Beacon fires calling immune cells to the battle:
I wrote previously about how much I like the visual of Riders of Rohan breaking the siege of Minas Tirith, and how I use it as a reference for my meditations on immune cells killing tumor cells. One tidbit I neglected in the first draft: the classic scene where the Beacon Fires of Amon Din are lit to call Rohan to Gondor’s aid. Refresher for the non-LOTR geeks reading this blog: Gondor and Rohan are allies and have a series of beacon fires on mountains connecting them in case of emergency, like the Great Wall of China. It’s a fairly dramatic scene when Gondor finally calls for Rohan’s aid, and the beacon fires are lit. The metaphor of Lord of the Rings is almost perfect for my uses; this is no exception. I’ve taken to visualizing the beacon signal starting near the tumor site, then progressing to all the peripheral immune cells that will – hopefully – finish the job that surgery started. No matter what weapon you use against cancer – radiation, chemo, or surgery – at some point the immune system has to step in and do its duty if your goal is total tumor eradication. So, the beacon fires calling immune cells is a useful image. Also useful: King Theoden confidently declaring that Rohan will answer Gonder’s call for aid. Especially because when the Riders of Rohan arrive at the siege, they know exactly what needs to be done. There is some debate about the extent of immune surveilliance in the CNS, and gliomas certainly have mechanisms to evade immune detection. But with all the dead and exposed tumor cells in my brain cavity, the hope is that novel tumor antigens are being presented to immune cells, and that a successful anti-tumor response will be mounted. Since gliomas are pretty rare in the grand scheme of things, and quite a few of these don’t regrow after a gross total resection, it’s plausible that immune cells might hold glioma growth in check under normal circumstances. In any case, it’s a pleasant and useful thing to visualize, and a bit more poetic than imaging Pacman eating your tumor cells.
Low blood sugar and bad thoughts:
I wrote earlier my hypothesis that hypoglycemia correlates with dark, morbid thoughts. This hypothesis is demonstrably true. I’ve watched my blood suagr closely over the last few days, as assayed by the amount of tremor in my hands, and it clearly correlates with the bad, intrusive, morbid thoughts that I discussed earlier. It’s worst in the mornings: waking up groggy and disoriented from the Keppra, low blood sugar, negative thoughts. Mornings suck, until tea is accomplished. Particularly demoralizing since I do my meditation right before bed, and I’ve been falling asleep lately in a calm, confident state of mind, and then to start the next day on a bad note. Nonetheless, it is reassuring that eating more meals can overcome many of the intrusive bad thoughts. I love easy fixes.
Bad thoughts as highway signs:
What are these intrusive, morbid thoughts anyway? Most of them are of the “what if…” variety. For example:
1. What if this had been an aggressive grade IV tumor instead of a more indolent grade II?
2. What if the surgery hadn’t gone well?
3. What if it regrows?
4. What if it transforms?
Bad thoughts, through and through. I note that all of them are worries about things that have either not happened or may never happen (god willing). One of my good friends, who has had more than her own fair share of misfortune recently, wrote me a kind note explaining her visualization approach to make thoughts like these disappear. Apologies my friend for posting this without clearing it with you ahead of time – this technique is simply too good to keep it to myself. She writes:
“I like to visualize myself driving down the highway… the feelings/thoughts are like road signs. You read all of them, acknowledge them, but then just drive by. They don’t necessarily mean anything or deserve any further thought or action.”
Lovely words and very useful. I have stopped counting bad unproductive thoughts since I was sent this approach, and it’s been much easier to focus on productive lines of action and resistance. That, along with physical exercise and staying busy, keeps the bad “what if’s” well away. Another heartfelt thanks to my friend, for her superlative tidbit of wisdom.