Thanks for the support you’ve given me and my family! I’m doing fine with almost no symptoms, except sometimes having a bit of trouble getting my words out.

5/16: I finally have some news about S’More after today’s appointment with Dr. Stovall. After our first meeting in March, he pulled some serious strings with the CEO of the hosptial to request a trial run with a multimillion dollar MRI software package from GE. This package produces a very accurate rendering of the tumor. In addition he had three types of MRIs ordered and merged into a single “active” 3D map that can be rotated to look at exactly where the tumor is in relation to important brain areas surrounding it. Two years ago this technology didn’t exist and today less than a dozen institutions can afford to use it, so kudo’s to Stovall for making this happen. Just to give an example of how amazing this technology is, in one MRIs they asked me to think of words and it located what part of my brain was doing the thinking; I wiggled my toes, it located another part. In another MRI, it somehow found the fiber tracts that act like information highways connecting two parts of my brain used to understand words and for speech. So, the images above are a result of a LOT of work. The two images show the same thing from two vantage points, one as if you were looking at my face and the other as if you were looking up at my brain from under my chin. In the face-on view, S’More is highlighted in purple, the other view its a dark round void. The fibers that allow me to talk and understand words are highlighted in yellow. The motor strip that lets me move the right side of my body is highlighted in blue. The good news is that neither the motor strip, or the speech fibers are mixed inside the tumor. The bad news is that the speech fibers are wrapped tightly around the outside like a small hand cupping an egg. This means during surgery, it’ll be impossible to remove all of the tumor unless I want to risk losing my ability to communicate. Not gonna happen. So, Stovall thinks he can remove about 80% of tumor leaving a small amount near the fibers. From what I understand he’ll insert the microsuction into the brain and actively see where it is in relation to the 3D brain map. Also, I’ll be awake and constantly talking to keep them alert to any decline in my ability to speak. Sometime during the surgery, they will remove and send out a section of the tumor for lab analysis. Several weeks after the surgery I’ll know what type of tumor I have and how fast it’s growing. This will tell me how aggressive they predict the tumor will be. A grade 1 tumor is slow growing, doesn’t need radiation or chemo; a Grade 5 tumor is, well, not good. From my past lack of symptoms, I’m almost positive mine is a very low grade tumor and hopefully a type that doesn’t advance from Grade 1 to 5 quickly. The tumor will eventually expand, increase in grade and require further treatments to attempt to slow it down. So the harsh truth is, there’s no cure; then the reality is there never any promise of how long any of us will live. Life’s about quality, something I’ve come to more fully appreciate since S’More came into the picture. Ironic.

The confirmed date of the surgery is June 2nd at St. David’s North Austin Medical Center. I expect about 3 to 4 days in the hospital before heading home. The surgery should last from about mid-morning to mid-afternoon.

As I eluded to in my last posting, I’ve now become a more “Western-small town” Steve. The garden now lines my backyard with the fully automated drip irrigation system. The morning routine is to go to the garden half shaven and in house slippers to curse leaf eating slugs and snails. Apparently this is what gardeners do, although I can’t say I’m a “normal” gardener. When I explain I’m growing the world largest variety of 198lb watermelon, pumpkins the size of small children and 12 foot sunflowers among other things (with pride), my fellow gardening neighbor said, “wow” with a look of “why?”. I suppose, as my neighbor waters his garden watching me tend mine (20 feet away), he wonders why I take a photo of a sunflower sprout as often as possible from exactly the same spot. I’d tell him I’m making a video slideshow that will make two months of growth pass by in a minute, but I think that would again evoke that “why?” look, so I just smile, give a country finger wave and shoot. Also seven blueberry plants are planted and in a couple years should be ready for picking, so if you come by for a visit, mid May would be smart. My acrylic painting has really taken off as well. Here’s the last three I’ve done, each one teaching me TONS about nature and how to express it on canvas. My hope of inspiring others to get outdoors through painting is well underway. As it might be sometime before heading back to the Appalachian trial, I may morph this blog temporarily into a journey of acrylic painting and the discovery of nature, or maybe a gardening blog with pictures of dead slugs and giant pumpkins. Maybe both. I could rename it: “It is what it is” and by the power of Google someone will read it, and of those, someone will like it, and of those someone might even remember it. Goal achieved.