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A brain tumor is not necessarily a "death sentence".

However, it is a life changing occurrence!

Welcome to "They Call Me 'Galvez'". My friends really do. I can be friends with almost anybody! I'm just a regular guy that had a brain tumor and wants to do something positive with it. This web site is dedicated to my unique journey over the last year. I'm a 31 year old physical therapist in beautiful San Diego, California. I was diagnosed with a golf-ball sized brain tumor in September 2005. I had brain surgery a month later to remove it. It took me almost 1 year to fully recover. I've always believed that things happen for a reason. I really feel like all my life experiences helped me to deal with this crushing diagnosis. I have led a very interesting life thus far, but I still have a lot of things I need to do. After the surgery, I was receiving rehab at the hospital where I used to work. The people I used to work side by side with were now treating me as a patient! Please take your time browsing this site to learn more about my wild ride through this unique experience. If you’re a student or brain tumor patient, drop me a line; I'd love to hear from you

Blog and reviews22 Dec 2015 07:38 pm

Here is another entry from my first travel journal in 1995.

May 12, 1995
sm1Well, here goes another entry into my “journal”.  Yesterday was kind of boring.  My nephew, Paolo, came over to my uncle’s house yesterday morning!  After breakfast we played for a while.  At around 1PM, we went to the mall in Makati: Quad and Shoemart.

Nako! Maraming tao doon! Mayroon mga magandang dalaga rin! Pumenta tayo sa bookstore at mga clothing stores.  Bumili akong mga libro may “Pilipino culture”.  Bumita ako tagalog libro.

OK, enough Tagalog.  I figured I should practice it a little since I am in the Philippines.  I tried getting in touch with my other cousins from the States that were also visiting, Eileen and Janice.  They were out until 10PM last night.  (This was before email, texting, voicemail!)  What’s crazy though is that I went to bed at 9PM!

(I’m noticing that whenever I travel overseas, I got to bed early and wake up early!)

I’m noticing that this entry was a “filler.”  Not much to talk about… they do get better (I hope…) here is another entry

May 14, 1995

On Friday, I finally got to meet up with my cousins Eileen and Janice.  I went over to their Uncle’s house for dinner,  We ended up watching a video of their 25th Wedding Anniversary Celebration.  It seems like the Filipino here are a lot like the ones in the States:  lots of food, laughing, and loud screams of joy.  It was kind of funny looking at everyone’s reaction at seeing themselves on TV.  After that, we ended up going to a night club in Makati:  CATS.  Actually, it was like “Asian Persuasion Thursdays at Nectos” in Ann Arbor, only it wasn’t.

The next day I had to get up early to go to San Pablo.  On the way there, we stopped at the Galvez resort:  “Balik Bayan”.  (I think my Aunt owns another one in San Pablo, “Makiling Breeze”.) When I finally got back to San Pablo, I wanted to do some site seeing.  Actually, this entry sucks cause I don’t feel like writing anything now.

HAHAHA!  I had to force myself to write stuff down back then.  The early stages of something that would eventually lead to a blog.  At 19 years old, my main interests were in going out and meeting pretty girls.

Blog and reviews20 Dec 2015 08:23 pm

airbending-symbolThe second entry from my journal… It was one long flight to the Philippines!

 

May 10, 1995 (cont)

Captain’s log, supplemental (I was/am such a geek!)  My voyage to the Philippines has just begun.  I arrived in Manila at 2100.  God, I was so tired when we got to Osaka for our connecting flight to Manila.  I was just waiting to get on the plane and fall asleep.  When we boarded the plane, we were greeted by the most beautiful flight attendants I have ever seen.  They were all Filipina + cute too!  Wow, I was in shock!  Me, being the “stud” that I am, flashed them a flirty smile in return I got a bunch of giggles.  That’s cool, but too bad it didn’t actually happen like that.  I always act really stupid around pretty girls!  The whole 4 hours I couldn’t sleep, partly because of the gorgeous flight attendants and partly because I was really excited to be back in the land where my parents were raised.

