An open letter: Dear me at 23

1933772_505565146516_1849_nBy Julie

Happy Birthday from me (you) in 10 years! I know you’re in the midst of a four country, five airport journey back from Albania and you’ve got some serious plans ahead of you and things to do, but just stick with me for a couple minutes.

You don’t know this yet, but your life is about to change in a huge way. Don’t freak out, but this is the last birthday you are going to spend as a single person. In just a few short months you are going to meet the most amazing man. His name is Travis and you will quickly realize that he is going to be one of your best friends and that you’ll want him to be in your life forever.

I know what you’re thinking – “I’m not ready to settle down!” Don’t worry, there is not a person in the world that would describe the life that you two have together as “settled.” You are both very career-driven, so you move around a lot and support each other’s professional goals. As a result you are very successful, although you’d be quite surprised by what your current job entails (I won’t spoil it for you).

You have an amazing dog and three cats (Yes, three cats. He’s a cat person and you really really love him so you have three cats). No kids at the moment, not surprisingly that’s been a challenge for you physically. What is surprising is how much this has affected you emotionally. Don’t dismiss these feelings, it’s okay for you to be sad about them.

Your life is truly wonderful, and it’s only getting started. Although the thought of turning 33 may seem nauseating to you right now, I promise as it gets closer it won’t feel that old. The next 10 years will fly by — please take some time to savor the little moments. You have a tendency to over plan and over prepare. Don’t lose these traits because they really help you get ahead in life, but if you could try and lighten up a bit I think you’ll enjoy life a bit more (Travis will help you with this).

The future has it’s ups and downs. I don’t want to spoil too many things for you but I do want to give you a heads up that the Cubs are going to win the World Series in 2017 (maybe place a few strategic bets and wow our friends?). Also, one of our teams is going to break the Cleveland curse (spoiler alert, it’s not the Browns), but it will come after Lebron totally breaks all of our hearts so brace yourself. It probably doesn’t surprise you that sports spoilers are first on my agenda? I suppose I could go into more things that could positively impact our planet but I’ll just trust that you’ll make the right decisions – and don’t worry you (we) are still a good person.

There’s one thing that I just can’t bring myself to tell you. It’s big. It’s really, really big. It’s the most difficult thing you have ever had to tackle and I should probably warn you but I don’t want to take the risk that the next 10 years will be in anyway altered by your foreknowledge of this particular event. I’ll simply tell you that 2016 will hit you like a ton of bricks (and not just because America makes some pretty, we’ll say “interesting,” political choices that make 2017 a truly wild ride). There are going to be days when you won’t want to get out of bed. You’ll doubt everything you’ve ever known to be true and there will be days that you will wonder if you have the strength to keep on going. I know you hate surprises, so if I have managed to somehow reach you with this letter you’re going to hate me (you) for doing this to you (me), but I promise it’s in your best interest to not try and over prepare for this one. Trust me, you can’t. It’s just not possible.

So, happy birthday me at 23. You have an amazing ride ahead of you. Please, take it all in and enjoy all that these years have to offer. When 2016 arrives just take a deep breath, throw your hands up and let the world take you where it may.

All the Best,

Me at 33

P.S. Travis is going to start lecturing you on proper footwear like 10 minutes after you meet him. Please heed his advice, he knows what he’s talking about. You don’t have any grey hairs yet but if you don’t stop hiking in the crappy flats you bought at Target, your feet are going to be shot and you won’t be able to tolerate anything more than kitten heels.

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Logan

image1By Julie

In the months since Travis’ diagnosis, I’ve learned a lot about the human brain and the amazing ways it responds to and copes with trauma. If you’ve been following this blog, you know that after Travis’ surgeries he felt a strong connection to the Wolverine and, for a time, really believed he was the Wolverine. This is a connection that helped him to overcome the trauma he was experiencing, and for that I am exceedingly grateful.

The first trailer for Logan, the third and final movie in the Wolverine trilogy, was released while Travis was in the hospital. With little else to keep him occupied in his ICU bed, Travis watched that preview repeatedly. As he became more lucid, and as his connection with the Wolverine became more about inspiration and less about trauma delusion, his anticipation and desire to see the movie grew. But, as the reality of his cancer diagnosis set in he looked at the opening date of the movie and with bit of a catch in his throat remarked, “I sure hope I make it long enough to see Logan.”

