Archive for March, 2014

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On the Inconstancy of Good Fortune

March 30, 2014
"The Wheel of Fortune" by Edward Burne-Jones, 1875-83

“The Wheel of Fortune” by Edward Burne-Jones, 1875-83

“Ill fortune is better for men than good. When fortune smiles, she is always false. But when she is inconstant and whimsical, she shows her true self. The first aspect of Fortune will deceive people, but the second is instructive. … Good fortune can lead men astray, deceiving them about what to expect from life and how to think of themselves. When Fortune is unkind, she drives men back to an understanding of what the world is like, and who their friends are. Here you are, complaining of the wealth that you have lost, and you fail to recognize the wealth you have gained — knowledge of your true friends.”

Boethius. Consolation of Philosophy, Book II, Section VIII. Trans. David R. Slavitt. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. 2008. Print.

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Mikey’s Lobotomy?

March 28, 2014

Our first visit to Dr. Johnson, our radiation oncologist, a couple of weeks ago now was nothing more than a chance for Dr. Johnson to examine my condition and for Holly and I to ask any questions.

We had a list of standard boring brain tumor questions. But Dr. Johnson had done his homework and designed a personal examination. Well, they were really a group of assessments to test my post-craniotomy cognitive functions based on the tumors location. These included questions about any seizures I may have ever had. I’ve never had a seizure, by the way. This seemed to surprise all the doctors. So, I’m not sure how to take that.

To start my battery of tests he gave me three words and told me that I would be asked to recall them at some point. This would be a test of my linguistic working memory to find out if they messed anything up while they were in my skull. Next, he asked me what date it was. No clue! I’d been sitting in my living room watching Young Frankenstein and Seven Samurai for the past two weeks. I think this was supposed to be an event and time based memory test. So, I told him everything else about the day. Tuesday, got up at 6:30, I came to the hospital, yadda, yadda, yadda.

Then he had me follow a pencil with only my eyes without moving my head. I’m guessing this was checking my horizontal saccadic eye movements. For anyone who’s never taken a medical, psychological, or philosophy of mind (word!) class, saccades are quick movements of your eyes as they unconsciously scan the environment. They are gathering information to be used as a working mental map of your environment and your location within it. If you don’t believe me watch someones eyes some time. They never stop jumping around. They are always scanning. Your visual memory is extremely short, so the saccades send information to your working memory. Saccades are your brain’s first step in attention. (For more info on visual consciousness check out Christof Koch’s, The Quest for Consciousness: A Neurobiological Approach. It’s outstanding! Chapter 9, 12, & 13 are of particular interest to those interested in the complexity of conscious visual experience. Goodale & Milner’s Sight Unseen, Chapter 6 is also informative. I also have PDF’s of all of these. If anyone wants a copy just let me know.)

To test my focus, calculation abilities, and numerical processing, he asked me to count backwards from 100 by sevens. Sure! Ain’t no thang! “100, 97 … wait! No!, 100, 93, 88 … no, 86!” To say the least I screwed the pooch on this test. Holly said she thinks I was just rambling off numbers at that point. But come one! Sevens?! Backward?! Can anyone else around here easily count backward from 100 by 7’s? Ridiculous, I tell you!

After expressing disappointment at my disgusting performance. Dr. Johnson said, “Well, you did just have a lobotomy, Mike.”

Pre-Operative Scan (Whte part on upper right is the tumor)

Pre-Operative Scan
(Whte part on upper right is the tumor)

Holy crap sticks! A lobotomy?! That changed my whole perspective. It wasn’t until then that I realized what had happened. The doctors had always explained that the tumor was in my head pressing ON my brain. The pressure is what was giving me my symptoms. It seemed to imply a strict separation between the tumor and my brain. So, I always thought about my tumor being located between my skull and my brain. But cancer is an abnormal growth of naturally occurring (BRAIN!!) cells. So, when Dr. Litofsky, my neurosurgeon, took out that infamous baseball-sized tumor he was really just scooping out that much of my brain! They were testing to see if anything important was taken out. Brain blown. (see scans!)

