That Was The Week That Was

I have just been gently reminded — he said, rubbing his shin and wincing — that it’s been about a week since I’ve posted here. Whoops.

There is, at the moment, not a huge abundance of news to report. On Thursday of last week, my father drove to Stanford and joined the head of Neuropathology there to look at slides of some of the biopsy-sampled cells under an optical microscope. The tentative conclusion is a bit of a mixed bag: it looks, I’m told, like an astrocytoma, but with certain characteristics of oligodendroglioma. The big question remains the same as before: does it feature the co-deletion of chromosomal arms 1p and 19q that are the hallmark of oligodendroglioma, and which presage a higher sensitivity to chemotherapy? Only culturing and genetic analysis will say for sure, and those are still in progress. The current estimate is that I’ll hear something by Monday, May 26th.

In the meantime, I’ve been officially scheduled for surgery on Thursday, June 5th, with another survey MRI and possible additional preliminary work to take place on the 4th.

My father returned to Memphis on Sunday morning, while my sister, who arrived last Thursday evening, proceeded to Orlando on the same day. My mom is still here, and will be staying until late June; my father will be returning shortly before the surgery.

That pretty much covers it as far as hard news is concerned. So… how am I doing?

For the moment, almost eerily well. I’d be lying if I said that the prospect of having a surgeon, however skilled he has already demonstrated himself to be, excise bits of my brain tissue completely failed to trouble my brow. That’s two weeks away, though. The future, as Dick Valentine so sagely observed, is in the future. At this instant, I feel fine. I’ve had no relapses, and the slightly spacy, dissociated feeling apparently produced by the anti-seizure medication has passed as my body has acclimatized to it. More than that, though. I feel focused. Alive. There’s nothing like a reminder that your time on this Earth is finite to reawaken your appreciation for every sight and smell you encounter.

I continue to feel that I’m in the capable hands of experts and professionals. I know it’s fashionable in some circles to regard western medicine and its supposedly impersonal manner with a skeptical eye, but… all I can say is that this has emphatically not been my experience to date. Everyone I’ve dealt with — doctor, intern, nurse, technician, administrative assistant — has been warm, friendly, and accommodating.

Moreover, it’s hard for me not to be impressed by the fact that modern technology has apparently made it possible to poke a hole in my friggin’ skull, proceed to carefully sample my brain tissue with a needle, and have me tromping through the woods with a slight tenderness behind my temple, feeling otherwise none the worse for wear, two days later. If that’s the cold, distant facelessness of western medicine at work, I’ll take that action. I’ll take all you’ve got.

Speaking of modern technology, the small incision above my left ear was not stitched shut, but instead bonded with surgical glue of some kind. It feels great — there’s no nonuniform tension on the skin, and the seal seems to have precluded even mild, superficial infection. The glue appears to be working its way out as the tissue heals: I’m trimming the excess as it does so, and finding that its consistency resembles nothing so much as the gummy adhesive they use to affix removable address labels to magazines before mailing them out.

Lastly, to preclude the question likely to raise itself in the mind of anyone seeing me for the first time in a while: no, they didn’t shave my head. I did that myself, post-surgery, having decided that the small shaved rectangle just above my ear looked stupid. More practically, the biopsy procedure inflicted a few nicks at random points on my scalp: these proceeded to bleed into my hair a bit, and since I couldn’t shampoo for two days post-surgery, I wound up dusting my pillowcase with a light coat of powdered dried blood instead. Yum. Screw that. Best to just be rid of the whole mess. I can at least sponge-bathe a shaven scalp if I have to. (Also, given last week’s record temperatures, this seems quite the opportune time to go with the Lex Luthor look.) I would like to take this opportunity to report that my hair damn near grows faster than my beard. Also, my scalp feels like sharkskin when you rub it against the grain of the hair, which I can’t help but think is kind of cool.

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