A sudden health diagnosis comes out of nowhere and blind sides me. I go to see an optometrist because of what I perceived as a “minor” issue. I had been experiencing a weird murkiness in my left eye for a couple of weeks. Because this is the 2nd time this has occurred, the optometrist sends me to a retina specialist. I’m thinking the whole time, this is weird, but you know whatever, I’m sure it’s just a precaution. As I’m describing my symptoms to the retina specialist, she’s very concerned about these symptoms and sends me onto a neuro-ophthalmologist. Again, I’m reassuring myself, she’s taking precautions and following through to make sure that there’s nothing wrong. The retina specialist warns me that it may take awhile to get an appointment to see the neuro-ophthalmologist and to be patient. Within a couple of days, the neuro-ophthalmologist calls to schedule an appointment for the following week.
So, within a span of a week, I’ve seen 2 specialists. Again, as I step into the neuro-ophthalmologist office, I’m telling myself it’s a routine exam. By the end of this office visit, it has clearly moved out of the “routine” into the absurd. I’m completely blindsided and left in shock by what’s been discovered. After an MRI, it’s discovered that there is a GROWTH(i.e. tumor) pushing on my optic nerve. This has been causing the murkiness in my eye and that now I needed to consult with a NEUROSURGEON. In my state of disbelief, I was trying to get my wits about me to digest the word GROWTH and NEUROSURGEON. I’m being asked to see a BRAIN SURGEON about a TUMOR….WHAT??? As I get in the car to drive home, I call my husband to relay this shocking discovery, a tumor is pushing on my optic nerve and that I’m being referred to a neurosurgeon. A couple of days later, we discover from the neurosurgeon that I have a very slow growing meningioma, the size of a golf ball, that has been slow growing for the past 10-15 years. It is pushing on my optic nerve and a full CRANIOTOMY will be needed to remove the tumor, sooner than later. One day, I’m walking around thinking there’s some weird murkiness affecting my eyesight and the next day, I’m told my head will be cut open from ear to ear to remove a tumor!
The surgery was scheduled for Jan 7th, 2016. So for the whole month of December, I spent a great deal of time in shock, thinking to myself how seemingly random this meningioma was. Because I’m the sort of person, who believes in meaning making out of randomness, maybe it’s a way to have a sense of control over and allows me to cope with the often seemingly randomness of life and provide an explanation to why crappy things happen to people. After this initial stage of shock wore off, then there was the stage of “what-ifs”. What if the surgery went south and became life-threatening? Because even under the most skilled surgeons hands, there are no guarantees. The thought of the surgeon drilling into my skull and then handling my brain and moving stuff around to get to the tumor, sounded not only astounding but causing to dissociate. My neurosurgeon performs 350 of these type of surgeries every year and so I had a very skilled surgeon and yet coming face to face with the reality of something going awry and death a real possibility, there’s a huge tectonic shift that happens on a conscious and subconscious level. It was a punch to the gut that inflicted a paradigm shift and demanded a scrutiny of how and what brings meaning to my life. It’s NOT a shift of “oh I’ll think about this and reflect and go back to living my life, the way I have”. No, it’s a tectonic, foundational shift that insisted on definitively altering my existence.
My surgery went well. All the tumor was removed and it was benign. My initial recovery took about 6 weeks but it took a good year to feel fully myself. I have my full eyesight but the residual effect since the initial hours post surgery, I lost my sense of smell (I will write more about this for another blog).