Hello out there! Today I had a normal morning.
My next completely normal, totally typical, move was to throw on some ProCompression calf sleeves, and head into work to set up some qPCRs.
After lunch I took a gigantic left turn away from normal, headed to the airport, loaded up on magazines, and flew back home to Colorado.
It’s great to be back in my home state. I’m with my Mom and Dad: my two favorite people in the entire world.
Unfortunately, I am not here for a vacation or a social visit. The reason that I am in Colorado is big and scary. In my May recap I alluded to the fact that life in marathonsam-land has become chaotic lately. Three weeks ago my mom received the news that she will be having brain surgery.
The surgery is tomorrow.
My mom has a brain tumor. This is not news: she has had a brain tumor for my entire life. The type of tumor she has is called a chondro-sarcoma. These tumors are usually incredibly benign. They are basically very-slow growing lumps of cartilage in the wrong spot. These tumors typically don’t spread to other tissues. Chondro-sarcomas are underachiever tumors: they can’t be bothered to go out and metastasize, they just keep on growing in the place they don’t belong. They’re the lazy roommate who does’t cook and only loves to play X-box on the couch all day: annoying and in the way, but way too lazy to get up off the couch and cause major problems anywhere else in the house. So how do you deal with the tumor roommate? You kick that freeloader to the curb. Unfortunately, it’s hard to kick out the tumor-roomate if they’ve installed their couch and their X-box right in the most important room in the house. My mom’s chondro-sarcoma is right at the very back of her brain, right next to her brain stem. In the words of her neurosurgeon: “if you wanted to put something in the very hardest spot to get to in the entire human body, you would put it right where this tumor is.”
My mom was diagnosed with this crappy-tumor roommate when she was pregnant with me. I was born two days and one cesarian section after the diagnosis. My mom had radiation therapy and neurosurgery within the week. For 23 years that seemed to keep the tumor at bay: the crappy roommate was still stuck in the house, but it was a lot smaller and less in the way. Maybe the sound-card broke on the crappy-tumor-roommate’s X-box so its video games weren’t loud and disruptive anymore (if I may torture the hell out a metaphor a little longer). My mom was able to ski like a ferocious telemark diva, bike, hike, explore, garden, dance, go to music festivals, raise one well-adjusted plucky PhD candidate, and spoil three dogs totally rotten.
Suddenly, in 2010 my mom started having neurological symptoms. After a lot of ambiguity it became clear that that lazy, crappy-tumor roommate had started growing again. Initially we enrolled in a clinical trial for a specific anti-tumor drug. The drug didn’t work.
My mom had neurosurgery for a second time in 2011. In order to access the tumor, which lays right at the base of her brain, the neurosurgeons went in through my mom’s nose, just like ancient Egyptians on a mummification kick. Better in from the bottom than from the top.
Her surgeons are two of the most intelligent, incredible men I have ever met. The surgery lasted 14 hours. I like endurance events, but these two humans make a marathon seem like a walk in the park: what’s 26.2 miles of running compared to 14 hours on your feet of absolute and utter concentration?
They thought they were able to remove most of the tumor. My mom’s recovery from the surgery was slow but steady. And then last month, the bombshell dropped: they left a little clump of cells behind, and those cells are growing. It isn’t clear, and it doesn’t matter why the tumor has decided to get uppity again after so many years. The important thing is that tomorrow we are evicting this crappy-tumor-roommate…and this time we’re going to unplug the X-box and lock the doors behind us.
Tomorrow they are going back in. They will remove the last of the cells. They are optimistic: they’ve gone in through her nose before, it will be easier the second time. There are a lot fewer tumor cells to clean-up. As my mom has been saying: “third time’s the charm.” We’re going to scrape that crappy-tumor-roommate out of my mom’s melon tomorrow come hell or high water.
I love my mom. She is, obviously, scared. However, my mom is a fighter. She’s scrappy. She has the love and support of her family and friends. I asked her if she was comfortable with me sharing this; she replied that she’d love for people to be thinking positive thoughts about her. I’m putting this on the blog to ask you, gentle readers, for a small and totally easy favor, for my mom. I’m asking for good vibrations. Please, if you have just a spare moment throughout the day, spend just a few minutes and send some healing, happy energy towards my mom. Put some positivity out into the universe; take a moment to picture abundant, radiant, healing, light. It’s a small thing to ask, but I do believe that there is power in positive intentions. I may be a scientist, but I am spiritual. We believe equally in miracles and modern medicine. We have top-notch surgeons on our side; we’d love all of the magic that our friends and family can muster.