Well, a lot has happened since my last post! I had brain surgery at the end of June 2011. They were able to remove all but a small portion of the tumor, which was wrapped around a vein. It turned out not to be benign after all; the pathology report showed anaplastic hemangiopericytoma, an extremely rare, aggressive and malignant brain cancer. The word “cancer” was not used with us until we used persistence and interrogation. (We could be on the cast of NCIS with our doctor interrogation skills). But it actually took months – and new doctors – to find out the diagnosis and almost a year to find out the prognosis!
I underwent six weeks of daily radiation treatments on my brain, but that didn’t remove it completely. The radiation took a lot out of me and I was fatigued for quite a while. Just as I was “recovering” from the radiation, I had a minor ischemic stroke and seizures and was in the hospital for a few weeks in January 2012. That took its toll on me too, and my daughter Gabriana, who cares for me full-time, was no longer able to work.
I felt like I was getting a bit better, even though many of the symptoms (dizziness, confusion, short term memory loss and vertigo among them) persisted. The doctor, a brain cancer specialist, told me even though I was feeling stronger, the tumor could (and probably would) grow back suddenly and multiply quickly. And that the chances of my survival were not great. At the time he said 2-5 years, but almost a year had elapsed before we knew this. My plan is to beat the odds and live a long and happy life. Just for the record.
We decided that while I was feeling better, and before the tumor grew, we should go to my beloved Venice, Italy. My last MRI showed no growth. Yay!!!!! My daughter has been blogging about our adventures finding an apartment and more in her blog, Nosy Parker. She also wrote a tribute post to me.
We are almost finished packing and are very excited. We leave in early September and will be there for a month. When I returned from my last trip, I had wanted to move to Venice. Then I compromised at three months. When we told the doctor, he shook his head and said it would only be medically wise to go for 2 to 4 weeks. I asked for 6 weeks, and he told me not to push it.
We are taking our darling service dog, Abby, and my best friend from childhood, Diane. If I do have a recurrence there, it will be easier for Gabriana to have help. We will also enjoy giggling together, as we have done for all these years. By the way, we are staying in Venice until early October, so we can celebrate my 70th birthday there!
We recently celebrated our upcoming travels with a wonderful Buon Viaggio BBQ; it was fantastic to reconnect with so many friends! Thank you to everyone who came and brought lovely treats to share. (My apologies if I scared anyone with my little seizure toward the end of the party, and thank you to those for their quick action in alerting Gabriana.)
I am deeply touched by the many friends, loved ones and even anonymous strangers who’ve sent us (in lieu of airline miles donations) donations to help make this special trip a reality. Please know how much we appreciate your support and encouragement. Your blessings have breathed new life into me as we prepare for our special journey.
See you in Venice — where I’m hoping we’ll get to meet Johnny Depp!!!