Monday, December 28, 2015

Brain Tumor Grades and Types

When I was first told that I had a brain tumor, “I was stunned. I was shocked. I wasn’t even sure what a brain tumor was other than bad, very bad.”*

I also had no idea of the different “grades” or “types.”

So when I saw this handy and nicely explanatory web page from the “Accelerate Brain Cancer Cure website- - that explained brain tumor “grades” and “types”, I wanted to share it with all of you.

There are two types of brain tumors: benign and malignant.  According to the site, “Benign brain tumors do not contain cancer cells.” That’s the good news. The bad news is that “benign” brain tumors can be remarkably harmful and dangerous. For more info on the terrors of “benign” brain tumors please visit the wonderful “It’s Just Benign” website - - which is an incredibly sarcastic/sardonic name for a website.

The ABC² website states that” Malignant brain tumors (also called brain cancer) contain cancer cells.” At all levels that’s bad.


Here’s what the site says about brain tumor grades:
“Doctors group brain tumors by grade. The grade of a tumor refers to the way the cells look under a microscope:

  • Grade I: The tissue is benign. The cells look nearly like normal brain cells, and they grow slowly.
  • Grade II: The tissue is malignant. The cells look less like normal cells than do the cells in a Grade I tumor.
  • Grade III: The malignant tissue has cells that look very different from normal cells. The abnormal cells are actively growing (anaplastic).
  • Grade IV: The malignant tissue has cells that look most abnormal and tend to grow quickly.”
For more info go to
*This is a line from my book – “Chief Complaint, Brain Tumor - about my brain tumor and my journey in trying to recover from it. You can learn more about that here:

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Man Plays Saxophone During Tumor Removal

Ok, this is just too weird, creepy or, I don’t know, maybe “miraculous” to not blog about.

According to a posting on the NPR website, “The team of doctors who recently operated on Spanish musician Carlos Aguilera's brain wanted to be sure they didn't affect his ability to play the saxophone – so they had him play songs during a 12-hour surgery.

A partially sedated Aguilera obliged, playing "Misty" and other songs, in addition to reading sheet music. In a video of the procedure, the mellow tones of Aguilera's saxophone blend in with the normal sounds of an operating room.”

To me this just raises all sorts of questions, some of which are reasonable, like:
  • Is this the first time patients have played instruments during brain surgery?
  • Can you play other Instruments?
  • And, lastly, did anybody applaud?
The answers are “no”, “yes” and “I don’t know.”

And now for the good news, he’s fine! “The 27-year-old was sedated, on painkillers, but remained conscious during the entire multi-hour operation.

NPR’s Lauren Frayer reported that "Doctors were removing a brain tumor, and wanted to ensure the surgery wouldn't damage Aguilera's musical ability. It was the first such surgery of its kind in Europe.

The operation took place in October, and Aguilera recently went public to say he's been cured — and continues playing his sax with an orchestra in the southern city of Malaga."

Frayer goes on to write that "Such procedures are meant to protect musicians' primary audio cortex and other parts of the brain that can affect their ability to play. (A story on NPR's Weekend Edition today looks at The Neuroscience Of Musical Perception, Bass Guitars And Drake.)"

Monday, December 14, 2015

AARP’s “Eat Your Way to Brain Health” Advice

The first sentence in this AARP article says it all:  “The research is clear: What you eat has a big impact on your brain. In fact, the right foods — and combinations of foods — can enhance memory, build new brain cells and even help ward off Alzheimer's.”

Author Amy Paturel reports that "Scientists are increasingly examining whole food groups — and diets — to determine which ones contribute to better cognition and which seem to hinder it. They've found that certain eating plans — including the Mediterranean diet, the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet and a hybrid of the two, dubbed the MIND diet — can help stave off cognitive decline and protect the brain against disease."

I need to stave off my cognitive decline as I’m worried that someday soon my wife is just going to put me on a stool in a corner of the kitchen and occasionally dust me off as I lapse into senility.

I especially like that Ms. Paturel highlights these four food groups that can provide significant complementary brain health improvements:

  1. Olive oil, green tea and leafy greens (broccoli, spinach and kale)
  2. Beets, tomatoes and avocados
  3. Nuts (especially walnuts), curcumin and pomegranates
  4. Fish, blueberries, grapes, coffee and dark chocolate

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Connie Marois: Her Brain Tumor Story on Tuesday, 12/8 @ 1PM EST

I think survivor stories are important. When I was in drowning in the emotional quicksand of the aftermath of my initial operation,I would have loved to read a survivor story. I’m sure they would have given me some hope, some motivation and some faint belief that if this person could survive, I could too. 

When I did find other brain tumor survival blogs I found some comfort in fact that there were others who had some idea of the pain and uncertainty and terror that I was going through.

So, for those of you who are going through that pain and uncertainty and terror, I want to make you aware of this upcoming survivor story on healtheo360:

“Brain cancer survivor Connie shares her inspiring story from diagnosis to treatment and what motivates her as an advocate for brain tumor awareness and funding. Recently, she participated and spoke briefly about her experience at this year's New York BreakThrough 

For Brain Tumors Run/Walk. She joins Dave and Courtland at 1pm right here on” (That's Tuesday December 8th at 1PM EST.)

Monday, November 30, 2015

“Bacteria on the Brain” – Possible GBM Breakthrough?

I keep hoping for some innovative brain tumor cure, something unintuitive, daring and effective.

Here’s a long, interesting, tantalizing article from the Emily Eakin in the New Yorker magazine about one such potential solution from a brilliant surgeon, Dr. Paul Muizelaar who has treated glioblastoma with “…Enterobacter aerogenes, a common fecal bacterium.”

For me that fulfilled two of the three criterion: unintuitive and daring. The third, "effective", is still TBD.

Eakin writes that “The surgeons had no data to suggest what might constitute a therapeutic dose of Enterobacter, or a safe delivery method. The procedure was heretical in principle: deliberately exposing a patient to bacteria in the operating room violated a basic tenet of modern surgery, the concept known as “maintaining a sterile field,” which, along with prophylactic antibiotics, is credited with sharply reducing complications and mortality rates.”

So guess what happened? 

“For four weeks, Egan lay in intensive care, most of the time in a coma. Then, on the afternoon of November 10th, Muizelaar learned that a scan of Egan’s brain had failed to pick up the distinctive signature of glioblastoma. The pattern on the scan suggested that the tumor had been replaced by an abscess—an infection—precisely as the surgeons had intended. ‘A brain abscess can be treated, a glioblastoma cannot,’ Muizelaar told me. ‘I was excited, although I knew that clinically the patient was not better.’”

To read the rest of the article and the real live plot twists and turns, go to: