And yes, the brain tumor has become part of my personal and professional identity. How could it not be? My post-craniotomy self (aka brand) has become more of an advocate, especially for veterans who return from Afghanistan and other wars and conflict zones with traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress, and also for anyone with serious head injuries. I’ve reorganized my philanthropic priorities at home and at the office, where I’m CEO of Havas PR North America, an agency awarded many times over for our work (both paid and pro bono) for a range of fantastic causes. I’ve also focused some of my writing on brain health, on a new focus on braininess, on the possible digital connection to tumors, and on activities, such as football, that can lead to brain injuries.
Part of the drill for anyone who has had a brain tumor removed is going back for scans at various intervals: three months, then six, then a year, with more time going by between each trip into the MRI tunnel. Normally, with every test, tumor survivors feel better, more optimistic that their first visit to “tumorland” will be their last. But my last scan turned up an anomaly. And so here I am on round two.
Like Sheryl Crow, I’m trying to put on my game face, despite the fact that my scan showed what had been overlooked on two previous scans — a tumor that is not only existent but had also grown dramatically from late June to January. (What these “bad scans” have done to my psyche is unimaginable. I used to ignore every ache and pain, even symptom, because if I was tumor-free, I was all clear. Finding out that doctors make mistakes, even big ones, I am trying to tamp down a constant fear that my next doc will be like those radiologists — superficial, irresponsible or worse, suddenly owning up to a mistake when it was substantially bigger six months later. And how can I now trust airplane mechanics, cab drivers and anyone else who holds my fate in their hands?)
My surgery is slated for March 13. I’m optimistic about the surgery, thanks especially to my amazing doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital and my family and supporters all over the world. Like Elizabeth Taylor, I’ll be “resting comfortably” at home myself, hopefully as stylishly as she no doubt was, but not for long. Being busy at work will keep me motivated and help with my recovery. And I’m already eager to discover how my brand will evolve after going through this second experience.