Mar 082021
 

5 years ago today, I stood up at work to look outside and the world started spinning.  Apparently, that little episode was a blessing in disguise!

After a quick trip to the emergency room and, what was to be the first of MANY MRI’s, my tumor was discovered.  I was very fortunate to have something relatively benign reveal something so deadly lurking… without any symptoms.   My episode could have ended up much worse.  I think that early detection, before any symptoms presented, is one of the many reasons my treatment has been so successful.  In addition, having a great set of doctors, an unbelievably supportive group of friends, and family, enabled my recovery fly by.

It is hard to believe I am approaching the 5 year anniversary of my resection.  The 5 year survival rate for a  Glioblastoma, in my age group, is only 9%!  Truly, I am one of the lucky ones… So Far. Over the last 5 years I have met way too many people that have not been so lucky.  That always leaves me asking, why me?  How did I survive this brain tumor lottery (guess that means I will never win MegaMillions 😉, I won my lottery).  

Well one thing I can do is help fund research to find a cure.  I am by no means cured, I live with what they call PFS or NED depending on who you talk to, (Progression Free Survival or No Evidence of Disease).  Due to Covid, all of the National Brain Tumor Society (NBTS) events are 100% virtual BUT that means we get to do the NBTS walk AND new to us the bike ride.  Jessie and I are participating in both so if you are interested, join our teams and raise some money for Brain Tumor Research, maybe one day I can say cured, not PFS/NED/TBD …

The Month of May will be Brain Tumor awareness month.  The walk takes place May 2nd (our team is Team Food Baby Virtual) the bike ride takes place two weeks later on May 16th (our team is just Team Food Baby).  They are separate events, there is no entry fee so join up and get your friends to donate.  There are some great gifts for fundraising.  If you don’t want to participate but want to support the cause, donate to one of us, both of us, one event, both events…  You decide.

My ride Page: http://www.braintumorcommunity.org/goto/TomBirdRide

My walk page: http://www.braintumorcommunity.org/goto/TomBirdWalk

BTW, if you are a Peloton or Zwift rider, they are doing virtual rides up to the event and on the day of the event.

Details here -> https://events.braintumor.org/events/national-brain-tumor-ride/zwift-peloton/

Sorry no casserole party but once we can meet in groups, it will be back!!

Sep 112020
 

I know there are a lot of terrible things happening right now but we do have a bit of good news to share. We had Tom’s scan today and it was stable. The spots are unchanged and one may be a little bit smaller. We also recently heard back on our second opinion from UCSF and they agree that the spots are likely delayed radiation damage to blood vessels and not indicative of tumor. These last two months have been a bit nerve racking until we got this news as contemplating another surgery and round of treatment 4 years later and in the middle of a pandemic was daunting to say the least. Now we really get to enjoy our anniversary getaway in a place that is very special to our hearts with some great wine from @domainedivio

Jul 232020
 

Today is Glioblastoma Awareness Day. We wanted to share some facts with you all (scroll to end if you just want to see Tom’s current status).

Glioblastoma Facts & Figures

Glioblastoma (or GBM) is one of the most complex, deadly, and treatment-resistant cancers.

More than 13,000 Americans are expected to receive a GBM diagnosis in 2020.

GBM accounts for 48 percent of all primary malignant brain tumors.

It is estimated that more than 10,000 individuals in the United States will succumb to glioblastoma every year.

The five-year survival rate for glioblastoma patients is only 6.8 percent, and the average length of survival for glioblastoma patients is estimated to be only 12 to 18 months.

Survival rates and mortality statistics for GBM have been virtually unchanged for decades.

Despite first being identified in the scientific literature in the 1920’s, there have only been four drugs and one device ever approved by the FDA for the treatment of glioblastoma.

None of these treatments have succeeded in significantly extending patient lives beyond a few extra months.

Some patients have a glioblastoma upon diagnosis (de novo or primary GBM), while other patients’ tumors start as another, lower-grade type of brain tumor and over time progress into a glioblastoma (secondary GBM). A vast majority of GBM diagnoses are de novo.

