Brain cancer journey: The gift of not much

I’m exhausted tonight, so instead of the post I imagined writing on the nuclear power plant crises in Japan, here’s an update on what’s happening on our journey with Richard’s brain cancer.

The answer? Not much. Which is a real gift. We’ve had plenty of drama and trauma over the past year and a half, some of the most difficult coming in the last several weeks. Ordinary is a good thing right now. Richard’s working on building a daily routine that incorporates time for recovery, including meditation, yoga, juggling and other activities designed to heal and exercise his much-tortured right brain. He is also working toward a return to his shop to take up his practice of sculpture again–working with rocks as “ambassadors of the earth.”


His recovery so far is astonishing. (And he has a truly sculptural “crest” of shiny stainless steel staples closing the incision from the latest surgery, as you can see in the photo above.) Fortunately, his good-natured personality lives in his untouched frontal lobes, and his intellect and formidable ability to analyze anything that comes his way, from art theory and mathematical models, to building a new deer gate between the kitchen garden and the compost pile–his current project–live in his undisturbed left brain. 

Yesterday was such a lovely day that he worked on that gate, and on helping me get the spring seeds planted in the kitchen garden. It was a treat to work together, something we haven’t been home long enough between medical crises to do much of in a very long time.


Today began with a tiny but welcome dose of moisture in the form of about an inch of wet snow. (The photo above is a corner of the snow-etched garden this morning at dawn.) As is normal in the high desert, both snow and any sign of moisture were gone by mid-morning. Ah well.

We started on our much-neglected household accounts, and that’s when we were reminded that after three craniotomies in 18 months, even the most brilliant of brains needs recovery time. Richard was trying to balance our charge card statement. It wasn’t working. After some gentle suggestion, he let me take a look, and I figured out what had happened. He was chagrined. I reminded him that he’s less than two weeks out from a craniotomy, and before that the fluid pressure on his brain nearly killed him–twice.

“So cut yourself some slack, okay?”

“Okay,” he said.

Tonight we’re sitting side by side in our cozy and quiet living room with the day going dark. Soon we’ll get ready for bed, stopping to look overhead out the skylight in our bedroom ceiling for constellation Orion, who appears to stride westward on his nightly journey, followed by his faithful dogs, Canis Major and Canis Minor.

In a world where the sudden wrenching of an earthquake can cause tsunami waves that take thousands of lives and wreak havoc that may last for generations, a life where a build-up of fluid pressure on the brain can cause an existence to nearly wink out, Richard and I are very that right now, our big excitement is tracking Orion across the dark sky, night after night.

The gift of not much happening is what he and I need most for recovery.

Our hearts go out to the people of Japan, where far too much has happened in the past few days. We hope that reovery is on its way there. May we all get whatever we need to restore our lives!