Cancer Update #17

Dec 14, 2017

Dear Friends & Family,

I’m writing with very bad news. I was diagnosed this week with a cancerous tumour on my brain. It is probably the breast cancer metastized. I am in hospital now awaiting emergency brain surgery. Just saying those words, “brain surgery”,  horrifies me, as I’m sure it does you. I feel so defeated.

For the last few months I’ve had an odd set of disparate symptoms which last week finally coalesced into a whole picture. I’ve been having what I call a cognitive slide. I notice it most clearly working on the computer. Simple sequential tasks which I’ve done a million times – moving files from one folder to another, remembering how I’ve organized the files in a particular project – suddenly seem very challenging. Instead of doing these tasks suconsciously, I have to furrow my brow and think hard to do them. For awhile I just made jokes about the aging brain, but after awhile I realized I was losing ground more rapidly. There were other weird symptoms – I started bumping into things. I’d turn to squeeze by a chair in the dining room and I’d miss. I’ve become more unbalanced recently, even falling over once while crossing the studio floor. I started having sharp headaches on one side of my head. A couple of times I was reading and it seemed as if half the page wasn’t there, but as soon as I’d look directly everything was fine. Finally last week I had a near miss. I was driving and I grazed the passenger mirror against a parked car. I realized I was but an inch away from the other car. I hadn’t seen it.  I drove home very slowly and quite terrified. It was as if my peripheral visio had a hole in it. What was I going to miss? Who was I going to hit? I decided it was too dangerous for me to drive. After this, the pieces began to fall into place. A stroke? A tumour? Alzheimer’s or dementia?

I told Peter on Saturday, saw my doctor on Tuesday and she sent me immediately to emergency. Wednesday I spent waiting for a bed and waiting for a visit with the neurosurgeon. Here I am on Thursday awaiting surgery – probably on Friday afternoon but that could change.

The neurosurgeon said I’d be up walking and talking shortly after the surgery. The tumour is is in the left occipital lobe, right in the vision center. There is the risk of further damage in this area from the surgery; on the other hand that’s the advantage of 2 sides to the brain; the brain that changes itself and all that.

I can’t believe I have to do All This all over again. All this hospital world – listening to patients talk about their bowel movements, listening to machines beeping incessantly at me, listening for doctors to give me a few minutes of their overworked time, let alone all those life and death issues that hang precipitously over head.

I hope still to do my show in May. Thats when the spring flowers are out and the earth reminds us that joy still wanders the planet if only for moments.

Feel free to share this letter with anyone. I look forward to getting responses from you, but I won’t be replying. Please don’t come and visit me for now.




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