And so it was exactly one year ago today that I was in Hong Kong.
And all I got was this lousy brain tumor.
But wait, that’s not exactly true (even though I asserted as much on a t-shirt). No no no, I flew to Hong Kong, and I got so much more than this wonderful man-sized helping of glioblastoma multiforme!
But what else, you ask, did I get? Well since you asked, I’ll tell you! (You didn’t really ask, but I’ll tell you anyway.) I also got… a whole bunch of free samples from a blow-up sex doll factory! And and and… and a snazzy pair of swim trunks from the Kowloon H&M! So a blow up sex sheep, and a brain tumor, and swim trunks, and… hmm… no, I think that’s all I got actually.
Oh no wait, I did get something else. I totally also got
A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT LIFE.
To be fair, it’s a completely different life that feels a lot like the old life, just way more glioblastomafied. But what does that mean? I don’t know, why are you asking me? YOU’RE the one with the brain tumor!
O.K., don’t freak out, you’re not the one with the brain tumor, I’M the one with the brain tumor.
I’m the one with the brain tumor, and on this one year anniversary of having a gentle Cantonese man saw open my skull (which, quite amazingly, was happening almost exactly one year ago to the very minute that I am writing this very sentence), I would like to share a few things that I’ve learned from my brain chance.
Things That I’ve Learned From Having a Chancey Brain
(or, What It’s Like To Get Glioblastomafied)
- They’re pretty good at brain surgery. I’ve done it twice, and by no means was it the scariest or hardest part of this whole ordeal. (What was the scariest and hardest part of this whole ordeal? Funny you should ask, see #5.) In fact, I recently came across the blog of a woman who has been living with GBM (that’s shorthand for glioblastoma multiforme, for peeps in the know) who has had five brain surgeries. FIVE BRAIN SURGERIES! Her GBM comes back every three or four years (because, as we’re told, GBM always comes back), and when it does, they just crack open her nut and they take it out again. She’s done that five times, God (or somebody) love her! Funny enough, when I found this story it actually came with a sense of relief. My thinking was “Well, at least there’s that option!” (Options being at a premium when you’ve been glioblasted.)
- There are a surprising number of people out there who have brain cancer, and who have cleverly named blogs dedicated to the subject (“Glioblasted” being the cleverest). Heck, there’s even another 36 year old guy named Chad who got the exact same type of brain cancer within a few months of me, and who is in exactly the same clinical trial as me, and who also has a cleverly named blog: “A Head of Cancer” (I’ll forgive him the pun since his name is Chad).
Hey Chad! We both got brain cancer in early 2012, we’re both pumped to the gills up with Temodar and ICT-107, and we’re both still alive one year later! It’s a race to the finish! (God, how macabre is that. Chad-on-Chad Brain Cancer Race: GO! Haha.)
- Friends and family and people who love you and people who are nice to you when something like this happens are pretty much the best thing in the entire universe. They not only make it tolerable– they make you want to do it again. In fact I’m kind of hoping for another brain surgery, ’cause I’m starting to miss all the attention. Lately, everybody telling me “You look great!” makes me afraid they’re going to start treating me like a regular old Chad who doesn’t have brain cancer or something. For the love of god, don’t do that! I still feel like shit! I still have brain cancer! You can still bring me dinners and keep me company! (If that sounds like a pathetic plea for attention and sympathy, it probably is. See #4.)
- The Brain Cancer Card is a powerful device: Use it well! You can use your BCC for anything from getting better seats at a Bruce Springsteen concert, to getting out of a speeding ticket, to convincing your friends to bring you dinner, to (most importantly–and this is the only actually justifiable one) asking people for help when you need it. Because when you get glioblasted, you definitely need it.
- Turns out it’s much easier to accept and deal with An Incredibly Horrible Thing Happening To You when it just happens randomly, for no reason at all (i.e. GBM), as opposed to being inflicted on you by another human being who had the choice not to do that to you but did it anyway. I bring this up because the phrase “handle me with care” has been ringing in my ears for the past two months: it’s not only a beautiful song by the Traveling Wilburys, it’s also a good thing to remember in our dealings with everyone in our lives who puts their trust in us. We hold small (and sometimes big) parts of the fortunes of many of the people around us in our hands, and it’s so important for us to always handle those fortunes, and those people, with care. When I’ve been handled with care (by so, so many of you), it has made it OK to be living and struggling with brain cancer. When I’ve not been, it has been as bad as having brain cancer. Sometimes worse. So let’s handle each other with care! It makes the Random Bad Things more tolerable, and it makes the Not Random Bad Things nonexistent. Which brings me to a final point (see #6).
- Hope, really, is everything. If I have something to look forward to (it could be work, something to do, someone to see), my mood immediately changes, immediately brightens. The despair disappears, and is replaced by joy. The acidic and weighty pangs of anxiety in my gut transform into the light, giddy, sparkling feeling of possibility and excitement. From battery acid to champagne bubbles: it all changes in an instant. It all changes when you have hope.
- Love isn’t all you need: you need love, and you need hope.
- I’m still alive, and I hope I will be next year.
Happy anniversary, brain chance. I can’t say I love you, but I’ve sure gotten a lot of love out of you. And for that, I do thank you.