When I stepped off the plane it was so damned hot.  It didn’t help that the walk to the baggage claim was like 30 miles away and I was carrying 3 tons of carry-on baggage.  The second I noticed was the smell in the air.  There is no other smell like it in the world.  It’s hard to explain but it’s really “thick” and hard to breath, yet it fills your lungs like a good meal would fill your stomach!  I don’t think it was smog, but I’m not completely sure it wasn’t.  I’ve breathed smog before in NYC and Paris, but this was different.  Oh well, I gots to get some rest!

I have a few more entries I’ll post while on vacation… they get more interesting..

Blog and reviews20 Dec 2015 06:34 pm

di9rXzB4TI found this old journal while cleaning out my room.  I was going back to the Philippines with my Lola (Grandma.) I was in college and traveling overseas for the first time as an “adult”. This was my first overseas “adventure.”

May 9, 1995

Well, I’m on my way to the Philippines again.  The last time I was there was when I was in the 6th grade for my Grandma and Grandpa’s 60th wedding anniversary.  I stayed there for only a month.  This time around, I’m going back with my Lola (my other grandma.)  I guess she’s going back and staying there for good. (She actually moved back to Canada for health reasons.)  When I first heard about her plans, I jumped at the opportunity to go back with her!  I don’t know… I guess there’s a part of me that’s looking for something back there.  Maybe I’m looking for an escape from the “real world” or some sort of cultural enlightenment, or maybe I’m looking for a wife… j/k!  Right now I’m on the plane to Osaka (Northwest airlines)  God, this is boring.  “Jurassic Park” is on, and everyone is asleep.  Looking after Lola is so weird because she was the one who always looked after me when I was little.  It’s kind of strange how things come full circle in life.

Stay tuned for more old journal entries…

Blog and housekeeping21 Nov 2015 07:06 pm

Is your team burned out and stressed out? Declare production bankruptcy. Give your employees a bailout. Pick a day that is going to be about catching up—not moving forward. It’s not a day to produce, create, or build anything. That may seem counterintuitive given the state of the economy and how challenging the business environment is, but it could be what people need to recharge their batteries. Here are 10 tips for a bailout plan for workers.

This fall was extremely packed! I got to hangout with so many cool people, but at the same time I have lost A LOT of close friends to cancer. For me, it gets harder and harder to deal with these losses because I tend to get very close to people!  I’ve talked to other leaders in cancer advocacy about this.  It supposedly gets easier to recover from the loss.  Every time we lose somebody it still hits me pretty hard!  It hasn’t gotten any easier for me.  I recently closed my personal Facebook account because Facebook is where I interact the most with people.  I think I need a break from advocacy for a little while because the loss of my friends is emotionally draining.  It’s crazy… before I got involved in advocacy, I hardly knew anyone that was sick.  Now it seems like almost everyone I meet has been affected by a tumor or cancer.  It seems like most of the stories I hear… don’t have a happy ending.  The loss of the last three friends hit me pretty hard because I had so much in common with them.   I think I just need some time away from the oncology/cancer world for a little bit to recharge and organize my thoughts/ideas…

Blog and housekeeping and mAss Kickers news16 Nov 2015 04:47 pm

1It’s funny. I thought things would be slowing down this month since I’m not traveling, but things are actually getting busier!  I’m already starting to set stuff up for next year.  There are plans to do more traveling internationally, but we need a more consistent source of revenue to take more post-treatment “thrivers” on these trips.  The purpose of these trip is to promote a proactive life after a tumor/cancer diagnosis and dispel the international stigma that a tumor/cancer diagnosis is a death sentence.  Right now, your donations are supporting MKF activities.  In order for MKF to grow, there needs to be a more formal staff to manage everything.  I’m realizing that the type of assistance MKF needs requires hiring someone!  The direction MKF is heading is WAY out of my professional expertise!  Early on my vision for MKF needed to be established and I took on much of the work/responsibility myself.  I think this is typically called “Founder’s Syndrome“.  The problem now is finding reliable people who want to make the organization grow.  Finding people with the same passion is not difficult because people generally don’t like tumors/cancer.  But when personal responsibilities start to arise, it is hard for people to make time for the organization.  Herein lies the problem, at this point in the organization’s life span, we need to hire formal staff.  The staff at this level require a salary, but funds/donations still come in inconsistently.  Getting MKF this far, took a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. I’m realizing now that I may not be the right person to lead MKF into the next stage of organizational growth.  We’ve been stuck in the “Adolescent/Growing phase” for quite some time.  I think I might be too “emotionally invested” in MKF.  I just want to make sure MKF is left in the right hands.  I’m getting ready to add more teammates because I’m realizing that one person alone can’t handle everything!  I’m starting to think partnerships with the right organizations will be key for MKF in the future.  Please contact me through mAssKickers.org if you are interested in formally helping with MKF.  Be prepared to share a resume/references.

housekeeping and mAss Kickers news02 Nov 2015 11:57 am

rehab10 years ago today, I left the intensive care unit after major brain surgery with a new attitude. I was a pretty happy-go-lucky guy before the surgery, but I came out the ICU more focused than ever before!  I was still recovering, but I made the decision that I wasn’t going to be defeated by a brain tumor.  I just needed to find a way to fight back!  I lost my career working as a physical therapist, the majority of my hobbies, and very briefly my confidence.  Over the past 10 years I’ve built myself back up and:

  • published articles in a number of magazines/news letters
  • published two books,
  • created a unique non-profit,
  • spoken at universities/ physical therapy programs around the United States,
  • spoken at universities in 3 continents,
  • spoken at conferences across the United States,
  • given a keynote speech at a physical therapy graduation ceremony,
  • given keynote speeches at 3 conferences,
  • promoted “post-treatment thrivership” to countless survivors and healthcare professionals around the world!
  • I have a few more things in the works… STAY TUNED!

Please support my passion to educate the WORLD ABOUT A PROACTIVE LIFE AFTER A TUMOR/CANCER DIAGNOSIS by making a secure Paypal donation to mAss Kickers Foundation. 

Blog01 Nov 2015 10:18 am

November is facial hair growing month AKA “Movember” or “NoShaveNovember”!  It always makes me laugh because it a very unique way for people to get  involved in cancer advocacy… Want to support a cause?  Grow a mustache or don’t shave for a month… very easy for people to do… brilliant!  It made me smile the second I heard about this unique form of awareness because it is outrageous enough to garner attention, yet easy to do.   Check out our team, the “Island of Misfit Mos“.  We are a unique group of people participating in “Movember” and “NoShaveNovember”.  We all gave our facial hair a nickname…  hee hee hee… If you have facial hair.. JOIN US!  Give it a name!

 

Blog and PT shop talk27 Oct 2015 09:04 am

This was the first article I published in Advance Magazine for Physical Therapists… it led to the crazy idea of writing a book and publishing other articles!  It has been quite an adventure…

Reversal: When Therapists Become Patients

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We see patients every day. It’s real easy to forget they are people too, not just another “total knee” or “laminectomy”. Ever patient has a story. When taking a history how well do you really get to know your patients? I always used to wonder what they were going through, what things were like for them. I came to the seemingly obvious realization that a diagnosis affects people more than we know outside of the controlled therapy sessions. There are so many other factors involved in Rehab other than just mobility. I had to live through my “discovery”.

I graduated from Physical Therapy school at the University of Michigan- Flint in December 2003. I moved to San Diego, California a month after graduation in the hopes of finding a great job, an active lifestyle, and a nice girl. I found almost everything I was looking for in San Diego, but then I got some stunning news last September. I was diagnosed with a golf ball sized brain meningioma on my Tentoral membrane. The tumor was applying pressure to my brain stem (specifically the Pons) and my cerebellum. I was having severe symptoms of dizziness and nausea before I got things checked out. I had just started doing more swimming and surfing.   At first I thought I had an ear infection or maybe a Vestibular Problem, nothing too serious. Then I started getting headaches and nausea. That’s when I knew something wasn’t right.

