... in my brain actually. My very own brain tumour

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Exciting ideas for the future

My mind is spinning. But it is in gear and operating well. I am finding that my focus is now turning outwards. If you have a look at the section of this blog called “business” at the top of this page, you will understand what I am about to say more clearly.

I have spent a major part of my life developing a very effective business modelling tool called the CPE, which has proved its ability to save floundering small businesses from failure. About 80% to 90% of all new small businesses fail in the first 3 years and this causes huge problems for everyone concerned. It doesn’t need to happen like this at all with proper, professional modelling during the startup phases or even later when the businesses hit bumps in the road.

The CPE tool has been licenced to an organisation called seda which is funded by you and me (the good old tax payer!) and has the full backing of the SA Government. They are doing a fine job and are using the CPE as one of the tools in their tool box. My contract expires at the end of March 2008, after which I must decide if I want to renew it. Now that my health has been hit by my malignant brain tumour, it will not be possible for me to continue with the demanding work of travelling, training, accreditation etc. I desperately and passionately want the tool to remain in the hands of competent, trained, accredited officials throughout South Africa, because I know it is helping the emerging small business community out there.

How am I going to achieve this?

Well, I have decided to sell the CPE technology to seda outright. If they accept the offer, the CPE will belong to seda and they will be able to continue to train and accredit consultants to use it free of charge in the community (that is my desire, anyway). The infrastructure is all in place already. This makes me hopeful and optimistic. It seems that I am personally facing an uncertain future regarding my health. To put it bluntly, I will probably die far sooner than I thought! If my simple plan for the CPE is put into action, it will not die with me.

I am waiting with great anticipation to see if the good people at seda are willing to go ahead with the plan.

Do you see why I am so positive and happy about the future? This is a wonderful opportunity for me to share my life’s experience with many people in a practical way. It will make me very happy indeed.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The operation

I went to hospital on Thursday 24th January this year and had the operation. The objective was to open up my head and examine the brain in order to find the tumour which had been demonstrated on MRI. Thereafter, the idea was to take a few biopsies in order to establish the exact nature of the pathology at the cellular level. While the brain was exposed, it was hoped that a portion of the tumour could be removed or “debulked”, in order to improve subsequent treatment.

So, what happened, and was the operation a success?

The neurosurgeon has told me that he definitely found the tumour tissue. It involved physically pushing and pulling his way through my brain, causing quite severe bruising and bleeding as a consequence, but he assured me that all the swelling and bruising would disappear in a few weeks. He was unfortunately not able to detect a clear edge to the tumour, implying that it was irregular and invasive of the surrounding brain tissue. Under the circumstances, he concentrated on getting some good biopsies but failed to remove any tumour volume of significance. If he had heroically tried to do so, it would probably have left me disabled. I absolutely concur with his judgement.

I would regard the operation as successful in its most important objective. The fact that the dreadful thing could not be cut out is disappointing, but at least we have the prospect of establishing reliably what the pathology is, so that the future can be planned sensibly. I will find out early next week (possibly 28 January ) what the score is.

Personally, the operation was an interesting experience. The anaesthetist took a lot of time to explain the procedure to me beforehand and was fascinated to hear that I had actually attended a Summer School course at UCT on anaesthetics earlier in the week. The neurosurgeeon has also kept me fully informed of the technical aspects of the operation. This is important for me.

I received very high quality care in the Intensive Care Unit of the hospital afterwards, and was astonished to witness a team of nurses who not only possessed technical skills but were filled ith love, compassion, caring and commitment. Where do people like this come from? What motivates them? They have some quality far beyond my understanding, and I amire them end envy them for their energy and passion in what they do. My transfer to the general ward afterwards was a different story. The standard of care was superficial, incompetent, uninterested. The staff were clearly coming to work to earn a little money and do as little as possible. Very disappointing. But, this is simply life going on as normal. I have no complaints. They got me through the day and night alive and well. I cannot ask for more.

I have been discharged and am now at home, tapping out this message on my computer. it is good to be back in control of my life for a while. My family surrounds me with gentle love and my friends continue to amze me with their support. People are good. It continues to be a wonderful experience and I continue to experience more peace and joy that I have for many years.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Ready for my brain operation

Today I am getting ready for the operation tomorrow. I have been surrounded by family, friends, neighbours and many other wonderful people. The last few days have been volatile, but the overall effect on me has been to produce more joy and happiness than I have experienced for years. I am positive, but also realistic. Tomorrow I will have more information and will be able to work with my doctor to plan proper, meaningful, effectve treatment. I am filled with anticipation. Of course, I hope the initial provisional diagnosis will turn out to be wrong and that everything will be fine. But whatever happens, I will try to handle without anger or fear. It is all OK.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

First signs of my brain tumour

I naively thought I would live, well, not forever, but perhaps into my 80s. Frankly, I have not given much thought to dying or having a terminal disease. A brain tumour was just about the last thing on my mind. But, since 14 January this year (see “About”) it has been very much on my mind!

The thing that has amazed me about the process is that the tumour has been growing (according to the neurosurgeon) for possibly about a year with very little effect until now. I have tried to look back to think of any subtle changes that may have taken place in the past year or so that I may have dismissed as unimportant at the time.

The first really worrying sign was in January this year in the Cederberg while on holiday with my family. I noticed that my left hand didn’t seem to know where it was. It became clumsy and weak, and I had difficulty changing gears in my car. In fact, for about 6 to 8 weeks before the holiday, my typing ability on my computer started deteriorating progressively. This worried me but i ignored it.

I have certainly been more forgetful and grumpy than in the past, but have put that down to advancing age! I have also lost my confidence in my ability to lead groups of people on mountain hikes as I did in the past. For some reason I have also developed an intense interest in the workings of the brain over the past year and have studied its anatomy and physiology quite seriously. Strange.

After returning home from holiday, I went to the doctor, had a set of (very expensive) MRI pictures taken and then visited a neurosurgeon who showed me all the details of the MRI. The pictures suggested a fast growing, aggressive tumour in the right parietal lobe, invading adjacent brain tissue and pushing my brain over to the left side. The initial indications are that it is a primary brain tumour, not a secondary from somewhere else, and that it is malignant. He suggested that he should open up my head and take an open biopsy so that a more informed diagnosis could be made. That will happen on Thursday 24 January. I asked him about the prognosis and he told me that all he could do was to give me the recorded statistics for the provisional diagnosis made from the MRI: about 3 months without treatment and 9 months with treatment. Horrible. But, I now have information, and that will help me make proper decisions as time goes by. I have great confidence in my neurosurgeon, who is very highly regarded. He also understands the kind of person I am, and accepts that I want to know what is going on.
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