The day my Mom laughingly told the story of losing her keys in the Target parking lot, I was worried. It turns out that she left her keys in the ignition with the car idling. There were other clues that things were not 100% anymore but my Mom at 80 was adamant about her independence. I called my sister and we discussed moving Mom out of her house, closer to one of us. Mom had hip replacement surgery at age seventy and despite being a smoker, she was incredibly healthy. I knew that things were getting serious when Mom started wearing her “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” lanyard. She agreed to assisted living the morning that she couldn’t remember how to walk. Mom lived her last years in her beautiful apartment, her days spent listening to live piano performances, painting with watercolors, going on field trips, and doing chair yoga.
The week in August 2022 that I tested positive for Covid was a hot and humid one, I was able to drag myself outside twice a day to feed my chickens and that was it. I was feverish and had a throbbing headache, I lost my sense of smell and became very forgetful. After four days I drove to Easton to visit my grandchildren who also had tested positive, we were all weary of being in quarantine. Driving on Route 50 was a bit of an “out of body” experience, parking was an absolute nightmare. The starter in my car is push button, no key, so I had to spend a minute reading the button to make sure that the car was turned off. I didn’t want my own version of my Mom’s Target parking lot debacle.
I have had long term Covid effects, my balance isn’t what it was before. I’ve noticed it when riding my bike now. My short term memory is sketchy. To compensate I concentrate on doing balancing poses during my yoga practice and I drink Lion’s Mane coffee everyday. According to scientific studies, Lion’s Mane, Chaga, and Reishi mushrooms are the three most effective medicinal mushrooms for brain health. They help protect the brain from neurodegeneration, boost cognitive function, improve memory, mood, focus, and concentration.
I mentioned my concerns to my doctor during my yearly exam and he suggested an MRI just to alleviate any worries about dementia. I showed up to the MRI without having done my usual research. I had a few moments in the waiting room to google the best and most powerful Mudra as I knew I had to keep very still. Prana Mudra is the most powerful, with tip of the thumb touching ring and little finger. Mudras help to link the brain to the body, soothe pain, change our mood, stimulate endorphins, and increase vitality. I kept my hands in that position for the entire MRI. I made mental spring cleaning lists, recited a few poems that I memorized as a child, imagined myself walking on the beach and swimming in the warm, blue water of Kaneohe Bay throughout the thunderous hammering of the MRI, especially when the claustrophobia crept in.
The day of my MRI results appointment, the nurse gave me a cognitive test which was a bit stressful. She told me to remember three words (apple, table, penny) while she asked me other unrelated questions. I took the three first letters of the words as an acronym, and held onto ATP as a reminder. Then I had to spell WORLD backwards and tell the day and date. When my doctor walked in to the exam room he said; “ Kate, you aced the cognitive test!” I breathed a sigh of relief and jokingly said, “ I thought you were going to tell me that I have a brain tumor.” My doctor then said, “Kate, you do have a brain tumor.” It’s funny what your mind does when confronted with serious news, mine was screaming “get out of here now!!” I listened politely to the name of my tumor and “not cancer” but all I heard was neurosurgeon and tumor. I held my breath and almost ran out of the office. The fresh air never felt so good. It was all so surreal that I started laughing.
May is Brain Tumor Awareness Month. Brain cancer is the 10th deadliest cancer in the United States. Each year in the U.S., more than 23,000 people are diagnosed with brain cancer. My brother-in-law was one of those people who fought a valiant battle with brain cancer and died. He was a man who loved his family, he was full of life, and then the seizures began.
“In May we Wear Gray” – Brain Cancer Awareness Month
Kate Emery General is a retired chef/restaurant owner that was born and raised in Casper, Wyoming. Kate loves her grandchildren, knitting and watercolor painting. Kate and her husband , Matt are longtime residents of Cambridge’s West End where they enjoy swimming and bicycling.