Monday, March 16, 2015

Moving Up The MRI

Oh man, my face has broken out into blisters. Good grief, I am a ball of stress. This always seems to happen in the days/weeks before an MRI. Seriously, sometimes I feel like I'm a woman trapped in a neurotic miniature chihuahua's anxiety problems. Between the seizure and my skin, I am getting some major warning signs that I need to get this MRI over with. I'm scared, like usual, and no matter what I do (nap, meditate, walk, garden, clean, work) things do not seem to be getting better. Last night I was texting back and forth with my bro, and I sent him this quick pic to make him laugh (and illustrate the blisters).

What is it with skin; when you have skin problems it cuts you to the core. And hell, it isn't even necessarily the vanity, these suckers hurt. To try and abate the issue, I just called University of Washington to push up the scan schedule. I should be getting a call back within 24-48 hours to see if I can just get it over with on Saturday (it was supposed to be April 4th). That would give preliminary results on Monday. As you guys know, I get my brain scans here in Seattle, then I mail the disk to UCLA and they usually submit to the tumor board. I tend to get their results in a few weeks, but since the scan takes place at UW, I can head to the UW medical records department and get a copy of the radiology report. That would give me the results I need. Good or bad. Scary or not. I could have answers by Monday. Monday. Wow. That just made me lightheaded.

Isn't it weird how scary it is to get an MRI when the truth of the matter is that it's just a snapshot. It's a peek into whatever is already happening in my brain. The MRI won't change anything. It's only a fancy internal camera.

Do I feel any worse? Do I have special symptoms? No, not really. I'm always tired, but I think that's pretty standard since the first brain surgery. What will I do if I have a second recurrence? Jeez. I don't really know. I have a file in my email account that's labeled "possible treatments" and I'll need to review that information this coming week. Worse yet, what if all of these off labels drugs, and different treatments have encouraged a more aggressive tumor? What a nauseating thought. Well, if I do have tumor growing back, and it's uptaking contrast dye, that usually means that it would be a higher grade. And if that's the case, then eff bomb. I guess we'll scramble for a new path, or stay on the same path but pack on additional treatments.

What a weird life I live. I'm constantly in troubleshoot mode, always scheming for backup plans, always preparing for surprises so that I can be ready. I never want to walk this earth, with this diagnosis, unprepared. It's interesting, I read an article earlier today about a woman who was diagnosed with GMB (glioblastoma multiforme - stage 4 brain cancer) who went to Duke for an immunotherapy over 9 years ago. She was quoted saying that her father (or maybe it was her grandfather) beat cancer twice in his life and lived to almost a century. His trick was to go back to living life, and so that's what she did. Man that sounds nice. I wish I could do that. I wish I could get out of my head, but I can't. What a beautiful choice to make. Of course, if we all just went back to living our lives after cancer treatment, and just did what we wanted, we might not have as much research. We might not see as many advancements. If we don't drive demand and share information, and keep this momentum, then what? I guess it would work if cancer care was more effective. But the truth is that most brain cancer patients die, and if we all just went back home and enjoyed ourselves, most of us wouldn't be here.

That woman was a part of an amazing clinical trial. Lucky for her she was in the treating group, the placebo group patients are all long dead. And the majority of the others in the treating group are also dead. So maybe she just got lucky? There's always a small sample that responds to treatment, at least for a portion of time. And for the record, I don't mean "lucky" in a snarky way. I am relieved that her treatment worked. Does everyone have to become an advocate? No. That would be crazy for me to say. People have complicated lives, different stories and responsibilities. As my mom would say, "Do what speaks to you." We all have different causes that we believe in, and just because you get diagnosed with brain cancer doesn't mean that it has to become your cause. But, man we can move mountains together. What if she started spreading the word about how well her treatment worked? What if she mobilized funding to run a second clinical trial to create more survivors? Of course this is all easy for me to say, I mean, what have I really done? But the truth is that I've been using morphing cocktail approaches which means I can't pinpoint just one thing on my protocol that has produced my stability. If I could specifically credit one treatment for my success, you'd better believe I would be trying to figure out a way to get it to the masses. Instead, all I can give people is critical thinking, hope, friendship, and resources.

There is no wrong way to handle your life, your cancer. I hope I'm not coming off judge-y. I guess the perfect fix for me would be a little less cancer cancer cancer, and more just live my life. It's a balance,  a very important balance (says the girl with blisters on her face), but my mantra, or more appropriately mission statement, is, "An advancement for one patient is a benefit to all patients." It's actually a statement that I made to a caregiver in an email recently. And it's exactly how I feel. Even though I'm not great about correspondence (if I was to respond to all emails, calls, texts, comments, I would be stuck on the computer or my phone all the time), I work very hard to help connect patients with the information and resources that they need. If I end up having a clean/stable MRI next week it will be just shy of five years from diagnosis. It would also be 2.5 years of being stable. Oh man as I write this I can taste the desire for a good result. I can viscerally feel it. Anyway, I have worked very hard to help people, and I will continue to do so. You all have helped me so much, and continue to help, and my gift is to give back. One of my favorite wonders is the humanity that we share. That we can do so much more together as pairs, as teams, as groups. We're better together.


  1. beautiful inside and out

  2. Praying for you !!!! You are in our prayers every morning. Hope your blisters heal -looks painful !!! Bless you, Dan & your family.

  3. Scanxiety stinks! I love your mantra (and your video blog, by the way). Good luck with moving up your date and get this MRI done and over with already! Being in motion is the best way to help time MOVE; that, and naps. Wacky and I love you, Coconuts!

  4. I just want to tell you I love you Jessica!! Just plain old completely am so thankful to be a small part of YOU!!
    Love, Maleka

  5. Jessica you'll be great!!!! Hopefully they'll move the date so you can get this over with. I too have an emergency folder. I have an emergency printed stash too, in case computers fail. You still look beautiful, one of the lucky ones that even blisters can't change that :)

    Jess Oldwyn - hero in healing
    She's a beautiful, brave, brilliant, brainiac
    Courageous, creative, caring
    Thinks for herself, searches for answers
    Enthusiastic trail blazer, changing medicine
    Tenacious tumor terminator, fierce fighter
    Level headed truth seeker
    Leading the way for better treatments in cancer
    Sharing knowledge, determined to heal
    Team Jess - So human, all heart, beautiful soul, never gives up

    I envision you wrapped in a robe of love, made by all the people who adore and admire you so much. I imagine all the strength, joy, determination and delight you radiate kindling healing in the cells of your body. I am asking the angels to be beside you and shower you with blessings of healing, calmness and peace. Soon the uplifting energy of spring and sunshine will contribute good things to the mix! Love, C


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