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Before she had brain cancer, she also survived breast and skin

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Canada Goose Parka Neuroscientist Barbara Lipska has studied mental illness for much of her career. In 2015 she was diagnosed with brain cancer. After an experimental treatment, she began to exhibit bizarre behavior that alarmed loved ones and colleagues. Lipska was not aware of the change at the time. She recently published a canada goose outlet store quebec book about her experience. (Astrid Riecken/For The Washington Post) Canada Goose Parka

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The walls inside Barbara Lipska’s office at the National Institute of Mental Health are plastered with race plaques: first, second, third place awards. Lipska, 67, only started running in her 40s, but because she does nothing halfway, in short order she canada goose outlet las vegas was doing marathons and triathlons, while commuting to work in Bethesda, Md., on her bike, a total of 40 miles a day. A decisive, fast moving woman capable, her boss tells me, of accomplishing the workload of three or four people Lipska directs NIMH’s Human Brain Collection Core. «We might get a brain today,» she says hopefully on a Wednesday in late February.

When people die after suffering from schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, opioid abuse or some other mental disorder, Lipska’s team works with local medical examiners to collect their brains. There is a sense of reverence when one comes in. Each brain is a clue in an effort to understand mental illness, which is the subject Lipska has spent her life studying including, in a roundabout and unexpected way, when her own mind went dramatically wrong three years ago.

It was January 2015 when Lipska reached out to turn on her work computer and something peculiar happened: Her right hand disappeared into a kind of black hole. When she canada goose outlet in vancouver moved her hand to the left, it reappeared within her field of vision. She immediately feared something might be awry in her brain.

She drove to her primary doctor even with the loss of vision, it would not have occurred to her to ask her husband to come fetch her but it was only after an MRI exam the next morning that she knew the situation was dire. She had three melanoma tumors in her brain, one bleeding and canada goose outlet houston quite dangerous, necessitating emergency surgery. Doctors went into her skull to remove the bleeding tumor from where it sat in her primary visual canada goose outlet black friday sale cortex. Metastatic melanoma is an aggressive and fast moving disease; Lipska was expected to canada goose outlet store calgary live less than a year.

cheap Canada Goose Lipska and her family members her daughter is a physician; her son, a neuroscientist; her husband, a mathematician and computer software engineer; her sister, a physicist working in radiation oncology researched every possible canada goose outlet uk fake treatment avenue. She was canada goose outlet store montreal soon enrolled in a clinical trial at Georgetown’s Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, where she received an experimental combination of two immunotherapy drugs designed to muster the body’s own defenses to attack cancer cells. cheap Canada Goose

canada goose coats on sale Shortly after the second infusion of drugs, a profound change overtook her brain, affecting her behavior. It would last about two months; even after canada goose parka outlet the period was over, she didn’t know the full extent of what she had done until her family began to reveal it to her in bits and pieces, leaving her horrified. canada canada goose outlet goose coats on sale

canada goose black friday sale Did she really accuse the exterminator of trying to poison her? Did she get lost while out walking a mile from her home in Annandale, Va., and decide she didn’t care if neighbors saw her pee herself as she tried to canada goose outlet toronto find her way home? Did she walk past a car that had been hit by a tree, http://www.canadagoosesalesus.com and then circle back and point out the felled car again, because she’d forgotten seeing it half an hour before? Moments from that period emerged as if from a mist, leaving Lipska to conclude that for two months in the summer of 2015, she was in some sense not Barbara Lipska at all, but somebody else. canada goose black friday sale

buy canada goose jacket It was then that Lipska set about studying her own brain with scholarly zeal, mapping her mental deficits up to the parts of her brain affected by the cancer. She saw parallels with bipolar disorder, dementia and the disease she’d studied much of her life, schizophrenia. Eventually, she would reconstruct those lost months in a book «The Neuroscientist Who Lost Her Mind,» co written with Elaine McArdle that came out in April. Lipska told me that she needed family and friends to know «what it is like when you are not there.» buy canada goose jacket

Canada Goose Jackets She’s made a pretty good recovery, as far as the canada goose outlet trillium parka black doctors tell her, but there are still lingering problems in her brain, including occasional difficulty with her mental map. At NIMH, I follow her down to lunch in the cafeteria. Outside the elevator, she looks around for a bit, confused about which direction to canada goose outlet store new york head. Left or right? She asks someone. We turn right. Canada Goose Jackets

canadian goose jacket Over lunch, we talk about what it feels like to be forever asking which way to go. Within a few months, Lipska had transitioned from being an expert trail runner to clutching her son’s arm on the sidewalk. The thing she’s realized, Lipska tells me, is that we don’t know the things we think we know. The sense of control, the careful planning for the future it’s all a mirage. There is such a thin line between life and death, between sanity and insanity. «What separates us? What?» she says. «Just luck.» canadian goose jacket

canada goose store Lipska runs canada goose outlet niagara falls along a trail through the woods behind her home in Annandale, Va. Before she had brain cancer, she also survived breast and skin cancer. During those illnesses, she kept competing in triathlon and marathon competitions. She still runs regularly, despite losing sight in one eye. (Astrid Riecken/For The Washington Post) canada goose store

The long term memories are fine. Lipska remembers her childhood in Poland. She remembers picking mushrooms, her goose outlet canada father buying a car. She grew up and got her master’s, and met a man named Witold, a deeply talented computer scientist, and they married and had two children.

