Journey of a Lifetime
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WALKING THROUGH THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW OF DEATH By LOIS JEAN THOMAS Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; Psalm 23:4 Neurologists, neurosurgeons, neuropsychologists, and other medical professionals refer collectively to conditions that cause brain and neurological damage as “brain events or neuro events”: these include traumatic brain Injuries, strokes, and brain tumors. All can have devastating effects on a person’s neurological functioning. I experienced my first brain event at 15 years of age, when I sustained a concussion during a bicycle accident. Any neurological symptoms resulting from that concussion were sort-lived, probably because of my youthful resilience. Looking back, however, I wonder whether I might have incurred long-term impairment of my visual/spatial skills, and I wonder whether the event also left me with a tendency to experience sensory overload. However, I was able to make it through high school, college, and graduate school with no academic impairment. Then in 2010, at the age of 57, I experienced my second brain event. I was hit by a car when I was crossing the street as a pedestrian. In the years following that event, I wrote 2 books about that experience: DAYS OF DAYS, MY JOURNEY THROUGH THE WORLD OF TRAUMATIC BRAININJURY, followed by: A DIFFERENT FRAME OF MIND: LIVING A FULL LIFE WITH TRAMATIC BRAIN INJURY. The neurological symptoms of my second brain event did not resolve as easily as the first event. While I made progress in recovery, through time and various treatments, many of my TBI symptoms persisted to some degree for many years, causing a permanent change in my functioning and lifestyle. Let me make the case that two brain events are enough for any person to experience in a lifetime. But I guess some of us are destined for more than that. After sustaining overall body trauma from being hit by a car, I worked hard at developing an exercise routine to resolve orthopedic challenges, and to increase my level of fitness. I was proud to become a senior citizen who worked out daily, with an excellent baseline of health and fitness. As a young adult. I had been an avid dancer: folk dancing, contra dancing, square dancing, round dancing, and ballroom dancing. With my TBI symptoms of impaired gait and balance, I was certain that I would never dance again. However, about 8 years after the TBI, I ventured out to line dance classes at my local senior center. I was delighted to discover that I could still dance, and that I could master some complex routines. In fact, I fancied myself to be the star of the show. I received accolades from my teacher and fellow students. The first few years in my line dancing class, I danced with boundless energy. In 2022, an insidious fatigue began creeping over me, worsening as the months passed. My workout routine became so tiring that I had to cut it in half, doing half one day and the rest the next day. Over the summer, my husband and I enjoyed outdoor walks. But I began having difficulty keeping up with him, something that had never happened before. I learned a new yoga routine, but no matter how much I practiced, I could not increase my stamina. The routine became so tiring that I could no longer do it. The dance class became so tiring that I began leaving early. When I would get home, I would collapse from exhaustion unable to do anything productive for the rest of the day. Toward the end of the year I began missing class, as I’d feel too tired to even attempt it. I began feeling too tired to do simple household chores, such as sweeping floors. My husband took over those duties. Bewildered by what was causing the fatigue, my husband and I began looking online regarding whether a TBI could cause profound fatigue years later. In late December 2022, I began experiencing other puzzling symptoms: disruption of my gait, along with balance problems. I started a troubling pattern of falling. Additionally, I began to lose dexterity in my hands, particularly my left hand. I began losing my typing skills. And I found myself typing gibberish when working on a writing project. These symptoms began to snowball, becoming increasingly severe. For years, I had enjoyed the luxury of soaking in a warm bath. Then one day in early January. I found myself unable to get out of the tub after my soak. The task seemed impossible. The next time I tried taking a bath, getting out of the tub was equally daunting. My husband and I concluded that taking a bath had become too dangerous for me, and decided that, I needed to stick with showers. Then came the day when taking a shower became so difficult and so tiring that I told my husband, I almost couldn’t do it. Thereafter, he made sure to be around to help me. The last time I attempted to go to my dance class. I stayed only minutes, I felt so unsteady on my feet that I knew I was in great danger of falling. In early January 2023, I emailed my primary care physician, Dr. Wang through my online medical chart. I told her about my symptoms. She insisted that I set up an appointment to be seen by her immediately. A few days later, on January 5, my husband and I went to her office. Dr. Wang did a neuro test on me, which I did not pass, primarily because of my gait problem. She said she wanted me to be seen by a neurologist. But before she could make such a referral, she had to order an MRI of my brain. The order indicated that they wanted to rule out a stroke or multiple sclerosis. The MRI took place 15 days later, on January 20. Several hours after the scan, my husband and I were able to read the report through my online chart. We were unable to understand much of the report because of the medical terminology. We did spot, however, a reference to a brain tumor. But denial is a powerful thing. I didn’t even react emotionally to something I didn’t think could possibly be real. The next day, January 21, Dr. Wang called me. She said, “the good news is that we have quickly gotten to the bottom of what is causing your symptoms. But this brain tumor is not what we wanted to find.” She didn’t sugarcoat anything. She indicated that the tumor was rather large, and that it was more than likely malignant. She said, “We need to move on this as quickly as possible. You need to be seen by a neurosurgeon “. She said she would make that referral on an urgent basis. She tried to give me an idea of what lay ahead. She indicated that the first step would probably be a biopsy. And that surgical resection of the tumor, radiation, and chemotherapy might follow after. Allen and I thanked her for how quickly she had acted on the situation. She encouraged us to focus one day at a time, only on the next step in the process. And of course, the next step was to be seen by a neurosurgeon. Allen and I were so overwhelmed by the news, that we could not take it in. It felt as if we had been thrown into an alternate reality. I couldn’t comprehend that this was now my life. I had not for a minute linked my symptoms to a brain tumor. My biggest fear had been that I had suffered a stroke. After the conversation with Dr Wang, I contacted each of my three children. Telling them of the diagnosis, sending each of them into a profound state of grief and shock. I felt so sorry for them. I wanted so much to spare them the pain, but knew that I could not. The next people on the list to inform about my health crisis were my seven siblings. Then I made a list of friends for my husband to contact with the news. I could feel the waves of sorrow and shock spreading around me. Over the next few days, I began obsessing on the idea that the referral to neurosurgery would somehow not happen. However, 3 days later, on Tuesday, January 24, my husband and I and my daughter Clarissa sat in the office of neurosurgeon Dr. Woods. It was in Dr. Woods’ office, that my full emotional response to the dire news regarding the tumor finally clicked in. I began to realize the path my feet had been set on. I realized I was staring death in the face. Like Dr. Wang, Dr. Woods didn’t sugar-coat anything. He also mentioned the size of the tumor, and showed it to us on the scan. It looked to me like a large egg sitting in my brain. It was on the right side, at the juncture of the temporal and occipital lobes, and was impinging on the brain stem. Because of the way it looked, and the manner and speed in which my symptoms had progressed. Dr. Woods said it was likely a glioblastoma, or GBM, the most aggressive type of malignant brain tumor. He said that GBMs were not curable, that they always recurred. He said the most that could be done was to extend survival time. He said that GBMs like to swim down into the brain stem, which is why they are so deadly. He gave us treatment options. We could do a biopsy first to learn about, and later do the resection. But he indicated that resecting the tumor immediately and then looking at the pathology of the tumor, would increase my survival odds. It was easy for Allen, Clarissa, and I to make the decision to go that route. He said he could resect the tumor at any time on an emergency basis. But he thought the best option would be to have his complete brain surgery team with him. So that set the surgery date for one week later, on Tuesday, January 31. Dr WOODS told us about the risks associated with the surgery, based on the location of the tumor: left sided weakness, and vision loss. I was scheduled for another MRI and a CT scan for The next day, to better determine the contours of the tumor. I felt very much as if I was on a race with time. Earlier in my life, my life goals had to do with education or career, or with finishing a book I was writing. Suddenly my life goal was all about survival. I counted down the 7 days until surgery. Telling myself all I had to do was stay alive until then. There were many moments when I didn’t think I could do that. I knew that my life had been irreversibly changed. I realized that all my goals; projects, and ambitions were now meaningless. I knew that all I had left was love. Love was now my only reality. The only thing left that was enduring. I knew it was time for me to let go of all anger, bitterness, and resentment. I did not want any of that stuff sticking to me, I didn’t want to be burdened with carrying the weight of it. I had a spiritual impression regarding the interconnected web of all life and consciousness on this planet. I knew that I was physically unable to hold myself together on my own, and that I was drawing strength from the interconnected web of love. It was beautiful. I knew that there was much pain and trauma from my past that I needed to release, never to revisit it again. At that time my husband and I started discussing with my daughter, who is a registered nurse, a plan that involved her taking FMLA days off work to help my husband take care of me, whenever such help was needed. January 25, 2023: For the first time in the 4 days since I received my diagnosis, I got a little bit of sleep. I got up feeling extremely weak. I set my goal for the day: to be able to walk back and forth to the bathroom. I took my last trip up the stairs to my computer room. It was so daunting that I knew it would be my last trip upstairs for a very long time. My husband brought my computer downstairs and set it up on the dining room table. Had many loving conversations with family and friends, expressing and receiving more love than I had in a long while. I very much wanted to go back in time to a point where a brain tumor did not register on my radar screen. That afternoon I talked with my friend Paulette. Her partner Dan, had recently been diagnosed with cancer. Paulette and Allen discussed their roles of being caretakers. I told her to tell Dan that he and I now belong to the same club. Then Dan spoke to me with a message of hope. “From one person who isn’t feeling well, to another.” I was deeply touched that