‘I was a caricature of my worst traits’ – how brain cancer can affect the mind

Giulia Rhodes in The Guardian:

2641Dr Barbara Lipska was working at her computer one morning in January 2015 when her right hand suddenly disappeared. Having spent her 40-year career studying the human brain, she immediately knew just how bad this was. The neuroscientist was aware that the most likely explanation was a tumour in the area of her brain governing vision. Having twice overcome cancer – in the breast in 2009 and then melanoma three years later – the spread of the disease was already a frightening possibility.

So when Lipska’s doctor called the following morning to report the results of an emergency MRI scan – three tumours in the brain, one of them bleeding, suggesting metastatic melanoma – she was undoubtedly devastated, but not completely surprised.

The prognosis was “effectively a death sentence”. At her age, then 63, and with that number of tumours, she knew she could expect to have between four and seven months. Instead, three years later, Lipska remains the director of the Human Brain Collection at the National Institute of Mental Health in Maryland, is training for a summer triathlon and has written an account of her experiences. She hopes this will raise awareness of an aspect of her illness about which, even with her extensive professional experience, she knew very little. “The idea that I might lose my mind didn’t enter my thoughts and was never discussed,” she says. “All anyone focused on was that I might die.”

More here.