The movie opened at the beginning of this month and we were there for opening night  (we’ve also seen it several times since). And, because this film and the Wolverine character have become so incredibly meaningful for us both, I decided to sit down and ask Travis some questions about his take on the movie, what he remembers of his time in the hospital, and how he’s feeling now. Here is his review:

Julie: Have you always been a fan of the Wolverine and X-Men movies?

Travis: It’s strange, but I was always really more of a Batman fan – those were the comic books I read, the movies I anticipated, and the posters I had as a kid (and maybe a little as an adult, too). But, I like superhero and action movies in general so I had seen all of the X-Men movies as they came out.

Julie: Do you remember what it was like in the hospital when you started to talk about the Wolverine?

Travis: Not really, and I’m kind of sad that I don’t get to remember it the way you do. It sounds like it was pretty entertaining. I do remember other things that I’m pretty sure now weren’t real – there was a doctor that I was certain was trying to kill me; I thought I was only allowed to watch animal planet and was very upset about that; and I was certain that someone kept changing the clocks so I wouldn’t know what time it was (I know now that did happen — but it was because it was the end of daylight savings time).

Julie: For months you were anticipating seeing Logan. You watched every trailer and counted down to its opening. Could it ever live up to your expectations?

Travis: You have to realize that I thought that if I could make it to March 3rd, this would be the last movie that I was going to ever get to see.

Julie: That’s a lot of pressure to put on a movie, so did it live up to your expectations?

Travis: I have to see it again so I can say for sure – do we have plans tonight? But yes, in all seriousness, I can confidently say it’s the best of all of the X-Men themed movies that have been made. I really hadn’t realized that Hugh Jackman had been playing the Wolverine for almost 20 years and that’s pretty amazing when you think about it. That’s longer than any of the seven guys who have played James Bond lasted. If this is truly the end of Jackman’s time as the Wolverine, I can’t think of a better way for him to say goodbye to the character. It’s a very satisfying ending for a fan.

Julie: Since your connection to the Wolverine was a new thing, was there something special about this particular character that you connected with at this point in your life?

Travis: I think we all understand that we’re not immortal but when we’re young we see aging and death as far off things. A cancer diagnosis changes that. People start to talk about you in terms of how much time certain treatments can give you. Radiation and chemotherapy treatments take so much out of you that there’s no way you can feel invincible anymore. In the previous movies Logan was invincible but this movie showed that even a superhero can’t take for granted that their powers will always be there.

Julie: I’ve seen a lot of superhero movies since I married a superhero buff, and I’ve seen a lot of westerns because, well, you like those too. This almost felt more like a western than a superhero movie, did you have the same impression?

Travis: There were certainly a lot of western references in the movie and parallels between Logan and the movie Shane. It wasn’t subtle if you look at how it was all staged and assembled – the use of Johnny Cash music was pretty on the nose, there were old western clips used in the movie, and Charles (Professer X) and Logan both have the feel of being old gun fighters. But there are some subtle things in there as well that I think the director intentionally dropped in there to appeal to western movie buffs.

Julie: So here’s the big box office question – Should people go see this movie?

Travis: Is that even a question? Why would you even ask that? Go, see it now! Take me with you!

 

Cancer and the Affordable Care Act (ACA)

By Julie

Unlike much of the nation, I have not been overly politically engaged in the past few months – but that doesn’t mean that I’m not listening. When I do engage in political discourse, I typically gravitate towards supporting and discussing issues related to education, the environment, and arts and cultural programming – but for reasons I don’t think I have to explain at length, healthcare is a big topic for us right now.

You won’t see our names in the headlines, but over the past five months my family has become a statistic in the healthcare debate. We are now counted among those who use more than they contribute to the healthcare system. We hold our breath as we open bills because it’s nearly impossible to predict what the numbers will say, and we shuffle around our financial priorities to make ends meet each month. I won’t pretend to be an expert on healthcare spending, but I know a lot more now than than I did about this system and I think I have something to contribute to the conversation.

I consider myself to be a political moderate, but when it comes to healthcare my political bias has always tended to swing left. While I value the concept of small government and appreciate the free market economy, I consider healthcare to be a fundamental right that we all should have equal access to. I supported the big picture goals of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), even as I watched my own insurance premiums increase, and I was more than happy to pay a little more for my pizza if it meant that the franchise I was buying from could afford to provide health care to their employees.

I don’t know enough about the economics of the ACA to argue in favor of it remaining as it currently exists, and since the plan for healthcare reform from the new administration is still taking shape I will reserve judgement on what is to come for the moment. Once the new plan is finalized I will rely on a variety of trusted news sources to help me understand its implications and factor that into my future voting decisions, but I will leave the economic analyses to the experts.

