Richard Wanderman

Brain Cancer

Dictation sucks. My wife is currently typing (and editing) as I speak. Maybe some day I’ll be able to do this again, but right now I can’t. It sucks.

This is going to be a tough post to write. The short of it is I have a brain tumor. We’ve done a biopsy and it’s a glioblastoma, deep in my brain and inoperable, but I thought it was time that I let people know what’s going on.

This has all come on relatively quickly; we didn’t know what I had last week, but I was definitely feeling woozy and uncoordinated. On December 1st, not feeling well, I drove to New Milford for an unrelated blood test. While taking blood, the techie remarked that I looked like shit. He took my blood pressure which was very low, and then advised me that I shouldn’t drive home. But I did, stopping at my primary care doctor’s office. I was immediately waved in by the nurse who I’ve known for 25 years. She sent me home to collect my wife and check in at the emergency room at New Milford Hospital. After 7 hours attended by the fabulous Dr. Chu, a CAT scan and MRI, we got the bad news. Brain tumor. BRAIN TUMOR!

After the initial diagnosis I was on a steroid drug, and it helped me feel better. I talked and walked more easily. The tumor seems to be in the motor area of my brain although we don’t know much more than that yet. I’m off the steroid now. Lots of other chemicals are swimming around in my blood. I’m a little loopy now.

On Tuesday, December 3rd, we met with Dr. Altorelli, our long time and wonderful physician. He showed us the MRI, explained what had been learned and laid out the general plan for the upcoming weeks. He was extremely reassuring about adhering to quality of life issues that will obviously be relevant in the upcoming months. I didn’t know how he could be blunt and kindly at the same time, but he was.

On Friday, December 7th, we were sent to Yale/New Haven Hospital emergency room. Unbeknownst to us, ER’s are routinely used for diagnoses. It was very busy; my bed was in the hall which gave an interesting view of comings, goings and all kinds of strange activities. Various technicians, nurses and doctors arrived at bedside with all kinds of vague (to us) communications. Finally, they ordered their own MRI, which resulted in admission to the hospital. We already had an appointment for the following Tuesday for a biopsy and wished we’d been able to return home before the scary event. Most likely, it was best to be in the hospital for monitoring and preparation, but it sucked. No one in the three-bed room got any sleep, or knew what the heck was going on with them.

To the OR

On Tuesday December 11th, Bonnie (daughter) arrived at the hospital to be with us for the duration. She took point and steadied the elders throughout the pre-op interviews and preps. Once in Smilow Cancer Center, things seemed to go more smoothly and quickly. Everyone on the team introduced themselves and were very reassuring both with words and physical contact. They tell me that after I went to sleep, they slipped a needle through my skull and then deep into my left midbrain, then took samples of the monster in my head. They identified the tumor as a glioblastoma, but further testing will give more detailed information that will drive treatment.

Post OR

When the results are final from the the biopsy, we will meet with doctors who specialize in treatment using chemicals and radiation. We are also hoping for some immunotherapy. We have the appointments at Yale/New Haven right after Christmas. Soon we will have appointments at Memorial Sloan Kettering for second opinions.

We’ve been home for two days. The most frustrating symptom is the loss of typing and sometimes word retrieval. I don’t mind not driving since my chauffeur (Anne) is right here.

I get tired by mid day, but the sofa in front of the wood stove is very nice.

I’m going to use this blog to share information. Link to it and/or pass it around.
So, that’s it for now. I’ll update you as I know more.

Stay tuned.

My parents and me

My parents and me

I’m guessing this was taken in 1953 (I’m 2, my parents are 38). Walter, Frances, Richard. This was shot by a professional portrait studio in New York and printed on very nice rag paper. The texture on the paper makes a nice, soft print although makes it tougher to scan. I didn’t correct the color on this one; it was no doubt printed as a monochrome but I’m not sure if the sepia tinge is age or was in the original print.

I’ve been scanning old pictures for a photo album I’m making for my mother for her 100th birthday, coming up on May 26th.

