In Eight Steps to Happiness Geshe-la says "'Self' and 'other' are relative terms, rather like 'this mountain' and 'that mountain ... 'This' and 'that' therefore depend upon our point of reference. This is also true of self and other. By climbing down the mountain of self, it is possible to ascend the mountain of other, and thereby cherish others as much as we presently cherish ourself."

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Photos from Brazil

Not artistic. but they do show a few pictures from the airport plus many from the Temple in Brazil - I hope they give a feel for what the Buddhist Festival was like:

Vote Tuesday

Pray for wisdom. Learn about the issues. Then cast your ballot.

I've heard - I think it was from a longtime Resident Teacher - that Geshe-la encourages us to vote, because it helps create the cause for there to be democracy.
He doesn't tell us how to vote, because our teachers do not do that, and our organization, the New Kadampa Tradition, is purely spiritual - it does not get involved in politics.

There are a lot of things that could be improved about our government and political process - for one, my opinion is that it would be better if there wasn't so much money in politics - but I don't think refusing to participate is helpful.


Richard, his Mom and I watched the World Series yesterday - lots of fun! We're rooting for San Francisco because it's the George's team (Richard's sister Sally, who lives in Sonoma, along with husband, Mark, and their 2 boys, Edward & Luke), but I'm glad the Rangers are in because there's a large Buddhist Temple in Texas right near Cowboys Stadium, which we're hoping will show up on national TV.


Texas Buddhist Temple website:

Look at all the classes and events! I rejoice!

Back from Brazil

Had a wonderful time there, and a smooth journey back.
Thank you all for helping me get there - it was so amazing, in so many ways.

Brazil photos, stories, more to come later.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Off to Brazil !

Out of the Office - far, far away from the office.
No phone.
No email.

More info:

Monday, October 18, 2010

Prayers needed for nun

She may not make it to Brazil if her terrible infection doesn't clear up.
Please dedicate for Kelsang Lekmo.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

What I Look Like Now

The same, I'm afraid!

My Surgeon's Research Interests - Could Help Down the Road

Now that they have my tumor out, the doctors and scientists can do all kinds of tests on it, to determine exactly what it is and even what drugs it might respond to.

We know already that it's cancerous. We know that it's ovarian cancer (that it traveled from my abdominal area - it didn't originate in my brain). That's all from the preliminary pathology report. In a week or so, the docs will have the final "path" report with more info.

With a tumor in the brain, they try to use targeted radiation, so I'll get that, in addition to the surgery.

With brain cancer, they can't usually do chemo ... [blood-brain barrier, etc. - more coming],
...but they're giving me chemo anyway for my lingering ovarian cancer, so there's a chance my docs can give me something very targeted, just for me (lots and lots of different chemo drugs to choose from).

One of the reasons I chose this surgeon is that he is also into research. He's Greg Foltz at Swedish Hospital:

I asked Richard's brother Roger, who's a science guy living in Santa Fe to look at Foltz's research.
Here's what he said:

"Your surgeon's research looks fascinating and very much at the bleeding edge of what people are doing. The problem of sorting out the genetic and proteomic and genetic regulatory and cell signaling markers of all the different normal and abnormal cell types in human bodies is very much the longest march that medicine, or any other discipline, has ever undertaken. Every different somatic cell type has its own paths to going rogue, which are tied into the paths which led to it being different from other cell types in the first place, which is essential to us having bodies composed of so many different cell types all, at best, cooperating or, at least, coexisting together. It is a finite set of possibilities to be worked out, but a very large finite set. That your surgeon is so connected to the research means that your tumor's tissue will become part of the body of evidence that will eventually decide the correct ways to treat this kind of malignancy.

I hope your day's adventure went as well as four hours with a brain surgeon could go ... "

What My Incision Looks Like

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Home This Morning !

They're sending me home from the hospital today, as soon as they can get the paperwork done!
Surgeon was just here - he's done with me for now.
I'll see him on Wed to get my stitches out before flying to Brazil!

Thank you!

All Well - Brazil is On

Surgery went perfectly - recovering quickly.
All my visitors say I look "great!"

As long as no more obstruction appear, I'll be in Brazil with my Guru later this week.


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Surgery is Straightforward - Few Risks

I've been told, If you're going to have a brain tumor, have it there, in the cerebellum ("the spare tire" of the brain), close to the edge, which it's easy to get at.
Also ask for an "encapsulated" tumor that is staying within its own borders.
None of the docs are concerned that I might lose any mental faculties short-term or long.
The risks are the same as for any surgery, mostly infection, and Swedish is all over prevention. For example, I am headed now for my 2nd Pre-Surgery Shower at home with Hibiclens soap.
Of course, anything can happen ... anywhere ... but prayers could help avert problems.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

surgery tomorrow - Brazil next week?

I'm scheduled for brain "crainiotomy" surgery tomorrow at noon, with a 9am checkin.
It's a 2-hour surgery; probably in the hospital for 3 days. Need prayers, not flowers.

If all goes well, my surgeon has no concerns about my flying to Brazil. (I'm very happy with the surgeon - not rushing into this - Richard's here to make sure of that.)
Prayers at work! The Buddhas are amazing.

Surgery is at Swedish - Cherry Hill (what used to be Providence Hospital) - a very nice facility - free Wifi, lots of nice spaces for sitting. A few Sangha friends are going to be with Richard to keep him company when I'm otherwise occupied.
550 17th Ave., Seattle, WA 98122

Thank you all.


