Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Oblivious, or Denial?

Here we are, what, almost three weeks after surgery? And I’m just now figuring out that the most sore part of my head and scalp is not the incision, but a part that experienced no cutting at all. I’m not sure why this has dawned on me so slowly, but it is the back of my head and I cannot see it. I do not much related to it in the photos, either, for some reason.

In any event, the most uncomfortable part of my head is on the left side, behind my ear. The incision, if you saw the pictures (or if you preferred not to look, I’ll just describe it for you) is in the shape of a reverse “C”. Think of a square: the two horizontal legs and the vertical on the right-hand side that connect them are the incision. The resulting seam is mostly painless and healing remarkably; Michael says he can hardly detect the vertical line, even when he knows where it is and the two horizontal lines are only slightly more detectable.

On the left side, though, where there were no cuts of any sort to the scalp, my head is “boggy” and very sore. The sensation of near-painful tingling is a lot like my right thumb, which aches all the time with an unpleasant sensation. It’s not quite numb (that would be better) but almost. That area of my scalp is by far the most tender and sore. I wonder if this is because the skin was folded back there during the surgery and this is some after-effect from that? Or perhaps some cutting on the bone underneath which is not evident with the scalp covering it again. Another question for Dr. Google about how this surgery is done, I guess.

The very best thing for sleeping turns out to be my buckwheat pillows. I gave a talk a few years back at a research integrity conference in New York City, where I was placed at a funky boutique hotel that advertised itself as focusing on holistic health. They had bowls of apples everywhere, and every staff member, at the beginning and end of every interaction lowered their voice an octave or so and intoned in a quasi-musical way “Be well.” Among other features, each room had a Pillow Menu one was encouraged to discuss with the Pillow Concierge. Being adventuresome, in the two nights I was there, I tried every pillow on the menu, after very serious discussions about each with the Pillow Concierge--who could hold these conversations without giggling, which I thought was an impressive testimony to something or other. Pretension? Seriousness of mind I don’t personally possess? The Pillow Menu had, as I recall, about eight choices: there were down pillows of different lofts (very solemn discussions of the pros and cons of each variety of down), Swedish memory foam, hypo-allergenic, and … I don’t remember… and buckwheat. Of all the pillows, I was captivated by the buckwheat option. These pillows are not really soft, but can be manipulated into just about any shape or position because of the buckwheat grains and that arrangement holds once set. I bought some as soon as I got home and have been using them ever since.

The buckwheat pillows have been a real boon throughout this recovery, and I even used them while I was in the hospital. They can be arranged so that there was no pressure at all on the sore spots and lots of support everywhere else. I think they should be standard equipment for recovering from head surgery. Regular pillows hurt!

Yesterday brought physical therapy (short session, mild effort, 2 hour nap afterwards) and half of my law class. Wonder-friend lawyer teaching it is doing a magnificent job; me, not so much. I did manage to write on the board, using the tooth-brushing technique (two hands: left arm supports the right elbow and arm). It wasn’t pretty or fast, but it did sort of work. Mostly, she wrote on the board. My timing is terrible and I didn’t leave anyone enough room to work things through. Also not pretty. I can only hope I’ll get better soon. The students in this class continue to be tremendously good-natured and generous about the whole disrupted experience. Today brings occupational therapy and strength training and, I hope, an hour of my other class, which I haven’t seen since the Tuesday before surgery. They, too, have a tremendous replacement who has parachuted in with enthusiasm and energy and to whom I’m deeply indebted. Plus, it’s another group with a great group personality.

Meanwhile, the comic strips are becoming more coherent to me in recent days, which although a fairly minor affair, is a step forward any way you look at it. What isn’t returning, I note with consternation in looking back over blog entries, is my inner copy editor. I’m disappointed with the number of errors throughout these posts, not to mention the incidence of truly hideous sentences. I’ve learned that I often write my way to my point, so it’s important, after finishing a draft, to go back and turn many of my sentences inside out, moving the point from end to the front. However, reviewing what’s here, I see far more sentences that meander along than leaves me comfortable—and only some of them conclude with any sort of point. And there are so many words to convey some pretty simple ideas. Whew.

To a certain extent, the truly obnoxious sentences correlate with days when I didn’t feel very good. Ok, I can live with that. I’m working on excusing myself for both those sentences and the other flaws that make me cringe, and remembering that you nice people have likely been cutting me a break as you went along. Probably, even, I notice the problems more than you have. With certainty, I am more critical of them. Yet another opportunity presents itself for me to work on my grace and patience. Great news. (A family tag line and used sarcastically; it’s a long story. But “great news” is generally not great news, used in this fashion.) I’ll see what I can do. Meanwhile, I’m going to be watching carefully for my inner copy editor to figure out if she’s still around and can be roused.

The New York Times today has a column about finding medical information on the internet and some of the communities related to particular diagnoses. When I was up in the night, I checked out some of the meningioma communities… reminding me once again just how profoundly lucky I have been throughout this process. I’m going back to rest up and to do my best to manage my stamina/strength today. Enjoy your levels of energy—I always took mine for granted before and I’m seeing now that was, as they say, an oversight. Have a great Tuesday.


  1. I just heard about your surgery last night, and was directed to this blog this morning.

    Wow. That's all I can come up with at the moment: wow.

    But rest assured that your entries do indeed "read" as "you".

    I'll be in touch -- Kate W.

  2. A theory why the opposite side of your head hurts: Gravity. You can't sleep on the side that was opened. Fluid therefore drains to the opposite side.

    Just a theory.