a friend of ours who still lives in humboldt county sent us this recent clipping/photo from the newspaper.


mri results phone call 1.10.11

typically it goes like this: each late november i email my doc (note: my neurosurgeon, not my gp. further note: this neurosurgeon is not the one who performed 2 surgeries in 2005 only the person who is assigned to shepherd my aftercare, scans and whatnots) and remind him that it's time for my annual mri to check on the status of the remaining brain tumor bit in my head. that bit was bbq'ed/cauterized by proton beam radiation and the numbers are very much in my favor but the fact is there's still a bit in my head that could not be surgically resected due to its proximity and abutment to critical structures (here, the carotid artery and the optic nerve) and that bit needs an annual look-see just to confirm that it has not un-cauterized itself or begun to shape-shift or otherwise contort itself into something sinister. each year the doc orders the MRI. i get the MRI (see prev post). And 8-10 days later or so I receive in the mail a copy of the radiation doc's assessment of the images  (note: I don't mind the lag time between scan and result because it implies good news. if there's cause for concern, they find you.)  which has been cc'ed to the neurosurgeon who typically writes 4-5 words on it (like 'looks great" or "all the same, best".)

this year would be different. i emailed neurosurgeon and a nurse got back to me and we got the MRI scheduled. however usual neurosurgeon wasn't available so it would be new neurosurgeon. Did I want to come in to review results with new neurosurgeon? nurse asked. Or would a phone consult suffice? I picked the latter and an appointment was formally scheduled for tues - 5 days after the scan - at 12:30 pm. All morning yesterday it was in the back of my head, looming and portentious, despite my near-certainty that the results would be favorable. As I alluded in previous post, this annual event comes bundled with past/present/future iterations and subfloors, an echo-chambered hall-of-mirrors that it is quite easy to lose oneself in figuratively speaking, looking at a reflected visage and mistaking it for the actuality, mistaking the memory of a long-ago car crash for the visceral moment of the car crash itself,  if you follow that. point being, i was slightly nervous, waiting for the phone call to come at my (day) job at 12:30 and I found myself nervously puttering and muttering and eager to get it all over with.

after a slug-crawl paint-drying, moment-to-moment interminability, at last it was 12:30. despite this being my lunch hour at (day) job i hung around, expecting the phone to ring at any moment. then it's 12:35. then it's 12:42. then it's 12:46. then it's 12:47. then it's 12:50 and i'm getting itchy. then it's 12:53. then it's 12:58 and i'm realizing (since i have things to do) that i can go and just tell my co-worker that -should they call at all - he can forward the call to my cell phone. but i forget to tell him that and then i check the details of the appointment online. the date is right, the time is right but at the bottom there's a phone number. oh fuck, was i supposed to call them?! It's 1pm now and i'm running down the back staircase to the street calling the number and i get the answering message for the nurse who set this appointment up in the first place. I leave her a few words, citing my uncertainty about whether i was supposed to receive the call or place it. I call M and tell her that I haven't heard anything yet. I call my co-worker and tell him that if anyone calls from a doc's office to please forward the call to my cellphone. He says "they just called". Of course they did. He says they told him there was no emergency in terms of returning the call which engenders a ripple of deep-breathing, inner-core sigh of epic relief that serves to make the sky bluer and the air crisper. I've done this long enough to recognize their non-emergency vernacular as confirmation of good news. I finish the set of errands I'm doing and take the bus up 5th ave back to my (day) job. A short time later I'm at my desk and my cellphone rings. It's the new neurosurgeon, delivering into my ear the finest assemblage of words imaginable: everything is unchanged. Despite the now-certain nature of hearing this it is like the first time. It is the bursting sunrise from the mountaintop and the beach with aquamarine waters in early afternoon and the falling-in-love-pit-in-the-stomach and the come-from-behind-upset-win against an unbeatable foe and the winning lottery ticket and the dream-come-true all folded together in one impossibly brief moment of time.

