Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Three Month Anniversary

Today marks three months from brain surgery. Put in that light, my condition and progress have been simply amazing. Looking at the tumor scans again this morning highlights how very, very lucky I have been, not only in the physical sense, but also in the loving community surrounding us. That thing was enormous. It’s still a bit hard to grasp that it was occupying part of my brain. Jill’s observation, early on, that my brain might have betrayed me, but not my mind, was a hugely important perspective and provided balance through the whole adventure.

At three months out, a quick summary is that I’ve hit a bit of a plateau in recovery, though the plateau is at a very high altitude. Most of what follows has been said here before. That’s the good news, if you can take it that way. We are.

I am almost fully functional, say 85-90% of “normal,” whatever that is. I’m still doing OT and PT each twice a week, though probably (we hope) nearing the end of each. My stamina is intermittent and lower than where I’d like to be. At home, I can work all day without flagging; out in the world, it is unpredictable as to when the energy will just end. This can be frustrating, but can also be managed with some thought. When tired, both my balance and full use of my right arm are compromised. I’m building back up on cardio exercise, trying to add 30 seconds or a minute every day on the treadmill. The incision and scalp are healing. The area of the scalp that remains "boggy" and just plain strange is much smaller than it was, down to the the size of my palm. Headaches are intermittent and low-enough level that it’s rare that some kind of analgesic (or narcotic) are necessary: most of the time, I’m still drug free. (And still laughing about the lunch encounter.) All in all, things are good. Even great. If I never improve from where I am now, there is a good life to be lived in this state. And, as before, more improvement is both possible and expected.

As to conclusions about this process, I’d say that patience is an acquired virtue, and it still seems overrated to me. On the other hand, it’s hard to overstate the importance of a good sense of humor and the ability to laugh at myself. And nothing can even come close to the value of loving friends.

We are so thankful for:

• Paul Lauterbur’s research making the MRI technology possible for the diagnosis and aiding the precision surgery
• a benign tumor, in an accessible place, not entangled with my brain, and that was completely removed
• Bill Olivero’s surgical skill making that possible, as well as his tremendous humanity through this process
• great care by Carle nurses and other medical folks
• hardy pioneer ancestors and a strong constitution
• Mettler therapists and trainers: OT, PT, strength training, all supporting this recovery
• flexible work that permitted me to do much of it from home in between naps
• Amy Gajda and Laura Clower, incredible friends and colleagues who helped get my classes through the semester by stepping in to cover the missed classes and supporting my graduated return to teaching
• wonderful students, whose grace, charm, kindness and good will made all difficult things possible this semester
• hugely understanding collaborators who accommodated my absence and were understanding and helpful throughout
• funny movies, podcasts and other occasions for laughter
• cards, notes, songs, caring and support provided by you and our community, constantly encouraging me and us through the troughs of this and celebrating the progress, cheering it on

Most of all, that we all have each other. Everything about this process has reinforced the fundamental truth of the fact that the deeply meaningful parts of life are provided by our human connections. Thanks again for being out there.

Back to the final segment of grading. This is the last lap of a semester that has many characteristics of a marathon. It’s had pain, exhilaration, blisters, high moments and low. The finish line is a most welcome sight.

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