Friday, November 13, 2009

The Month in Review... October

So I'm running behind again. I have no excuse other than I have been VERY busy and it's taken me 5 days to write this update. (I've had to change the numbers three separate times!!!)

  • I am 16 months past the partial resection of my malignant brain tumor
  • It has been 13 months since I completed external beam radiation
  • It has been nearly 5 months since my first complex partial seizure and 28 days until I can drive again. YAY!!!!
  • It has been 2 years and 2.5 months since my brain tumor was discovered
Medically - I haven't had a month with this much to update in the medical category in a long time. As many of you probably are already aware, my follow-up MRI on October 8th showed what appeared to be an increase in the area of enhancement in comparison to the MRI performed in July. This prompted my Neurologist to tell me I should seek the opinion of my NeuroSurgeon to get a "second opinion" on what was going on. Of course, my NeuroSurgeon was fired back in January so it was time to take action on a few of the doctors I had been looking into. It was actually quite simple logic on my part. I figured if you don't succeed with what is considered one of the best in Illinois, then you take it up a notch and you go to the best in the country. This is, of course, what sent us on a road trip two days before Halloween to Rochester, Minnesota which is the home of Mayo Clinic.

The Neurologists that I talked with were great. I really liked their philosophies, the fact they never hesitated to answer my questions, and that they actually agreed with me on some of my views about certain things. They agreed that I made the right decision to decline Temodar after surgery as well as that my last NeuroSurgeon really should have answered the questions that I asked. They were common questions actually of "very informed" patients and they were not unreasonable. They actually seemed quite concerned that he didn't answer these questions and I could tell they were making mental notes of this for future reference. (Questions that we referred to were, "Where was the cranial plate removed?" and "What percentage of the tumor was Grade Three?")

Anyway, in the end, I felt very comfortable with them and they collectively agreed that we were still in the 6 months - 2 year window where the most post-radiation change occurs and that there was not enough change to warrant starting me on any additional treatments as of yet. We all agreed we would schedule an 8 week MRI and we also discussed possibilities that would be available to us should there be concern in any of the upcoming MRIs, including working with my Neurologist back home to line up the correct team should further treatment be required.

While I was not as impressed with the NeuroSurgeon, he was straightforward, honest, and to the point so I couldn't have asked for anything more. He is better than all my previous NeuroSurgeons, except for the one I had originally chose to do my surgery, but then again, I'm not sure there is anyone that is as effective at communicating as he was. He gave us additional thoughts to ponder about my options for treatment should it be needed but he also was in agreement that there was not enough there at the moment to require action right now.

I did finally get a reply from my first NeuroSurgeons office but I am still waiting to receive the corrected documents so that I can send the information to my insurance for claims processing. Hopefully, before the end of the year, we can finally put this issue to rest. My Psychiatrist's office is still working on getting the claims properly submitted for my medication as well. We did, what is hopefully the last, submission of the claims to insurance this past week. "Behavioral issues resulting in trauma to the frontal lobes region of the brain." (or something like that)

And finally, I had a visit with my Radiation Oncologist yesterday and I have been OFFICIALLY RELEASED from his care!!!!! That means one less doctor I need to keep updated with. This is good news and truly shows the progress I've made.

I think that finally wraps up how things went in the medical arena for October.

Emotionally - It's been a roller coaster this past month. Not only was I dealing with the unknown questions about my tumor but now I'm trying to sort things out to deal with the upcoming shutdown of the plant I work at. Not been a good month but for the most part I've managed to keep relatively stable.

Mentally - Honestly, as crazy as things have been, I haven't been paying much attention to my mental functions other than I know it doesn't take much stimulation to exhaust me.

Physically - I think exhausted is the best word. I've been (successfully so far) fighting off bronchitis and sinus issues, an increase in the number of headaches, and some cases of insomnia of late. None of the three go together well when you are also more or less a "single" parent, dealing with several projects at work, trying to make decisions that affect you and your family's whole future, and just basically swamped with things you need to get done at home. Since John has been working the major hours (He has been putting in 30-50 hours of OVERTIME in each two week paycheck) the house has pretty much fallen apart. I get home an hour later than I did when I could drive so that by the time you get home, relax for a few minutes, eat supper, do dishes, throw in a load of laundry, and take a shower... it's way past bedtime. Soon enough we'll get back into our old routine again. I can't wait to get the ok to drive again. It's been a long 6 months. However, we are almost through it and there is no way I could have done it without my parents and the help of many friends. Mom, Dad, Andy, Robyn, Scott, Jamie, Michelle, Hillary, and everyone else who has given us rides where we have needed to be... THANK YOU!!!

