April 13:  A question finally answered

Our first snow was, as I suspected, just as spellbinding as the grandeur of fall.  I gazed upon sloppy, fluffy piles on the branches of the old maple tree in front of our house, and listened to the ethereal hushed sounds of fat falling snowflakes slowly plummeting through the chill air.  It was a little hard to look at and I had to close my eyes at times – the constant falling motion of the tiny flakes was a bit dizzying.  Still, it was quite gorgeous.  I could have stayed out there longer watching in rapt wonder but I thought it was time to go in before the neighbors started getting concerned.

It’s been awhile since my last post, I admit.  I blame the holidays – the company holiday party, having family over for Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.  I had just gotten the excitement of meal preparation back, and I guess I thought I could handle it – man, how did our moms do it every year?  But I’m happy to say I survived everything with minimal suffering on my part.  I say “minimal” because I admit to suffering significant amounts of anxiety surrounding these events, particularly the company holiday party. It was not the nervous excited version, where I would enter the fray with determination and grit, but one in which I wondered if I could successfully pull all the moving parts together in the end.  I was genuinely afraid I’d hit a wall at some point and things would get confusing and I’d be unable to make quick decisions and well, everything would just fall apart and be ruined.

But I had people helping me and offering moral support, and without them I don’t think I would have gotten through it without bursting into tears, which I felt close to doing on more than one occasion.  I also meditated three times before I finally left my house for the venue.   I had my strategy in mind, which was to get to a quiet place and recover before everyone arrived and periodically throughout the night.  My husband kept an eye on me as well in between socializing and thus I was able to survive the evening exhausted but unscathed.

There’s been a couple of things I’m still experiencing.  On occasion, the aforementioned hypnogogia still returns to entertain and bewilder me.  I managed to write down a couple of them and my theory is it’s a result of my brain occasionally readjusting and coming up with false or illogical information in that time period between wakefulness and snoozeland.  Thus, Steppenwolf did not write “I Am Superman” (it was R.E.M.), and I cannot take my shopping cart from the produce aisle in my head into the real world through a whirling vortex.  

The second thing took me by surprise, much like my sudden inability to spell out loud.  My twin and I were trying to figure out what time to pick up my mother for church on Christmas Day, and I found I couldn’t think backwards in time.  It was like going down a familiar path (“Let’s see…so if we need to pick her up at 9:00 to get there by 9:30, we have to leave at..um..wait.. let me start that over..9:00 am…crap!”) and suddenly being stopped by a dense forest that wasn’t before.  My thoughts just stopped dead and couldn’t go any further.  But I’m sure I’ll hack my way through that forest in time – not a big deal, just more annoying than anything else.

There will be a slightly different format to my next blog posts due to the nature of the content and because some of it will need to be followed by an explanation or supporting information.  You’ll see…it will all make sense (at least I hope so).  And besides, isn’t the new year supposed to be about changing things up?  I truly hope 2016 will be nothing like 2015 but I feel a little more resilient to whatever tragedy might befall me and my own in the next 12 months.  I know, not a great attitude, but what can I say –  it’s better to be a realist in these troubled times.  

So Happy New Year, and let’s keep it real as the kids say.

At 4:27 am I’m wide awake and fully expecting to engage in conversation with my husband. I was mildly disappointed that he didn’t want to discuss my increasingly colorful dreams that were progressively becoming more detailed, but perhaps that could wait until later when he was coherent.  I guess this was to be my sleeping pattern until I was off my meds, but instead of being irritated I was grateful to be home in my own bed,  and it wasn’t routine for a stranger to come in and poke me for my blood at that part of the day.

Upon finally waking,  I heard my husband talking on the phone in the dining room.  He was pacing while he talked, a sure sign of agitation.  It was in his voice, too. I could tell by hearing certain words that he was speaking to someone about the pathology results which we had been told would be ready told by now.  The terror of having cancer that I had put aside in the hospital was again all consuming, and despite my doctor’s assurance that my tumor wasn’t cancerous my stomach tightened and butterflies fluttered madly inside it.   

There was a pause in the conversation.  Someone was getting the information and had put my husband on hold.  We both waited nervously in our separate rooms, terrified by what the voice on the other line might say.  In those brief moments I desperately thought of other things, like what I was going to eat for breakfast or why wasn’t I able to smell my cat’s breath yet when she was right in front of my face in bed snuffling me.

I heard a sigh of relief from the dining room.  “Thank you, that’s great news.  I’ll let her know as soon as she’s up.”  But I’d already heard, and the butterflies in my belly stopped their insane fluttering.  One less thing to worry about.  Now I can just concentrate on getting getting back to normal.  No gamma knife radiation therapy for me!  Whoo hoo!

I decided to lay there a little longer and then nonchalantly walk out of the bedroom to see what was up.  My husband told me the good news and we hugged each other very, very hard.  

