(editor’s note: This is the original email I sent from the hospital in Hong Kong, trying to explain everything that was going on.)
OK so here’s the news, it’s not really good or bad, it just is what it is and it’s exactly what I was expecting, so I’m just gonna roll with it and do what I can do to kick this thing in the brain-ass.
The pathology came back and it says that this is a “glioblastoma“ (rainbow effect added for levity), which is what every doctor has been saying since the beginning. So I was ready for it, no surprises there.
It’s cancer, but the tumor has been (very successfully) removed. And it has been removed without doing one iota of damage to my brain. Except for the sweet shiner on my right eye, I am physically and mentally at 100%. Which is really awesome – this fact in itself (that I’m not demented or blind or crippled now, and can still speak passable French) means everything to me. I feel great. There are a lot of people in this hospital who are doing much, much worse than me. I’m also incredibly lucky that I caught this thing when I did. It could have killed me, but it didn’t. And it’s not going to.
One thing I’d like to ask of you: please don’t go internet researching glioblastoma and how horrible it is. All you’re going to find is depressing survival rates of 3 to 4 minutes. This is because the VAST majority of people who get this are 70 year old men that already have diabetes and heart disease and shriveled testes and a nagging wife, so they’re bound to croak anyway. And apparently it only affects 1 in 100,000 people, so when you discount all them old folks I’m a real rarity.
Which is a very very good thing– I am young, and healthy, with a very powerful immune system and an even stronger sense of hope. I’m not Lanceypants Armstrong or anything, but I am very much in the absolute top percentile of people who should be able to beat something like this. Every doctor I have talked to has said this exact thing– survival rates that you’ll find on the internet are absolutely meaningless & inapplicable to my situation. I am going to do what I need to do, and work from the information my doctors give me. And it’s going to work. So don’t look up scary stories of old dudes dying from exploding nuclear brain tumors – it’s a pointless exercise in making yourself depressed for no reason (also I’ve been told this thing isn’t contagious, so we can still share a soda, which is great).
What happens now is that I have to do treatment to make sure it doesn’t come back. There is and probably will be tiny little cells that have the potential to regrow, so I have to keep them down.
Treatment will probably be a combo of chemo and radiation, both of which are pretty mild (not the super scary image people have of chemo – these are just in pill form with very little side effects).
There have also apparently been lots of developments in recent years treating this exact type of cancer – so as my doctor pointed out, having this happen in 2012 is SO MUCH BETTER than if it had happened to me 10 or more years ago. The trick will be finding the treatment that works right for my particular tumorama.
What my neurosurgeon, “Slow Hands” Doc Johnny Chan, said to me (this gave me a lot of hope, and I already had a lot) was that because of how much things have changed & improved in recent years, it’s now fair to look at this type of cancer as a “chronic illness”: something that could be fatal but can also totally be managed. Like diabetes, or anything else where you just have to keep checking up on it and keep it under control and you can live a long and healthy life.
And if I can ride this shit out for 5, 10 years, there’s a very good chance I’ll reach a day when they figure out a way to really truly just wipe it clean out of my brain. So that’s my goal right now.
I can’t tell you guys enough how much I’ve appreciated all your love and support. In many ways, very specifically because of all the love that’s been coming this way, this has been one of the most beautiful, rewarding experiences of my life. I really hope and believe that it can be the beginning of something wonderful, rather than some scary crappy debbie downer situation.
Speaking of which: my head is up high, my spirits are up higher, and I’m gonna laugh and fight and run and skip my way through this thing. And if you guys are willing to laugh and fight through it with me, it would mean everything to me. (Emphasis on the laughing– there’s not gonna be any boo hoo baby sniffles from here on out, got it?)
So that’s the news for now! I won’t know much more until I get back to LA and start working with brainio-doctors there to develop a treatment plan. I am hoping to fly back to LA some time early this week. It depends on if my brainpiece is all healed up – I will do another MRI hopefully on Monday that will determine if I’m safe to fly. Basically they just have to wait long enough to make sure there’s no air left in there that could pressurize during flight – he said it usually takes 10-14 days, but I might be good to go if the MRI is clean. I’m crossing my fingers– I can not WAIT to just be home again, and see everybody, and go jogging with that sweet silver beauty Dutch the damn Dog who you all know I love so much.
I’m gonna hit the sack. Feel free to pass this email on to anybody who asks, it’s been really hard keeping everybody in the loop, and there isn’t enough time in the day to write to everybody individually. Hopefully this will clear up a lot of questions.
I love you!
PS: I leave you now with some photos from today, of The Man Who Operated On My Brain, my personal savior and Brian Guardian, none other than…
Doctor Johnny “Slow Hands” Chan Ping Hon!
In addition to being adorable, he’s a total brain-slicing ninja badass.
When I gave him the t-shirt he was so psyched, he insisted on putting it on immediately so we could take a photo together.
We also wrote a song together (sung to the tune of Queen’s “We Are the Champions”):
Heeee is the Chan Ping Hon
And he’ll keep excising
Til the end…
Heeeee is my Chan Ping Hon
Heeeee is my Chan Ping Hon!
No time for tumors,
Cuz he is the Chan Ping Hon…
Of my brain!
And to give you an idea of how stir crazy (and physically fine) I am – here’s me on the workout machines a few hours ago, burnin’ up a sweat. Really all I wanna do is go run up a mountain.
Finally, here’s a t-shirt design that I’m working on: