I am now two weeks out of surgery. The path to recovery has been difficult. Due to my position throughout the seven-hour procedure, my left arm was deprived of circulation and my hand is now partially numb. The doctors expect it to regain function, but it may take months for the nerves to heal. In the meantime, playing guitar is out of the question. I’m surprised to discover that I feel no sentimental attachment to the guitar. It was a means of realizing song ideas and a vehicle for my voice, but the instrument itself holds no emotional significance to me. I was a terrible player anyway. Good riddance.
Another unforeseen outcome of the surgery was the strain placed on a nerve responsible for focusing my eyes. The surgeon scraped bits of tumor from the nerve, but did not sever it. Upon waking from the anesthesia, I suffered from double vision. To see clearly I was forced to close one eye, and I briefly resorted to wearing an eye patch. Fortunately, my vision has mostly resolved as the nerve heals. I find that my prescription reading glasses, obtained just prior to my diagnosis, provide greater clarity and benefit than before the surgery. My field of vision has shrunk – the margins are fuzzy and refuse to come into focus – but with the aid of glasses I have no complaints. I’m grateful the nerve was spared.
I was a little surprised by the pain. I knew it would come, but I expected localized pain around the site of the incision. Instead, the actual cut proved relatively mild compared to the pervasive throbbing and discomfort distributed throughout my head. The inside of my skull pulsated and “whooshed,” causing alarm in addition to pain. I lost several nights’ sleep to the deafening rush of blood near my right ear. The swelling causes an assortment of sounds and sensations unlike anything I’d experienced before. While the Hydrocodone eliminated most of the pain, it did nothing to eliminate the unfamiliar feelings following having your head drilled open. To anyone experiencing similar symptoms, take heart. My pulsatile tinnitus, as the whooshing sound is called, has almost entirely passed. I’m relishing the sound of silence. Well, my normal, ear-ringing tinnitus remains, but the unsettling sound of blood surging has almost disappeared.
Another unexpected result of the surgery is a slight disruption to my speech coordination. While the surgeon did not remove any part of my cerebellum, he did traverse it and this incursion seems to have upset the fluidity of my speech. It’s not a terrible deficiency, and I appear to be getting better at overcoming it, but I struggled at first to make my tongue perform the desired tasks. I still stumble over familiar words and occasionally lisp through sibilants. But I’m relieved to discover that the impairment is primarily to my speech, not to my formation of words. My mind appears unaffected.
Despite these minor inconveniences, the surgery was a success. My doctor removed the entire tumor, which is a strong indicator of favorable long-term outcomes. The pathology report will determine whether my meningioma was typical or atypical, the latter of which is associated with a higher likelihood of recurrence. Should the tumor recur, the next line of defense is radiation. Dallas is home to two multi-million-dollar proton radiation facilities providing the most advanced and accurate radiation treatment available. My prognosis is good.
I am just beginning to process this experience emotionally. More than once I have spontaneously burst into tears, moved by either the generosity of friends and family or by the gradual realization that this ordeal could have gone much differently. I am humbled and awed by the skill and professionalism of Baylor University Medical Center’s staff, and I am deeply grateful to those of you who visited me in the hospital or voiced your support from afar. Thank you.
Those who know me well know that the last two years have been difficult. This health crisis mirrors the emotional calamity that preceded it. My divorce was the more painful of the two episodes. To my astonishment, the bodily ailment and my physical recovery are restoring the damage done by emotional trauma. The body broken, the soul flourishes. I am so grateful to be alive. I have discovered life’s pleasures once more, and for the first time in years I am optimistic about tomorrow.
I will endeavor to repay the kindness lavished on me during these hard weeks. To serve each other is such a blessing. I thank God for each of you.