According to the American Cancer Society 2% of all cancer related deaths were attributed to brain cancer. Males have a 0.66% lifetime risk of being diagnosed with a primary malignant brain tumor and a 0.50% chance of dying from a brain tumor. (1)   But men are at risk none the less, I never thought it could happen to me. It did. Meningiomas are the most common type of primary brain tumors at 27.4%.  (2) Meningiomas affect mainly elderly African-American women.(3) The Glioma family of tumors account for 44.4% of all tumors, with Glioblastoma being the most common type of Glioma at 51.9% and Astrocytoma representing 21.6% of all Gliomas.(2)

I’ve never been sick before. I always thought my first surgery was going to be orthopedic, not neuro and not so soon. I figured I’d have surgery at the hospital where I used to work because I knew the staff pretty well and I was familiar with how things were run there.  After much deliberation, I also chose to do my rehab where I used to work because I didn’t want to be alone and I knew I would be in good hands. When I first moved to San Diego I was torn between working in a hospital vs. working in a private clinic. I chose the hospital. I’m glad I made that decision because not only did I meet a lot of new people but it also opened the door for many other work related opportunities.

Knowing the staff where you have surgery has its perks and draw backs. (See side bar) I got the best treatment, but I also had a lot of visitors. I liked the friendly atmosphere, but it left me with very little privacy. The only awkward moments I had were taking showers with the assistance of the CNAs. It took me a few weeks to get used to that. I’m a pretty shy guy, and then I figured they see naked people all the time. At least none of my friends / old co-workers would see me naked!

Pros and Cons of going through rehab where you work (could be a side bar)

Pros

  • You’ll get the best care.
  • Your co-workers will be great advocates for you
  • Lots of support.
  • You’ll be familiar with protocols/policies and procedures.

Cons

  • So many visitors, very little privacy.
  • Your co-workers will see you at your worst.
  • It’s like you’re still going to work.
  • Different perceived roles with your co-workers.

 

The hardest thing for me to deal with in rehab was knowing what needed to be done to progress, but not being able to do it. I was discharged in a wheelchair to my apartment with my dad in early December. My dad had just recently retired so I would have someone with me at all times. He spent over 6 months away from home in Michigan to stay with me in San Diego. This in itself was a huge adjustment. I’m used to being on my own and doing things by myself.

I really think it was harder on my family than it was on me because I knew what to look for in terms of progress. I had to explain to my dad every day that things were going well, specifically with weight shifting and balance. He would only look at the big functional goals like walking distance and speed. It was tough trying to tell both my parents to stay patient because I shared their impatience.   They were so used to cheering me on as an athlete that I think it was a difficult adjustment for them to make.

I turned to my old co-workers for support once I started outpatient therapy. Actually they were the ones that took me out to happy hours and would help me escape my overprotective parents. We usually kept things professional during my therapy sessions. Sure, we would joke around, but there was mutual respect on both sides. What I really appreciated was my therapist asking me what I wanted to work on at the beginning of each session, while still setting certain objectives each session. I also appreciated the feedback on the identification of my impairments so I could attempt to correct them. Sometimes we get so used to telling patients what to do, we forget to tell them why we are doing certain activities. Setting my own goals really kept me going. The goals I set for myself helped me to focus on what I needed to do.

Things to remember when working with patients 

  1. Check-in periodically – Always ask their opinion on how they feel things are going
  2. Involve them in the treatment planning
  3. Help them set attainable functional goals
  4. Explain why they are doing certain activities
  5. Listen to their concerns. Don’t forget they spend more time with you than with their docs.
  6. Remind them that maximum progress is made outside of the therapy sessions through their HEP.

People ask me how I dealt with everything. My response to them is every day was different with new challenges. I know this is a cliché, but I had to take it one day at a time. I would wake up every morning and certain things would be a little easier. Each day brought a different challenge. Treating and beating each new challenge individually made the days go by faster. I never let go of the belief that I’m still a regular guy. It just takes me a little longer to do common everyday activities. I literally grew to hate the wheelchair and the walker so I would force myself to progress. I’m also still a pretty immature guy so I took the time to laugh at myself and all the difficult situations I put myself in.

I can’t even imagine going through rehab as an elderly adult. I have so much respect for them. The physical and psychological demands were enormous on me, an active young man. Their stage in life would obviously bring about different challenges/goals.  The biggest realization I made was that when patients go home, their impairments go with them. Unlike us, they get no vacation or breaks from the impairments. We get to go home at the end of the day and leave things at work. Putting on my shoes as a patient has definitely opened my eyes as a therapist.

