February 25, 2001
San Francisco, CA

Happy February, Everyone!

I started this letter a few weeks ago, before my last MRI/MRS on February 1st. The following is an excerpt from that letter. I thought it was pretty interesting that I had written it before I had gotten my recent MRI/MRS results on February 7th. I think it rings true even more at this point in my life.

So today I was walking home and had an old mix tape from Sarah Elliot in my walk-person, when one of my favorite Pat Benetar songs came on. So I'm going to quote it here to offer some inspiration:

I believe there comes a time
when everything just falls in line.
We live and learn from our mistakes.
The deepest cuts are healed by faith
--from "All Fired Up" by Pat "Goddess" Benetar

Always a classic to get you going, no matter what challenges you're facing. I also have to add that Sammy Davis Jr. is great for beating off the blues any rainy day too.

Now for the medical update...

On Thursday, February 1st, I had a MRI/MRS. I have to have an MRI/MRS every month or so for the first year to monitor any changes in my brain. With brain cancer, the hope is that there is no change. A friend that I met during radiation treatment had just had an MRS that showed a change, which is something I had been hoping to avoid. However, my last MRI/MRS showed a growth of some sort in the area of my brain where the tumor was removed. The growth can be one of three things, scar tissue, calicification or tumor regrowth. The oncologist was not able to determine which of these three things she was seeing.

Here's an explanation of each:

1. Scar tissue: This behaves differently in each surgery patient, sometimes growing right away, and sometimes appearing as late as two years after surgery. It is usually harmless and considered normal. However, sometimes it can have harmful effects. For example, if too much grows, the tissue can hit parts of the brain that cause seizures.

2. Calcification of the hole where the tumor was removed: Calcification is a protective barrier that the body generates, in this case between the brain and the empty space. This is considered good.

3. Tumor regrowth: This is not what any of us want it to be.

The area where this new growth was seen will be examined closely in my upcoming MRI/MRS's in hopes of finding out more about what it is.

I began another round of chemotherapy on Friday, February 23rd. As I've said before, the plan is to for me to take a five-day dose of chemotherapy, in pill form, each month for the next year. However, this schedule will depend on the next MRI: If there is, in fact, tumor regrowth, we will plan a new course of action. I'd appreciate your sending some good energy my way about four weeks from now, when I go for my next MRI/MRS.

I'm quite worried and scared about the test results. Please don't email me a ton of questions, as I don't have any more answers to give at this point. I am attempting to be as positive as possible about the whole situation as I can. As we used to tell the kindergarten kids I taught, "Don't worry about things you can't fix, because you can't fix them. And don't worry about things you can fix, just fix them." Words to live by.

On a medical note, I have just started going to a new specialist, Dr. Zeiner, a neuropsychologist who specializes in brain tumors and has worked with many Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM) patients. She has been able to read my medical records and explain what they say in greater detail, which has been a huge help.

Apparently, the ER staff at UCSF was able to tell that I had a brain tumor because the series of white nerves that communicates from one side of the brain to the other had shifted two and a half inches in the front of my brain. If you've ever see a model of a brain, you'll notice that the surface is bumpy and has some ravines running through it. When I finally made it to the ER, the surface of the front left area of my brain was pushed flat against my skull because the tumor had grown too big for the small amount of extra space in the skull to accommodate. Dr. Ziener said I must have had some serious headaches. "You'd better believe it," I said.

So my instructions for healing at this point are as follows:

1. Find a new team sport (other than rugby) to relieve stress and tension, which will help my immune system to defeat the cancer that I'm always fighting. She suggested soccer, with people who are in an older age group so that they would move more at my speed. I'm thinking ultimate frisbee.

2. Play the drums to reprogram those connections that may be missing from my brain. Dancing also needs to be done more often to make sure that I'm fixing any wiring that hasn't been working as well as it used to.

3. Have fun. I have been instructed that I need to have more fun to keep my quality of life high.

Another step I'm taking is to see my old friend/classmate who has become an accupressurist and energy healer here in San Francisco. And I have to say that I've never felt better. There are some wonderful things about Chinese medicine. Just one visit has done a lot for my body and spirit. I hope to go as much as possible from now on.

Now for the good news....

Portland rules! What a great place to visit. It's such a cute town filled with great people. I had a fun time seeing so many great friends. We had long conversations, good food (grits and scrambled eggs) and karaoke. It was so worth it.

The trip, in mid-January, had a long beginning. My brother Mike, who was visiting from Chicago, and I arrived at the airport in San Francisco rather early and found out that our flight had been delayed. Later we found out it had been canceled, so we were given stand-by status on a full flight at 7:30 pm. Since it was packed, we had to go on the 10:30 pm flight that left at 11:30 pm. So we got to our hotel at 1:30 am on Saturday morning. Lame. Thankfully we had a great time hanging out with Rachel and Naomi Walchak, Jennifer Green and her girlfriend Maggie, Josh Dorfzaun, Andy Zboralski, JoJo Yamada, Tova Steiner and her family, Alicia McDade, and Jane Morris and her girlfriend, Meg. We even got to visit the sets of the PJ's, where Rachel is the producer. It was very cool.

The highlight of the weekend was karaoke at the Alibi, a great Polynesian bar, where, of course, I blew the entire audience away with all my talent and skill. Thank goodness everything doesn't go away with brain surgery.

Mike and I also spent some quality time in Napa, where he could try a lot of wine, and I could watch. Thank goodness there's an A&W out in Napa. We also went to Calistoga, where we had mud baths and spa treatments. A first for both of us.

As for work, I have started back recently. I'm trying to take it slow and relearn my job. It does tend to make me very tired, so I only do it for a few hours each week, but so far I have been incredibly fortunate. Thanks to everyone at Squaretrade who has welcomed me back with a wonderful attitude and helped me along in the whole process.

I'm sorry that this letter has been so long, but there's been so much to report on this past month. Thank you so much for taking the time to read it all the way through. Take care.

Lots of Love Always,

Danielle

P.S. Congratulations to David and Kara on their December wedding!

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