Post Operative Scan (Lobotomy!)

Post Operative Missing Brains!
(Lobotomy!)

 

It’s alright though! I still remembered the three words Dr Johnson gave me all that time ago. Chair! Dog! Ball! Mistake Bwian! You left the linguistic area of my brain intact. So, now I can tell you to suck on every poisoned pill I take against you and I can curse you with every dose of radiation I subject you to. You left me able to revile you at every turn. That means you’re MY bitch, Bwian.

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On Misery and Contentment

March 26, 2014
Anicius Manlius Severinus Boëthius

Anicius Manlius Severinus Boëthius

“Almost nothing is inherently miserable, unless you think it is. And contrariwise, a man who knows how to find contentment can be happy in almost any circumstance.”

Boethius. Consolation of Philosophy, Book II, Section IV. Trans. David R. Slavitt. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. 2008. Print.

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Hairs Cut Time

March 25, 2014

When a neurosurgeon cuts your skull open and sends you home two days later, all the responsibility for its healing seems to fall squarely on your shoulders.

Now most who know me remember that getting my hair cut isn’t on the top of my to-do list. But when you have to take care of a wound and you can’t see it past the 2mm worth of hair, well a guys gotta do what a guys gotta do. So, I have to keep my hair shorter than I’ve ever had it. The scary part is I think I might like it…

I’ll eventually have to spread yummy hospital lotion on the targets of radiation. These fall in the hairline. I figure it’s probably best if it goes on the irradiated skin rather than shampooed into the hair.

Before:

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Gitta a hair cut you stinkin’ dad gum hippie!

After:

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Oooh… Pretty scalp.

(Note the similarities and near mirrored positioning  between myself and the Mucha painting behind me. I expound. She listens. Know you see what happens when you ask an art loving, design obsessed, philosophy geek how he’s been.)

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Before I get back to the boring stuff…

March 25, 2014

Before delving back into the ever-so-interesting world of brain cancer, I first wanted to say, “Thank you!”

Thank you to everyone who’s given Holly or I support. Thank you to each person who is pulling for, praying for, hoping for, helping, or thinking about us.

I always prided myself on self-sufficiency, but when life threatening events happen, it feels great to have kind people coming out of the woodwork.

Particular thanks go out to a few people specifically:

My friend in Pittsburgh, Lance, who sent some fantastically nerdy reading material for those inevitably tired days.

Can't go wrong with a little Iris Murdoch and Anthony Kenny!

Can’t go wrong with a little Iris Murdoch and Anthony Kenny!

I also want to thank Barbara Coward. She’s a friend of Holly’s who sent a care package all the way from Maryland. Thank you for chocolates, a book about beating the odds, some smelly-good lotion for Holly. She attempted to UPS some beer but UPS was uncooperative. One, that was especially for me, was called “Lucky SOB” and brewed with real 4-leaf clovers that was brewed by Flying Dog Brewery. I think the luck o’ the Irish made it here even if the beer didn’t.

Holly's got crabs.

Holly’s got crabs.

And finally, thanks to everyone who has pulled out their wallets, baked some food, or used their time to help us po’ folk out. It is always appreciated, at times like these, to have a couple less things to worry about. You know who you are. Thank you especially!

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The Return of the Mike

March 22, 2014

A response to the pouting photo that my wife Hollly posted. See! Smiley Mike!

Sorry that I’ve been away fanboys and girls. You just never know how you’ll react when you return to work while starting a double poison regimen less than three weeks after brain surgery. I wanted to take it slowly, test the waters, figure out all these pills, and work out a life schedule that will work for the next 7-1/2 months.

I’ve got a plethora of stories.

So, fear not me droogies!

Mikey will be back, soon!

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One Week Down

March 22, 2014

Aww… I look so sad. Is my apple too mushy or something?

Always That Space

Turn that frown upside down, Doodie Brown!

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Bwian the Bwain Tumowr is one week closer to his ultimate demise!

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First week of radiation therapy done, only five more to go.

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