Sources

  1. Ries LAG, Eisner MP, Kosary CL, Hankey BF, Miller BA, Clegg L, Edwards BK (eds.) Seer Cancer Statistics Review, 1973-1999: National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, MD, 2002.
  2. Report, Primary Brain Tumors in the United States, 1992-1997.
  3. http://www.emedicine.com/NEURO/topic209.htm
Blog and rehab26 Oct 2015 02:21 pm

2015 eric rebirthdaySunday was the 10 year anniversary of the brain tumor surgery that changed my life forever.   I wanted to celebrate, but honestly I felt like I was in a “funk.”  Maybe it was PTSD or a bout of “Survivor’s Guilt” because I finally had some time to sit down and reflect on things.  In the past 10 years, I’ve gone from young physical therapist to rehab patient to author to survivor advocate to nonprofit professional.   It has been a crazy ride!  I’ve met so many great people, but at the same time I’ve LOST so many good friends to tumors/cancer.  It doesn’t get any easier losing people.  I’ve noticed that many other advocates do not have as hard a time dealing with this.  I wonder how they do it.  Memories of the friends we’ve lost live on, but at the same time I always lament the potential new memories that we could have shared.  I have always had a hard time saying goodbye. I have gotten close to a number of survivors because we have so much in common. It has always been easy for me to form these bonds.

As a physical therapist, I always referred patients to other people/professionals if I couldn’t help them.  Often, I would never hear from them again.  However in cancer advocacy/ social media, we often get updates on how survivors are doing.  Of course, I like hearing the good news or seeing the funny things my friends share on social media.  However, whenever I hear of a friend passing or struggling… it always hits me hard.  It inspires me to work harder, but at the same time it hurts.  I didn’t think that it would hurt this much, but it always makes me sad thinking that I put my family and friends through a similar situation.  I naturally get close to people all the time because I like to joke around with them and always try to listen/learn something new from people.

Maybe this “funk” is “Survivor Guilt” because part of me still feels very lucky to be able to do the things I do.  I do realize that my situation could have been much worse.  Based in the location of the tumor, I could have woken up from surgery on a permanent mechanical ventilator or even stuck in a “vegetative state.”   I feel that my prior and current physical activity level may have aided in my recovery, but I am still very curious about HOW I am able to do so much after major brain surgery.  Thank goodness my cognition wasn’t impaired so I can discover how I was able to do this!  I think that exercise/physical activity made my recovery more efficient, by perhaps increasing blood/lymphatic circulation or somehow exercise makes the neurons more efficient.  Everything I’m doing now is to honor those of us that had to deal with a tumor/cancer diagnosis AND make things easier for future tumor/cancer patients.  I support early detection/prevention, but there is still a very large need for resources for newly diagnosed patients and ALL those who are affected by a tumor/cancer diagnosis.  My “funk” is temporary, but I’ve learned to use it to fuel my activities.  I’m truly sorry for scaring my family and friends 10 years ago.  I can’t even imagine what you went through… Thanks for having my back all these years, I’ll make you proud…

Please support my quest to teach the world “How to Kick mAss” next year.

More exciting things are in the works!   STAY TUNED!

Blog and rehab24 Oct 2015 07:56 am

9781450224284_COVER.inddThese are my thoughts before major brain surgery 10 years ago.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Looks like the incision is going to be bigger than I initially thought it was going to be… All the way around my ear. I’m told that the hair will grow back, but maybe I’ll just keep it shaved all the time now. Yesterday morning I threw up twice. I couldn’t keep anything down. Luckily, I had another appointment with the neurosurgeon that afternoon. He took me off of prednisone and is starting me on dexamethasone, another steroid. I’ve heard some nasty stuff about the side effects. I’m gonna try to stay off the medication as much as I can. But sometimes I really need it.

