image by Logan Fitzpatrick
When I was a teenager I had a parakeet named Fernando. He was named after the superstar Los Angeles Dodger pitcher of Hispanic descent, Fernando Valenzuela, one of my favorite baseball players at the time. I got the pet from my Grandfather, a large man from Iowa, burly in size and muscle, who in the most endearing, almost Tuesdays With Morrie way, raised these fragile birds in his work room. I hand picked Fernando, a white petite parakeet who made the cutest noise when I was choosing. Fernando was one of my first pets, and still one of my favorites.
A few years in, Fernando seemed to have some health issues. His energy was at an all-time low and he stopped eating all together. I also noticed he had some sort of growth on his head, and it seemed to be getting larger by the day. We immediately took him to the vet, who let us know that Fernando had a brain tumor. His quality of life would only get worse, so he suggested we put Fernando down. I cried and cried, but my Mom agreed and that was the last time I saw Fernando, but sadly, not the last time I saw brain tumors.
A few years ago, when the doctor informed me I had three on my midbrain, an inoperable spot smack dab in the middle of my head, I remembered Fernando. I knew I had more of an immune system than my little flying friend, but I only knew this diagnosis as a death sentence because of him. I assumed eventually a growth would appear on top of my noggin, like a built in dunce cap, and then I would die. Just like the bird. I knew so little about brain tumors and, in turn, so little about my future.
The reason the tumors were detected is even sadder than the story of my first pet. I had a ringing in my ear that wouldn’t go away, so I visited a doctor after hours searching WebMD and deciding I was going to die. He assured me that I wasn’t (yet), and shot me up with cortisone. That made the ringing disappear quickly. But since my doctor knew I couldn’t say no to deal, he set me up with an MRI, because the ringing would allow insurance to pay for it. He explained that it’s important to have your brain scanned, so we can have the results for any future issues, god forbid they appear. Like the before and after pictures you see in Jenny Craig commercials, but for your brain. I didn’t see any harm in saving a few bucks on a procedure, so I went for it. When he called me 5 days later in a somber tone saying I had to go in, I immediately regretted using that coupon.
Fernando or not, I’m doing really well now. Over the past 4 years, the tumors haven’t grown or multiplied. I get them checked every few months, because if anything scary is detected, I’ll be sent in for chemotherapy and radiation, then my blog would get REAL exciting. I’ve learned a whole lot about brain tumors, symptoms to look for and steps to take to get checked - and I try and share them as much as I can with people.
When fellow podcaster Bryan Bishop (known as Bald Bryan from the Adam Carolla Show) reached out to me about our similarities in life, which included brain tumors, I couldn’t have been more excited to hear about the work he was doing with the American Brain Tumor Society. His experiences with the affliction has been more intense than mine, and has turned his story into a NY Times best-seller. He’s been a real inspiration for me. He also brought me on-board as a Committee member for the Society’s annual Brain Tumor Walk and I’m thrilled to be raising money for the event.
The Los Angeles Brian Tumor Walk is on August 24th at Exposition Park here in LA, and we’re raising money for awareness and research. The work that this charity is doing is so impressive, especially as someone who sat and cried for weeks thinking that I had to immediately figure out what was going on my tombstone when I left the Dr’s office (btw it “Zsa Zsa Gabor outlived me”). There are options and treatments and prevention. So many things you should know about, especially since everyone has someone in their life who has battled, or is battling, brain tumors. With the way the world is going, with air pollution and burning hot cell phones placed directly on your brain, we should probably learn more. It can’t hurt. Sorry to scare you.
So here’s the thing: I’m mostly joking about how Phil Collins ruined Hook or baiting Tom Hanks’ kid into a rap battle on Twitter, I know this. But I’m asking you, give money to this cause. Especially if you’re a fan of our podcast. We never ask for dough, so I’m asking for it now. All you have to do, NO MATTER THE AMOUNT YOU CAN GIVE, is go to this site:
…and type in “Team Jensen” under Donate To Participant or Team. Listen, I picked the name before I realized it sounded like we’re all on Wild N’ Crazy Kids together. So, let it slide. Then just click “Donate To Me,” and you can leave WHATEVER you want. It’s tax deductible and it leaves you good karma. That’s a fact.
I never thought I would be in that doctor’s office being told I had brain tumors. It just seemed so impossible. I showed no symptoms or reasons to even think it was in the cards. And now I’m surrounded by an amazing support system of doctors, friends, and now this charity filled other patients and caregivers. Let’s make sure others can have these things. Please try your hardest to donate. Also don’t get a parakeet for a pet. They don’t stop chirping and it’s kind of annoying.