Saturday, May 28, 2011

I hope she's OK

I find myself thinking a lot about Marissa Parks today. She went in for her first major brain surgery yesterday (Friday), and I'm hoping to hear from her father sometime this weekend. Because I know how draining this process is, I'll understand completely if he doesn't want to talk. I probably wouldn't want to talk, either.

Marissa's story hasn't followed the same path as my mother's. Normally, when it comes to GBM, debulking (i.e., the removal-- surgeons call it resection-- of the major part of the initial cancerous mass) occurs at the very beginning, very soon after it's been determined that the mass is in fact a glioblastoma. One reason for this is to relieve intracranial pressure; another is to get rid of as much of the cancer as possible. My mother's own path through treatment followed this standard pattern; in Marissa's case, however, it was determined that the location of her initial mass would make excision of the tumor difficult. Marissa went right into the standard one-two punch of radio- and chemotherapy, and there were, last I heard, some positive results from all that. Still, GBMs are persistent, and the latest MRIs showed evidence of neoplastic tissue (i.e., new cancerous growth). This turn of events, coupled with the fact that corticosteroids haven't been helping with the intracranial pressure, is what necessitates the current surgery. Luckily, Marissa chose MD Anderson. Smart lady.

I've never met Marissa or her parents. I've corresponded with her, briefly, and have read her blog, on those rare occasions when she sits still enough to update it. I've talked to Marissa's dad a couple times by phone, and have emailed with him quite a few times. The picture I have of Marissa is that she's a young, strong-willed, independent lady, bursting with life. She's a doer; sitting down to write updates for a blog cuts in on the time she'd rather be spending with friends, or fundraising, or just living life. I hope she has the chance to keep doing this. I hope she has years ahead of her. None of us knows when the Fates will snip the threads of our existence, so it's important to live in appreciation of every moment we have.

My heart goes out to Marissa's parents. I imagine their daughter is in the ICU, resting after her surgery, and looking as if she's just been in a fight. I know what it means to hold vigil over someone in a bed, hooked up to monitors and tubes; I know what it means to interpret every twitch of the recumbent person's form as if it were filled with meaning. I know how it feels when that person starts to wake up, when you squeeze her hand and she finally-- finally squeezes back. And I know what it means, after the person wakes up, to be flooded with those conflicting emotions: the angel on one shoulder that says It's going to be all right, now, and the demon on the other shoulder that whispers, Yes, but just for now. Just for now. Only for now.

Some of my readers know exactly what I'm talking about. It's hard to experience such a situation and to take something good from it. To my mind, the only good that comes out of such vigils is the keen awareness of the passage of every single moment, the drip and pulse and breath of life in all its harmony and rhythm.

For now, we wait.

I sincerely hope Marissa's OK.

UPDATE, Sunday, May 29, 2011, 10:29AM: Almost an hour ago, Marissa tweeted this:

happy :)

UPDATE 2, 5/29/11, 6:33PM: Marissa wrote me to say the surgeons got "100%" of what they were looking for. The fact that she's well enough to be writing messages (and using emoticons) is a great, great sign.


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