Tag Archives: migraines


on the occasion of my 3-year anniversary – 3 years since the day this picture was taken:

i thought i’d answer a few questions that might come to a new reader of my blog and possibly even a longtime reader.

where did the name “tumorfest” come from?

“tumorfest” is the name my friend madalaine gave to the drive that she, my mom, and i took from arizona to oregon. on the first anniversary of my tumor surgery, i was in hawaii and got my phoenix tattoo. for the second anniversary, i wanted to throw a party to get folks from different parts of my recovery together. tumorfest was the logical name. the second tumorfest was this last week. august 7th.

who made that rad tumorfest logo?

the logo came to me in a dream. i drew it and emailed it to my buddy noah (son of madalaine). he does graphic design, so he whipped up the logo. the colors are from my plaid rocking chair.

you used to have a lot of migraines. do you still?

gary, me, mike

i started getting migraines in elementary school. as a young adult, they became more frequent, and before my medical drama i was having 4 or 5 a month. they almost always were on my left side, behind my eye. which is where my tumor was/is. since my surgeries, i haven’t had a single migraine, not even a headache. a silver lining.

where were you when you had your stroke?

my stroke happened after the tumor surgery, so i was conveniently already in the hospital.

how did your stroke happen?

the tumor was too large to remove completely, so dr. spetzler de-massed it. the area where it was collapsed, which pulled on structures it was attached to – that was the bleed – a hemorrhagic stroke.

what is your secret chicanes wish?

my wish is that ellen will discover this blog and have me on her show to shower me with rad canes. this wish is complicated by the fact that i have no desire to be on television.

what are you going to be studying when you start at osu in the fall?

i’m starting a master of arts in interdisciplinary studies. i’ll be integrating three fields (mine are sociology, english, and speech communications) to create my own program of study. i’ll be looking at how writing personal narrative in a group can be used to heal trauma. basically the writing part of  digital storytelling.

do you still collect canes? how many do you have?

there are 14 canes in my hall tree. i inherited a few from my grandma when she died, and i’ll continue to keep a lookout for cool canes. you should, too.

now that you aren’t walking with a cane anymore, shouldn’t you change the name of this blog?

i named the blog “chicanes” because of a line from an ELO song (“can’t get it out of my head” – a little tumor humor). and i stand by my tagline – “if you have to walk with a cane, you might as well have some rad ones.” that’s just a fact.

it looks like your life is really good. should i go and have a stroke so that i can be cool like you?

yes, my life is really good. but i strongly suggest that you avoid having a stroke, if possible. pretty much everything i do is hard. but i don’t mind the hard work – “i’m just glad to be here, happy to be alive.” there has to be an easier way to have a cool life like me. to get started, i’d advise you to look for silver linings, to notice all of the things around you to be grateful for, and to put good into the universe – it comes back to you.


trauma rookie

i managed to make it to 36 without real trauma in my life.

oh, i had things that i thought were traumatic.

my grandpa died – of old age, mainly. and i was about 30 at the time. and my other grandpa is still alive. sad to lose a grandpa, but not traumatic.

my grandpa fred was very tolerant of my tomfoolery.

the process of adopting my foster daughter and raising her was certainly challenging. difficult, but not traumatic.

i’d been getting migraines since i was in elementary school. really painful, but it turns out that they weren’t traumatic.

so then what’s trauma? merriam webster says, “a disordered psychic or behavioral state resulting from severe mental or emotional stress or physical injury.” i think that “severe” is the key word. it’s so relative. before my medical drama, i would have described my foster-parenting and my migraines as severe. now i know better.

there’s a secret society of migraine sufferers. when we tell someone that we get migraines and they respond by saying that they get headaches too, we smile and nod. we’re glad that they don’t know what a migraine feels like. behind my nod i’m thinking, “well isn’t that quaint. he thinks that migraines are like headaches.” but when you meet someone else who gets migraines, there’s something unspoken. it’s a look.

about two weeks before i joined the trauma club.

soon after my medical drama, my friend’s roommate was one of the hikers lost on mt. hood. it turned out that what i was going through helped me to understand what my friend was going through. i was able to relate to her, and she to me. losing a roommate and losing the ability to walk are clearly two very different things, but there’s this underlying piece. “severe emotional stress.” i guess that trauma is like pornography – you know it when you see it. and i saw it in my friend.

since then, i’ve seen it in a friend who went through a very difficult parting from her child’s father, a recovering alcoholic, a friend whose significant other was killed, a mother whose daughter went through some serious medical drama, and many other people. just yesterday i was minding my friend’s boutique and i saw it in a breast cancer survivor who came in to pick up a bracelet and ended up striking up a conversation with me.

so by choosing my attitude i managed to survive my rookie trauma rookie year. and i guess i’m a life-long member of the trauma club. the trauma club is like the migraine club: you don’t want anyone else to join, but it’s a relief when you find out you’re not the only one.

my fabulous nurse brian. he threw me a cheesecake party when i left arizona.

side note: somehow when i joined the trauma club i gave up my membership in the migraine club. not one since my medical drama, and before i used to have 2 or 3 a month. a silver lining. please note that i’m not suggesting that you have a bunch of brain surgeries and a stroke and stuff to get rid of your migraines. there has to be an easier way.

i guess that my advice for any trauma rookies out there is to talk about it. and not necessarily only with people who might have been through something similar to what you’ve been through. other folks can help you. and you help them by giving them the opportunity to put what they’ve learned to good use.

let's talk trauma over some pizza.