What I can contribute to this conversation is an understanding of the economics of balancing an expensive medical diagnosis while trying to maintain some semblance of a normal life. Travis and I were in a better position than most to financially handle what we have been dealt: we don’t have children; we both have good jobs; we are both insured (whew!); and, at the time, we had decent savings. We are also fortunate to have an amazing network of family and friends who have provided support (monetary and otherwise). Still, in hindsight I wish we had been better prepared.

Here is a list of things I wish I would have known and the amount of additional money I would have tried to have in savings to cover one year of unexpected expenses.

  • Medical Bills – $15,000 – The ACA sets an annual “out of pocket maximum” that insurance companies can require of their policyholders. For 2017 this is around $7,000 but the IRS has the authority to adjust this number annually. In our case Travis was diagnosed with cancer in the middle of October so we cleared our maximum in 3 months only to have it reset again in January. All bets are off if this provision disappears from the national picture so make sure you’re familiar with the maximum set by your own plan, and then double that number in case your diagnosis comes just before the end of the year.
  • Travel & Vehicle Expenses – $10,000 – If you happen to live next door to a major medical facility that treats the exact illness you or a loved one are dealing with, you can probably reduce this number. In our case Travis’ treatment requires us to travel approximately 160 miles round trip for each appointment. In general we average one trip per week to the cancer center, but there was a six-week period when we made this trip almost every day. We’re fortunate that gas prices have been relatively low, family members have pitched in to assist with the driving, and we are lucky that the travel distance isn’t even greater than what it is. We expected gas and toll expenses but didn’t think about  wear and tear on the car. We’re due for new breaks and tires about 6 months earlier than I had planned, I’ve already had my oil changed twice this year (and it’s only March) and my Forester, purchased new in 2014 is approaching 120,000 miles so we’re already considering a new car long before we’d planned to.
  • Lodging and Dining Expenses – $5,000 – We have been very lucky to have access to the services of an American Cancer Society run Hope Lodge facility, but there have been occasions where rooms were not available and we have had to stay in a hotel. Depending on the resources available to you, this could go up or down. Traveling and food sensitivities due to medications (chemo) can mean a lot of meals on the road.
  • Miscellaneous – $5,000 – Unfortunately, a major medical problem does not make you immune to other life challenges. In the months since Travis’ diagnosis we have had to replace a hot water heater and repair a septic system at our house. If you’re a homeowner and you’ve just blown your savings on medical bills, you’re going to want to have an additional reserve for house repairs because, well, when it rains it pours. Also, keep in mind that if you are your own handy (wo)man (or you’re lucky enough to be married to one), you may now have to pay to have other people take care of these problems.In addition to household emergencies there have been an uptick in miscellaneous expenses related to our general household needs – for example, money spent on winter heating expenses because we’re home more often during the day and illness often makes you feel colder than you normally do.
  • Mental Health & Other Health Expenses – $5,000 per family member – I’ll be brief here illnesses come up, regular health needs continue, and counseling can be expensive (but it’s an important piece of your recovery).
  • Lost Wages – $25,000 – We are both incredibly lucky to have employers who have been understanding and supportive – my employer has allowed me to telecommute and Travis’ employer allows him to receive donated leave from his colleagues (and we have been amazed by the outpouring of support he has received from them). Even with that I have had to take some unpaid time off, and expect to do so again in the future. Hopefully Travis will not have to go on disability at any point in this journey, but we just can’t be certain. So, ask yourself, how long could you maintain your lifestyle without your or your partner’s monthly income?

This list includes an estimated $75,000 in lost wages and additional expenses, medical and otherwise, that I wish we would have been better prepared to handle – and this just an estimate based on our experience thus far.

At 32 years old I have never paid a late fee on any bill, I have a 401K and a car that will be fully paid off in approximately 2 months. My husband and I own a house that we have successfully converted into an income-generating rental property. We are coupon-cutting-detail-oriented-budgeters with two solid incomes and no children. We were doing pretty well at this whole adult thing, and yet there was no way we could have been financially prepared for the storm that was coming. Being members of a society with a functioning healthcare system is the primary reason that my husband is still alive, and the reason that we have the possibility of a life again when he finally beats cancer.

The Republican Party emphasizes personal responsibility when cutting social programs while Democrats espouse the values of communal support in propping up those most in need in society — the reality is that both principles are right and yet neither is enough when it comes to an individual healthcare crisis. Even relatively privileged hyper-prepared individuals cannot plan enough for the financial challenges brought on by a devastating medical diagnosis, and even the most carefully curated national health care program will not suffice for an individual who fails to prepare themselves for crisis.

