Cancer Update #18

Jan 3, 2018

Dear Friends and Family,

My recovery from the brain surgery on Dec 15 is going in leaps and bounds. I can read again – thank god. It is hard to imagine living without reading. So much of who I am is tied up in reading and writing. Immediately post surgery, I was very wobbly when I walked, initially using a walker. I’m not wobbly so much now and today I ventured out by myself on public transit. Most of all cognitive function is returning. There were some very odd sensations the first week home when I was challenged by sorting and sequencing. I couldn’t figure out where the different categories of garbage went – compost, recycle, trash. I’d stand in the middle of the kitchen and puzzle. Or I’d put all the breakfast makings on the counter and then stare at them – what do I pick up next? This was both curious and terrifying. I’m greatly relieved to be able to do these ordinary logistical sequences that I’ve always taken for granted. And I’ve returned to computers. My iPhone no longer looks like a foreign object.

Some of the missing peripheral vision has even returned. At this point it is sort of patchy. As I read a line of text, the left side of the line sometimes isn’t there, until, of course, I turn my head and there is it. There is an odd repeated image that happen sometimes. I think reading again is learning how to put the information together in a new way. Everything is much slower, but who cares. I’m just grateful I can read. Part of my rehab will be attending a “low vision clinic”. Presumably they will teach me some more strategies for coping with these new eyes.

This is what the neurosurgeons said was most likely to occur. Brain surgery involves poking and cutting in the brain (!!!) and, like any other injured part of the body, there is bruising and swelling. As that settles, cognitive function is mostly returning.

I’m now in the land of metastasized breast cancer. That means more treatments and close monitoring. On Friday we meet with the Brain Mets team. That’s the “brain metastasis” team. We’re talking brain radiation. It all seems very sci fi. And then I go into full body MRIs every 3 months.

It hasn’t even been three weeks since the surgery. I am amazed at the human body’s capacity to heal; I’m also deeply appreciative for a publicly funded medical system which did emergency brain surgery on me less than 48 hours after arriving at Emergency. Mostly though it is the love and supportive of my friends, family and community that keeps me going. And central to all that is Peter who has brought me tenderness, attentiveness, deep love and marvelous meals throughout. This isn’t the journey I would have chosen, but since I’m on it, I marvel at the hidden treasures it offers me.

Thanks you for your letters, cards, books and gifts. Thank you for dog-walking, transportation, form filling out, food, research, love and encouragement. I feel held by all of you.

As always, feel free to pass the letters along. I love getting your responses, but I probably won’t reply as there are many of you and I’m trying to get into the studio between the 5 million hospital visits.




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