#Brain Tumor Thursday – Tom McLain


If you are new to this blog, read this so you know what this project and post, #Brain Tumor Thursday, is about.

It is my pleasure to introduce you to Tom McLain —  husband, father, friend, family man, and overall awesome person — who also happens to be fighting (and doing a great job might I add) brain tumors.  These are his words, in his voice.

“What then do you do with the statistics?  I choose to think of them as merely a guide.  With my brain tumor, I choose to believe that my chances of survival are phenomenal.”  ~ Tom McLain

I hope…

How can you have a brain tumor and not hope for a cure?  Hope does not completely drive me, because it does have to be tempered with reality — the statistics are often grim.  But even in the face of grim statistics, one can always hope and pray about being an outlier, being the one patient who brings the average up by living far longer that the average or even the top number in a range of years.  The companion to hope is faith in God.  As I have said before, “As weapons against cancer, faith is the bow and hope is the arrow.”

I wish…

It is my sincere wish that no one else ever has to face a diagnosis of a brain tumor.  One of the wisest things said to me at the beginning of my journey was the observation that the central question was not, “Why me?” but “Why not me?”  That shifts the focus from internal to external and allows you to make wishes for others.  My hopes and dreams tend to be about  me and my family and my wishes tend to be broader in scope.

I dream…

With the diagnosis of a fatal disease and no clear answer as to how long I will survive, I dream about the events in life that I may miss.  I have three daughters, so I dream about walking them all down the aisle to be married.  I dream about grandchildren, being convinced that I will be an awesome grandfather.  I dream about being financially secure enough to retire while I still have enough health to fully enjoy life with my wife and family.

“Never underestimate the power of God to use your flimsy self to his glory.” - J.E. Oppenheim

I am (be)…

While it may seem entirely strange to most, I am in many ways thankful for my brain tumor.  Before the tumor came along, I thought James 1:2-4 was a completely insane passage in the Bible:

2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (NIV)

"The most difficult time in any cancer battle is the time between diagnosis and deciding on a plan of attack." ~ Tom McLain

How on earth could you ever look upon life’s problems as a joyful experience?  But then I began to realize that I would have a phenomenal opportunity to watch God work, both in my life, and in the lives of others around me.   As explained by American author and brain tumor patient, J.E. Oppenheim, “Never underestimate the power of God to use your flimsy self to his glory.”  So far, the tangible benefits of my cancer have been that I have been taught faith, hope, courage, resilience, and purpose.

"So far, the tangible benefits of my cancer have been that I have been taught faith, hope, courage, resilience, and purpose." - Tom McLain

It would be unfair of me to suggest that I have fully adjusted to my “new normal.”  The swirling effects of the tumor — chemo, maintenance drugs, being a male over 50, and possible radiation damage — do provide for some unevenness in my daily approach to life.  If fact, you could easily encounter me on a given day and conclude — “This cannot be the same guy.”

Diagnosis and treatment…

As for the tumor itself, a mass was detected in an MRI at the end of May 2009.  During the first week or so of June 2009, I had a brain biopsy and it was determined that my tumor was an anaplastic oligodendroglioma.  Not only was that good news because they are slow-growing tumors, but I also had what is known as a 1P, 19Q chromosome in the tumor cells which made them more susceptible to a particular chemo drug called Temodar.  On June 22, I turned 50, so you could say the tumor was my birthday present!  After getting a couple of consultations, it became clear that surgery was not an option, so we began Temodar in July 2009.  Eighteen rounds later, I finished Temodar in February 2011.  No too long after that, I started targeted brain radiation and completed that in July 2011.  The net result is: that as of today, my tumor is smaller and stable!

"The net result is: that as of today, my tumor is smaller and stable!" - Tom McLain

It terms of a favorite quote, there are many that come to mind.  There is actually a website that has been kind enough to add a few of my quotes to those of others in the brain tumor community and other cancer sufferers.  I go there frequently for inspiration.

https://sites.google.com/site/tummorwarrior/home/quotes-about-cancer

If you are a brain tumor patient or survivor and would like to share your story, please contact me at memomuse@gmail.com.  If you read this post, you will find the template for the profile feature, as well as, the connection I have to brain tumors.