he reached out during his own health crisis. As I could no longer make it downstairs to the laundry room, I gave Allen a tutorial regarding doing my laundry, I knew I would probably need to repeat that in the weeks to come. I received a phone call from my dear friend Mary Ruth. She was distraught when I gave her grim news about the tumor. I promised her that I would fight as hard as I could. Afterwards, Allen held me and cried. I promised him I would fight as long as I could. That if the tumor was going to be the cause of my death, I needed to fight for extra time to give my loved one’s time to adjust to my passing. My daughter disclosed to me that a few years ago, she had started saving money for taking me on a trip to Switzerland, so that we could explore our Swiss heritage. We both recognized with great sadness that such a trip would probably never happen. January 26, 2023: agenda for the day: to get the MRI with contrast, and the CT scan with contrast, ordered by Dr. Woods, so that he can better determine the contours of the tumor prior to surgery. The ordeal was grueling. The worst part was having to drink the barium contrast solution. It made me feel terribly sick! I tried to get through the experience by making jokes. It has been so different the past two days being wheeled around the hospital in a wheelchair. Walking gets more difficult every day. The tumor is bent on taking me down as far as it can before it is surgically removed. Allen found some information on line that was informative. Episodes of debilitating fatigue are the most distressing symptoms of a brain tumor. It produces depression and hopelessness. That certainly, resonates with my experience. Allen bought a shower chair this morning. He and I tackled the project of giving me a shower. It was a learning experience. Being this helpless is humiliating. I have resorted to using a cane all the time when walking. I am so glad to still have the use of my right arm and hand. I told Allen that one positive spin off from this experience is that it makes me realize my love and commitment to him. He said the same thing. January 27, 2023: I have been processing like crazy trying to accept the reality of the brain tumor. It is easier for me to believe that the seeds of the brain tumor were in the TBI, that it was essentially one thing that happened to me. Although this is not well studied, it’s documented that having a TBI is a risk factor for developing a tumor. Thinking of these as two separate events seems way too unfortunate. Dr. Woods called with a bit of good news. According to the CT scan. the brain tumor is not a metastatic cancer. That means it did not start in some other part of my body and spread to my brain, as the scan showed the rest of my body to be cancer-free. At least that provides a good foundation for my recovery. I told Allen that we have been through a brutal week, starting with the first MRI. But the good news is that we made it through. I made the decision to delete political and crime shows from the things I watch on television. I cannot handle that negativity now. We had to go out for an EKG and labs. The transport was very difficult. Allen and I nearly wiped out on our way back into the house. We have methods and techniques to figure out. I had a very strange dream last night. Some People were digging for something. I heard the words malachite and obsidian. I had no idea what Malachite and Obsidian were. When I woke up, I told Allen about the dream. I concluded they must be minerals. I asked him to look up any symbolism associated with these stones. Here is what he found: Obsidian symbolizes healing, transformation, and purification. Malachite symbolizes protection, helps one feel calm, releases trauma and aids in transformation. The dream felt like a gift from the universe I told my friend Paulette about the dream. She said they have mineral stores where she lives in New Mexico, and that she would send me some malachite and obsidian. Sons Courtney and Zachary came to see me this evening. I told them about the dream, which intrigued them. Courtney told me that spiritually, he is doing everything he can for me. I thanked him profoundly. I am still counting down to the day of surgery. I find it uncanny, in a disturbing way, that several years ago, I wrote a novel entitled HOLD ME ONE LAST TIME, about a young woman who faces decline and eventual death from a brain tumor. Little did I know that I would find myself walking the same path. My right hand is my best friend these days. Because it works perfectly. My left hand has fallen on the job it doesn’t do its part with two-handed tasks. I can no longer floss my teeth using two hands. Allen bought me a bag of one-handed flossers. I figure my local healthcare system, Lakeland, is making so much money off me these days, with this tumor. They could build a new wing of the hospital and put my name on it. January 29, 2023: my life goal the past couple of days has been to stay alive until surgery. The goal after that is to survive surgery. I had a spell of exhaustion and depression. Staying alive seemed to require more energy than I had. I lay down for a while. Allen read me a collection of messages from my high school classmates, which brought both of us to tears. It was like a shot of energy ran through my system. If I live to tell about this chapter of my life, I will have to say it was the wildest and craziest chapter of my entire existence on this planet. Allen posted on Facebook regarding my diagnosis and surgery. He received nice responses from several family members from whom he had been estranged. We recognized this as another, positive consequence from something painful. Visit from my son Courtney this afternoon. Had a loving, conversation. He expressed much appreciation for the spiritual support he has received in our home during the 16 years we have lived here in Saint Joseph. I have determined that any time I have left after my surgery will be bonus time, and I will live it in love, free from anger and bitterness and in surrender. Allen suggested that I visualize putting all pain and trauma from my past into the tumor, so that it can be removed, discarded into medical waste, and then incinerated. January 30, 2023: call from surgical admission. Allen handled the difficult conversation, giving and receiving information with detailed instructions. It is impossible to get through a situation like this without relying on humor. When Allen poked his head into my room, I told him I saw the bright shiny crown he is wearing, with all the stars in it. Then, I teased him by having my Echo device play the old gospel song ‘Will there be any stars in my crown.” As I think about the neurosurgeon who will be performing my surgery tomorrow. I think he must have nerves of steel, I am so glad for people with nerves of steel. While I am not a steely-nerved person, I am so grateful that surgeons possess such an endowment. I have gotten used to a very low level of activity. I am envisioning a day in the near future when I start the process of building up my strength. Son Zachary came up to spend the night before surgery at our house so that he can go with me to the hospital. To my astonishment, he brought me some stone’s: obsidian, and malachite. He told me the story of how he got the stones. He visited a stone shop in Goshen, Indiana, where he lives. The shop was closed. But he called the store owner who obliged him by opening the shop. He told the shop owner about my illness and my dream. The owner said that many people have dreams about stones. He was able to provide Zachary with the stones featured in my dream. Tuesday, January 31, 2023: as I got ready for the trip to the hospital. Having brain surgery isn’t what I usually do with my Tuesdays. I was surprised that I slept the previous night. It was very cold outdoors,18°. All three of my children accompanied Allen and me to the hospital. During my pre-surgery check-in time, the nurse asked me many routine questions. She asked whether there was any chance that I might be pregnant. I told her I was 70 years old, and said that I would rather give birth to another child than have the brain surgery. Several days later, I told the story to another medical person at the hospital. He said that me giving birth would have certainly been a Biblical event. The last thing I remember prior to my surgery is the discussion with the pre-surgery nurse about shaving off my thick, voluminous hair. She told me the choice was mine to make. She said they could shave off the area where the incision would be made. Or they could shave my whole head. I told her I wanted them to do whatever would make the surgery easiest. She told me that shaving my entire head would be optimal. I agreed to that. At that point, my hair was the least of my concerns. In the days and weeks to come, many people complimented me on my new haircut, telling me that a shaved head was a good look for me! After my haircut, someone delivered a bag filled with my shorn hair to Allen. He later told me that receiving the hair was very weird. Sometime later, he asked me whether I wanted him to keep the hair. I told him in no uncertain terms that he should throw it away. All my three children and Allen came to see me in the recovery room, but I have no memory of that. Over the next few days, in the hospital, I had many surreal experiences, and conversations that were far from lucid. Immediately after leaving the recovery room, I was admitted into the critical care unit of the hospital, where I was under the care of a nurse named Doug. I had a conversation with Doug, definitely not lucid, but I knew what I was saying to him. I told him that I was sending love to my husband and children. I envisioned myself emitting waves of love from my heart. Doug said that he would pass along that message when he saw them. Then I told him that I love God. And then I gave him some cosmic advice. I said that people need to stop doing bad things on this planet. I said we need to stop fighting and start loving each other. And that everyone needs to pray. Shortly thereafter, I talked about this conversation with another nurse. I told her it had been a dream. But she told me that I had indeed said all those things to Doug, as he had reported it. Tuesday, February 1, 2023, the day after surgery. I had a strange perception. Every time a nurse appeared at my bedside. I thought I was seeing a being of light from the spiritual realm. I told the nurses about that. I said “That is what you really are, only in flesh and blood form.” A prayer came to my heart, for the neurosurgery team and the critical care staff. I dictated the letter to Allen, and he wrote it down and delivered it to them. Family members came to see me, but I do not remember those visits I was moved out of the critical care unit and onto the neuro floor. Thursday, February 2, 2023: More family came to see me, visits I do not remember. A spiritual teacher from my community of faith, Advait, who is also a gifted musician came to see me. He played and sang a song I requested: “My Sweet Lord “by George Harrison. It was a sweet experience which my husband recorded. While I do not remember the visit clearly. I was able to enjoy the recording over and over again. Advait told me that as he walked into the hospital, he had a vision of a large black stone. I thought he must have envisioned one of my obsidian stones. Then I told him about my dream about the stones. I had brought the stones my son had given me to the hospital with me. The synchronicity of the experiences was comforting and reassuring. Friday, February 3, 2023: Something many people know about nurses, is that they are forever concerned about whether their patients are moving their bowels. My weird humor and loopiness came through again. I proposed to the nursing staff that they start a program of giving patients points for bowel movements. And then the points could then be cashed in for prizes. The nurses