On May 5, 2016, Carlos Martin del Campo found himself in Rochester, Minnesota. Some might say that Rochester is an unlikely place to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, but it's a good place, it turns out, for puns related to the observance. Carlos was, however, "celebrating life" and thinking about writing his story, as he says in a post called "Cinco de Mayo (Clinic): A Brain Tumor Story" published earlier this month on Medium.
His story — at least the part covered in this telling — started in a hospital lobby where Bob Marley was on the telly. (Sounds like our kind of lobby.) He saw it as a sign.
We'll let him take it from here (with permission, of course).
I entered the lobby and looked up at the TV. A Bob Marley documentary was playing. I took it as a sign. That ordinary, terrifying moment will stick with me forever. It validated what I already knew deep down inside. "I have a brain tumor."
Earlier that day I had my very first MRI. I spent my hours at the office stressing and surfing the web for everything brain tumor related. I read descriptions of various symptoms, clinical studies that were beyond my understanding, heart-wrenching blog posts, treatment options, Yahoo forums dedicated to supplement and diet plans, etc. I came across a list of public figures with brain cancer – a list that included Bob Marley. The story goes that he refused to have surgery because it meant having his dreads shaved off.
I was freaking out during the days leading up to the MRI. My roommate thought that I was crazy for thinking the worst. My boss told me to stop looking at the Internet. The doctor insisted that I was fine. But my intuition told me that I had a tumor.
After the diagnosis, I went on cross-country medical tour. I was lucky to visit the best hospitals to get several opinions: Dana Farber, Sloan Kettering, John Hopkins, Duke, MD Anderson, Cedars-Sinai, and Mayo Clinic. While some renowned neuro-oncologists and neurosurgeons recommended that I get a biopsy as soon as possible and even speculated treatment options (radiation and chemotherapy), others advocated a more conservative approach, waiting and watching. I felt most comfortable at Mayo Clinic. My intuition also told me it wasn't growing.
Fast-forward six years and I am still here. The tumor hasn't grown at all and I have not undergone any treatment. Last week, on Cinco de Mayo I had my most recent MRI. After getting the good news, I told my new doctor a bad joke, "Happy Cinco de Mayo Clinic." She cracked up.
This is more of a teaser than a diagnosis story. It's missing the lead up, the actual diagnosis and my initial reaction. I will get to that.
Part of the reason Carlos wrote this part of his story at this time, he notes, is that May is brain cancer awareness month. And he wants to use his skills and his story to "bring more attention to brain tumors and the organizations dedicated to finding brain cancer cures, providing practical and clinical information, and creating a support system for survivors." Organizations like Accelerate Brain Cancer Cure.
In his next chapter, perhaps we'll learn about his "experience doing magnetic therapy with a Shaman couple in Mexico" and other tales from the road. Carlos says he's considered starting a blog he'd call "Hit By a Gray Bus" in honor of gray matter and people's tendency to respond to news of life threatening illness by saying "I could get hit by a bus tomorrow." We'd prefer to see Carlos in the driver's seat, and we'd gladly hop on board.
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