You can also find me on Twitter, especially on #braintumorthursday.  Send me a message there or in the comment list here at my blog.  If you are on Twitter, be sure to put in the hash tag, “#braintumorthursday” to find support, information, and a whole community of amazing people doing their part to raise awareness and offer each other kindness and support.  You can also put in the hash tag “#BTSM” which means “brain tumor social media.”  You don’t have to have a Twitter account to get the information.  Just go to http://www.twitter.com and put in the two hash tags (#braintumorthursday and #btsm) to see the links to many websites.  You can also use a search engine, such as Goggle, to do this.

I have several links on my blogroll (link list in sidebar to right) which are organizations with a lot of other links and information about brain tumors.)  But in case they do not show up, here is a direct list:

Please feel free to add your link in a comment if it has to do with brain tumor support and information.  If you wish to get in  touch with Tom, you can email him at ThomasLMcLain@gmail.com, but be warned — he does not check it often.  He’ll be reading the comments here on this post, so give him some love here too!

Thank you for tuning in today and supporting #braintumorthursday.  We look forward to seeing you here at http://www.memomuse.wordpress.com every Thursday for #Brain Tumor Thursday and on Twitter every Thursday.  Thank you for your time.

Hope. Wish. Dream. Be.

~ memomuse

Rainbow Hunting


This Sunday I was very lucky to have some time to myself to finish up some writing projects, alone.  This is a big deal for me since I have a toddler.  Click on this link to read an essay about identity loss and having to adjust to the new role of motherhood (you just can’t get up and go as you once did)

He is pretty amazing and cool!

My toddler son. He really is cool!

Anyway, I love being alone.  I don’t really listen to music that often.  In fact, my music selectionhas pretty much always been country music and easy listening found on the am radio.  In college, I had a 1979 Ford Fairmont that I loved so much I named him Frank.

What is your favorite car you ever had? Frank and my 1970 Karmann Ghia are my top two.

Photo Source:
http://yoursportsfan.com/timewarp/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1&Itemid=4
My first car in high school was a royal blue 1970 Karmann Ghia. My dad bought it for me.

Frank took good care of me in college and transported me back and forth to my student teaching assignment.  Frank played some good tunes  — but Frank only had an AM station.  I fell in love with Big Band and 30’s and 40’s music.  In fact, I named the car Frank because the first time I cranked his engine up, he purred like a kitten.  And when I flipped on the radio, Frank Sinatra came on.

I am digressing — back to rainbows — Frank and I chased a lot of rainbows back in my single, childless, free spirit days.  I am still a free spirit, but I certainly am not single and I certainly am not childless.  I am so lucky to have such an amazing family.  My husband is the most beautiful person I know on this planet (well he and my son tie for first place).

My amazing husband who gives me time on weekends to write (alone) -- meaning he takes the cool, cute, active-hands-and-body-into-everything-exploring toddler AWAY.

So I got a bunch of stuff done, if you call it that.  I was social networking, tweeting, writing, blogging, organizing photos, and I even threw in steam cleaning my wood floors with my awesome steam cleaner the shark.  I felt rushed for time, and rushed with energy and creativity.  I played some country music, but mostly enjoyed hearing myself think and concentrate, for long stretches.

It came time to get ready to go over for our Sunday dinner with the in-laws, where said toddler was playing with his Pa and Grammy.  My husband was cooking stuff zucchini, sausage, and spaghetti.  (I know I am LUCKY)

So I finally dragged myself away from the computer and cleaned up.  It was nice to take notice of the way time slips by slowly when you are not rushed or have a toddler clinging to your leg.

Well, because I was by myself and did not have to think about a toddler or other people in the car, I got that feeling from the big sky I used to get driving around in Wyoming in Frank, the 1979 Ford Fairmont.

The sky was big and blue with clouds of all colors from cotton white to dusky sea grey.  It was magnificent.  I pulled the car over to take some photos of a park I pass by but never stop.  I thought it would be cool to get a photo of the high school building where Elvis played at once upon a time.

Can you imagine what it would have been like to see Elvis live? If you have, please do tell...

my first stop on the fly by the muse of your pants outing and photo adventure

Then I started taking more photos and I would get in my car and then I would drive a little bit and stop. The sky was just so big and bold and filled with so much color.  North Carolina sky is different than Wyoming sky, but this day it seemed surreal and the same.  It felt familiar; it felt powerful.  I went with the muse; she was in full force. (Note: I had just got off the phone with my husband before I stopped at the school where Elvis played once upon a time and the awesome husband who had just made a delicious homemade Italian feast said dinner would be ready in just about ten minutes – the time it takes for me to drive to my in-laws across town).