agreed that this would be a worthy program. Although one nurse said she did not know where the funding for such a such a program would come from. I began comparing the invasion of my brain by the tumor to the invasion of Ukraine by Russia I told myself that I need to muster all my forces to ward off the invasion, as Ukraine is now doing, I told my nurses and therapists that they were my NATO allies providing me with military assistance. Throughout my hospital stay, my blood pressure remained alarmingly low. I told the nurses that they should have my husband come in and aggravate me, in order to raise it. One nurse told me that wasn’t a documented medical technique. I told them they should do a study on that technique, then write it up in a medical journal. Today I was taken was taken to a new facility, the rehab hospital in Watervliet, Michigan. I was taken by medical transport. My radiation Oncologist Dr. Gielda visited. He gave a report on the tumor pathology. He told Allen and me that it was indeed a glioblastoma. He told us that you can throw a glioblastoma in the garbage, and it will continue to grow. I thought that was the ugliest thing in the world. I was told that I will be starting radiation after rehab, and that I will also start taking a chemo pill. Saturday, February 4, 2023: I am in the rehab hospital. The staff here is very sweet, and also quite entertaining. I had Occupational Therapy, which involved getting washed up and changing my clothes. These ordinary tasks are quite an accomplishment in my current condition. In physical therapy I did some walking with the parallel bars, and with a walker. I even walked up a short flight of stairs. I was praised by my therapist and told that I was a speed demon. I told her that it was my goal to run up and down the hallway and have her chase me down. Son Zachary visited. I had a blessed time with him. This prayer came to my heart for all the rehab facility staff: “As you all know from your work, the suffering of neuro- patients is a particularly brutal kind of suffering, be it from TBI, stroke, or tumor. In choosing a career path dedicated to healing and alleviating the suffering of others, you have chosen a noble and sacred path. May each one of you be richly blessed and showered with divine love. From the bottom above my heart, thank you all for being my allies in my recovery process. I’m sending you, love and light.” Sunday, February 5, 2023: I had a rough time last night. I could not keep track of my call light. I kept losing my blankets and pillows to the floor. I got very cold. I felt so desperate, that I prayed to the god of compassion for help. But I am much better now. had a great breakfast: a cheese omelet, fresh fruit, and herbal tea. Since I am in such a phase of intense suffering, I am aghast at the idea of how people on this planet intentionally inflict suffering on their fellow humans. In the process defiling and destroying their own souls. It makes my heart weep. The staff has started using pet names for me: honey, sweetie, darling, sister, friend. I have never in my life been fawned over like this. I must admit to liking it. Monday February 6, 2023: neuropsychologist Dr. Samples did an evaluation on me. In occupational therapy, I showered and got dressed. We discussed my left visual field cut, which means that I fail to spot or track things in my left field of vision. In speech and language therapy, I worked on math problems, such as counting money and making change. I worked on the left visual field cut. In physical therapy I worked on walking with a quad cane, and did exercises for my thigh muscles. My son Courtney visited and brought some photos from his childhood for me to look at. That was a sweet time of reminiscing. Tuesday, February 7, 2023: I Had a visit from my brother and his wife last night. Their kindness, compassion, respect, and sensitivity was evident. It touched me deeply. Several times during the night, I put on my call light to tell the nurses that I needed to get to my nephew’s wedding. That was another less than lucid moment. The wedding is, in reality, scheduled for August! I told the nurse I needed to needed to brush my teeth before going to the wedding. She kindly told me I wouldn’t be going to the wedding that night. But she put an end to my fretting about brushing my teeth by allowing me to use mouthwash. If I still had the ability to be a social worker, I would want to work with neuro patients and their families, because I know firsthand the challenges they face The neuropsychologist asked me questions about my mood and anxiety. I want to talk with her again about that, because I have developed separation anxiety in relation to my husband. I feel insecure when he is not with me, as it seems to me that my survival depends upon him. I am showing small improvement with two-handed tasks. I am now able to use two hands to finger my prayer beads. It is wonderful to feel like my real self. In that regard. This wonderful little rehab center is a hidden jewel in the health care system. I have been put on a low stimulation protocol. Which I appreciate. I am aware that the general public does not understand the plight of the neuro patient. Based on my own experience with the TBI and with this tumor. I have composed a list of do’s and don’ts regarding visiting or interacting with neuro- impaired patients: 1: Never let the patient’s symptoms become the basis for humor, entertainment, or gossip. 2: Don’t indulge in high drama personal conversations. 3: Don’t ask intrusive questions. Respect the patient’s privacy. 4: Don’t expect the patient to provide complete and constant updates about their symptoms and treatment, as that is draining. Protect the patient’s limited energy. 5: Never tell the patient that God will heal them if they have enough faith. As if when symptoms do not miraculously disappear, the patient is left feeling spiritually unworthy. 6: Never bring any exposure to infectious disease to the patient’s room. Even if you don’t think the illness is serious. The patient is medically fragile. 7: Do not expect a reciprocal relationship with the patient right now, as the patient does not have the energy to be attentive to your emotional needs. 8: Avoid armchair doctoring at all cost. The patient needs to trust his or her medical staff and treatment plan, in order to maintain a mental frame of mind conducive to recovery. Armchair medical advice undermines that trust. 9: Do express admiration for the patient’s courage. Point out and praise signs of improvement. Express love, support, compassion, and respect. 10: Understand that neuro-impairment leads to grief regarding losing control over your own body, and previous capability. It leads to loss of dignity. 11: Protect the patient’s dignity at all costs. Praise patient’s hard work in their recovery process and express admiration and hold out hope for positive outcomes, while being realistic. 12: Check personal drama at the door it has no place in the patient’s room. 13: Be mindful of the fact that the patient’s immediate family also need support. Ask how they are doing and what you can do to help. In OT I focused on strategies for two-handed tasks and left visual field and memory strategies In PT I did exercises involving the left field movement. My progress is very gratifying. Here is one thing very different than when I sustained the TBI, when my auto insurance tried to deny what happened, in an effort to get out of their legal obligation to pay for my medical expenses. Now, no one is denying that I have a brain tumor or the symptoms resulting from the tumor. It is good not to be in the middle of a power struggle. Usually, the PT staff requires me to walk all the way to the gym where therapy takes place. When my level of fatigue makes such an attempt dangerous, they push me in my wheelchair. I joke with them about getting a free ride. They tell me not to broadcast this, or other patients will think they deserve free rides, too. I Talked with Allen about me returning to driving, and we agreed that driving is not feasible for me at this point in time, due to my post-surgery visual impairment. Allen does not like the idea of me ever returning to driving. I have enough self-awareness to know that I would be a danger behind the wheel of a car. I don’t want to pay forward the tragedy that has befallen me by harming others. From now on, I can enjoy car rides with my husband as my chauffeur. One of my doctors recently told me that being in good health prior to surgery is an asset to my recovery. Wednesday, February 8, 2023: At night, the nurses give me a pillow to hug. We refer to it as my pillow husband. Unfortunately, my pillow husband seems to end up on the floor every night. I always wonder whether my real husband fell out of bed at that time. My real husband is unnerved by the idea that my pillow husband might be a voodoo pillow. Today, I introduced my daughter to one of my nurses, Mark. I told him that I hope every mother everywhere is as proud of her daughter as I am of the strong brilliant daughter I have raised. ‘She is a force,” I told him. I have always wanted to offer gifts to the universe. I realize now such gifts are not just the work I have done but also the children I have raised, and the gifts they offer to the universe. It also includes the enduring love between my husband and me. Any such love is a gift to the universe. Almost every day during my stay in the rehab center, my damaged brain has presented me with an astonishing memory, sometimes humorous, sometimes poignant. My brain also gifts me with insights about life on this planet. I enjoy any bit of human interaction I can get. Such as having my vital signs taken. The nurses always ask questions to verify whether it is me lying in my bed, waiting to get my blood pressure taken. As if they fear I might be an imposter. I always suppress the urge to give them bogus information just to mess with them! I am sure that has been done before! On the bottom of a white board hanging in my room, a phrase is written: “let your soul shine bright today.” I love that thought. Here is my wounded brain’s insight for today: Some people in this country seem to believe that they have a constitutional right to be as crazy as they want to be, ignoring any moral obligation to be decent human beings. I think it is time to bring decency back into fashion. Because of my need for low stimulation, my daughter is acting as a gatekeeper regarding visitors, she has her mother’s back. Taking medication has become so unpalatable that the nursing staff has resorted to putting my pills in applesauce. I tell them I am like a cat whose owner needs to trick it by putting its pills into cat treats. The sad memory of the day: after I suffered my TBI in 2010 people started spreading lies, saying that someone in a parking lot tried to deliberately run me down not once, but twice. The truth was that I had had an encounter with a careless driver. It seemed that the embellished story was more exciting to tell than the real story. But I felt violated by the lies that were told about me. I hope nothing like that happens regarding this brain tumor. In OT, I got a shower and practiced dressing myself. I did shoulder and arm exercises and put on my shoes. In physical therapy I walked 161 steps, plus went up and down a short flight of steps two times. A brace was added to my left shoe, which helped me walk. My case manager informed me that my discharge date from the rehab center is tentatively the end of next week. I will go home with a wheelchair. But before then, I will need to do a home visit which will be evaluated by my physical therapist. In Speech and language therapy, I had to practice using a pillbox. I also did logic exercises, which I really enjoyed. I received a card made by children at the Watervliet library. It was wonderful to know that children had been encouraged to express compassion. Thursday, February 9. I am amazed at what rehab has