Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Birthday Thumping

Forty-four years ago today I sprang forth from the loins of my sainted mother. What a delightful ride it has been for the last two score and four years. And I am happy to report that 10 months after learning of my defective gray - or is it grey - matter, that I received another outstanding report during my last visit to the NIH in mid-April. I was fortunate to have Lee Ann accompany me. Thank you, American taxpayers.

Dr. Howard Fine (pictured here with his favorite patient), chief of the neuro-oncology branch at the National Cancer Institute, lined up my last four MRI scans dating back to last October. Back then, there was quite a crater where the tumor used to be. Now, my brain has filled back in and you can hardly tell that anything was ever askew. The change, as Dr. Fine called it, is "dramatic." So I have that going for me...which is nice.

Dr. Fine's findings, as it were, were corroborated by my local neuro-oncologist, Dr. Edward Dropcho, a few days later. I completed my seventh cycle of chemotherapy on Monday, April 28. As long as my body tolerates the drugs, Dr. Fine wants to keep pounding away for up to two years. Dr. Dropcho is leaning more toward one year. The only study with this particular drug - temozolomide - lasted six months so there is no evidence one way or the other as to the optimal length of treatment. I may stage a steel-cage death match between my two doctors to decide which course to follow.

One side military-style haircut has been a real conversation starter. Lee Ann and I had a nice chat at O'Hare airport with a Navy man who was sure that we had served together on an aircraft carrier in the mid-1980s. We learned from him that the third largest naval base is in Crane, Indiana. We also got to meet the team doctor for the Cincinnati Bengals when he asked what branch of the service I was in because his son is preparing to graduate from West Point. Very cool.

I'm back to Bethesda in mid-June. If anything exciting happens between then and now, I'll let you know!

P.S. A shout out to my grandmother, Lou Harmon, who turned 98 yesterday!

P.P.S. And a shout out to my favorite expat cousin Emily who shares my birthday but is much, much older than I. Emily is pictured below with her youngest daughter, Ellie, at the U-Bahn station in Munich in late March. Look how excited Ellie is to be spending the day with her mother and favorite first cousin once removed!
P.P.P.S. Here I am with friend and fraternity brother Bob Marchesani, newly-minted chairman of the North-American Interfraternity Conference (NIC), on April 13 in Washington, D.C. The NIC is the equivalent of the United Nations for men's fraternities. In his day job, Bob is a high-powered executive with Eli Lilly & Co. and is the person who pointed me in the direction of Dr. Fine in the first place. I am very grateful to Bob.