I say 'fantastic'.
I say, 'is Dr. P on leave or did he move on?'
'He moved on'.
"So you're my guy now?" and he says "I'm your guy now".
I say, "I'll talk to you in a year then".
He says "good enough".

This morning, i'm up at 6:30, running in the wind and chill. I'm trying to exercise more. I'm trying to get my shit together again and it's January so there's a few other resolution-fueled runners on the street with me. I feel my energy flag. I recall the words. everything is unchanged and feel something unlocking inside me, the secret code on a video game level. i run faster. i keep going.


annual scan 1.5.12

woke at 640, in car by 7 headed to clackamas, to hospital where i had 1st MRI back in late 2004 that kicked off the whole enterprise. in to the hospital, checking in at one desk in semi-recently remodelled lobby (where i note a stack of those buzzing/flashing your-table-is-ready-now items sitting off to the side, presumably for those awaiting surgery or news of surgery) and then on to another desk where the youngish receptionist asks for my religious preference (i am unclear why this is, possibly something i left blank on prior documentation). soon i am on elevator F going down a floor, down the hallway that this-time-last-year was being re-dry-walled and/or re-sanded and/or re-modified, following placards to mri/nuclear medicine. up to the reception window where i am handed the same clipboard with the same questions i've answered for years ('do you have metal in you body?','are you afraid of small spaces' etc). soon i am in changing bay, my personal items stowed in the tiny porthole with the tiny key. now wearing scrub pants and gown, glasses off, laying down on all-too-familiar MRI bed, being told this will take a longer time than usual b/c they're running 2 tests (unclear as to why this is. my usual neurosurgeon is on leave for some unspecified reason so the order was put in by his substitute. likely some formality or indicative of thoroughness b/c i haven't seen anybody in years - i just show up for these and get mailed the 'everything's a-okay' results but still enough to hand me the low quaky gutpunchy pulse that have affiliated with hospitals for at least 7 plus years.) Into the machine. The Sound. The Sound. The Sound. Impossible to describe without these words: grinding, arrhythmic, pounding, intermittent. I am in the tube for 45 minutes. My mind is ping-ponging between gratitude for the exceedingly good fortune to be alive, soul-sinking sadness for those with less good fortune, sense-memory of black fear seven yrs hence which triggers black fear in present tense. The tech pulls me out of tube and injects me w/ contrast. This is normal. She says "Did you have surgery on the part we're looking at?" This is not normal, to be asked this. I say "yes, two". She says "When was the last one". I say "march 28, 2005". She pushes me back in tube for 'about 20 minutes'. She leaves. I sit immobile, keeping focus on my breath. There's really nothing to be nervous about. I have zero symptoms. All is normal. This is just an annual check-up. Later MM reminds me that Dr. L at MGH said future MRI techs will be startled to see something on scan not realizing perhaps that it's the cauterized tumor remnant showing up on the scan. While I'm in the tube however, my mind and fear are battling. I think of my son and I smile. I am reminded of a million life-is-short sentiments that seem to find their way to lower-grade cinema and greeting cards but which also happen to be one-hundred-percent true. I am reminded of how standing, how thinking, how breathing is this glorious, mind-blowing gift, one that we have to look beyond to actually live and how unfortunate that is but also how understandably human it is. Running around bleating about how short life is is exhausting and also doesn't get you invited to many parties so it recedes. At last I am pulled out of the tube. Handed my glasses. Say goodbye to the tech. I tell her "See you next year". I say "I had a good time". And I am back in the car headed home.



a new year is always a symbolic thing. several big things coming this year already: milestone birthday (ugh), travel, directing a feature film and hopefully lots of joy and friendship filling in all the gaps. oh and the steady white-noise of self-correction and self-improvement be it in the physical, emotional, or spiritual realms. 2011 saw me posting much less on this blog, not for lack of interest but due to a dilution of time owing to a tot and directing a couple short films. one is almost done, one just got done. you can follow them both here if you have that desire. meantime i post semi-regularly here, a few words about whatever the last film i saw was.