The Cancerous Bad News to the Sympathetic Good News
In March of 2022, I got some of the worst news I had ever received in my life. I had brain cancer. It was sick and it was severe, but it was possible to be beaten. It was going to be a lot of work, but if I actually did it, I could literally watch myself finally get out of it.
Doctorally called an "Anaplastic Astrocytoma (grade III)," my particular brain tumor would require surgery and various drugs, and a much more vegan diet for what could possibly be the rest of my life. Those big fried chicken lunches I became known for during my time in Cambodia just weren’t going to cut it anymore. I was going to have to eliminate all the sugar in my life that had once brought me up to 290 lbs (130kg) at one point.
While I’m now down to 96 kg (211 lbs) now (thanks for noticing everyone!), getting over my food proclivities has definitely been a bit of a problem. Unfortunately, when you’re literally staring the disease that could finish you in the face every day, you don’t really have much choice in the matter. Either you do it, or you don’t do it. You take all the risks that come with that. It's just that when you’re talking about a brain tumor, you now know exactly what those risks are too. You know what it looks like to have a deck stacked against you.
I Can’t Lie… It’s Been Hard
In the year since I got the news. I’ve had to learn how to address it by allowing myself to go through all the different pieces of care while I’m here in Estonia.
1. Surgery to remove the astrocytoma.
A neurosurgeon was brought in splice open my brains and shake the eggs out. Cutting around and through the physical meat of my brain, they had to keep me awake during the surgery and keep me singing. I didn’t want to lose that ability during the entire process. I remember singing Wannabe by the Spice Girls for some reason. Something about seeing myself as an independent musician again mattered enough for me to want to remember to pursue it going forward.
2. Radiation therapy.
After recovering from the chopping of my astrocytoma, I was brought in to receive radiation therapy. Over a full month, I would get up every morning, make my way to the hospital, take off all my clothes and get inside a machine. The machine would aim lasers at my head, and I hoped that eventually, it would just end. I’d feel worse and worse each week as the radiation therapy process continued, but eventually, I got myself to the end.
... but it literally cooked the outside of my head
Now I’m at my portion of Chemotherapy. For this process, I go and visit the doctor once a month and wait to take on some new cancer-killing drug. Each month though, I get to hope I have battled cancer well enough to never have to deal with it again. There is this thought I have that once a month I'll walk into the doctor's office, and she will be so impressed with all the great and genius things I did taking care of myself before announcing my cancer is in remission and saying I have finally a clean bill of health.
The sweetness of that feeling is almost a bit too much.
…And So We Continue
From here on, I’d like to thank everyone that read my previous post and who’s made a choice to respond to me and let me know to keep it up. Even a year in, talking about having a brain tumor is still very much this new and unique problem. Still... we try and I really appreciate you all the same.
We’re also going to be pushing ourselves to consume less sugar this year. Apparently, cancer loves some sugar so all that granola I was eating was very very bad. I also need to have a lot less in the Estonian cake department. So if you see me out, and I’m ordering something other than bland vegetables, please stop me!
Also, I'm going to continue to be thankful for each and every person I’m going to meet on this journey. I’m even looking at bringing my mother and brother out of the United States for the first time. It will be quite an interesting trip for them, but hopefully, give us all a chance to reconnect after a cancerous year apart. Right now, I feel thick and lovely, and hope to keep that going as we go forward.
As I said earlier, getting better will require work. We've started that journey. For me, that work starts with music and goes out from there.