Reflections on New York

Richard and Gary reflecting on New York

Richard and Gary reflecting on New York

New York City. Gary and I were in New York to see the Gary Winogrand show at the Met and see what Manhattanhenge was all about. We had a great day, walking all over the city taking pictures of all sorts of things. Now it’s going to take us a while to sort through the images and get them posted. This small collection is my start: various reflections and shadows from around the city.

Richard reflecting on Wall Street

Richard reflecting on Wall Street

Gary shooting up

Gary shooting up

Ground Zero balloon sculpture reflections

Ground Zero balloon sculpture reflections

Richard and Gary shooting 1 World Trade Center

Richard and Gary shooting 1 World Trade Center

Sage’s Ravine

Untitled

My friend Gary Sharp took this picture of me with his iPhone 5 and Hipstamatic on our epic hike from undermountain trail, over Bear Mountain, down into Sage’s Ravine, then up the Appalachian Trail to Mt. Race, over Race and down the Race Brook Falls trail. It was epic because it was long (12 miles) and we ran into a fierce storm cell just after going over Mt. Race. We got hailed on and completely soaked going down the Race Brook Falls trail. We still had a great time.

Framing Getty Abstraction prints

Richard at work framing Getty show

My friend Gary Sharp is visiting for Thanksgiving and he caught me doing some framing of prints for an upcoming show I’ve got.

For those who do their own framing, I found out the hard way that using acrylite (acrylic) for the glazing of large prints (23.5″ squares) can be problematic: the acrylic bowed just a bit and when I was working on the back of the frames I scratched numerous pieces as I moved the frames around on my work table. Given this I’ve decided to switch the glazing on these larger pieces to glass which I’m buying from a local frame shop to avoid the long distance shipping from the place I buy my frames from. Glass is certainly more fragile and a bit heavier but it makes for a sturdier package once it’s all together, one doesn’t have to give recipients special cleaning instructions, and the glare seems close to the same.

Gary caught me checking the surface of a newly glazed matted print before it gets put into its frame.

Steve Jobs changed my life

Dear Mrs. Jobs,

My condolences for your loss.

I walked up to your husband in 1984 at the West Coast Computer Faire in San Francisco and asked him to give me a then brand new Macintosh computer to take with me to Alaska to work with students and adults with learning disabilities. We talked for a few minutes and by the time I returned home to Oregon the Macintosh was waiting for me. In short order that computer changed my life and the lives of the people in Alaska I worked with.

The Macintosh allowed me to experience my own intelligence, separate from my learning disability for the first time in my life. In turn, I helped thousands of other people all over the world experience the same thing.

I met Steve only once more many years later in an Apple Education Advisory Board meeting I was part of but the size and format of the meeting never allowed me to pull him aside and thank him for what he’d done for me.

Steve’s vision has changed millions of lives all over the world. I’m one of those people.

Thank you for what your husband did for me.

Richard

Richard climbing in Yosemite

Richard climbing in Yosemite

Mid-1970’s, Yosemite Valley, California. This picture was taken by my then girlfriend and climbing partner Faye Nakamura. I’m not sure which climb we were on but it’s not a wall since I don’t have a haul line or aiders.

You’ll notice a few “Friends” (expandable protection) on my rack on the right. These were original pieces made by and bought from Ray Jardine who invented them long before expandable protection became popular and generic.

Most of the photographs we took on climbs in those days were slides and I have yet to scan my extensive and unfortunately deteriorating slide collection. I hope to get to it before it fades away.

Yes, I was a serious climber for about ten years and climbed quite a bit in Yosemite Valley including some walls. These days my knees knock cleaning my gutters on an extension ladder and hiking is what I do for adventure. I’m glad I experienced the climbing scene when I did; I never got into the indoor climbing gym scene, competiions, or speed climbing with and without equipment. I was what modern climbers call a “trad” (traditional).

For those of you interested in climbing (and entertaining stories), you might enjoy this (true) story I wrote a while back: A Climbing Story.