n August of 2002, I was a 50-year-old dad with his family on vacation in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. While browsing in a hotel gift shop, my left arm started jerking. I awoke to find paramedics shoving an oxygen mask in my face. Having being unconscious for at least ten minutes, I was taken to the local hospital, where a MRI revealed that I had a brain tumor. It was the end of my vacation, but the start of another journey.
I was told I had six months to live, and to return to the San Francisco Bay Area to “get my affairs in order.” Once back home, arrangements were made to have surgery, followed by radiation and chemotherapy. Being the sort who wanted to bring as much to my treatment as possible, I consulted with a nutritionist and acupuncturist…a decision that made the ordeal of treatment much easier. The surgery went very well. Concerns that I might suffer some motor function loss were fortunately unfounded, as I regained nearly all of my motor skills, hampered only by small balance issues and a few weeks’ worth of very sloppy typing.
Despite a few seizures that were attributed to the aftermath of surgery, my recovery began. I sailed through the radiation treatments, succumbing to fatigue only occasionally. I began a regimen of oral chemotherapy, which also went well initially. Soon, however, the frequency of seizures began to increase, and an MRI revealed significant regrowth of the tumor. Placed on a different and more powerful chemo program, things improved for awhile but soon the seizures returned, and an MRI showed even more regrowth.
At this point, my doctors had taken their best shots, and had little to suggest besides clinical trials. I spent several nerve-wracking weeks researching my options, trying to decide whether I should go to some far-flung place for treatment or buy into any number of odd-sounding treatments, potions or supplements. During this time, uncertain of my future, some musician friends found out that I had been writing songs as part of a concept album, and volunteered to offer their skills and a professional recording studio to produce a CD. The night we began, near the end of the first take, I suffered a seizure. After a while, I collected myself and was able to lay down a couple more tracks. Week by week, the project came together, with sterling contributions by all involved, and I gamely got through all my vocal tracks, despite the ravages of chemo. The project and the love and support of my friends gave me a big boost when I needed it most.
It was around this time that I sought out a Chi Gung practitioner, who arranged some distant healing and taught me a program towards self-healing. From that day, I began to feel more energy and the frequency of my seizures began to lessen. I also set up a blood test through another doctor with strong ties to alternative medicine, and the results were striking…my killer cell activity indicated that my body was successfully fighting off the tumor. Thus encouraged, I put off a new treatment plan and decided to wait several weeks until my next scheduled MRI. It confirmed what I was already feeling…that I had turned the corner and was beginning to recover.
From the dark times of a few months before, I was now able to start thinking about a future. A key milestone came when I reached my 25th wedding anniversary nine months after my diagnosis. I was still somewhat shaky at this point, and had to endure a kaleidoscope of arrangements, out-of-town guests and a lavish party, suffering a small seizure. But it turned out to be one of the best days of my life, and the seizure has turned out to be the last one I had. I began to drive again. My MRIs continued to show stability as my health improved, remaining steadfast in my routine of self-healing and nutritional supplements.
In the fall, our dog was diagnosed with bone cancer, and given only four months to live. Rather than subject her to invasive treatment to prolong her life by a few months, I included her in my home-grown program of alternative medicine. The grotesque swelling on her face receded, and she is completely healthy a year and a half later.
It’s now been nearly three years since that day in Wyoming, and I have performed shows of my original songs, run the famed Dipsea foot race, and a marathon for the National Brain Tumor Foundation. I’ve dedicated myself to providing encouragement to those who face similar challenges, and have been inspired by long-term survivors who have served as role models for me. It is my hope that I will continue to thrive and provide encouragement to those who come after me.