Mean age at diagnosis is 64.

In addition to being life-threatening, GBM – and its harsh treatments – inflict devastation upon the brain, which controls cognition, mood, behavior, and every function of every organ and body part.

Many patients will lose their ability to work, drive, and a host of other functions that contribute to one’s sense of self and independence.

Glioblastoma is also one of the more expensive cancers to treat, often leaving patients and families with major financial hardship on top of the burdens of the disease.

Prominent Americans who’ve been lost to this type of cancer include: Beau Biden (son of former Vice President Joe Biden, and former Attorney General for the state of Delaware); Gary Carter (Hall of Fame Major League Baseball player); U.S. Senator Edward “Ted” Kennedy (Democratic politician); U.S. Senator John McCain (Republican politician and former presidential nominee); and Edward “Tug” McGraw (Major League Baseball player and father of country music star and actor, Tim McGraw).

Here’s the link to today’s presentation if you would like to hear more lf the latest on glioblastoma and hear from other survivors and providers:

Watch the Virtual GBM Awareness Day 

And now for the update:

It’s been just over 4 years since Tom’s diagnosis. We recently had Tom’s MRI and two spots have persisted. While they don’t present as typical tumor, one has grown about 1mm from his last scan while the other faded somewhat. We discussed the option of surgery to remove and analyze the spot with his care team but we all came to the conclusion this week that the spot is too small to warrant surgery and again is not indicative of tumor. Hopefully it will go away on its own like the other spots have. We will re-evaluate at the next scan. We are also going to work on getting a second opinion in the event we need a more in-depth consult in the future. Tom feels great, has no symptoms and is still riding his bike as often as possible. As always, thanks for all of your amazing support!

May 312020
 

4 years ago today I walked into OHSU to have my Brain Tumor removed. Such a long and short time 4 years can be. It is a VERY long time for those of us with a Glioblastoma but such a short time when you look at our lifetimes. I have seen too many people not make it this far after diagnosis, people I felt were just as capable (or more capable) of beating this cancer thing. Every day I wonder why have I made it this far, how long will it last, can I hit that 5 year mark, what they used to call “remission”? I just think, that is when I can get life insurance again so I can make sure Jessie is well cared for when this damn disease catches up to me.

Hitting milestones puts things in perspective. I can be rather fussy, I want things clean, neat, and tidy (yes, this is rather selective) BUT life is messy, we don’t come with a definitive manual how to live it. A couple things I have learned over this past 4 years, don’t put things on hold and don’t obsess on making it perfect. This year we finally put in a raised bed garden and one of my favorite things to do is walk out with my cup of coffee and check it out each morning. We threw in a ton of flowers and plants this year. Are they all I the “perfect spot”, don’t care anymore because I am going to enjoy them where they are.

4 years ago I was bound and determined to get back on my bike and every spring I wonder how much longer do I have left. Last week I was finally back on the mountain bike and while there was a lot of pain and discomfort grinding up that hill the reward is a blast flying down. Yah we got muddy and sweaty and it is a pain to clean everything but damn it is fun.

Tomorrow it will be 3 years since we adopted Olive and what a whole new world of mess that has become BUT she also provides an endless amount of joy. She is one of the most unique dogs I have ever encountered. Her ENDLESS amount of dog hair drive me crazy and my God can that dog snore!! She is also sweet and loving and has those giant sad (manipulative) eyes. On her adoption anniversary she gets to sleep in our bed (and I get a horrible night of sleep) but it makes her so happy to be in our bed and everyone should have an opportunity to be happy.

In 4 years a lot can happen, some of it good, some of it bad, embrace all of it! Get out there and live it, embrace the mess, the sweat, the joy and relish the fact we are alive. You only get this opportunity once so make the best of it!

