micki portrait  An Overview
  We realize that a number of people have received only a brief account of what has been happening here. If you are interested in more detail, you can read on to see what has been going on for us in the new year (since the Christmas gathering pictured below).
family five wide
Photo: Gail E.



Public domain images above from NOAA (Thanks ATO).



Images above from Encarta, I think (Thanks BetsWesson).

  Here's a basic overview of what's been going on. I (Blake) am writing these words on Friday, February 5, 1999.

One month ago yesterday, January 4, Mom was doing aerobics at home and noticed red and white flashes in her vision, which were followed by an excruciating, but short-lived headache. This sequence suggested a migraine, but she had never had one before, so she scheduled an appointment with her physician.

Her physician noted that it is unusual for a person to have an initial migraine in one's mid-fifties, so she suggested an MRI, just as a precaution.

On January 6, Mom had the MRI, which revealed a golf ball-sized "space occupying mass" inside her brain. More MRIs followed to precisely locate the mass for procedures to follow.

On January 11, doctors performed a needle biopsy. Their diagnosis: a glioblastoma in the lower right portion of the center of the brain, pushing against the visual cortex and fourth ventricle. The location and type of tumor make it inoperable, and it is considered an aggressive and fast-growing tumor.

Prognosis? There are people who have had glioblastomas who have survived for years, and there are people who have survived for less than a year.

Mom began taking dilantin (an anti-seizure medication) and steroids to reduce the swelling.

From January 14-18, Jody and I came to Gainesville from our respective distant bases for a memorable weekend of sharing. Jody has returned to the Yale School of Nursing in New Haven, but will be coming back for long visits in February and March.

On January 19, Mom began radiation treatments. These treatments are twice a day (8 am and 2 pm EST), five days a week, for four weeks. They are using stereotactic radiation, a method that focuses radiation from three different angles to pinpoint the area of the tumor within the brain.

She is also working with a practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine, and getting massage therapy.

Even before the radiation, she began using visualization to assist her immune system in battling the tumor. She imagines the white blood cells as sea creatures working to help her: big sharks devour the mass of the tumor, young sharks go after the microscopic fingers that the tumor extends, and dolphins come in afterwards to celebrate the healthy tissue and use their sonar to bring swollen or compressed tissue back to health.

The radiation treatments will end on February 15. After that there will be MRIs and other evaluations. Mom is thinking about goals for what she wants to be doing in three months, six months, one year, five years, ten years.

I know people are wondering, "How is she doing?" She is in good spirits. Today, she went for brisk walks both before and after the morning treatment. She has been singing and laughing and looking forward to visits from family. Other than her initial "episode" on January 4, there have been no symptoms from the tumor itself.

However, there are effects from the radiation and the medications. She fatigues easily and sleeps much more than she normally would. She has experienced a decrease in appetite. She is not allowed to drive for as long as she is on the dilantin.

Mom has received a tremendous amount of support from the local community and beyond. She was originally to keep working as the Interim Pastor at St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church in Jacksonville until February 14. She will be preaching there on the 14th, but otherwise has been on medical leave. The people from St. Andrew's have been extremely supportive and understanding.

The response and outreach from people everywhere has been wonderful and extensive. Hundreds of people are sending prayers. Friends from Gainesville have offered (and provided) much help in the way of cooking, transportation, accommodation of visitors, and more. The pouring in of cards and flowers and letters and email from as far away as Israel, France, and Central America, has buoyed and moved us all.

Mom wanted me to mention in this overview that I (Blake, her son) arrived late Sunday night (technically Monday, Feb 1), and that my presence has been a big help. Among other things I would like to help out with, I have been meaning to send some responses to email and letters and gifts that Mom has received. For the short term, I will be putting updates up on this site.

This weekend (Feb. 6 and 7) we are going down to the Florida Keys to swim with dolphins, which Mom considers a boost to her immune system. I will post descriptions (photos?) of that experience and other developments in the journey/updates section...

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