“So what’s for breakfast?” I asked, pretending I wasn’t scared out of my mind moments before.

That day he was to return to work officially while my best friend kept an eye on me for the day until he returned.  He helped me shower, and Octavia took her spot on the toilet. I was a little more independent this time and did a little less holding on to the wall, and moved with more confidence.  When I tilted my head back to rinse the shampoo off what little hair I had, the water was hitting the titanium mesh area of my skull.  It was like hearing rain on a metal roof, but the roof was my skull and the house was my mind.  I could hear the patter inside my head and sense the pressure of each water drop. Very alarming at first, then I just accepted it as part of my new normal. I was reminded of the infamous break towards the end of the B52’s song ‘Love Shack’ , which made reference to a roof made of an inexpensive metal that had oxidized (or slang for a girl getting pregnant).

My friend arrived late morning from Ann Arbor while I was laying on the couch waiting for the usual drowsiness that followed my Keppra and Norcro.

She and I had met at work, both unwilling recruits to yet another web design company.  It’s a bit complicated to explain so I won’t bother, but it was very much like an arranged marriage or perhaps a bad blind date that simply didn’t end.  We both got laid off after a few years of trying to fit, but during this miserable time we forged a strong friendship based on heroic acts of emotional support and trying to keep the other amused during the day via instant messaging.  She totally got me, and I got her.  She became the sister I’d never had, growing up the only girl in my immediate family, and she quickly became someone I trusted and could confide in, and also laugh my ass off with.  Amidst our tears of frustration, we giggled  our way through numerous troubled times and hooted at the various obstacles life had thrown in our path.  Well, after the miserable parts were over.  And a few sidecars were tossed down.

Anyway, I hadn’t seen her since the post-op love in, so it had been a little over a week.  We said hey to each other and she took a seat across of me on the recliner.  Conversation was minimal, but we managed a few low key but heartfelt laugh fests.  Mostly it was rehashing about my twin’s behavior when my mother-in-law insisted on coming to post-op, despite my very specific requests.

“Your brother is my new hero!” she declared.  We laughed – I could imagine how things went down.  My mother-in-law meant well, but sometimes obvious things elude her.  Someone had to talk some sense to her, and my twin was no one to mince words.  Things were said and lines were drawn,  and soon she was left in the company of my nephew’s wife while the people I had requested came to comfort me in my hour of need.

About 4:00-ish we were visited by one of the founders of the company I worked for, who I also hadn’t seen since the day of surgery.  He came bearing gifts yet again, including a card signed by my co-workers.  I wasn’t allowed to read yet so I had my best friend read some of the messages for me.

Even Hallmark couldn’t have come up with something appropriate for this occasion.  Can you imagine?  “Glad the surgeon didn’t sneeze and you’re still your old self!” or “Craniotomies are no fun!” or “So they said it was benign?  Let’s celebrate!”  Which is why they had found a congratulations on your new baby card instead, with the words “baby girl” crossed out and replaced with “meningioma”.   

Then he handed me a box. “What’s this?” I asked, recognizing the brand name.

“We took a collection for you.  Go on, open it!”

Inside were the Bose QuietComfort 20i acoustic noise-cancelling headphones. They looked pretty fantastic, and I knew anything by Bose didn’t come cheap and that this product was most likely the result of thorough, meticulous research.  The individual who had masterminded the collection had an EMS background and experience with brain trauma patients, and had explained to everyone that this would help me avoid overstimulation as I recovered.  I was profoundly moved by this gesture and very pleased as I was very sensitive to every noise, no matter how small, and it would be incredibly useful as I progressed from the controlled environment of my home into noisier places like restaurants and markets.   I tried them out and it was amazing how with one flick of a switch I could enter a world of total silence.  It was a wonderful gift, and I felt very lucky to work with such generous, thoughtful people.

As he was leaving I told him to tell everyone thank you, particularly the individual who had organized it, and that I was up for visitors but only one at a time as two would be too much for me in my delicate state.  He said he would convey the messages, and we hugged.   Then he left to get home in time to take his daughters to karate.  I went back to the couch, tired from this brief visit but happy to know that I was missed.  And I admit it was an odd feeling to be on the receiving end of charity, but I didn’t dwell on it.  I had received something we hadn’t thought of from people that genuinely cared about me, and that was all I needed to reflect on.

I was far from ready to return to work, but damn, I realized how much I missed everyone and their wacky ways, a sentiment rarely generated by a normal workplace.  But I worked for the best company in Detroit and I truly couldn’t wait to get back.  I just needed to go slow, be patient, and everything would happen in its own time.  For now, it was enough to eat, sleep, shower, receive visitors and write, write, write.  

I went back to the couch and rested until dinner, and this was the extent of my activities for the next few days.

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