Thank you everyone that have loved and supported me over the past 4 years. I am eternally grateful and look forward to relying on all of you for the next 4 (and the 4 after that and so on…)

May 022020
 

Huge thanks to all of you who supported Team Food Baby for the virtual brain tumor walk this year. We had team members in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Hawaii this year! Tom’s sister Mary had some awesome shirts made for the Bird family team members! Even with everything going on the team still raised $2963 this year bringing our five year total to $18,420!!!! We still plan on doing the casserole party fundraiser once we can gather again. The virtual ceremony for the walk should still be up on the Northwest Brain Tumor community fb page until 10 am tomorrow if anyone wants to watch. They used some footage from an interview I gave a few years ago and you get to see our favorite Dr. Jerry on there too! Thank you all for your support!!!

Mar 122020
 

Cheers to a mostly stable scan. The spots we found in November have “resolved” but there is a new spot in the field of radiation. It is most likely also radiation damage but we will continue to monitor closely, currently it is too small to biopsy. Thank you all for your words of encouragement. It really means a lot!

Mar 092020
 

Four years ago, today, I stood up at work to look outside and my world started spinning… 

While the physical spinning has stopped the metaphorical spinning has started up again.  How come I have made it this far?  Why me? That is the constant question anymore, Why ME!  Back in November we had a shock, two spots, we kept that sort of quiet until the next scan in January.  It appears they are nothing significant BUT it sure does not feel that way.  Last year we met a couple that were just starting their brain tumor journey and they were optimistic, positive, expecting a full return to life, fully believing they were going to beat this thing.  They were just like Jessie and me.  Except they were not.  I found out last week he passed away on the 22nd of February, barley over a year after diagnosis.

I knew no one, zero, not even a hint of a person with a brain tumor until a doctor told me in an emergency room that I had one.  Now in the course of 4 years I have met or learned about 4 others, three of which have passed away after I was diagnosed!!  Heck one guy I had even mountain biked with!!

I cannot speak to everyone in this tumor community but I get the impression we all follow similar patterns where there is this flurry in initial treatment, almost continuous searching for connections and hope, a constant barrage of well wishing and attention from doctors, then if you are lucky enough the calm after the storm and you are largely forgotten and you enjoy that.  Then comes the covert stalking of other tumor survivors to “see” how they are doing.  Secretly hoping, wishing, praying that they are living the normal, progression free life you so long for as well. 

Today on my 4 year anniversary of the discovery, I finally did my follow-up internet stalking and was devastated to find my guiding light, my rock, my compatriot on the East Coast struggling with reoccurrence that happened this summer.  She was the FIRST tumor patient I reached out to.  She has been so open and generous and ACTUALLY did something to help tumor patients while I just continued to live my life and plod along doing next to nothing with the time I have been given.  She has had some of the best care in the world.  She was about 4 months ahead of me.  I have been vicariously living in her successes and now to read how quickly and aggressively it can come back is terrifying.  Jessica Morris, my heart and prayers go out to you!!

So, Wednesday is my next scan.  Where in the past they were just standard procedure, heck I have gotten so used to MRI’s I can fall asleep in them.  This one will be with a heightened sense of awareness.  I cannot get out of my head, when will I stop being a statistical anomaly and become one of the masses. 

What is the magic equation to keep me an outlier?  I want out of this !@$!& dataset!!

Jan 092020
 

Happy New Year friends! Celebrating a stable scan tonight! Tom actually had his last scan in November. There were two tiny spots that showed up and while his oncologist said he was not concerned, we agreed to come back and scan again in 6 weeks. It ended up being more like 7, but today’s scan showed no change. The oncologist said if it was tumor, he would have expected some growth or change in that time. It is likely just delayed radiation damage but we will continue to monitor. The spot they measured is 2.99 mm. In December Tom also underwent a hernia repair. He had a great outcome but misses being active. 1.5 weeks until his restrictions are lifted, not that we are counting. I’ll post again tomorrow with details on this year’s tumor walk and before long the casserole party. Thanks for all your continued love and support!

Aug 222019
 

Super thankful and relieved for another good MRI for Tom! Thanks to you all for your continued friendship and support in this journey. We are unbelievably lucky to be here today and enjoying our life together.