In case you are wondering what I’m going though, imagine the worst hangover you’ve ever had… the unsteadiness, the feeling of nausea, and the headache… add a little numbness on your left cheek and tongue and there you have it. Now grant it, I’m not like this all the time, but there are some mornings when the only reason I get out of bed is to rush to the bathroom to throw up. The steroids help immensely, but on the days I’m off of them… yuck. Not pleasant to be around… I have a hard time walking a straight line, but I can do it if I go really slow. Everything moves really slow, not like elderly person slow, but definitely slower than normal. Now would be a good time to race me if you want to win.

I’ve kinda shifted my focus from movies to reading. Currently on: Lance Armstrong’s It’s Not about the Bike, Harry Potter The Half Blood Prince, and the Essence of Swiss Ball Training. Definitely not bored anymore. Thank God I’m not bored. I almost watched the Olivia Newton John roller skating epic Xanadu earlier this week! Damn! That definitely has to be my lowest point. When I realized what I was watching, I was like “OK, I need to put an end to this downward spiral!” You can only watch so much TV and that was my breaking point. I also found out I suck at video games. In Halo I keep running into walls, in Madden I can’t pass or play defense, in racing I can’t take turns without hitting the wall… I wasted too much time the past few years “playing” outside or going to the gym so I’m a little behind in my gaming skills…

As for my mental state… honestly I think right now I’m more worried about the Foley catheter. You would be, too, if you knew where it goes and how it gets there. (It’s basically a tube they stick in your penis that runs to all the way up to your bladder to help with urine excretion.) I’ve been told that I’ll probably be out when they put it in, but I’ll wake up with it in me and I’ll be awake when they take it out… that’s gonna hurt =(

Dude, I’m gonna be buck naked in front of bunch of people. I don’t know how I feel about that! I don’t like being naked in front of myself, let alone 10-15 strangers! Hopefully I’ll at least get some cute nurses to take care of me… My OR time is from 7:30 to 3:30… Jeez, that’s got to be enough time to get everything! It seems like a long time to me. I wonder if they take coffee breaks or lunch breaks.

Anyways the reality of brain surgery is finally sinking in. I’ve had 2 pre-op appointments this week. I guess there is a serious chance that I might lose the hearing in my left ear. Apparently they will cut into the Mastoid and Temporal bones. They are trying to avoid the semi-circular canals if possible, but if they can’t access the whole tumor they will need to go through the semicircular canals to get everything. If that happens, there is a 99% chance I lose the hearing in the left ear and I will definitely have more problems with dizziness for a few more months.

Kinda sucks that the initial problem that I was having could be a side effect for the treatment of the tumor. Well, at least I have another ear and I won’t be completely deaf. Whoa. This is real, no more talk… this is gonna happen! So on Saturday, I’m going to SeaWorld to take my mind off of things. Sunday will be another day of football. Monday will be my quiet prep day. I guarantee I’ll feel like shit DOS (day of surgery), but Wed POD 1(post-op day 1) I should be able to take visitors. Probably not for too long but it will be nice to have visitors. By Thursday I should be much better and able to tolerate more. No crazy bar hopping or anything, but maybe a friendly game of “Cranium.”.. har har har.

 

Monday, October 24, 2005

Looks like I’ll get admitted tonight. Just got a call from the hospital. Was supposed to go in at 5AM tomorrow. Slight curveball. I know a lot of you wish you could be here with me. I’ll strike a deal. This is the playlist I’ll be listening to tonight on my iPod. Just play one of the songs and you’re there with me.

Lose Yourself -Eminem
Mr. Brightside – The Killers
It’s So Easy – Guns N Roses
Breakout – Foo Fighters
Higher Ground – Red Hot Chili Peppers
Gold Digger – Kanye West
Jesus Walks – Kanye West
Ready or Not –The Fugees
Superstition – Stevie Wonder
In the Air Tonight – Phil Collins
A Little Respect – Erasure (don’t laugh)
The Promise – When in Rome
Only You – Yaz ( I like these song OK!)
Don’t Stop Believing – JOURNEY!
Blaze of Glory – Bon Jovi
THE FINAL COUNTDOWN – EUROPE!

See what happens next… pick up the kindle edition of Reversal:  When a Therapist Becomes A Patient… Only $9.99 AND 100% of royalties go to mAss Kickers Foundation.

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