Tag Archives: tumorfest


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.


giving thanks

in 2010 i started a new tradition. during the year i keep a list of all of the folks who have helped me somehow, then in november i send thanksgiving cards to the people on my list. i made a digital story about it.

this year there were 217 people and organizations on my list. it wasn’t financially possible to send a card to every one of them, so i had to whittle the list down to 150 (149 – i kept one card for myself). the act of revising the list was itself an exercise in gratitude, and fortunately i feel pretty confident that i’ve thanked the people who were on the original list but won’t be getting a card from me. i found a card i liked at tiny prints. i looked through my pictures from the last year and came up with 4 that were pretty representative of the year i had. i’ve been able to put more of my energy into living my life instead of into recovery, regaining things i’d lost. so the pictures are from some experiences with friends and family. well, i’ll show you.

what do we have here?

top left – with molly and zari at zari’s graduation from willamette university. zari has been my friend since she was in preschool, which means that i’ve known molly since they buddied-up around middle school. two very awesome ladies.

top right – kristin and i eating lunch in montrose, a haunt from our elementary school days. the picture was taken by my friend sandy from high school. it was the first time those streams had crossed (there is nothing dirty about that sentence, so knock it off). before that week, kristin and i hadn’t seen each other in about 25 years.

bottom left – me with emily. we’d just ridden the ohsu tram in portland – my first time. it was a lovely day with amazing views of mount hood and mount st. helens. the picture was taken by my cousin mark. he was visiting from arizona. also off-camera is mark’s friend k.c. – they had a thanks-to-facebook reunion that day.

bottom right – me with my grandma betty. my friend lisa took this picture at tumorfest. that’s the lovely brick wall that i see when i look out my kitchen window.

i’ve been having a flare-up of my neurological symptoms, which has significantly shortened my self-propelled travel radius. so much of the last few weeks have been spent at home in my apartment. not being easily able to go out turned out to be a silver lining. i’ve spent an hour or so each morning writing notes on the back of each of the 149 cards.

one day i was feeling well enough to walk down the block for a pumpkin spice latte and pecan pie while i wrote some notes.

my spirits were lifted each day when i thought about all of the wonderful things, big and small, that these folks bring to my life. it also gave me time to do some math. look – i even made a chart!

here’s some geography for you. there were 6 international cards (2 to greece, 1 each to morocco, india, australia and good ol’ canada) and 4 hand-delivered. i could have hand-delivered more of them, but i think that getting mail is fun. plus i’m trying to single-handedly (bob dole refuses to help) save the united states post office.

here are some more numbers from operation giving thanks 2011:

# of times i cursed in a note – 2, i think. both were pretty mild.

# of envelopes short – 1

# of stamps licked – 0. i don’t miss the taste of stamps one bit.

# of duplicates – 1 that i noticed. and the winner is ms. juliet carter.

juliet, me, kermit. in northern greece on AFS in 1990.

 in honor of juliet, # of cards to people i know from my summer in greece – 5

# of cards to people who are or were once my neighbors – 8

# of cards to people who are relatives of mine – 9

# of times i wrote the word “kriste” – 298

# of cards to people who have their writing tattooed on me – 3

# of cards to people who have tattooed me – 1

# of cards returned to sender – 2

# of cards to friends from when i was in elementary school – 5

# of cards to people/organizations i met directly because of tumorfest – 16

when i look at the list i’m reminded of the promise i made to myself when my medical drama happened. 10 years later i wanted to look back and be thankful that i had the brain tumor. i’m coming up on 2.5 years. a quarter of the way there – wow. and so many of the folks i wrote notes to are in my life because of that brain tumor – directly and indirectly (facebook. i’m looking at you.).

i highly recommend writing thanksgiving cards. the holiday season has never been a favorite of mine, but taking this gratitude inventory this time of year just might change that.

time to start my list for 2012.