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Recovering From a GBM

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Rod Nordland, photo by Matthew Naythons, MD

Rod Nordland is an international correspondent at large for The New York Times. In 2019, while covering climate topics in India, he was suddenly diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), a malignant brain tumor. He wrote about his experience with the diagnosis and his surgery with Dr. Philip Stieg for the Times, and he talked about it with Dr. Stieg on This Is Your Brain. The podcast episode is available below.

Dr. Stieg was delighted to hear from Rod recently with this update, which we reproduce here with his permission:

 I'm delighted to tell you that a couple weeks ago I noticed that sensation began returning to my left hand, which had been insensate since your resection of my GBM tumor two years ago. There's a romantic back story here: I discovered the return of sensation while walking with my fiancée on the boardwalk at Brighton Beach. For the first time in many months I realized I could actually feel her right hand with my long-insensate left one.

Then I asked her to do that neurology test I've had so many times before, the test of hand sensation that I had always failed before, where I would try, eyes closed, to tell how many of the other person's fingers were touching the palm of my hand. This time I got all three right – I passed the test for the first time. I'm really thrilled and do recall your saying this might happen over time but there was no way to be sure it would. Your amazing surgery not only, as many have told me, gave me a real chance of life, but now, it seems, of a two-handed life as well. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Listen to Rod Nordland talk about staying positive while living with glioblastoma:

The above photo of Rod Nordland was taken by Matthew Naythons, MD, and is used with permission. As Rod describes it:
The photo was taken just as I arrived at Weill Cornell Medicine after a 50-hour-long medevac from India, looking somewhat the worse for wear and a bit battered by seizures. I was diagnosed with GBM and now have 24 docs between Weill Cornell Medicine and HSS (most at Weill Cornell). Since then my treatment at every turn has been exemplary, so much so that I am convinced that NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center is the best hospital in the world, at least that I have ever seen — and I've seen a lot of them as a journalist during 30 years of foreign reporting in 150 countries.

Read Rod's account of his diagnosis while in India here: Waiting for the Monsoon, Discovering a Brain Tumor Instead