Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Head Long into Health

Two weeks ago I landed in the hospital because, I the writer and communicator, spent a good long ten minutes speaking in gibberish. I could not get the words from my head to my mouth in any way that made sense, and I knew it. It was embarrassing because my husband and I were at a party meeting and greeting his new colleagues in a new job. I was supposed to be playing "supportive wife" role. There I was saying something like, "The beer snake flew smash nut Pho dog food," when I was trying to describe a simple place. I thought I was having a stroke, or had finally gotten full-blown Alzheimer's disease.

It went away, but I was stunned and the next morning after much delay, I decided I had just better head over to the hospital to make sure I wasn't building up to a bigger stroke. You may wonder why I didn't go straight to the hospital in the first place. That's probably why I'm writing this blog because it is a warning to take symptoms seriously, take oneself seriously and, you know, take care of business for oneself when it comes down to it. 

Those who have known me long will know that I'm the person who has the strangest, least explainable illnesses.  For instance, for years I was covered head-to-toe with chronic hives, red itchy welts all the time (and I do mean all the time) for years on end. After initial panic about these kinds of things I grew used to having things wrong, made jokes about them, tried a gazillion diets, supplements and medications all to no avail. In fact, I simply made myself used to my body glitches. I've had a gray, dirty-laundry-in-my-head headache for so long that I've written it off as par for the course, part of my life here on planet earth. I've longed for the invention of a brain rinse. I've got a patchoulus eustation tube that sounds like I'm underwater on the left side of my head all the time. I'm fatigued a lot of the time and have aches and pains that are not explicable by my Hashimoto's Thyroiditis (who has a disease like that?) killing off my entire thyroid and leaving anti-bodies swimming through my blood. So, you know, with all these little things going on all the time, I've gotten a sort attitude about not feeling well that goes like, "Yeah. Big deal. Another thing."

It turns out there is a reason for all of this. I have a brain tumor. After sending me through an MRI at the hospital the Doctor arrived in my little waiting room breathless to announce, "It's benign, but you need to take an ambulance to St. Anthony's right now and have an operation."  Huh? So, it wasn't a stroke or Alzheimer's. He shot me up with some steroids and the friendly ambulance guys got me off one gurney and onto another lickety split. Brain surgery. I talked all the way down. I felt so relieved to have a clear answer, a removable answer. The whole thing was strange.

Because I was so chitty-chatty everything slowed down. I looked nothing like I was in the emergency of my life, I suppose. I had time to send out emails on my Droid. "Hi guys, just letting you know...I have a brain tumor." They came in and asked me to touch my nose and follow the light and say things. Nope. No gibberish. Everything slowed down. They hooked me up to machines. They took my blood. They came and looked at me some more. They sent me through a CAT scan and an EEG. They threw up the MRI images and there was the rather large grey egg sitting on the outside of my brain, and inside my skull, an intruder causing swelling, but not reaching into the grey matter of my brain apparently, and they decided that surgery could wait for a more elective time.

I went home on day three loaded up with pharmaceuticals that were supposed to keep everything under control and shrink the tumor so that it can be easily removed. Unfortunately, now it has been two weeks of relatively very little sleep, and I've got two to three weeks to go before they actually remove this slug of my past. I feel I might be going mad as a hatter. My hands feel tied. 

Then tonight, after two restless hours of tossing and turning I got up to address the thirst and wakefulness by cleaning my kitchen again, and it occurred to me that I'm having a temper tantrum and a whine fest in spite of my best efforts to be courageous and cool about this whole thing. During all of those years of mysterious illness, maybe it always came down to this lump in my head, and what did it all mean? I'm in a state of self-examination again, but this time loaded with some strange ray of hope that it isn't my imagination finally. Yet, my arms are folded in anger. All those years! Taking care of myself on those gazillion diets, supplements and endless treatments! I'm sure I sent someone's kid to college once or twice. 

The thing is on my communication center. For the last several years I have been struggling with words, with phrases on the tip of my tongue disappearing before I could spit them out. I have been struggling with timing. I have been feeling I'm losing my mind's accuracy and clarity. Obviously, my brain has been working overtime to compensate, and now what? What happens when it is no longer there? Will I be able to write at all? Will I be better? These are the great unknowns of the moment. Where is Dr. McCoy and the brain operating machine for "Spock's Brain," when you need him? Not that I'm Spock, but I'm just saying'!

I expect this sounds like a tragedy to some of you, but I feel blessed on many levels. I am finally insured and can take care of this, thanks to my lovely husband. I have a clear prognosis, since it is outside my brain, and even if I have to have some radiation to stop any growth that looks messy the neurosurgeon feels he's not going to be cutting brain matter with any scalpel. That makes sense to me. Apparently, they put little silicone donuts on my head and get a GPS satellite image and cut a little incision and remove it like a gallbladder. So, maybe I don't have Bones, but things have improved in the science and execution of it. 

The main thing is that now I have to get over my tantrum about it and start taking care of myself again because what I'm aware of acutely is that somewhere along the line of the last few years I gave up hope of ever really feeling that good again. I'm beside myself, that actually, I might just feel a helluva lot better soon.

That's my news of the moment. I'll be updating here from time to time, just to let you know how it goes. I was going to do a CaringBridge site, but their server moves to slow and I'm too impatient. I welcome your prayers and thoughts, good vibes and light, but please don't expect a lot of personal messaging about this because after just two weeks I'm at maximum capacity for explaining it in more detail. I hope that doesn't sound awful, but this blog will serve as the curation of information for me. Trust that I'm addressing my needs to the very best of my abilities and using this, as every opportunity, to write and examine life. Who knows? Maybe I'll be more brilliant. Grin.

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