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.

Tests Approaching: Fear Rising!

Later this week I will travel 3 and a half hours for additional testing and another visit to a specialist. This specialist, an ENT, will be able to rule out any potential structural issues inside my ear that could be leading to the pain. The neurosurgeon doesn’t think this is the case, but wants to make sure he rules it out before we move forward.

I will have an additional MRI done with and without contrast. Similar to ones I’ve done in the past, but I don’t recall ever having the contrast. I also haven’t ever had one that will show quite as much detail as this one will. This will show thinner cuts which will allow the neurosurgeon to see more detail of the vascular and nerve systems within that area of the brain. We are hoping this will show what he needs to see that will help determine how involved the surgery will be.

I have decided to take this trip alone. Partly because I don’t want anyone else to have to sit around while I’m in the machine and doctor’s offices all afternoon. But also because I am afraid of what will be found and I honestly would rather take bad news alone than with someone else. I’ve always done it that way, so it seems normal to me. I’ve been alone for every other crappy diagnosis, so why not this one, right?

I have this fear, and I know it is based off of a really slim chance, but it’s still relevant in my opinion. I have a fear the doctor will find a tumor compressing all of the nerves and more than just a simple vascular compression. With this fear, one would think that I wouldn’t want to be alone. But I really feel like I wouldn’t want anyone looking at me during my initial reaction to something like that. I would want to process it alone before telling anyone.

I know that the success rate of this upcoming surgery is very high, but I also know that risks exist. As the appointments get closer, and surgery will be decided, I am more and more nervous of the what ifs. I know this particular post is a bit of a whiny mess of words, not really making much sense.  Please forgive me. Perhaps I will have something a bit more coherent as the time draws closer.

Kristen