On Brain Tumors

I’m very sad to hear about Senator Kennedy’s malignant glioma, because I’ve unfortunately watched a man go through it before. The most common type, unfortunately, is also the worst, and it’s not a pretty process.

When I was in high school, I was interested in a jazz and media program at the local university. My piano teacher, who didn’t have any experience playing or teaching jazz, arranged for me to get private lessons with the jazz piano prof, John Emche. John was a sweet guy, very friendly and generous with his time.

After a few months of lessons, I knocked on his door as usual and he opened it, clearly woozy and with the lights out. He was sorry, he said, he had been sleeping because of some muscle relaxants the doctor had given him for a sudden series of debilitating headaches. The next time he had forgotten to cancel the lesson and was somewhat confused.

Then I learned he had a brain tumor and was getting surgery. The next time I saw him he was bald with scars on his head from the surgery. He was clearly much better, though his eyesight had been affected. But in a couple of months he was confused again and would drift back and forth. After that he quit teaching while he got radiation treatment.

It looked hopeful for a while, but I never had another lesson with him. Apparently the doctors determined, as is usual, that it had spread and there was little else they could do. So they quit treating him, let him regain his strength, and he and his wife went on a cruise together while he was still functional enough. Apparently it was good for both of them to relax and enjoy something together.

Very soon thereafter, he passed away. The whole process took about a year from what I recall (bear in mind this was 22 years ago). Now fortunately for Senator Kennedy, he has more resources and, more importantly in the world of medicine, more influence to ensure he’s not in the control group of an experimental study. But  depending on the severity and type of tumor, he could be gone very soon.

Whatever you may think of someone or their politics, it’s a frightening prospect, hard on them and their loved ones, and I really hope the outcome is better for him. But the odds are not good, and I don’t wish that on anybody. One small consolation is that Senator Kennedy had a good long life until this point. John Emche was in his thirties–this disease doesn’t really care who you are or what you’re like. And John Emche was a great guy who deserved more time with us.

If You’re Stuck With a Job, Be Damn Good At It

Dave Weigel of Reason Magazine may have been stuck with the job of political reporting, alienating some readers used to horserace-free think pieces, but damn if he hasn’t taken it and made it his bitch. Here’s Dave on the Oregon primary results:

UPDATE 11:07: Everyone except CNN calls Oregon for Obama. Bill Kristol informs Fox viewers that Oregonians are all “drinking lattes and sipping granola.” I’m confused as to how this is a greater character flaw than the Kentuckyian trend of “strongly disliking black people.”

Fafnir Interviews Hillary Clinton

CLINTON: Ha haaa! Well you know, anyone off the street with a scary black pastor can talk about change, but it takes a fighter to fight for change. And I’m a fighter. I’m tough. And if you lived my life you’d be pretty darn tough too. I mean, I had to go to Wellesley. That was my safety school. But I was strong anyway and I endured. And as president I’ll fight the insurance industry and the pharmaceutical industry and the health care industry, just as soon as they stop giving me millions of dollars!
FB: That’s that no-nonsense down-to-business style I like about you, Hillary Clinton! You don’t just talk about change. You talk about how much you don’t just talk about change!

Seriously, if at this point you still support Hillary “racist whites are more racist than sexist, so vote for me, because for sure they’ll keep voting for me over an Old White Man in November” Clinton, you should read this.