I’ve never written a book, no essay since college, and certainly no creative writings. Yet, I journal frequently over e-mail, texts (do not release those texts, you know who you are!), Facebook and Instagram. I draw the line at Snapchat, and leave that for the younger generation. All of these have been a surprisingly effective and helpful outlet and inlet for support. The image created above by Courtney Kerry swarmed my circle of social media and even the real world with T-shirts. This blog will serve as a journal of experiences as a I change from doctor to patient, and hopefully back to better doctor. It will include some creative writing, daily routines of cancer, education on brain tumors, and to be determined. If my mom is the only one that reads this at the end of the day, well, it would serve a purpose.
I had a hot streak going for 39 years and 1 week. Honestly, I simply loved to be alive. I loved my routine, work, colleagues, friends and family. Call it a combination of genes and environment leading to the right milieu of chemicals in my brain. Maybe some would be inclined to say blessed, but that would make for a pretty nauseating blog. “Another great day!” I just had a positive outlook, but as a physician, knew that it was all fragile.
Here is a brief background. Feel free to skim if you know me. I was born in Grand Haven 10/22/1976 to Tom and Mary Kay. Dad always called me a mistake, but I think mom had other plans. I have two older sisters, Amy and Katie. They both live in Grand Haven after earlier work and life adventures around the country. They both have 3 girls each to complement our 4. I married my high school sweetheart after dating for something like 8 years. I’ll give Mary Kay credit for that nudge, too. Okay, you were right, mom. After graduating from Grand Haven, we both went to Michigan State. I went on to the University of Michigan Medical School, and just did not see a reason to leave for 11 years: medical school, residency, chief medical resident, and then cardiology fellowship. We got married and had 3 kids over that period followed by a fourth child in Grand Rapids.
Figure: Two generations of family. On the left, those that I claim responsibility: Allison (11), me, Ella (6), Staci, Mia (2) and Connor (7). On the right, my original 5 plus my wife, Staci: Amy, Katie, me, Staci, Mary Kay and Tom Alguire.
Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM)
On 10/29/15, I was diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme, or an high grade / aggressive glioma or grade 4 glioblastoma. Honestly, the nomenclature is difficult for me to read through because it is full of gloom. Research articles always start with an introduction to the problem, and no punches are pulled. Even UpToDate (internet resource for doctors) reviews can provoke nausea more than chemo. Yes, I know the magnitude of the problem, let’s skip to the meat of the article. Do not use this blog as a study guide, although I will plan to have a post on “Brain Cancer 101.” I heard I had a terminal diagnosis on 10/29/15, but the termination point is yet to be determined. Life is terminal. As my neurooncologist Priya Kumthekar said, “we are all our own statistic.” She followed that up with “Let’s rock this.”
I was assigned to write a book by my sister Katie (kd), an oncologist. Book and blog sound a lot a like, and this is easier. A blog lowers expectations. I have a diagnosis and treatment that inevitably leads to some neurological decline. Please excuse any grammatical errors if any former English teachers are reading this. Part of my brain has already been removed, and gets irradiated daily.
Thank you to my family and friends. My mother who always believed I could do better, but knew I had it right with Staci. My dad who provides comic relief, sometimes unintentionally, but at times just seems to come through with absolute clarity. My big sisters who have always cleared a path, but circled back to protect the little brother that I still am. And to my cherished wife and children, Staci, Allison, Connor, Ella and Mia: I never thought I could love something so fully with every ounce of my being.
Let’s rock this.