Monday, October 11, 2010

What to Wish for

Before I started going to Buddhist classes, I didn't hear people asking, "What do you wish for?" "What do you really want?" "What are you looking forward to?" (One of my favorite conversation-starters, by the way. Try it at a family gathering.)

At the moment I'm wondering what to wish for at the PET scan tomorrow. Normally you'd wish that nothing else shows up, because that would mean less cancer and less complications with the treatment plan.

I mentioned the Brazil trip to the neurosurgeon today, and he said flying would be risky - the air pressure could cause my head to swell (insert joke here), and that would be BAD.

[An aside: One key difference between having cancer in your head vs. elsewhere in your body is that there's nowhere the swelling can go - it bumps against the skull and squishes things in your brain, which is why some of the common signs of a brain tumor are seizures, headaches, nausea & vomiting, blurred vision, personality or behavioral changes, confusion, loss of coordination ...
Whereas with ovarian cancer and others like it, the tumor can get quite large before you notice it's there, because it has room to stretch out - which makes it hard to diagnose until it's far along. With cancer, there's always a better prognosis when it's caught early - that is, you're more likely to be cured, to live longer ... so that something else can kill you.
Remind me to write some more sometime about differences between brain cancer and other cancers.]

So the neuro-guy said that if something shows up in the PET scan, they might just send me on my merry way. Brain surgery would probably be off the table. I suspect they might still do radiation, but it would be to alleviate symptoms - that what would probably kill me would be the "systemic" cancer in my body, not the brain tumor. So I could go see Geshe-la! Would that be better? I don't have the wisdom to know.

Or maybe the PET scan shows nothing else to be concerned about, and I travel overland to Brazil ???

Thankfully, gratefully, I am simply turning this over to the Buddhas, who know what is really best for me. I am wishing for whatever's best for my spiritual life. I rely on Guru Tsongkhapa / Dorje Shugden. Cancer helps you learn you're not in charge anyway.


Good News: Only 1 Tumor - Operable

Quick update:
Brain MRI only showed the one tumor that was on the CT scan.
Because there is only 1 tumor in my head, and because of its size and position, it can be taken out by surgery. Gamma-knife radiation is another choice.
This is all very good news.

What's next?
* PET scan tomorrow morning of my body from the neck down (everything else was covered by the brain MRI today)
* Oncologist #2 at 5pm tomorrow to go over the PET scan results and help plan next steps.

Thanks so much for your support

More to come later ...


Neurosurgeon today at 3

Head MRI today at 12:30, beforehand, so the doc has something to look at.
Neuro guy, James Raisis at Swedish, specializes in brain metastases - I've checked with various experts and online. Learned that there are all kinds of neurosurgeons, only some of whom deal with brain tumors, and only some of those who deal with metastatic tumors (as opposed to primary brain tumors - that is, brain cancer, orignating in the brain). One of my oncologists said I really needed a "met" specialist, which Raisis is of course.
More info coming.

Keep the prayers coming - without them I wouldn't have even had these appointments today.

Got to run - more later.


Sunday, October 10, 2010

This Time It's Personal

Aside from surprise - not shock, but surprise - one of my main reactions to a brain tumor is that "it's personal." I've had a couple of kinds of cancer where a key treatment was to remove parts - breasts, ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus, omentum, part of my colon. When pressed, I'll say just get rid of them - I don't really need them. Who even knew I had an omentum?

Often ovarian cancer spreads to the appendix and spleen (I met a woman who's free of both of those now, and have read about several others in the same situation; some of them have also lost most of their colon). So I had already contemplated having them out too.

When I had breast cancer 12 years ago, a recurring analogy about the surgery was like a ship in a storm offloading cargo to stay afloat. Would you rather keep everything on board? Yes, of course. But if it could save the ship? That's what you'd have to do. So you check as best you can to make sure it's needed.

But they can't take out my brain, and much as you might sometimes wish it, I can't get a transplant (that's a little joke). Of course, we're hoping they can take out the whole brain tumor, and that will be the end of that.

This feels closer to home.
When I do a conventional search for my body, sometimes I cut off my arms and my legs and feel that the "essentials" are really my torso and head. Invariably I see that scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail of the 2 knights fighting in the woods. Even after one of them has had both legs and both arms hacked off, he's yelling to his opponent to come back and fight: I'm not done with you!
In terms of a fight, this does take it up notch - my brain!

Thankfully the ultimate nature of my both is emptiness. I am going to try to realize that, and in the meantime to try not to grasp to strongly at any parts of it. It's just a collection of parts, labeled as body by my mind - thank goodness my mind and my brain are not the same thing. Dharma can be such a comfort.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Gone to My Head

Yesterday afternoon I had a post-op visit with my oncologist, where mostly we talked about which chemo to do and when to start it. At the end I mentioned that every morning I wake up with a headache over my right eye, in the middle of my eyebrow, which goes away when I take 2 Tylenol. I rarely get headaches, so it was notable that I've had one every day for the last 2 weeks. He didn't think it was anything but recommended I get a CT scan just to be sure. They had an opening, so I got the scan right away. It showed that I have a metastatic tumor in my brain, which is very unusual for ovarian cancer - it tends to hang around the stomach.
Monday I'm supposed to see a neurosurgeon, who will probably recommend taking out the mass. At 2-3 cm, it's considered pretty small and thus fairly new. My oncologist thinks I should cancel the trip to Brazil. We'll see what the neurosurgeon says.