done for me. I Know it isn’t possible for anyone who hasn’t worked with neuro rehab patients, or who hasn’t been a neuro rehab patient to fathom what that rehab entails. Today’s poignant memory: more than 20 years ago, I worked with a family with three tiny tots who were injured in an auto accident. Their ages were two, four and five. The four-year-old girl suffered spinal injury resulting in paralysis. The five-year-old girl instinctively understood her sister’s plight. She modified their shared play so that her sister could participate again. That was one of the most profound examples of empathy and compassion I have ever witnessed on this planet. I am so glad I had the chance meet that awesome little child. I wanted to say to all adults, “Step up and observe this five-year-old. This is how it is done.” I have found within myself an indisputable conviction that I will never agree to remain in an extreme state of impairment. My soul will rise to meet this challenge. I am fully aware that right now I am building soul muscle big time. In therapy today I did some chicken dance moves. I also did something that vaguely resembled slow dancing with Allen, and a clumsy semblance of the cha-cha slide with my physical therapist Kelly. When doctor Sullivan asked me how I was doing, I told him that I am still kicking. He said that, here in rehab you have to prove that. I hope he saw me dancing in physical therapy with Allen and with Kelly. Surely, I think that is proof enough. I have been spending so much time with my daughter, and we have become closer than ever. We understand more about each other’s life stories and experiences. It sometimes breaks my heart to learn about some of the things she has been through. Things I wish I could have prevented. One of my nurses told me that I am showing more dexterity in the use of my left hand. That was wonderful feedback! The medical staff uses the term “crani-head” regarding the special precautions used with patients who have had craniotomies. So now, my nickname for myself is “Crani-head.” In PT today, I walked a lot, Including stairs. My therapist referred to my brain tumor as a brain potato. He said we would not let a brain potato stop us. I like that analogy, as a potato can be fried or burned in a number of ways. Saturday, February 11, 2023. I realized last night that I have found within myself my core of female strength. It has always been within me. It is awesome to find this. It is my goal to spend the rest of my time on the planet, affirming the strong females I encounter, telling them that the world needs them. I was raised in a culture that attempted to suppress female strength and intelligence. I believe that whenever a culture does such a thing, it cripples itself. Likewise, when it does not elicit the traits of compassion sensitivity and unselfishness in males, it also commits self-destruction. I got a beautiful surprise today: a malachite ring from Paulette and Dan. Gorgeous! PT worked me hard this morning. One Therapist said he was jealous that I wasn’t on his schedule because I was a good patient. That made my day. I had a lovely phone conversation with one of my sisters. I felt good about finding the stamina for a lengthy conversation. In recent days, even the idea of a lengthy conversation has exhausted me. Because of my left-sided weakness, staff frequently prompts me to be aware of my left side, and what my left side is doing. Similarly, we all need to be aware of where our souls are and what our souls are doing. I am well aware of what my soul is doing now. Being connected with your own soul is the best connection you can have. It is much more important than connections made through social media. I have spent much time today playing the music that supports me spiritually, and singing along with it. I seem to have developed a need for copious amounts of validation from medical staff, my husband, and daughter, regarding the progress I am making. I jokingly told the staff that every bad thing I have done here in rehab has been inadvertent! Such as dropping food on the floor, including an entire salad, or kicking shins and stepping on toes. Sunday, February 12, 2023 When we humans embark upon a self-improvement quest, be it education, career, fitness, we often call that a journey. I learned yesterday from Clarissa that cats also have journeys. She was talking with my nurse who is a cat lover, about her obese cat’s weight loss journey. Somehow, I think her cat had been fine with himself as a fat fellow. And that there wasn’t much self-determination involved when he embarked upon his journey. I have been singing and chanting this morning. I’m getting back to my baseline in that regard. Despite my state of physical suffering, my soul exists in a state of blessedness. I certainly am amply fed here in rehab. Every day I am asked about my appetite. Because of the steroid they have me on, my appetite has been over-functioning. I am a 100% eater all except for teabags, orange rinds, grape stems, and banana peels. I have actually gained 9 pounds since the day I checked in for surgery. I have been assured that most of this is fluid retention, related to the fact that I was hyper-hydrated during surgery. Still, I may have to join my daughter’s cat on a weight-loss journey. Regarding fighting this brain cancer, it is important to me not to check out early on this life journey, also to not check out on my shared journeys with Allen and the children. I have never known hard work like working a rehab program. This is certainly a no pain no gain situation. My speech and language therapist thinks I am in a good place to go home to routines, that I am capable of organizing my daily activities. Wednesday, February 14: thanks to new medication, I got a bit of sleep last night. I wished some of the nursing staff happy Valentine’s Day. I had a wonderful loving time with my husband, we talked about all the normal things I look forward to doing when I get home. I said it is my goal to live in gratitude, ridding my life of unnecessary things and distractions. I got a visit from a volunteer chaplain. He brought in a Valentine card with an encouraging message. He said a prayer for me. He commented on my shaved head, referring to it as my ‘haircut,’ saying he assumed I’d had some kind of brain surgery. Thursday, February 16, 2023 My neuropsychologist did another evaluation on me. It was grueling. She told me my auditory memory is outstanding, but that I have significant visual-spatial impairment. A medical student from Michigan State University took out the staples from my surgical incision. We had a sad conversation about the recent mass shooting on his campus in East Lansing. Physical therapy involved going on a home visit to practice negotiating things in my house. Friday, February17, 2023 going home day: I said sweet goodbyes to the staff of the rehab center, and gave them my blessings. To their amusement, I went out with a queen wave. I have been adjusting to home all day. I now have a new challenge. I was sent home with a new wheelchair and a new walker. My daughter Clarissa went home for the weekend. Allen and I will handle this. It seems strange to be out of the rehab center. I keep thinking they will miss me there. I have never in my life been fawned over like I have been these past two weeks in the rehab center. Certainly I have been spoiled. As I was leaving, I said how did this rehab center manage to recruit all the beautiful people? They thought that was funny. I’m not sure they all believed that their co-workers were beautiful. Saturday, February 18, 2023. I got through my first night home from the hospital, thankfully, I got a good night’s sleep. I had to sleep, in my living room recliner, because my doctors still don’t want me to lie flat. Allen slept in the living room with me. I still feel the healing energy of the rehab center around me. I’ve been thinking of the words of one of my favorite hymns: “When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie, my grace all sufficient shall be thy supply. The flames shall not harm you; I only design thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.” This journey with the brain tumor certainly has been a fiery one! Allen and I did my first shower since my hospital discharge. We also worked on organizing my world by setting up shelves next to my chair. Sunday, February 19, 2023: I have made progress in adjusting to being at home, although my gait and balance remain very impaired. I completed a household task: I wiped off my TV tray with an antibacterial wipe. Today a nurse from Lakeland home care came to get my homecare started. Physical therapy and occupational therapy will be coming two times weekly. It is all covered by my insurance. While I had to let go of old relationships at the rehab center, there are now new relationships to be formed. Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it seems to take a village to take care of a neuro patient. My son Zachary came to visit at this afternoon. We Talked about things in his current life. I was gratified to hear about things that are meaningful to him. Monday, February 20,2023: Walking to the bathroom in the middle of the night proved to be almost impossible. I almost fell and almost took Allen down with me. The wheelchair is the only safe way to make the trip. I slept in my recliner, then spent a few hours sleeping on the couch using a wedge to elevate my head. That worked out well. Allen slept next to me in his chair. That way, we could touch each other. It was comforting. I can’t make all of this brain tumor suffering go away. The only thing I can do is to enjoy the special moments during this difficult time. It is uncanny the way my brain tumor journey and my fiction writing have begun to resemble each other. Just prior to becoming sick, I wrote a short story entitled “Only perfect Moments.” Now, I am especially mindful of those perfect moments. Had appointment with RADIATION ONCOLOGIST Dr. Gielda. I felt hopeful afterward. As I did not receive terrible news. He said that GBMs are the most common type of malignant brain tumor. We set up an appointment for an MRI tomorrow. I also scheduled another appointment with Dr. Gielda for treatment planning, and an appointment with medical oncologist Dr. Paloyan to get my chemotherapy started. Ronda from physical therapy came to the house. She gave me exercises I need to do every day. Allen is teaching me a spiritual lesson about love, loyalty and commitment through the way he has been with me through all of this. Occupational therapist Kyle came this afternoon. He did an assessment and provided directives regarding daily exercises. February 21, 2023: I had the MRI this morning ordered by Dr. Gielda. I actually enjoyed the experience. The music was nice, and the MRI tube was cozy and relaxing. I thought about the fact that I am endowed with a compliant personality. I pretty much do everything that the experts tell me to do that is the way I’ve always been. I have often been criticized and mocked for being such a ‘good girl.’ But, if I had been noncompliant in my current medical crisis, I might be dead by now. I have seen several people in my life die prematurely because of medical noncompliance this is where being “a good girl” pays off. On the way home from the MRI, I sat in the car in grocery store parking lot while Allen went in to get some groceries. I have not been inside the store in a month. Getting back to that point will take some time. Wednesday, February 22, 2023: I had an appointment with Dr. Wang this morning. She gave us paperwork for a handicap parking permit. I thanked her for saving my life by getting all this treatment for the tumor started. She said that when she saw me in early January , she knew something serious was going on. I saw my surgeon Dr. Woods this afternoon. He thought my incision looks good. He told me it was now okay to lie flat. We discussed my left-sided weakness and left visual field cut. He showed me scans taken before and after surgery. He said that if he had tried to resect the part of the tumor extending into the brain stem, it could have killed me. He said he wanted to send me to another doctor in Chicago to get another type of treatment concurrent, with the radiation and chemo. His office made the referral I will now wait for a call from that doctor’s office for an appointment. Thankfully, I received no dire news at this appointment, which was a relief I can tell that surgeons and oncologists take satisfaction in defeating tumors. Thursday, February 23, 2023: I notice that I am constantly cold. No amount of warm clothing or blankets seem to warm me up. Early this morning I had an awesome dream. Allen and I were attending a meeting that was similar to a 12-step meeting. Group members introduced themselves and reported on how they were doing. I said “I am doing remarkably well, despite the fact that I am suffering from a serious, potentially deadly disease.” After waking up, I felt as if I had actually attended such a meeting in a different realm. I was much encouraged by the dream. I saw Dr. Gileda in radiation oncology again today. He told me there were no surprises in my recent MRI, which was a great relief. The radiationstaff made a mask of my face and also did a CT scan this was all geared toward the purpose of being able to accurately target the radiation treatment. A nurse went over a packet of information about radiation therapy. I will be having 30 radiation sessions, five days a week for six weeks starting on March 6. That is coming up soon. This afternoon I had a visit from occupational therapist Sarah. I talked with her about an unfortunate setback in the use of my left hand. She said that return of function is proximal to distal, from the shoulder to the fingers. We went through some exercises. she urged me to involve my left hand in tasks as much as possible. Friday, February 24, 2023 I realize there is one brain diagnosis that would have been worse for me than having a malignant brain tumor. That would have been Alzheimer’s Disease. Thankfully, my cognitive abilities have remained intact, untouched by the tumor. When I saw Dr. Woods several days ago, he was pleased with that finding. I can see that Allen is fraying around the edges. He is very tired and stressed. We talked about that this and agree that he needs to find more ways to get rest and sleep. I had my first appointment with my medical oncologist Dr. Paloyan today. It meant negotiating another clinic and forming a relationship with a new doctor. Although, Dr. Paloyan is very nice. We discussed the DNA of the tumor, and what chemo medication would work best in combatting it. He ordered the medication, which we hope to receive in a week, So that I can start it concurrently with radiation therapy. Allen and I tried to negotiate the clinic using my walker only, which was a mistake. We should have relied on a wheelchair. As Allen said,” This was a bridge far.” I had labs done also, to check my blood counts. this will need to be done on a regular basis, beginning next week. Ronda from physical therapy came after we got home from the doctor’s appointment. She gave me a good workout for my legs, which made me feel strong and powerful. This afternoon, nurse Diana came, she told me a story about how her brother-in-law has come through cancer treatment and is back to having a good quality of life. It is good for me hear such stories. They give me hope. Saturday, February 25, 2023: Allen and I are both impressed with the way I can raise my left leg when lying down in bed for a nap. A perfect moment for today was the delicious lunch that Allen made for me: a broccoli rice casserole with shrimp. I talked with Allen this evening about what I will do to create a life for myself after my treatment for this tumor. How many times does a person have to stand up again after being taken down by life? I wonder whether I will ever have a good life again? Whatever post tumor life I have, I want it to count for something. Just as the decade after the TBI counted for something. I had beautiful visit from my brother Mark and his wife Connie. They offered me the use of a bedside commode that Connie’s late father had used. I felt grateful and much encouraged. Tuesday February 28, 2023: I seem to be back to a place of profound fatigue which contributes to depression and hopelessness. Allen and I wonder whether this is related to a change in my medication since I have come home from the rehab center. We decided not to use the muscle relaxant any more, as it seems to contribute to instability when I am trying to walk. I had a PT session with Sarah. Did new exercises and discussed the possible impact of going off steroids on the loss of progress with my left hand. I have experienced some deep depression regarding walking difficulties and the setback with my left hand. Also difficulty in sorting out problems related to accessing my chemotherapy medication and getting an appointment with the Chicago doctor. I can see why some patients give up and don’t want to fight anymore. But I am still fighting. I finally have an appointment scheduled with Dr. Lucas in Chicago. Tuesday, February 28, 2023; a year and a half ago, I listened to a lecture by my spiritual teacher Swami Bodhananda Saraswati, he said that we constantly need to redefine ourselves throughout our lifetime. After my TBI, my former life was instantly snatched from me, and I had to redefine myself. But over the next decade, I built a new life a new identity, a new life that counted for something, a life that I enjoyed. Now that life has been snatched from me by the tumor. I wonder how I will redefine myself this time. How will I create a new life that counts for something. Wednesday, March 1, 2023. Had great visit from son Courtney. He brought up the bedside commode that my brother and his wife offered me. We talked about yardwork he can help with in the coming weeks. I am Extremely frustrated by vision issues today. It is so hard to use the computer. Thursday, March 2, 2023: I went to Dr. Paloyan’s office in the cancer center for the second time today. I had another blood draw and received orientation about chemotherapy from a nurse. Physical therapist Ronda came this afternoon. We made progress with the left leg exercises. I also did some pedaling with a stationary bicycle device, which felt good. I am working out again. It feels wonderful. I wish my left arm and hand could make the wonderful progress my left leg is making. Two cards came in the mail today, from people I don’t know, saying they were praying for me. One was from a woman in Delaware, and the other was from a congregation in Morgan County Indiana. It seems that divine love flows through surprising channels. Friday, March 3, 2023: we ran into a snafu today. We received a call from the office of Dr. Lucas in Chicago. They informed us that they do not accept my insurance. Allen contacted Dr. Woods’s office and asked for a referral to a doctor who is in my insurance network. Thankfully, we were able to get a referral to a doctor in Detroit. But this ordeal upset Allen . He expressed the fear that lack of being able to get the treatment I need will shorten my life. I think about what I have control of, and what is out of my control. I can control how much I practice my PT and OT exercises to regain use of my limbs but I have no control over whether I can get all the treatment that is recommended for me. Saturday, March 4, 2023: I have found that the truest, most indestructible aspect of myself is my spirituality. I realize that my human body will eventually give out, but that divine grace will carry me through that time. I have been comparing my TBI symptoms with my tumor symptoms. Emotional processing and regulation were more severely impacted by the TBI. The tumor has had little impact on my emotions. Both the TBI and the tumor have impacted my visual function profoundly, although in different ways. The TBI impacted my memory in a way that the tumor has not. In terms of physical movement, the tumor has taken a far greater toll. On the other hand, the TBI took a far greater toll on my cognitive functioning and my speech. The tumor has had little to no impact on these areas. Sunday March 5, 2023: I have been living with the sense that my life’s work on this planet is ending. I wonder about the transition to my work in another realm. But I know that my soul is on a journey in the universe. Whether the journey continues here on this planet or transfers to another realm, that is irrelevant. Monday, March 6, 2023: Had a visit from son Zachary last night, then daughter Clarissa came to stay for a few days. Zachary talked about the unsettling effect my diagnosis has had on his life is. I told him how unsettled I felt when my father was diagnosed with cancer for the first time, how unprepared I was for that reality. But a few years later, when my father became ill again. I was better able to accept that he would soon die. I felt very nervous about starting radiation today and did not sleep well. This morning, I remembered a time in elementary school, when I had the first inkling about what I wanted to do as my life work. A speaker from a community mental health center came to our church to give a presentation on the facility. I immediately knew I wanted to help people suffering from mental illness. For both Allen and me, facing the start of radiation is as daunting as facing the surgery. But the first radiation session was not at all difficult. It was basically a non-event. Both Allen and Clarissa took me there. Physical therapist Kevin came this afternoon and worked me very hard. It was good to discover that I could tolerate radiation and PT in the same day. Tuesday, March 7, 2023: I had my second radiation treatment, then saw Dr. Gielda afterward for a routine appointment. He said that my treatment is going well and is right on target. Once again, I was happy to not receive any bad news. Occupational therapist Sarah came and gave me another rigorous workout I know why my muscles are feeling sore! Thursday, March 9, 2023: Yesterday, I took my first dosage of chemo medication. That means I am entering stage 3 of my 4-stage treatment plan. I felt very anxious about it, just as I felt when I faced with surgery and radiation. I did not sleep well, but thankfully did not experience any other adverse effects. However, when I was trying to get out of bed this morning, I ended up on the floor, and Allen had one heck of a time trying to figure out how to get me up. The incident shook both of us up. I found myself slipping into the feeling that I am nothing but a burden on everyone. The entire day was rough in terms of my strength and balance. I had many wobbly moments, including during PT when Ronda was here. Allen and I are taking extra precautions to make sure I don’t fall again. Ronda told us that the setback with strength and balance is probably a side effect of the chemo. She gave me some dietary advice, saying I need to eat frequently and drink a lot of water. She said that chemo can deplete calcium from bones she encouraged me to continue taking calcium supplements. Friday, march 10, 2023: I did well with my home regimen of OP and PT exercises. I am so happy that I am hanging onto progress. Got an email from Paulette, saying Dan’s chemo is doing well in battling his cancer. That gives me hope. I have completed day 5, week 1 of radiation. No mishaps at all with any aspect of my treatment thus far. I have been more fortunate than unfortunate. Allen and I agree that it feels as if something has shifted in our lives again. We do not know what. March 11, 2023: The Combination of radiation and chemo treatments is a one-two punch that takes me right down. My stamina is so low today! I notice that my appetite is diminishing and changing. But here is what made me feel like a real person today. I helped Allen figure out an efficient routine for accomplishing my self-care hygiene tasks. I may not be able to move very well. But I still have the cognitive abilities to do problem solving. I am so grateful for that. Monday, MARCH 13. 