The author, Dori Middleman, M.D. is a child and adult psychiatrist in private practice in Merion, PA. She has a musician/conductor husband and two children. She was diagnosed with a pituitary tumor causing Cushing’s Disease in November of 2001. This Golden Oldie was last updated 06/19/2008.
December 28, 2002
Dr. Dori Middleman
HOW TO HAVE FUN WITH A BRAIN TUMOR
A Pituitary Party with a pituitary-shaped cake, complete with tumor of a different-colored icing, a pituitary hunt for the kids, a raffle to benefit the Wellness Community (a cancer support group), and a contest for the most creative object to be inserted inside my head in place of the removed pituitary tumor were ways in which I distracted myself from the terror of brain surgery. I hired a story-teller, who wrote pituitary stories. I bought the game, “Cranium”, to give as prizes for the winner of the replacement-object contest, and my caterer created pituitary-theme foods: pituitary pasta, cerebral cucumbers, and had a cauliflower simulating a brain decorating the table along with a scarecrow who displayed the sign, “If I only had a brain…”
My pituitary party invitation read:
As you may or may not know, I have been diagnosed with a pituitary adenoma, a small brain tumor, and am having surgery on April 3rd. I have decided that one thing you can do for me is help me have fun with my brain tumor. Traditionally, brain tumors have been viewed as undesirable, somewhat dreaded, and even potentially life-threatening. They’ve gotten a bum rap, in my opinion. I think they give life a purpose (survival with a few brains intact) and give their bearers something to talk about, but better yet, laugh about.
Dan Gottlieb, a Philadelphia Inquirer columnist, in his April Fool’s column on the importance of not taking oneself too seriously, gave me and my party a notable mention, resulting in all of Philadelphia knowing about my surgery and many expressions of support and concern.
Indeed, contemplating death and disease is not the way I most enjoy spending my time, although I did a fair amount of that too. But throughout my illness and recovery, I have attempted to make the most of the cards I have been dealt.
Other health-promoting strategies I have used included:
regular mass e-mailings to my close friends to keep them apprised of how I was doing so they could best offer support;
contacting everyone I could think of for recommendations and information on doctors
finding and conversing with fellow patients on-line in the chatroom for people with my illness, Cushing’s Disease
using hypnosis, yoga, exercise, acupuncture, massage, Gestalt, and energy-work as adjuncts to my medical treatment
re-entering and using psychotherapy to support me emotionally through the process of illness and the stresses of medical treatment (In Gestalt therapy, I spoke to my tumor and my pituitary and came to understand their function in my life: I had a hypomanic pituitary mimicking my own sometimes hyper-functioning mode of living.)
joking with people as much as possible about brain tumors to facilitate comfort of myself and people providing my care from hospital registration personnel to my brain surgeon
carrying with me at all times the small objects people offered to me as brain-tissue replacement
wearing a donut-like pendant covered by a symbol of a healer as a reminder of my brain with a hole in the middle healing
Unfortunately, my surgery was unsuccessful, and I faced a decision between a second surgery or radiation treatment. I did not find this funny. In fact, I was pretty demoralized and said so in an email to friends and colleagues, again inviting humor. One of my colleagues placed a request to the entire international mailing list of my Gestalt therapy colleagues on my behalf, saying she had “an ill friend in need of humor”. In came jokes from around the world – about fifty pages of them – which I read to my driver enroute to my gamma knife radiation treatment in another state. We laughed our way there and back!
Life is what it is. We get what we get. And we might as well enjoy it!
The author, Dori Middleman, M.D. is a child and adult psychiatrist in private practice in Merion, PA. She has a musician/conductor husband and two children. She was diagnosed with a pituitary tumor causing Cushing’s Disease in November of 2001.
Listen Interview on a Philadelphia-area public radio talkshow, Voices in the Family, about Cushing’s Disease and how to make meaning out of illness and adversity.
Read Dr. Dori Middleman’s article HOW TO HAVE FUN WITH A BRAIN TUMOR.
Read Dr. Dori Middleman’s article PSYCHIATRIC ISSUES WITH CUSHING’S DISEASE.
Read “DrDori”, Dr. Dori Middleman’s First Guest Chat, April 14, 2004.
DrDori answered questions in an online Voice Chat, June 12, 2008, 7:30PM eastern. Archives aree available.
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