Life After Brain Surgeries

Yes, you read that right. Surgeries. My one planned brain surgery turned into 2 brain surgeries, several procedures, and 3 hospitalizations. I never planned on this.

I realized, after chats with my bestie, that people only see what I allow them to see. I post on social media with updates and I always seem so positive and upbeat. What people don’t see are my breakdowns.

I breakdown at least 3 times a day. Sometimes more. Songs that used to give me strength now make me weak. Things, simple things, I can no longer do make me feel depressed. I realize my body needs time to heal. Twice as much, if not three times as much as I planned. And that’s frustrating.

From time to time I discuss my pain, but more often than not, I’m reporting my pain free days. I don’t discuss my nights without sleep due to pain, my days when I’m too weak to go up and down the stairs, or the times I wish I had never had the surgery to begin with.

I don’t let people see me cry. Only those close to me have heard me cry to them on the phone. I lay here alone crying so often it’s beginning to make me think I’m losing my mind. I will break down and cry over the simplest things.

The nurses and others who have had similar surgeries tell me that’s normal. To cry a lot. To be weak and tired. But I feel so alone, so tired, so sad. I had the surgery to get my life back; to give my kids their mom back. Last month, I spent more days in the hospital than I did at home. I have had stitches (technically) in my head for over a month. I have to wrap my arm in plastic before showering (I have a PICC line for IV antibiotics). My life isn’t normal right now and I’m so damn sad about it. I struggle to help my kids with things. I struggle to do what I need to do to care for myself let alone 3 other people.

So while many see my positive and humorous side and think I’m just oh so strong, I’m not. I’m weak. I’m sad. I’m tired. I need y’all to understand that.

And as harsh as this may sound, being told to keep my head up, be patient, or to stay positive doesn’t help me. It makes me feel worse. My head you want me to keep up is broken. It’s broken, swollen, and hurting. My patience has worn thin. And it’s hard to remain positive when so many negative things have happened to me.

Yes, I realize some people have it worse. I know some people didn’t wake up this morning. I realize my community has lost many people lately. And I feel the loss and I feel the pain of all those suffering. But that does not make my feelings less valid!!

I am allowed to vent. I am allowed to feel like this. My feelings are valid. I do not expect any replies to this post. I do not mean to hurt any feelings. I just needed to say all of this. I apologize if any feelings have been hurt. It’s truly not my intention.

Life After Brain Surgery

A week ago my family was all meeting up at a parking garage outside of University of Maryland Medical Center Baltimore, gathering our belongings necessary for the long day ahead, and rushing inside to get to where I needed to be by my 5:30 appt time. Sadly, the hospital sent us on a long run around until we finally landed right where we needed to be, but we got there. Tension was high among the group, of course. The nervousness in the air; palpable.

I was asked if I was ready, more times than a few. How do you answer that? How are you ever ready to risk leaving your family behind? How are you ever ready to risk not coming back to them the same as you left them? So I lied. I was ready, yes. I lied and said I was fine. I lied and said I was going to be okay. I was petrified.

Questions began, IV was started, prepping was moving at the speed of light, but I was still stuck. Lingering, waiting for my entire family to hug me all at once. What would be my last thing to say to each one of them? How do you decide that? You cannot scare the kids, Kristen. You cannot upset your sisters, Kris. And my God, don’t let my parents feel my fear.

Last night I was asked what I felt in those moments. What was it that I told myself to help me get through it and make the final decision to go through with it.

The answer is my life. I wanted my life back. The vibrant, exuberant, fly by the seat of her pants girl was gone. She was replaced long ago by a zombie of a woman that was barely surviving this world. She could no longer head out on grand adventures, planned or otherwise. She spent her days hardly able to make it up and down the stairs let alone to a school event with homemade brownies.

She couldn’t make it to concerts with her sisters anymore. She had to cancel plans with friends more times than a few. She couldn’t get outside and run around with her two sons anymore. Life as she knew it ceased to exist.

But this morning. 7 days after the scariest decision of her life, that girl woke up at 5 am without an alarm clock, went downstairs without a single creaking or aching bone (stairs are a different story), and made herself a cup of coffee. Do you realize how long it has been since that has happened? I won’t count the nights where sleep never happened and I got up at 5 to start a day after a night of no rest. I’m talking actually slept for hours, woke up, went down, and made my own damn coffee??

Let’s ask my little baristas when they wake. I bet ya it’s been a while.

Good morning, world. It’s good to be back.

Screaming in Silence

Pain, ripping flesh, breaking bones, searing flames of agony.
This isn’t torture. It’s my normal.
Tears flow down swollen cheeks to meet the pool gathered on my pillow. How many more nights will this flare last?
The drill in my ear, pressure building. Electric shocks through my jaw. Someone stop it.
Turn off the power. Cut the nerve. Rescue me. I’m dying. Please help me.

I wrote that poem in the middle of a flare up of the neuralgias I love with. They are always constant, but some days they flare so bad I cannot function. It’s unbelievably frustrating. The pain is beyond what the human body should have to endure. 10 days to surgery. I am so ready for this to be done!

~Kristen

Life With Chronic Illnesses

A couple weeks ago I visited my rheumatologist to discuss my fibromyalgia. I haven’t had too many “bad” days, so it was just a routine visit to discuss meds and whatnot. He informed me that a new medicine I was on (prescribed by neurologist) would likely lower my white cell count causing me to have difficulty with fighting off infections. Yay me.

Today I got about 40 needles in my face, head, neck, shoulders, and back. These needles, though incredibly painful, allow me to function. They allow me to get up out of bed and at least try to be normal. These needles are botox for migraines.

But before the needles happened, I had to discuss some weird side effects from that other medication (mentioned above). I explained to my neurologist what had been going on since increasing the dosage. Skin has been peeling off of my fingers and my feet. I’ve been sick with what feels like the flu. Turns out I am severely allergic to the only medicine that was keeping another chronic condition semi-tolerable. A condition I visit a neurosurgeon about tomorrow. A condition that chose me as one of its few victims this year. Trigeminal neuralgia. So tomorrow I will visit University of Maryland Neurosurgery to discuss surgical options for this pain, also known as the suicide disease.

Have you any idea the fear involved in deciding on a procedure that uses radiation to essentially kill a nerve right where it exits your brain? And even though the pain is the worst I’ve ever felt in my life, this procedure scares the hell out of me! I realize that with the 3 conditions, also known as my pain trifecta, I am not living the life I wish to live. And I want my life back for sure. The risks, though; I’m just not sure I’m ready for them.

At this point, I am not medicated since I had to stop the one and the other makes me way too antsy. I will struggle through one more night of insomnia tonight before making my way on my 3 hour journey tomorrow to see the surgeon. I’m scared.