2023: After having a very difficult weekend, in terms of my strength and mobility, Allen and I were both very gratified by the fact that we got me showered, dressed, and transported to radiation treatment in fine form. Quite an accomplishment! We told PT Rhonda about my difficult weekend. She was not at all surprised, said that was a typical reaction to starting chemo and radiation. Tuesday March 14, 2023: Last night, my daughter Clarissa announced that she and her boyfriend have decided to get married. This is wonderful news for the family, a counterpoint to the bad news I had to deliver two months ago, the dire news of my malignant brain tumor. Clarissa took me to radiation treatment this morning. We made it, although we had had moments where transport was difficult. Dr. Gielda and I discussed the possibility of me using a bit of caffeine to help energize me when my energy is low. The other option is to go back on a steroid. Neither doctor Gielda nor I were keen on that idea. So this afternoon, I gave myself a little caffeine jolt by eating half a chocolate bar. By golly, it worked! Wednesday, March 15, 2023: This morning, I was able to get into the shower after another dose of chocolate. Then, after radiation, Allen, Clarissa, and I, had a phone consultation with my new Detroit doctor, Dr. Rogers. It was a very helpful and encouraging conversation. Dr. Rogers had studied my medical records. She said that I am currently on exactly the right treatment – radiation and chemo. She gave some lifestyle advice related to diet and exercise. She suggested avoiding sugar, as the tumor feeds on sugar. I have no desire to indulge this tumor with sugar! Before proceeding with Dr. Roger’s treatment, I will need to be done with radiation and have another MRI. I am feeling optimistic. Thursday, March 16, 2023: In terms of the 4-part treatment I am receiving, stage 1 is surgery, and that is done; stages 2 and 3, radiation and chemotherapy, are well underway. Part 4, the Optune device, is ready to be started when the time is right. The whole thing is overwhelming, and it has been hard for me to feel like a real person. I had another unfortunate fall this morning. I thought Allen was being cranky with me, and thought he was being resentful about taking care of me. So, while getting dressed, I was trying to more on my own than I was capable of doing. Thankfully, he was able to pick me up. I guess we need to work on this dynamic between us. The fall triggered profound depression in me. I prayed to be given the help I need, even though I didn’t know what that was. It seems as if I did get help. First in the form of an encouraging lecture from my daughter, and then in the form of an encouraging conversation with PT Rhonda. She helped me realize that accidents such as what happened this morning are inevitable. Allen said that last night, he heard me chanting OM in my sleep. Perfect! Call from Dr. Rogers in Detroit. She gave us wonderful news. She looked more into the DNA of my tumor, and said it meant it was more treatable than the opposite type. Oh, WOW! Unbelievably good news! Just what I needed to hear! Friday, March 17, 2023: Had a shower this morning, which required a heroic effort on the part of both Allen and me. For safety’s sake, Allen and I were forced to practice good communication skills. And today, we were able to avoid yesterday’s mishap. Perhaps every couple should temporarily take on such a challenge in order to improve communication skills. Saturday March 18. 2023: The profound weakness produced by the radiation and chemotherapy, along with the setback with my left hand and balance, sometimes produces a deep depression. I second-guess my decision to fight this illness with everything I have. As if I had let the tumor take its course, I probably would have passed away by now. And I would be in a better place. Psychologically, the thing that is most devastating is the loss of balance. The only thing that will carry me through this dark passage is divine grace. I desperately need that grace. I decided to use aromatherapy to take the edge off the nastiness of the pills I have to take. It helps a little bit. I have begun to accept the idea that, because of my problems with strength and balance, my ventures into public places will be limited to medical appointments until after I have completed chemo and radiation. That will be another month. Sunday March 19, 2023: I have learned through this illness that an appetite is a fleeting thing. These past few weeks, I have watched many aspects of my appetite take wing and fly out the window. Foods and beverages I enjoyed, or even craved prior to this illness now seem intolerable to me. Sadly. It has gotten to the point where something I tolerated even a few days ago has now become abversive. This morning I realize more than ever that life in the physical realm can sometimes be brutal. The only thing I can do is to take refuge in my true home, the spiritual realm. I am contemplating how strange it is to share a diagnosis with public figures. The brilliant composer, Tony O’Connor died of a brain tumor, a GBM, In 2010. Senator Teddy Kennedy died from a Glioblastoma in 2009, and Senator John McCain died of a GBM in 2018. I am utterly astounded by how long these two men continued their work in the senate after their diagnosis and treatment. Former president Jimmy Carter who is nearing the end of his life, suffers from melanoma that has metastasized to his brain. We all know how active he has been with Habitat For Humanity while struggling with ill health. With all this inspiration, how can I possibly give up? Monday, March 20, 2023: my daughter Clarissa has been helping by spending 3 days a week at our house. She mentioned that she always feels heartsick when she first arrives. But my children are all bravely stepping up to face this journey along with Allen and me. I am so proud of their courage. Son Zachary came last night to spend time with me. My brother Mark and his wife Connie also visited. In terms of chemo side effects, I am beginning to understand what happens. I take the pills just before going to bed. Within several hours, I am fully sedated, which actually allows me to get a good night’s sleep. But in the morning, I have great difficulty coming out from under that sedation. I feel weak, shaky,unsteady, and deeply depressed. My husband and I have started to refer to this as chemo hangover. As the day progresses, the hangover gradually dissipates. If I did not have to get up early to get ready for my radiation treatments, I would probably spend the entire morning in bed, trying to sleep off the hangover. but that is not an option. But today, when under the dark cloud of chemo depression, I suddenly felt sorry for all cancer patients who suffer from chemo-induced depression. And I felt compelled to pray for all of them. Doing so helped to lighten my own heart. When I went to radiation this morning, for the first time, I spotted in the treatment room, a rack on which hung a collection of masks, simulated in the shapes of various patient’s faces. I found that to be macabre, creepy, and a little dark. I joked with the therapists about that. I noticed that one of my favorite therapists Billy was not present. I asked where BILLY was. I was told that he was in the simulation room making more of those creepy masks! It hit me that sweet Billy must have a dark side! The sad reality is that each added masks represents another tumor patient. Tuesday March 21, 2023: Met with radiation oncologist Dr. Gielda today, after my radiation treatment. We discussed how Allen and I are dealing with challenging side effects of treatment, particularly the weakness and instability. He affirmed our use of communication skills and said that we were an effective team. Both Allen and I felt heartened by that affirmation. When we got home, Allen took me on a little trip around the yard so I could see my perennials that are beginning to push their shoots above ground. That was awesome! THURSDAY March 24, 2023: Counting down the days until the end of chemo and radiation is like counting down the days until Christmas! Not only is dealing with my current impairment a test of Allen and my communication skills, it is also an exercise in developing trust. Prior to my surgery, I was admittedly controlling in terms of how household tasks were performed. Now since I can no longer do those tasks, I have had to let go and trust that Allen will find his own way of doing things. And he does! Saw Dr. Paloyan this morning. Amazingly, my blood counts remain great. No dire news whatsoever. He indicated that I could achieve and maintain remission. He said there is no clinical indication that things are worsening. Saturday, March 25, 2023: Courtesy of radiation and chemo, my body has turned into a gumby. Last night, I had a collapse onto the floor again. Thankfully, I did not hurt myself. I exchanged email communication with my brother Stan, who is also undergoing the indignity of cancer treatment. I am amazed at how the human body can tolerate such an assault. Monday March 27, 2023: Yesterday afternoon, my 2 sons, my daughter and my soon to be son in law gathered at my home to join my husband and me for our annual spring celebration. I realize there are a limited number of these sweet gatherings in my future. My time with my family does not stretch into infinity. My children shower me with love. But I know they are beginning to face the fact that they will not have their mother with them forever. Thus, our time together now is priceless. March 28, 2023: The past 2 weeks, it has been hard to get out of bed safely in the morning, as my body is so weakened by radiation and chemo. Several nights ago, I dreamed that I was learning to use reflexology to energize my weakened body. It seemed as if my dream was giving me a suggestion. So my husband, who is ever willing to do research on my behalf, looked up some energizing techniques on the internet. This morning, he utilized those techniques on me while I was still in bed. They seemed to help. Perhaps we are onto something that can help me get through this difficult time. This morning, we made it out of the house to radiation for the 12th time. Quite a feat, although we are getting more efficient with the process. My husband and I enjoy our banter with the radiation staff. When they rolled me out of the machine after this morning’s treatment, I told the therapists that someday, when they pulled me out of the “microwave,” my head might explode. And popcorn might come flying out. They assured me that had never before happened. Okay, good to know! The strong young man who helped me on and off the table, pronounced my shirt to be stylish. Said I, “I try to hang onto something to help me feel like a real person.” Said he, “You are a real person, and you are brave!” Bless his Heart! What a lovely thing to say to a tired and discouraged cancer patient. And may God bless all these staff members who treat the patients like real people worthy of dignity and respect. Today was Doctor day, and my radiation oncologist Dr. Gielda once again assured us that my treatment continues to be on target, and that I am tolerating it well. He said that my level of fitness prior to my illness has made a great difference in that regard. I am so thankful for all the hours I put into my workout routine over the years. My husband brought up the topic of my hair loss, which has left me with a bald stripe down the right side of my head. Allen questioned whether that might be due to chemo. “No,” that’s our fault,” DR. Gielda said. “I might be a great oncologist, but I’m a lousy barber.” How is that as an example of being accountable for one’s actions. Not blaming my bald spot on the medical oncologist. Friday March 31, 2023: Yesterday, my home care nurse Diana came to visit. She took my vital signs, then asked questions about my symptoms and side effects of treatment. I told her that my bouts of extreme fatigue, one of which I had experienced prior to her arrival, made me feel as if I was on the verge of death. She matter-of-factly informed me that I was NOT at death’s door. That was good to know. But my body surely does feel at times as if it is ready to completely give out. April 1, 2023: Last night in a dream, my spiritual teacher advised me to hold only one desire in my mind for an extended period of time. Upon awakening, I knew what that desire was: to go into remission and to remain in remission. April 3, 2023: Ever since the beginning of radiation and chemo, my left arm and hand had been virtually useless. Losing the progress, I made while in the rehab hospital was so disheartening. But my medical providers indicated that such a relapse was not unusual, since radiation irritates the cells around the site where the tumor was removed. I accepted that fact, figuring that I would see no progress with arm and hand movement until after the end of radiation. However, yesterday evening, I was lying in bed with my left arm resting on a pillow. Suddenly, I realized that I was moving the palm of my hand across the surface of the pillow. And then, I found myself pressing my fingers into the pillow. I was astounded! I called my husband and told him a miracle had happened. I repeated the performance for him, and he was as joyful as I was. Then I sat up, and stared at my hand while I began wiggling my fingers: my index finger, my thumb, and then the others. “Where did this come from, I exclaimed.