I said, “I’m on my way.”

I pulled over in an empty parking lot that offered an open view after leaving  the Elvis high school.  That sky was so intense and so bright.  The blues were so many different colors and each direction you looked in the sky peek-a-booed another color from Mother Nature’s palette.  Damn, She is a kick ass artist!

Romeo:
But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?
It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.
Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,
Who is already sick and pale with grief
That thou, her maid, art far more fair than she.
Romeo And Juliet Act 2, scene 2, 2–6

So, it is time to really get going and get over to my in-laws house.  I have no idea what time it is, but I am giggling and pretty excited that I can just stop, put the car in park, hop out of the car, and take a photo.  I don’t have to worry about the toddler, or safety protocol, or if I am annoying anyone with my hop-on-it-go-for-it-right-then-and-there-do-it-now-action-Megness.  I start to drive, then another view opens up right before my eyes.  Is this the same sky I have lived under here in North Carolina?  It doesn’t seem so.  It is new and fresh.

Then it hits me, there is a rainbow...do you see it?

At right here, from this view, some song comes on the radio in my car, which is FM, and it is a song that Frank would’ve sang.  It is an oldie and the melody moves me deeper into the muse.  I spot the rainbow and I feel like I discovered gold.

The ironic thing is this rainbow is over a mall that is so washed up that it's only action is mall walkers who pump their arms when they walk and Bath & Body Works, which seems to stay in the mall out of pity. (Disclaimer: Nothing against the mall or malls in general -- I love me a mall, but this mall is lonely for people --who shop, not just walk.)

“That’s it,” I hear myself say out loud, “I’m going rainbow hunting.”  And I’m off to find a more open view.

I decide to drive to a field near my in-laws that I take walks in.  It has a back road that leads to the subdivision where my in-laws live.  Perfect, I will even save some time using the back road.  Who doesn’t love a back road, right?  I am just about fist pumping and high fiving myself and people that know me well, I was  saying, “la la la.”  I might have been making dolphin squealy sounds too.  That is my trademark happy sound.

There it is!

So majestic (at this point I am certainly late to dinner) but I have no idea what time it is as I am so caught up in the moment.

The back road was blocked with water from the hard rains the last couple of days, so I have to turn around and go the long way. But the colors of the sky could not be captured by a camera — it was something you just had to experience.  I am sorry I missed dinner (I got there after everyone ate and my plate was sitting there all by itself).

I believe rainbows are magical. I know it is science, but I believe in the magic and the pot of gold.

The color of the sky was incredible and every direction you looked, the sky was different.

So I was really ready to go now, I had to go – I thought I was actually going to be relatively on time for dinner.  So, I went back, but I snapped this photo before turning left at the red light.

Music of the Sky - Doesn't that look like a music thingy (what are those called?) Do you see the bird?

And what do you think I found at the end of my rainbow?  I found my pot of gold — my son, jamming out to Johnny Cash with his Pa, playing “Car” in the car.  Priceless and free — nature is always free, as well as, love.

I missed dinner, but my husband gave me a kiss and tagged out, retreating to a toddler free room.  He understands I have the muse in me and he appreciates my creativity and sometimes distracted way of experiencing and capturing art.  Man, I love him.  I am one lucky lady who has certainly been blessed with a big ole’ pot of gold of family.

When was the last time you saw a rainbow?  What/Who is your pot of gold?

Don’t forget to tune in on Thursday for the first profile for #Brain Tumor Thursday.  It is an incredible story of an incredible beacon of hope and strength.  Here is a sneak peek at the feature profile:

Photo by (c) Megan Oteri
This is one of my favorite photos; it is titled "Outliers" and was actually the first post I ever made on memomuse.wordpress.com

“But even in the face of grim statistics, one can always hope and pray about being an outlier, being the one patient who brings the average up by living far longer that the average or even the top number in a range of years.  The companion to hope is faith in God.  As I have said before, ‘As weapons against cancer, faith is the bow and hope is the arrow.'” – Brain Tumor Patient