As the healthcare debate continues, I implore you to engage, discuss, listen and learn. Don’t assume that one side has all of the solutions. Look for reputable resources rather than relying on memes, sound bites, and the rhetoric of politicians who may be motivated by advancing their careers. Health care should never be a partisan issue.

Love is Patient.

By Julie

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I wrote this back in October in the week between Travis’ diagnosis and his first brain surgery. At the time I wasn’t ready to share it but I am now. We’ve never been much for celebrating Valentine’s Day (instead we observe the Liz Lemon inspired Anna Howard Shaw Day in our house), but I’m feeling sappy and mushy this year so… Happy Valentine’s Day, Travis! I promise to love you as patiently as I possibly can for as long as you’ll put up with me.

“A reading from 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7… Love is patient…”

If you grew up attending catholic weddings, or I guess really any weddings, you know the rest. We went a completely different route at our wedding selecting non-traditional readings that compared us to trees and made the guests chuckle. That was important to me. I wanted everyone to say it was the best wedding ceremony they’d ever been to. Not too long, not too short. Nothing cliché. Just enough tears and just enough laughter.

I claimed it was because I wanted the ceremony to be uniquely “us,” but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that the competitive side of me wanted some sort of ribbon or trophy for choreographing the perfect event. I guess it’s good that I didn’t pick the reading from first Corinthians, because I already screwed up the part about love not boasting before I even said “I do.”

In re-reading the whole of the scripture I realize now that I knew nothing of what love truly was on the day of my wedding, and that it has only been in living through life’s little lessons that my understanding of truly loving another person has started to take shape. My husband has shown me that love protects as he’s held me through loss and heartbreak. We’ve shown each other that love is not self-seeking by taking turns putting our own careers on hold to help advance the other’s. And we came a long way in trust and perseverance while spending almost a year of our marriage living apart out of necessity during a job change.

But it’s the first line that has evaded my understanding most thus far. Love is patient. Impatience is one of the hallmarks of my personality. I’m a planner. I make lists that include things like “make a list for your upcoming trip.” I have a five year plan, a ten year plan, and a new ten year plan that includes what to do if the initial five year plan somehow turns into a seven year plan.

I am not patient. I have not loved patiently… until this week.

Patiently loving your husband means stopping yourself short of finishing his sentences when he needs a little longer to find the words he is trying to say. It means holding his hand as you walk through a crowded mall because the noise and distraction are too much for him to handle right now. It’s ordering food you know he likes for him so that he doesn’t feel ashamed when he can’t remember the word for “cheeseburger.” It’s not yelling or getting worked up when it takes him two hours to get ready to go to a doctor’s appointment because you told him it was too cold to wear shorts and now he’s looking for winter hats. Patiently loving is reminding him in the moments that he forgets that he has cancer, that he is going to have brain surgery, and that he’s going to be ok, even when you’re not sure you believe the words you’re saying yourself.

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Hamilton

By Julie

In the past year Travis and I have listened to the Hamilton sound track from start to finish at least 20 times. That’s over 48 hours of Hamiltonian immersion.

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Photo: Sara Krulwich/The New York Times (August 2015)

That may seem excessive to some, but when you consider that the majority of that time was spent in the car driving 3.5 hours round trip from our house to the Wilmot Cancer Center in Rochester, it doesn’t seem so bad.

Plus, Hamilton is awesome so that makes it okay too.

I have always been a theater person and a road trip show-tune-singer, but Broadway car karaoke is a totally new thing for Travis. While he has warmed to most of my hobbies in our nearly a decade of life together, listening to show tunes and attending live musical theater had remained things that he seemingly did for me instead of truly with me…until I introduced him to Hamilton. His love of history and his hatred for Thomas Jefferson (no, seriously, ask me about it) were enough to set the hook and within a few songs he was fully invested in the story and the music.

As I looked for ways to help Travis improve his speech and communication challenges over the past several months, I found another excuse to keep Hamilton on repeat. It was suggested to us while Travis was still recovering from brain surgery that consuming language was one of the best ways to help him regain the words he had lost. Just like children who acquire language skills through listening to conversations, adults with brain injuries need to hear words in order to relearn them. Luckily for Travis I like to talk, but even I can’t talk all of the time (as much as I may try). Thankfully Hamilton did not heed Burr’s advice to “talk less,” and has stepped in to fill the occasional silent gap I leave.

