Monday, March 31, 2014

Why I'm not afraid of dying: CNN Story about David Menasche’s Brain Tumor

I love this guy. I just watched the CNN story about David, his  brain tumor and his decision to spend whatever time he has remaining to “travel around the country to reconnect with former students.”

Here’s what you need to know about David:

“My classroom was my sanctuary, so on the day before Thanksgiving in 2006 when I was diagnosed with an incurable form of brain cancer at 34 and told I had less than a year to live, I did what I always did. I went to school. I needed my students to know that I trusted them enough to share life's most sacrosanct passage. Death.

They, in turn, helped me to live in the moment and spend whatever time I had left living well. For six years, the only time I wasn't in class was when I was undergoing brain surgery. I never avoided the topic of my cancer, glioblastoma multiforme, with my students, but it was not something I dwelled on, nor did they.

I covered my bald, lacerated head with a woolen hat and scheduled chemotherapy around my classes, and I got so good at being sick that I could run to the bathroom, heave into the toilet, flush, brush my teeth and fly back to class in under three minutes. They pretended not to notice. During that time, I even won "Teacher of the Year" for my region. I was grateful for every breath and felt as if I could live that way forever.”

Here’s a link to the CNN article & video:

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Feeling dopey? Refresh your "circadian eye" with a burst of orange light.

Feeling dopey? (Or sneezy, grumpy, etc.) Have no idea what a “circadian eye” is? Neither did it, but, yes, I am a sucker for brain studies – especially ones that might help my traumatized brain improve. 

Writer Kat Arney reported about this study saying: “Light is a powerful wake-up call, enhancing alertness and activity. Its effect is controlled by a group of photoreceptor cells in the eyeball that make the light-sensing pigment melanopsin. These cells, which work separately to the rods and cones needed for vision, are thought to help reset animals' body clocks - or circadian rhythms. Studies with people who are blind suggest this also happens in humans, although the evidence isn't conclusive.

To find out how melanopsin wakes up the brain, Gilles Vandewalle at the University of Liege, Belgium, and his team gave 16 people a 10-minute blast of blue or orange light while they performed a memory test in an fMRI scanner. They were then blindfolded for 70 minutes, before being retested under a green light.

People initially exposed to orange light had greater brain activity in several regions related to alertness and cognition when they were retested, compared with those pre-exposed to blue light.”

I plan to start shopping for an orange light bulb this afternoon. If you know where to buy one, text me (or is that too old-fashioned?).

Image credit: <a href=''>cepn / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Ependymoma Awareness Day - April 10, 2014

If you don’t know what Ependymoma is, read the following posting. If you care about babies and children, read the following posting. If the thought of some young couple having a young child with a brain tumor just tears your heart out, read the following posting and then go to:

I’m reprising the following posting from April 18th, 2012 because I just can’t write a better blog about this terrible, relentless, wicked disease that whacks young, vulnerable innocent children and their parents.

What is ependymoma and why should I care? (Originally posted April 18, 2012)

Earlier this week I got an email from Ms. Bonnie Culbertson on behalf of the CERN Foundation asking me to promote the Ependymoma Awareness Day which is tomorrow, April 19th.

My first reaction was “What is Ependymoma?”  While I don’t claim to be a brain tumor expert, I do feel like I know a bit more than the average mope about brain tumors: I’ve had a brain tumor, I write about brain tumors, and people write me about brain tumors.

So I opened up Mozilla and went to my trusty ABTA bookmark to learn at least something about Ependymoma.

According to the ABTA, “Ependymoma is a rare type of primary brain or spinal cord tumor. Primary brain and spinal cord tumors are a type of tumor that starts in the central nervous system (CNS).

I didn’t like the sound of that.  My Meningioma never penetrated my CNS (that I know of). Ependymoma starts there…which can’t be good.

Then I read that “These are relatively rare tumors, accounting for 2-3% of all primary tumors.”  Well that explained why I hadn’t heard of it. I’ll also bet that, because it’s rare, Ependymoma gets less than its fair share of research dollars

The ABTA article went on to say “However, they (i.e. Ependymoma) are the most common brain tumor in children. About one-third of pediatric brain tumors are diagnosed in children under the age of three.”

Argghh, that fact hit me right in the emotional soft spot. I hate it when small children suffer.  I remember waiting in the surgical staging area for a craniectomy when two parents brought a scared little girl in for surgery. She was spooked by the gowns, the strange people wearing masks and the strange place. I don’t blame her; I was spooked by the same things. Her mother and father struggled to calm her down as they put the gas mask on her face. Her terrifying cries still haunt me a bit today.

So as you may guess, I wanted to know how the CERN Foundation was going to creatively and memorably build awareness about Ependymoma Awareness Day.  I was thinking skywriting, interviews on Good Morning America or maybe an email blast (or as I first spelled it, “blash.”)

Then I remembered that this is a rare form of brain tumor and they probably have a similarly “rare” budget. So instead of an email blast, or even a blash, I was expecting a small email “pop.”

Not surprisingly, they were way ahead of me.  According to their website, the “CERN Foundation will commemorate Ependymoma Awareness Day with a mass butterfly release that will take place during the semi-annual CERN investigator meeting on April 19, 2012…The butterfly release will be streamed on the internet so that supporters around the world can participate and share in this event “

Well now, that’s kinda cool, so I bought one.  I plan to be watching the release tomorrow and, hopefully, picking out my butterfly. (Personally, I think Blue Morpho butterflies are the prettiest.)

Here’s the link to the CERN Foundation website where you, too, can buy a butterfly:

And if you're a Blue Morpho fan, here's a link to a nice picture of one:  

“Healthy eating in midlife helps protect brain health: study”

I worry about headlines about this. Am I still middle aged? Have I crossed the line into geezer-dom? What If I didn’t eat all my vegetables? Does this include Brussels Sprouts?

No matter whether I’m a geezer or not, a study conducted by the University of Eastern Finland, indicated that “Eating right in midlife may prevent dementia later on.” The study went on to report that: “Results indicated those who consistently consumed healthy foods at the average age of 50 had a nearly 90% lower risk of dementia in a 14-year follow-up study compared to those who did not eat healthfully.

Researchers used a healthy diet index based on eating a variety of foods. ‘Healthy’ foods included vegetables, berries/fruits, fish and unsaturated fats from milk products and spreads.

‘Unhealthy’ foods included sausages, eggs, salty fish, sugary drinks, desserts/candy and saturated fats from milk products and spreads.”

All this leads me to believe that the Fins have the same problem I do with ice cream, i.e. if it’s in the house I eat it.

Image credit: <a href=''>ifong / 123RF Stock Photo</a>