long enough to earn my belt the traditional way. The culmination of my efforts over the past couple of years took place in a three-hour test. In the middle of July in Texas. In full black uniform. In a room filled with other students. Part of the test was held outside. It wasn't cool -- but it was awesome!

It's the ultimate neuro test. Master Richard Black has outdone all of my doctors in challenging my mental and physical capabilities. In order to reach this level I needed to recall all of the material that I had ever learned. Memory, reflexes, balance, motor skills, and neuromuscular strength were definitely confirmed as functional.

I had my husband with me to (literally) lean on for support. He was there, earning his brown belt at the same time. As we like to say, "The family that kicks together, sticks together!"

It's all up from here. I'm "only" a first-degree black belt, so the journey can continue as long as I want it to. I hope life's journey can be that way, too.

I already have another big test scheduled later this month. This one won't be in the dojo, but the MRI tube, followed by less grueling neuro tests (walking a straight line, counting backward, tapping and rolling my fingers, drawing a clock, etc.) I'll be sure to bring Dr. Fink a copy of my black belt certificate for inclusion in my chart.

Meanwhile, the Simple Minds song is going through (what's left of) my simple mind:

What you gonna do when things go wrong?

What you gonna do when it all cracks up?

What you gonna do when the love burns down?

What you gonna do when the flames go up?

Who is gonna come and turn the tide?

What's it gonna take to make a dream survive?

Who's got the touch to calm the storm inside?

Who's gonna save you?

Alive and kicking

Stay until your love is alive and kicking...

Sunday, July 12, 2009


Marking another month of survival, although each day is a moment to celebrate life.
This month's report:
  • I am here.
  • I survived long enough to throw Emma's movie star party and attend my class reunion.
  • I went on a reassuring bike ride yesterday.
  • I have been invited to test for my next belt rank this coming Friday.
  • I can still count backward from 100 by seven's, and I'm better at playing chess.
  • I had another article published in Desert Saints Magazine: http://www.desertsaintsmagazine.com/magazine_articles/Jul2009/DSM%20July%202009.pdf (it's the one on page 12)
  • My office and my bedroom closet are still messy enough to keep me alive.
We were also recently on the front page of the neighborhood section of our local paper. It had nothing to do with cancer survival -- just the fact that we were obviously an adorable-looking family arriving at our local 4th of July tea party!