The Hamilton soundtrack is packed full of words. At an average of 144 words per minute it is the wordiest show in musical theater history. Better still, the words are rich and challenging which means he’s consuming quantity and quality at the same time when he listens to the songs. Others may claim to have “the best words,” but Hamilton truly does (believe me).

There may not be a scientific way to measure the impact that listening to the music from this show has had on Travis, but I will say I heard him articulately alliterate the phrase “venerated Virginian veteran” long before he was able to name all of the days of the week and well before he could spell his own name. And the first time he confidently counted to ten after his third brain surgery, it was the ten dual commandments he was reciting.

I have always been an advocate for the arts–even dedicating my career to creating learning experiences in informal education spaces like museums–but if I ever needed convincing that the arts and humanities contribute far more to our society than cultural engagement, Travis would be my proof. Rebuilding his brain and cognitive function began with surgery and medicine, but it will continue and flourish because of literature, music and art.

Zebras, not horses.

By Julie

Brain tumors can be very tricky to diagnose. The most common symptoms suffered by those who will ultimately be diagnosed with a brain cancer vary from person to person in quantity and severity, and are almost always indicative of something other than a tumor. Even though Web MD seems to be convinced we all have cancer, most physicians think horses, not zebras, when they hear hoof beats. Brain tumors are definitely zebras.

Awareness campaigns for zebras can be very tricky. There is no test for brain tumors that you can self-administer in the shower, and if you run to your doctor every time you have a brain tumor symptom—which can include headaches, nausea, forgetfulness, communication challenges, balance issues, fatigue, etc.—you may be labeled a hypochondriac (and because your odds of getting a brain tumor are so slim the label, in all likelihood, would be deserved).

In Travis’ case his symptoms were all personality and communication related. There were no headaches, no seizures, no vision changes, there was just something about him that was different. I chalked it up to a mid-life crisis and he attributed it all to stress, but overtime those “differences” became more pronounced and we could no longer ignore that there was something truly wrong. Even then, we were both confident that we would find we were dealing with a horse, not a zebra.

Raising awareness for brain cancer is not about saving the masses, it’s about giving hope to the few unlucky ones who will be touched by this devastating diagnosis.

Approximately 17,000 adults and children will be lost to brain cancer in 2017. In comparison to those who are lost to more common types of cancer that we are made “aware” of through other campaigns, the number seems small. But these 17,000 will leave behind unfinished business and unaccomplished life goals that they put off thinking they had more time. They will leave behind jobs where they were making a positive change in the world. They will leave behind family members and friends who love them and will grieve because they know the world was a better place when their loved one was in it.

Brain cancer awareness efforts are almost entirely focused on raising funds to support research. Breakthroughs in research result in new treatments and therapies that can increase long term survival and improve quality of life for brain cancer patients. Don’t wait until the fight becomes personal; take steps today to aid in the battle against brain cancer.

How can I help?

  • Stay informed and become an advocate for neuroscience research. Contact your congressional representatives and tell them how important funding research through the National Institute of Heath and other bodies is to you and others. The Society of Neuroscience provides resources on how to stay politically active here: http://www.sfn.org/advocacy/advocacy-network
  • Donate or raise funds for organizations that conduct important brain cancer research including Dana-Farber. Join our walk team or make a contribution: www.jimmyfundwalk.org/2017/teamwolverine
  • Take control of your health, know your own body and become your own personal advocate. Find a medical professional who you trust and who does not dismiss your health concerns. Whether you ultimately find you are dealing with a horse or that you are afflicted with the more rare zebra diagnosis, your health matters and you should feel comfortable discussing and exploring any change to your body or mind that concerns you.

Travis Speaks

By Travis

I didn’t see this video until this week and I don’t remember recording it. I don’t remember much about that day, that week, or many of the things that happened in the months prior to this day, but my wife tells me this was the day I was told I had a brain tumor.

In this video I am explaining to one of my colleagues how to pick up the pieces that I left behind when I abruptly disappeared from my job. Apparently this was one of the activities that Julie and I used to pass the time during my first hospital stay along with coloring, walking laps around the nurses’ station, and watching cat videos on YouTube. Someone from work would ask a question via text and then Julie would record me answering the question, and collectively the group would decipher what it is I was trying to say.

Watching this video now is difficult. I don’t even recognize the person who is talking. I know it is me, but it doesn’t look or sound like me. It is uncomfortable for me to share this video but I am sharing it because I hope that people can learn something from it and from my experience. I hope that those who see this will make their health a priority and will trust the cues their body gives them when they notice that something has changed.