Work - This earns its own topic category this month. Just before I went to Mayo, it was announced that my parent company is going to shut down our plant and move the product to Mexico. We do not have a definite time-line yet but there are several that have said that June-August is the estimated time-frame. I'm really not too worried about it. I have several options open to me and it's really going to be a matter of weighing which option is the best for me. There are both full-time and part-time options in my future and they both have their pros and cons. The good news is that John and I can live off of his salary if needed with the exception of what it would cost to have me added to his medical insurance. Therefore, I know that I just need to make enough money to cover the "fun extras" and my medical costs. I can't recalculate those numbers until his plan information is available in a few weeks but I think it can be met pretty easily if I can find either seasonal or part-time work. Might even be able to make it with money I can make with my own "business" by working on computers for people. I'd have to look into the headache that would be first. I will keep this issue posted after I know more but for now, I'm not too concerned with it. We have a solid savings and have already begun cutting back so regardless of what I choose, we will be ready.

Along with the site closing has come many new opportunities for me at work. For the first time in my career I have started "officially" leading a project. One of the projects is within my group of teammates and the other is at a higher level where it will be visible by a lot of people that are pretty high up in the company. I won't deny that I'm scared as hell about the higher level project. I'm not as confident in my abilities to lead projects as I might have once been. I can't deny that there is enough change in my mental capabilities that I'm not sure I'm fully capable. However, I don't back down from challenges and I'm not going to start now! I look forward to the challenge and I hope I'm both physically and mentally able to handle the projects. I figure, if nothing else, it will look good on the resume.

Family - John continues to work the crazy long hours. He's exhausted every night when he gets home and usually I see him long enough to direct him to where supper is and kiss him good night. Luckily, the weather has been decent for the last several days so the farmers are finally making some good progress in the fields. I'm hoping it will stay good long enough that they will be done before the Christmas holidays and therefore John will have no trouble taking his week off between Christmas and New Years like we always do.

My son is still struggling with attitude AND school. He's doing decent in the actual academics if he can just keep himself out of trouble. He's managed to get himself another day of "0" this quarter. I would have thought he would have learned last quarter when what should have been B's and C's ended up being D's. I know this summer/fall has been as hard on him as it has been on the rest of us and I really want to believe that is part of it. Hopefully, when we get back to a normal routine, he will start getting back to a little more normal.

Play - Haven't been doing a whole lot of play although I'll take this opportunity to talk a bit about our trip to Mayo and some of the things we did while there. I have to give them credit, they have made the area a really nice place for patients and their caregivers to be should the need arise. The buildings are beautiful, very well designed and thought out. Beautiful architecture, history around every corner, and really had more of a feeling of home than I ever dreamed a hospital/doctor's office could have. We enjoyed our time there even if it did rain most of it and yes we did have a bit of time for site-seeing. That Thursday night we decided to celebrate that they didn't feel there was any concern of yet and we ate at a fabulous restaurant not far from our hotel. It was definitely ritzier than anything I've ever been to but hey, we were celebrating! We had a great meal with fabulous staff and it really just made me feel wonderful. It was our splurge and after the 7.5 hour drive to get there, I think it was very deserved.

Oh, and we were able to enjoy a good ole A&W restaurant as well on the way home! It appears there are a lot more of them up that way than there are down here. I haven't been to one in ages. Nothing beats a good ole diet A&W and burger!

That's really all of the serious "play" we've been able to do. We didn't really get to do anything for Halloween since harvest was so crazy and I couldn't drive. I told John we'll have to make it up next year. JJ and I will do it without him if he's too busy! I haven't been to a good haunted house in some time so I'm WAY overdue and I've never made it to the Haunted Hayride so that's definitely on the list for next year even if there is a three hour wait!

We have missed the last few dances as well. Unfortunately, when John doesn't get home until 10 minutes before the dance is supposed to start, it makes it difficult to attend. There's a dance this weekend if he gets off in time but I'm not going to get my hopes up even if I'd love to be at this one because we've never danced to this Caller before.

Relay - Yes, the Relay season has started anew! I'm super excited about it now that I actually know what I am doing. I had the privilege of attending the Relay Academy this year and I've got tons of things floating through my mind about it. (More behind the scenes stuff than actual team stuff although some of that too.) I'm determined to have a full 15 person team this year! So, if anyone would like to join me, do let me know. You all know if you are in my area or not. ;)

Also at Academy, I was able to give my first "public speaking" presentation. I was asked to tell my story at the Survivor portion of the Academy. I loved doing it and I really hope that I'll have many more opportunities to speak. As you all know, I love to talk so it really comes naturally to me. I have already been asked to speak at one of the local Relays that I attended last year and I'm really excited about that. Now I have 9 months to think about it before I get to give it!!! I need to talk with them about what angle the want me to take though. Honestly, this is something I've thought about doing as a "side-profession". What more can you ask for than to spread the word about brain tumors/cancer, Relay For Life, the Fight of a Survivor, and just plain motivational speaking? It's something I would love to do so if you need someone to speak at something and you are looking at anything down one of these paths, let me know. I might just be available. :)

I will be putting up donation banners when I get it all sorted out so be on the lookout!

Don't ever say "I can't" always say "I will"!!!

Love ya all and many huggles!!!

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