As you can tell by the photo above, my National Novel Writing Month adventure through November, 2013 was successfull. I managed to produce about 50,700 words for my memoir, "This Attempted Life." The book outlines my struggles and victories over a brain tumour and Crohn's Disease, and the my ongoing battle with another atypical meningioma brain tumour.
Stringing together the 50,000 words to meet my goal for November was not without its challenges. The first day of the month had me writing on an iPad from the passenger seat of an SUV as my wife and I travelled to Regina for a medical appointment. I also had an MRI and a follow-up appointment with a doctor part way through the month, meaning my word production would suffer.
Then there was the Saskatchewan Roughriders run to the Grey Cup, hindering the gross GDP of the entire province over the past four weeks.
But with commitment and discipline, I caught up, producing up to 3,000 words per day to do so. My schedule generally had me getting up between 8 and 9 a.m. each morning to do my DDP Yoga workout. By ten o'clock, I was at my keyboard punching in my story, starting with my troubled time in school and the day I met the girl who would become my life-partner. Generally, I was at the computer up to five hours per day, taking 10 to 15 minute breaks once an hour to grab a glass of water or a cup of coffee.
The plan worked and I topped 50,000 words on the afternoon of Saturday, Nov. 30. The story, however, is far from complete for two reasons. Firstly, I found I had more to say about my life than I thought. A lot of it will hit the cutting room floor through the drafting and editing processes in the coming year, but I felt it was important to spill it all onto the page and deal later with what does and doesn't fit.
The process was at times fun, while at other times way more emotional than I thought it would be. On two occasions, I was at a point in the story where tears welled in my eyes when Coral swung behind me to see how production was going. Both times, I required a kiss and hug due to the dredging of memories I had long tucked away because of the pain they caused or to just move forward with my life.
Tumour treatment, moving forward
The second reason why I will continue writing the first draft of the book for the foreseeable future is because I'm still living the story.
The last time I updated the battle against my second brain tumour, the plan was to prepare for Gamma Knife treatment in Winnipeg following further diagnositic research through an MRI. The examination occurred on Nov. 6, with a follow-up appointment to reveal the results on Nov. 14.
The latter appointment was with my oncologist, who served me a bit of a surprise.
As expected, the remaining, inoperable portion of my atypical meningioma has not grown. This has led doctors to follow a path I am somewhat concerned about.
Due to its lack of growth, I will not - at this time - be receiving Gamma Knife treatment, but instead will take a "wait-and-see" approach to the growth in my forehead. I will have a follow-up MRI in March to determine if there are any changes to the tumour, but otherwise, I was told to return to my normal routines. In other words, "Do your best to forget about your condition and begin to rebuild from the trauma of seizures, surgery and related life changes over the last few months."
Moving on isn't an issue. I have not experienced another grand mal seizure since my last one before surgery in June. Since my operation, I have taken my time to recover and have only returned to work through November by writing my memoir and doing plumbing work for a day or two. The freelance work had slowed to a trickle since August, but I also refused some writing work due to my book project and a need to ease my way back into full-time, self-employment. The freelance opportunities should open up more as we head into Christmas.
The idea that surprised me was the plan to do virtually nothing about a foreign object inside of my head for the time being. I trust my doctors, who have been incredibly motivating and positive since this all began on March 7, 2013. However, when a treatment - the Gamma Knife - may effectively kill off the remaining portion of the tumour, why are we waiting to do it? Why not just make arrangements and get it completed?
I suspect there are various reasons. The Gamma Knife facility in Winnipeg is, like all of Canada's health system, overwhelmed with patients; some in far worse condition than I'm in. I do not have cancer and I can function semi-normally under my current circumstances.
Another reason may be that I am almost symptom free. I get exhausted in the afternoons and suffer from occasional headaches and dizziness, but otherwise have not had any more seizures and feel fine. I have been given the go-ahead to return to a productive lifestyle.
I have been warned that there is a chance that the Gamma Knife's radiation may cause some side-effects that would impede my progress to that productive lifestyle, especially since my new career path in music and writing requires artistic and creative thought processes.
It is disconcerting to me, though, that I have an atypical meningioma. These types of tumours have a high likelihood of returning. On top of that, the benign atypical cells causing the growth may become malignant at a moments notice. I am basically living with an animal inside my skull that, if angered, will grow and strike me down far worse than it has attempted to in the past.
I must be frank. I would rather do something about my condition than lay low and hope for the best over the next few years.
I guess I will have to see whether my tumour is a pet or a predator before any further action takes place.