“ I was too excited to fall asleep for a while. When I finally did, I dreamed that I spontaneously regained my ability to walk unassisted. This afternoon, I was able to demonstrate my finger wiggling abilities to my physical therapist Ronda. She was so pleased for me! Tuesday, April 4, 2023: I often feel bewildered by what is going on with me right now. I don’t recognize myself in this phase of my life. In considering this matter, I realize that I’ve always felt most ‘normal” when I am in the role of taking care of others. Such as when I was taking care of my young children. I do not understand myself as a person who needs to be taken care of. Saw Dr. Gielda today after my radiation treatment. I told him about the return of some movement in my left hand. Of course, I had to demonstrate my finger wiggles. He said that was the most exciting thing that had happened at the clinic that morning. It’s amazing how much excitement my wiggling fingers can generate. Dr. Gielda said that when a person regains a little strength while undergoing treatment, it bodes well for recovery in the months following treatment. April 5, 2023: This morning when it was time to leave for my radiation treatment, it was raining. Allen and I tried to devise a strategy for getting me out of the house safely, while staying dry. I did stay perfectly safe, but did not manage to stay dry. However, it was quite lovely to breathe in the warm spring air. April 6, 2023: This fickle chemotherapy appetite is a strange thing. What I crave one day often seems intolerable the next day. So, favorite foods come and go. Yesterday I had a very strange craving. I wanted to eat a raw cabbage leaf. Unfortunately, we had no cabbage in the house. So, I made do with raw broccoli instead. But one caving that has stayed with me all through these weeks of treatment is for berries: strawberries, blueberries, raspberries: berries of any kind! I’m starting to think they will be my favorite food forever. Friday, April 7, 2023: Today marked the end of week 5 of 6 of my radiation therapy. I’m heading down the home stretch. Wow, I’m looking forward to not having my brain assaulted 5x weekly! Soon to come: new therapies: outpatient physical and occupational therapy. I will also be set up with my Optune device, the last phase of treatment to combat the tumor. Yesterday afternoon, my son Courtney came up to help with potting some Zebrina plants, which will be taken outdoors when the weather is warm enough. I have loved flower gardening for many years. Although I simply watched as my son did all the work, I still enjoyed reconnecting with something I am passionate about. Saturday, April 8, 2023: Last night I dreamed that I sneaked downstairs on my own to my elliptical machine in the basement, and that I successfully worked out on the machine. It was an exciting dream, which, of course, left me with the idea that I could do such a thing in my waking life. When I told my husband about the dream, he insisted that I be reasonable. He said that I needed to wait to work out on the elliptical until after I regained some strength after completing radiation therapy. Until then, I must content myself with doing the exercises prescribed by my physical and occupational therapists. But I will do them with joy and gratitude. Sunday, April 9, 2023: today was warmer than it has been for a while. This afternoon. Allen took me outdoors to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine. I attempted to walk around the yard. But that endeavor was not very successful. Mostly, we had to rely on my wheelchair. Allen wheeled me up and down the block, which was a real treat for me. However, I felt sad as I remembered how just a few short months ago, I could stroll briskly along the sidewalks in our neighborhood, going anywhere I wanted to go. And how easily I scooted around the yard tending to my flower gardens. It is astounding how quickly such things can be taken from us. Monday, April 10, 2023: Today was a milestone day. I was officially discharged from in-home PT. NEXT Step will be outpatient physical therapy. Allen and I said our appreciative goodbyes to Ronda. She said I was coming along very well, and predicted that I would make further progress in outpatient therapy. Thursday. April 13, 2023: What a mind-blowing day it has been. This afternoon, I was visited by two beautiful friends: Bonnie and Mary Ruth. The three of us were school friends in our early childhoods. It is amazing how strong and deep those roots of friendship are. The two of them showered me with love, and left me with a heart overflowing with gratitude. Later in the day, UPS brought a box of gift from another school friend, Ron. Friendship is certainly a divine gift. Friday, April 14, 2023: This morning, I completed my last session of radiation therapy, #30 of 30. My husband, my daughter, and a few other onlookers cheered as I rang the bell that all radiation patients get to ring after completing their course of treatment. What a happy milestone! Now I can look forward to slowly regaining my strength, to breaking out of this bubble of sickness and rejoining the land of the living. Let me tell you that this journey is not for the faint of heart. Saturday, April 15, 2023: Today’s weather was nice enough for Allen to drive me to downtown Saint Joseph, where he pushed me in my wheelchair along the sidewalks of the bluff overlooking Lake Michigan. THIS was a path he and I had previously walked together countless times. What a sweet experience that was! Certainly, we will go on that type of outing as often as we can in the upcoming weeks. Hopefully, I will soon get to the appoint where I can ambulate part of the way. Thursday, April 20, 2023: I had a bout of depression last night, when I keenly felt what the tumor has taken from me. it felt as if the tumor had taken over my identity. So, this morning I wrote out goals for rebuilding my life, I will look at them every day, and will add to the list over time, as new possibilities present themselves to me. I saw my medical oncologist this afternoon. Everything seems to be on target. In a month or so, I should be starting with my Optune device, and with maintenance chemo. Until then, I am getting a much-needed break. I must say that even though the tumor was unfortunate, I have encountered nothing but good fortune, in terms of treatment and rehabilitation. I was happy to tell Dr. Paloyan about the daily incremental return of movement and function in my left arm and hand. Friday, April 21, 2023: This morning, I accomplished one of the items on the list of goals I wrote out yesterday. I went shopping. Allen took me to Walgreen pharmacy to purchase some over the counter items. HE pushed me around the store in my wheelchair. This was the first public building I had been in, other than a medical facility since my diagnosis 3 months ago. Now I know I can handle such an outing. This s afternoon, Allen read me a packet of information we received from the Optune Device company, which helped us understand what the next phase of my treatment will entail. It seemed overwhelming to me. Allen had to remind me that he will be helping me every step of the way, just as he has been thus far. HE reminded me that I had adjusted to previous phases of treatment that had felt overwhelming. “That is your superpower,” he said, “You adjust.” Saturday, April 22, 2023: I celebrated my 70th birthday in November 2022, 2 months prior to receiving my fateful diagnosis. I remember the questions on my mind at that point in time: “What does it mean to be 70? What will my life as a septuagenarian look like? Well, now I know. But I trust there will be more to this decade than being a brain tumor patient. Tuesday. April 25, 2023: This morning. I had my outpatient physical therapy evaluation with Cynthia, the same therapist I had 12 ½ years ago after my TBI. Afterwards, I knew that Cynthia had a good sense of my challenges, and what direction we need to go. She even did a brief evaluation of my vision challenges. She told me I also need to have occupational therapy to deal with arm/hand and vision issues. She will be seeking a prescription for OT from Dr, Gielda. Learning that all this positivity lies ahead of me, gave me hope and eased my depression. Friday, April 28, 2023: Ever since the point of my diagnosis 3 months ago, I have often got caught up in anxious thoughts about the future. Yesterday, I received a card from my friend Margaret. In it, she wrote some advice I really needed to hear: “Focus on just the present moment, and breathe. And then the next moment, and breathe again.” Yesterday, it also came to me that for the wellbeing of my own soul at this point in my life, I need to practice generosity of spirit. to me, that means honoring and respecting the spiritual paths of those around me. To see the good in others, and to be grateful for what they have to offer. Sunday, April 30, 2023: This morning, Allen and my son Zachary took me to a gathering at my community of faith. It was the first time I had been to such a gathering in the more than 3 months since my diagnosis. It was so wonderful to be back there. I am so grateful to be able to reconnect with that aspect of my life. Monday, May 1, 2023: One thing I have come to understand is this: rough passages in our spiritual journeys offer an opportunity to cultivate qualities of the soul to a greater extent than we’ve ever done before. Qualities such as patience, fortitude, forgiveness, surrender, faith, grace, gratitude, resilience. Even humor! Granted, I have often thought during my own dark passage, ‘is this trial really necessary in order to produce soul growth? Haven’t I had plenty of opportunities for growth during other life challenges?” However, even though I’d prefer not to go through this challenging time. it is still presents an opportunity. Wednesday, May 3, 2023: This afternoon, I saw neurosurgeon Dr. Woods for my 3 month post-surgical appointment. Although he was pleased with my post surgery MRI and my clinical presentation, he reiterated the point he made prior to my surgery: GBM is incurable, and inevitably comes back. That left me feeling melancholy. It feels as if I know what will be the cause of my passing. That feels eerie. But I suppose that many people with chronic illnesses