Well, here I am! My first venture into the public blogland.
I have decided to create a blog in order to log my journey of battling cancer, to share tidbits of information that I am learning along the way, and to probe and explore a variety of topics that I personally find meaningful.
Although cancer isn’t an easy topic to tread, I have come to accept that it is part of the chaos that is life and worth discussing and exploring. The scariness can be softened through coming to understand what it is and how to manage it.
At the most simplistic level, cancer is just an uncontrolled division of abnormal cells. I have anaplastic oligodendroglioma which is a type of glioma that is believed to originate from the oliogdendrocytes of the brain or from a glial precursor cell. Mine happens to be located in the
front back left parietal lobe which is actually how it was discovered. There are two known parts of the cerebral cortex that is linked to speech, and my tumor affected what is called Broca’s area.
EDIT: I would like to clarify that the tumor is actually in the back, not the front. I’ve known this but made a mistake when referencing Broca’s area. Although Broca’s area is typically in the front, my case has gone against the textbook. Interestingly, it’s an example of how unique we are as individuals and how difficult of a task it can be for the medical team to map out a brain and discover and work with areas that go against the norm.
In January of 2014, expressive aphasia took me by surprise while having a meeting with a coworker. The words coming out of my mouth weren’t aligning with my intent, and there were words left out which made it difficult to understand my meaning. Initially, I thought it was a fluke and tried to write an email instead. Perhaps, I was just having an off day. While working on the email, I quickly and frustratingly realized that it wasn’t a fluke. I couldn’t even make sense of the email. After several attempts with revisions, I gave up on the email and took the day off.
What could possibly have been happening, I wondered? I wasn’t having any headaches. I wasn’t showing any other symptoms. Maybe stress was getting to me. I was reminded of the WebMD memes.
I didn’t allow myself to overreact. I expected it to just go away. When it didn’t go away, I called around to see if I can consult with a doctor. A nurse ended up telling me that I needed to go to the ER to have a scan.
I showed up at the ER with my parents, and my speech didn’t seem abnormal. The nurse taking my vitals didn’t think anything was wrong. Later on, another nurse threw out a joke before the CT scan that it’ll just take a couple hours, then they’ll send me home with a brain aneurysm. Needless to say, she had to choke on her words when the 4x4cm tumor showed up on the scan.
Since then, I have had an awake craniotomy to remove majority of the tumor. The tumor was graded between II and III which gave me the option to either do twelve rounds of chemotherapy with radiation, or just the chemo. I opted out of the radiation due to how it is generally recommended for my case as a once-in-a-lifetime treatment. The damage from the radiation would warrant too much risk to expect multiple treatments over a lifetime barring exceptional circumstances; therefore, the treatment would only be recommended if seen as necessary which was not the case at the time.
Due to the blood-brain barrier, I have to take a pill form of chemo in order to sneak through the barrier to attack the cancerous cells. It is important to keep in mind that the goal of chemo is to stabilize the tumor and defer growth. If the chemo were to reduce or shrink the tumor, that would be awesome, but the intention is to simply keep it from growing to hold off for a different treatment in the future.
After the first year of chemo, I opted to take a break for my quality of life. During that time, I had regular MRI scans to monitor the tumor.
A year and half later, there was a growth. Getting on chemotherapy again actually reduced the tumor back to where it was post-surgery which was great news. This time, however, I have completed twelve rounds of chemotherapy, and there has been another growth at some point after the tenth round.
The concern now is that I may require radiation in order to target and eliminate as many of the cancerous cells as possible. With these last couple rounds, I have increased the dosage, and on August 9th, I will be having another MRI scan, followed up with consultations with my oncologist and a radiosurgery specialist in order to make a decision on what the next steps will be.
I will be using this blog to log the journey, and in the meantime, all thoughts and prayers are appreciated, especially coming up on August 9th when we will be checking the status of the tumor and evaluating the best course of action.