April 12: Tappity Tap

The building was nothing special from the outside.  It was a dull grey bricked affair, with skinny windows that suggested late 80’s office architecture.  I pitied the people that had to work in such a place, and imagined drop foam ceilings, putty file cabinets and Bunn coffee machines with prepackaged coffee packets so that every cup of coffee tasted just like yesterday’s.  Like I said, nothing special.  But when I first walked into the room a sense of calm and well-being overcame me.  Maybe a subconscious reaction on my part because of where I was, but I didn’t expect it. This first experience sticks out in my memory even now, weeks after completing the Transcendental Meditation course.

Words are inadequate to describe TM.  How do you describe falling in love? How do you talk about the peaceful feeling that suddenly comes upon you when rain is hitting the roof? It’s intangible.  But the benefits I’ve experienced so far are not.  Remember in my last blog when I was having severe neck issues?  After my first day of instruction, my neck wasn’t crunching on its hinges when I turned my head.  I waited a few days to see if the soreness would return, but so far I’m still creak-free.  A miracle?  Maybe.  But I think it’s working.

So far I’ve been able meditate twice a day, as advised.  Now that I’m done with the course it’s a little more difficult – I have slightly less motivation to practice since I won’t be required to report my personal observations to anyone.  However, I’m determined to stay disciplined.  They say it will improve my prefrontal cortex and enhance cognitive skills.  The goal, ultimately, is to be stress free and live in a state of cosmic consciousness.  And by golly, who doesn’t want that?

Meanwhile, sensation is returning to the area of my head where the titanium mesh replaced my skull.  One day I ran my nails gently over that area and experienced a prairie grass wind tickling of my nerves. Weird, but not unpleasant – but mostly weird.  This has all been a weird trip, though. I dare say nothing really freaks me out anymore.  Except…this!  Behold, the tools of craniotomy!  

Ooh.  Shiny, shiny.  

Maybe someday  I’ll be brave enough to show my pre-brain surgery MRI images.  Doesn’t everyone at some point of their medical trauma blog?  Something with a disclaimer, like “The images you’re about to see will shock and horrify you.  Or not, if you happen to be one of the few that are morbidly curious about such things.”

Ha.  Maybe later, kids.

The swelling had gone down somewhat, but still decided not to put my contacts in.  I had never gone this long without them and wondered if there was a limit to how long they could sit in saline without eventually becoming one with it.  I couldn’t wait to get these weighty spectacles off my nose. They kept falling down due to the heavy lenses and my lack of proboscis.  

Some time during the day, I decided to keep a daily journal of my progress going forward.  I thought it would be helpful when my two week follow up appointment came up, as there were already things that I had questions on.  Like this smelling thing -I wondered how long it would last or if it was permanent.  And I still wasn’t feeling myself in a number of ways.

I passed the day as a child would, eating, sleeping and taking some time to write.  I was in between two journals – a daily one and the other one I had started to try and remember everything that had happened in the hospital, before I came home. I decided this would be my daily regimen, because one day these events would be hazy memories though they were still so clear in my mind at the moment.  I wanted to remember everything.  

We went for a walk again, and I made it two street corners further before I got too tired to continue.  I looked at the goal before me.  The main street we were following had a series of traffic islands, which made up a little track of sorts, and if you went all the way around and two islands more, it was about a mile.  How far away the other end seemed!  But I made up my mind to go all the way around very, very soon.

The day was passed in this manner, with two long naps in between activities just after I took my pain and anti-seizure medication.  I couldn’t write for very long, but it was something to do when I was really awake and focused.  I wasn’t allowed to look at the internet or text, and I wasn’t really in the mood to watch American Idol or Judge Judy.  We were expecting his best friend and his mom for dinner, so soon enough they came bearing bagels and lox, and Venus razor blades for me because my leg hair had become quite unseemly in a little over a week.

There were some things I had noticed that day.  Prior to my surgery, I had noticed a constant heartbeat in my right ear when I leaned over or if my head was pitched over slightly.  I had thought it would be gone once my tumor was removed, but no such luck, so this was a concern.  Another was the burning sensation in my left breast when I turned over, which was puzzling because it had only happened when the pain med was administered through the IV in the hospital.  Maybe that would go away eventually, but for now it was alarming and annoying every time I turned to lay on my left side.

But the most bothersome thing was happening – or rather, that hadn’t happened yet- was the fact that I hadn’t gone number two for over a week.  Part of it was a known side effect of the pain medication, but part of it was just the normal experience of brain surgery.  Apparently the lower intestine is the last part to wake up, so it was very important that I keep taking the stool softeners even though they didn’t seem to be doing anything.  You’d think I would feel myself getting backed up, but I just didn’t feel anything.  But I would be patient.  One less thing to deal with, right?

We had dinner, then his friend went off on an ice cream mission for our dessert.  It had been my husband’s intent to not leave me alone with his mom, who didn’t quite understand my speech difficulties and who would most likely ask me complicated questions I couldn’t answer in my current condition.  The plan was going well until my husband decided to go in the kitchen under the pretense of cleaning up.  

“Does it hurt?” she asked, a beat or two after he left the room.

“No, actually, it doesn’t.” I looked down at the remnants of my bagel and lox and wondered if I should feign a seizure.

“Really?  I wonder why that is?”  

“Oh, well…I think it’s because … you really don’t have nerves in your brain.  I think that’s why.”  Long pause as I fumbled for the next sentence, as I lost track of what we were talking about.  “Also I’m taking pain medication for any headaches I might have.”  Whew.  Got that out.

“And what kind of medication would that be?”  

“Um…something…that sounds like a whale?…Nor-something?…”  

My husband had returned, realizing I had been alone with his mom for an unacceptable amount of time.  I gave him my best stink eye, or what I could manage with a partially swollen face, and that was the end of my conversation with my mother-in-law for the evening.

Day three of my return home had gone well.  Well enough, anyway.  Maybe tomorrow my head would feel back to how it was and this teeth-tapping thing would stop.

Tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap switch! tap tap tap tap tap tap tap….


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