have the same feeling. What is important is that I am alive now. Thursday, May 4, 2023: This morning, I had my first dental appointment since my surgery. As usual, Dr, Won, my favorite dentist of all times, asked me about any changes to my health. I had a lot to tell him, which was hard for me to do. Thankfully, he told me I didn’t need to worry about any dental problems. He wished me well in my recovery. I left my appointment with Dr. Won feeling like a real person instead of just a tumor patient. Of that, I was grateful. Later, I had a PT appointment. I was sent home with handouts of more exercises to do. I guess my agenda these days is going to medical appointments and doing my home exercises. There’s nothing to do but to be here now, and to do the best I can with this agenda. Friday, May 5, 2023: Today’s weather has been beautiful. With Allen’s help, I went outside and sat on a bench alongside a flower bed and attempted to do a little bit of cleanup. It didn’t go very well. The failed effort made me feel depressed. We’ll have to come up with a better method, OR I May have TO accept that I will have to let others complete such tasks. Monday, May 8, 2023: I sent the following question to my spiritual teachers via email: “I AM CURRENTLY MAKING A GREAT DEAL OF PROGRESS WITH REHABILITATION IN THE AFTERMATH OF MY BRAIN SURGERY. MY DOCTORS ARE QUITE PLEASED WITH MY PRESENT CLINICAL STATUS. MY LOVED ONES ARE HOPEFUL. I AM FOCUSED ON REGAINING AS MUCH HEALTH AS I POSSIBLY CAN. HOWEVER, MY DOCTORS HAVE TOLD ME THAT THE TUMOR WILL UNDOUBTEDLY RETURN AT SOME POINT. AND I KNOW I NEED TO FACE THE REALITY OF MY INEVITABLE DEATH. SO, I AM CAUGHT BETWEEN STRIVING FOR YEARS AHEAD WITH MY HUSBAND AND CHILDREN AND BEING PREPARED TO LET GO OF MY LIFE. I AM HAVING DIFFICULTY GETTING MY BEARINGS WITH THIS DILEMMA. I AM SEEKING WORDS OF WISDOM. -- Before receiving their responses, I asked myself how I would answer that question if someone else asked it. Here is my response: “For as long as you remain alive, be as fully alive and as joyfully alive as you can possibly be.” “Here is their response: you are the Atman—the self, free from birth and death, and ever blissful. The Atman is of the nature of bliss, because you are never away from anyone. Trust in that vision. It will give you the strength to invoke your best health during this time, making the most of life. And, it will give you the peace to face the inevitability of death, which is only for the body. The real self is never away from your family or anyone. My prayers are for you. Sunday May 14, 2023: I had a brief conversation wit my spiritual teacher Advait this morning. He told me that at this point in my life, my “work” is to maintain my cheerfulness and my dignity, in facing my health challenges. Specifically, he said that doing so would be my gift to my children. Tuesday, May 16, 2023: Today, I was set up with my Optune device. Although Allen and Clarissa seemed to pick things up quickly, for me, it was a steep learning curve. It feels as if I have lost a much of the independence, I have fought so hard to achieve. Wednesday, May 17, 2023: Today I had an appointment with neuropsychologist Dr. Samples, who had evaluated me during my stay at the rehab hospital. The process was utterly grueling, especially because I was dealing with the Optune device in a public place for the first time. But, I received some much-needed good news. Dr. Samples stated that my visual spatial skills had improved since my last evaluation. She said this was an indication that my brain was continuing to heal. She also reported that my auditory memory, my verbal skills, and my thinking abilities are all great. That report boosted my spirits a little bit. Thursday, May 18, 2023: Another day of good reports. Had an appointment with my radiation oncologist, dr. Gielda. He reported on the results of my most recent MRI, as opposed to my post-surgical MRI. He said it showed the best possible news. He was also pleased with my clinical presentation. He said that as my brain continues to heal, there is even more possibility that I will regain more of my old abilities. Much cause for gratitude! Today, I have a strong sense of being on a journey. It feels as if I have just come through a very difficult passage. I am ready for a dream or a serendipitous encounter that will help me make sense of all of this. Tuesday, May 23, 2023: Out of necessity, I am gradually adjusting to wearing the Optune device. I am taking it moment, by, moment, one step at a time. One positive byproduct of this illness and treatment is that for the first time, I am truly learning to live in the moment. That is all any of us have, as none of us are guaranteed a future in this lifetime. Friday, May 26, 2023: THE WOES OF REWIRING: Years ago, after I suffered a TBI, I attempted, on many occasions, to do tasks I had previously done with ease. This would be so difficult for my injured brain, and would produce a strange type of brain anguish, something I can hardly describe. I clearly recall this happening the first time I attempted to do a little sewing post-TBI. I figured the anguish was caused by the brain working to rewire itself. This afternoon, I attempted to plant some marigolds in outdoor containers. I had done this type of task countless times in previous years. But my left hand wasn’t quite up for the job. It did it’s best to participate, But I experienced that old brain anguish. I figured it was rewiring time again. Maybe next time I attempt to handle potting soil and flower pots, I will do it with less distress. Friday. June 2, 2023: We’ve all had the Experience of meeting someone new, and we are convinced are convinced that we knew them during a previous era of our life. Today in my outpatient PT session, I worked with a new therapist. Amanda. She looked familiar to me, and I wondered when and where I had known her before. After asking a few questions, we determined that she had been working as a therapist during the time when I was in the hospital immediately after my craniotomy, before I went to the rehab hospital. I realized that I am now looking at that hospital stay as a past era of my life. That feels odd, but good. Saturday, June 10, 2023: I have noticed something peculiar recently. If I spend too much time reminiscing with others about events from the past, I begin to drown in sadness. When I succeed in keeping my focus on the present, I feel much better. Thursday, June 15, 2023: Recently, my appetite hasn’t been functioning well. Nothing sits right with me. If I could, I would give up any attempts to eat. But if I don’t take in adequate nutrition, I become weak. And I also become depressed. So, I keep working at it. If I attempt to eat a full meal, I inevitably fail. And my failure re enforces my self-image as a sickly person. So, I have committed myself TO eating small portions more frequently. Sunday, June 18, 2023: When I got up this morning, I was in the throes of depression. But my precious husband drove me to downtown Saint Joseph, where we walked up and down the sidewalks, in view of the lake. It was beyond beautiful. Despite my recent dark thoughts, I felt blessed to be alive. Saturday, June 24, 2023: This morning when Allen and I were out on our walk, we passed a neighbor who was working in his yard. We chatted for a moment about his daughter’s upcoming graduation party. This felt like an utterly normal thing to do. And for that moment, I felt like a real PERSON. What a blessing. And here is something absolutely astounding! This morning, I realized that my brain is trying to generate another story. Tumor or not, something in me says I am not done writing. We’ll see whether eyes and hands will cooperate to make this possible. Thursday, June 29, 2023: Yesterday, Allen took me to the Berrien County Cancer Society, where I was graciously provided with a wig to cover my bald head, a beautiful alternative to the colorful turbans I have been wearing. It was the first time in five months that I looked into the mirror and saw myself with hair. It freaked me out! The kind lady that helped me, informed Allen and I of the cancer society’s upcoming fundraising event, and she invite me to be a model for that event. Oh, I wanted to, as I have never been asked to be a model for anything. But as it turned out, the event will be held right in the middle of my next chemo week. Sadly, Allen and I both knew I would be feeling to poorly to help at the event. Without a doubt, this has been the most the most difficult journey of my lifetime. I never would have come this far without the exceptional medical care I have received every step of the way; without the loving support of my family and friends; without divine grace; and without the loving ministrations of my devoted husband. Truly, when a catastrophic illness hits one partner in a marriage, it hits both of them. It actually hits the entire family. Allen has been absolutely heroic. And my precious children have also been wonderful. Monday, July 3, 2023: Several day ago, I was resting in the stillness, hoping to hear a message from the voice of my inner wisdom. And these are the words that floated into my mind: “It always the darkest just before the dawn. Those words have been playing in my mind since then. I am wondering when and what the next dawning will be in my life. Wednesday, July 12, 2023: today when I went to the therapy clinic, I did something I don’t usually do. When the man sitting next to me in a waiting area asked about my Optune Device, I began swapping medical war stories with him. And I realized that even though he hadn’t been stricken with a potentially deadly illness like mine, at the moment he was more impaired than I was. I looked around and saw many people more disabled than I am. And I was reminded of the importance of living in gratitude for the health I still have. Tuesday July 25, 2023: Two days ago, Sunday, we had a MOST Unfortunate incident here, at 0ur house, all because I decided to do something stupid. I was determined TO climb ON my elliptical machine to work out. Mind you I had done this twice in recent weeks. But This time was different, because I had just come off 5 days of taking my maintenance chemo. And my body was in a state of extreme fatigue. I ended up paying for my foolishness, as I fell while attempting to get on the machine. Thankfully, Allen caught me in time to prevent me from hitting the floor. But the fall caused me to twist my left foot, ankle, and knee, So, since then I’ve had pain in my left extremity. And I’ve lost a degree of confidence in my ability to walk. Thankfully. When I went to PT this morning, I found that I could do all my exercises without excessive pain. So, I knew that I had not seriously injured myself in the fall. What a relief! Then this afternoon my day was further elevated by a visit from two high school friends: Steve and Brian! It was so good to see them! Thursday, August 3, 2023: I have begun a new practice. Every day, sometimes more than once a day, I offer a prayer of gratitude for being alive. And my husband and I say a prayer together, expressing our gratitude for the fact that we are still together. Monday, August 14, 2023: 5 days ago,( Wed. August 9) I had a routine MRI of my brain to check the status of the tumor. (My oncologist has me get these MRIs every 3 months.) Between the MRI and today, when I had an appointment with my oncologist to get the results, I had some very rough days emotionally, where I was trying to visualize the best, while trying to prepare for the worst. I’ll admit to catastrophizing. Once again, I had to learn how pointless that kind of mental activity is. Instead of recieving the dire news I feared, I heard the best “R” word a cancer patient can hear: REMISSION. The doctor’s direct quote: ‘You are in remission!” So now I will continue with my maintenance chemo and the use of my Optune device. Even though I don’t enjoy my treatment, I find myself highly motivated to continue.