I’ve come a long way in the months since my diagnosis thanks to the work of a cognitive research team at the University of Rochester, and the various therapists I have worked with since my brain surgeries in November. I still have a long way to go but it is amazing to see how far I have come. There is no quick fix for the challenges I have faced and am facing. I hope that none of you are ever faced with something like this, but if you are just know that if you keep at it you can overcome anything.

Please support Team Wolverine

In Sickness & In Health

By: Julie

When your spouse is diagnosed with cancer you learn quickly what it means to be there “in sickness and in health.” Right now Travis‘ one and only job is beating cancer, and my job is to do everything in my power to help him succeed. His current treatment regimen is very complex so this means coordinating a calendar with an average of 3 appointments each day, managing medical bills, organizing pills and dispensing them at the right times, and arranging daily travel to and from Rochester. It’s a good thing that I love spreadsheets and whiteboards and label makers and three ring binders and… you get the point. 

Anything that makes these complex tasks a little easier is huge, and any assistance we receive with medical/travel bills and logistics is such a relief! In addition to our amazing family and friends who have cooked us meals, driven Travis to appointments, scooped our cats’ litter boxes, and sent us cash and gift cards that have helped pay for food and gas, we have been lucky to have an amazing resource provided by the American Cancer Society (ACS).

Several nights, including tonight, we have had the pleasure of staying at Hope Lodge in Rochester, free of charge. On days when the long drive is just too much to face, this place has offered us respite from the road and the relief from paying for a hotel room. So to anyone who has ever donated to the ACS or participated in an ACS event such as Relay for Life — this is your dollars and your hard work in action! Thank you! Please continue to support these worthy causes!

We’ve chosen to direct our fundraising efforts towards Dana Farber because of their focus on research and dedication to rare cancers like glioblastoma. It can take years and even decades for advances in brain cancer treatment to emerge because patients who are eligible for and healthy enough to participate in studies and trials are rare. Institutions like Dana Farber continue to push the envelope in developing new opportunities for patients like Travis.

Please support Team Wolverine

 

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Team Wolverine: An Origin Story

By Julie

On October 19, 2009, our lives changed forever when Travis asked me to be his wife. In the years since we’ve celebrated our “engageaversary” each year with great joy and had planned to do the same in 2016. But, instead of enjoying a nice sushi dinner we found ourselves in an emergency room as doctors worked to assess whether or not Travis was having a stroke.

For weeks something had not been right but neither of us could figure out exactly what was wrong, and on October 19th things were suddenly worse. Travis couldn’t find the words he wanted to say and his sentences turned into incoherent babble. When the doctor said “brain tumor,” neither of us even flinched. Everything made sense, but our lives would again be forever changed on October 19th.

From the moment he received the diagnosis of brain cancer, Travis has faced it with an incredible sense of humor. When the neurosurgeons rattled off the list of possible surgical complications that “less than 5% of patients” encounter, Travis asked “what percentage of patients come out of surgery with super powers?” Just like all the other complications they jokingly assured us that the sudden acquisition of super powers occurred in “less than 5% of patients.”

Travis was admitted to Strong Memorial Hospital for a tumor removal operation on November 2nd. We were pleasantly surprised to learn that they expected him to spend no more than 3-5 days as an inpatient. That seemed too good to be true for brain surgery, and for us it turned out to be. All those complications that “less than 5% of patients” get, Travis seemed to get all of them. An unexpected bleed, excessive swelling in his brain, seizures, low blood counts requiring multiple transfusions, and the list goes on. One surgery turned into three and 3-5 days as an inpatient turned into several weeks in the neuro ICU.

With each new complication his doctors prepared me for the worst, but Travis pulled through each one like it was nothing more than a speed bump. When he finally woke up, it happened to be in time to celebrate his birthday. His beard wasts_wolverine overgrown from nearly three weeks without a shave, and patchy from having chunks of hair pulled out by surgical tape. For his birthday he had one request from his nurse, Alex, who apparently also moonlighted as a barber – “I want to look like the Wolverine.”

It was more than just a new look. You see, despite the complications he had encountered, Travis had seemingly also acquired super powers – the super healing and super strength of the Wolverine—when he needed them most. While I had secretly been hoping for the power of flight or perhaps telekinesis, the hope that
comes with watching a cancer patient exhibit the power of super healing strength is beyond words.

Please support Team Wolverine.