Kasia and Witek were still young when Witold came home one day and told Lipska he’d been diagnosed with melanoma. It was 1980. He was barely in his 30s. Eventually, the cancer spread to his brain, just as it would decades later for Lipska. The stress of his illness was harrowing, and they had no community support; at that time in Poland, cancer carried such a stigma of weakness that they felt unable to tell anyone. Their marriage had all but ended well before he died in 1985. Lipska still carries guilt over the marriage’s disintegration. On a walk one day, she told me that her grandmother, too, had died canada goose coats uk of melanoma, and spoke about the cruelty of a disease that had taken the people she loved, and then came for her.

Canada Goose Outlet Lipska spent the first part of her career researching drugs used to treat schizophrenia, earning $20 a month and dreaming of life outside communist Poland. A few years after Witold’s death, while at a conference in West Germany, she met a top psychiatrist at NIMH who offered her a job. By then, she was with her current husband, Mirek Gorski and soon they and the children settled in the United States. Canada Goose Outlet

canada goose clearance At NIMH, Lipska studied rats, injecting neurotoxins into their newborn brains and watching as they grew older and developed a kind of rat version of schizophrenia. With the connections between hippocampus and prefrontal cortex disrupted, the rats had difficulty finding their way around mazes that healthy rats could navigate with ease. Turn left? Or turn right? canada goose clearance

Lipska held her first intact human brain five years ago when she became the director of the Human Brain Collection Core. She sliced it down the middle to divide its hemispheres and felt for the first time the heft of the mysterious organ she’d spent her life trying to understand. For Lipska, mental illness had always been a little abstract, even though it was her profession. As a neuroscientist and molecular biologist, she was used to examining the smallest components of human and animal brains. But she vividly remembers her first contact with schizophrenia patients, when she was in her 20s and helping collect blood samples in Poland. Nothing in her scholarly pursuits could have prepared her for how frightening it was to encounter the lived experience of mental illness. Some patients shouted in anger; others were gripped by fear. She thought, «How could one lose his mind like that?» Their eyes were vacant, she thought, as if they were not there.

canada goose coats Lipska and her husband, Mirek Gorski, at home. (Astrid Riecken/For The Washington Post) canada goose coats

Lipska’s illness has been wrenching for her husband. Mirek Gorski is a soft spoken man with a patient smile who is utterly devoted to Lipska. «She’s his sun,» canada goose outlet vancouver their son in law, journalist Jake Halpern, told me. By the time Lipska was diagnosed with melanoma in the brain, Gorski had already seen her through two other bouts with cancer. During those dark months in the summer of 2015, he was often alone with her, struggling to figure out what to do. He could not persuade her to listen to him, to let him drive; he could not convince her that the world wasn’t out to get her. She’d always been the dominant force in their family, and now, unaware that her grip on reality had shifted, she insisted on carrying on as usual.

buy canada goose jacket cheap What neither of them knew then was that the tumors, along with the radiation and immunotherapy drugs that were causing the tumors to shed dead cells, were inflaming the tissues of Lipska’s brain, making them swell. That disrupted the operation of her frontal lobe, which controls the higher cognitive functions. buy canada goose jacket cheap

There were times, when her brain was at the nadir of functioning, that Lipska could barely make dinner. She insisted on it anyway, because she’d always been proud of her cooking. But in the summer of 2015, nothing made any sense: She couldn’t recall the proper proportions, and she was convinced her family was hiding the pots and cooking spoons. She served strange meals in rages, and she and her husband sat and ate, no matter how it tasted. Gorski told me that he missed her terribly, even as she sat across from him.

She became impatient and angry, yelling at him and her beloved grandson. She became suspicious of a physical therapist, walking out in the middle of a visit. canada goose premium outlet She found it difficult to understand newspaper articles. She lost her empathy, bringing her husband and daughter to tears with her coldness and anger. While driving, she nearly hit other cars on the highway, drifting past her lane; she drove over a high curb to canada goose outlet toronto address get out of a parking lot because she couldn’t figure out how to fit through the exit. (She blamed whoever constructed such a lousy exit.) She noticed her family members talking about her canada goose outlet authentic but could not grasp that they were concerned; instead, it fed her paranoia. She was certain she was fine. It was everyone else who was acting crazy.

canada goose deals She also had a recurring fear of being poisoned. After her final immunotherapy infusion, she threw up her pizza and thought she saw bits of plastic floating in the toilet. She woke Gorski. «The pizza!» she said. «It’s poison! It was made of plastic!» Once, when their pest control company made a scheduled inspection visit to the house, Lipska accused the inspector of trying to poison her house with chemicals, and fired him. canada goose deals

Lipska’s daughter, Kasia, worried and worried but could not persuade her mother to consult a doctor about her behavior. She feared she was losing her mother before she lost her. «She seemed to be suspicious of anything in the world that didn’t match her internal logic,» Gorski told me. Lipska says that even now, with the benefit of hindsight, she can’t see her behavior the way others saw it. «I only remember that I was angry that he was acting stupidly all the time,» she says of her husband.

canada goose It was sometimes difficult for her family to grasp how profoundly her mind had gone wrong. It’s not as if Lipska’s personality changed wholly; rather, she became a caricature of herself. Always strong willed and opinionated, she became more so. canada goose

Sometimes, the old Lipska still seemed to be there. Bad days would be followed by good days, Gorski told me. So maybe she was okay. She kept running and biking and swimming, after all. This was a woman who two months after brain surgery followed by several rounds of radiation flew to Hawaii with her family, where she biked more than 200 miles through lava mountains.

«Barbara was saying, ‘I’m fine, I know I’m fine,'» Halpern recalls. «When she makes up her mind, there’s a ferocity of will there that is hard to kind of fathom. And she’s a neuroscientist. This is what she knows. That’s a very difficult combination to contest.».

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