Monday, January 19, 2009

Moving Right Along

Two-thirds of the scar from the original incision has either vanished or very nearly so by now. The vertical line has been completely healed for some time, and the top horizontal line is catching up. The bottom horizontal line closest to the vertical is healthy and hard to find; at what we theorize must have been the beginning, as it is closest to the drill hole, there are still inflamed and scabby patches. We’re amazed at the unevenness of the healing in contiguous portions of the incision. We are still applying the vitamin E, straight out of a capsule, onto the parts that can are lagging. Now, though, when searching for the scar, it’s more and more the ridge lines in the skull that we use as the starting point. The scalp is still, in the words of the surgeon, “boggy” in places. The size of that area has shrunk, but it’s still odd.

In the last week, three separate wise and caring people have taken me to task for being too hard on myself and two of them have delved into why my perception is that my brain is broken. This debate is rooted in the obvious fact that my personality is intact, and has been throughout. I can still hold a conversation, make jokes, teach a class and make a presentation. I can even still write these entries. What seems missing is what, for me at least, has always been at the center of my distinguishing contributions, the ability to synthesize. Michael and Kearney argue that this capacity has always been diminished by fatigue and therefore my current limitations are likely rooted in the trauma of the tumor’s incursion on my brain’s territory, the surgery and the ongoing recovery. Time will tell, but what it means is that pulling disparate facts and thoughts together as has always come naturally—before—writing and making some complex decisions simply isn’t happening well now. This is both frustrating and scary. To me, seeing the advances and deficits clear-sightedly doesn’t seem harsh, just realistic. This is a point on which reasonable people apparently differ.

The good news is that I was able to get through two days of co-presenting with only one short absence. My gracious host found me a quiet room where I could lie down in the dark for 20 minutes on the first day, which made all the difference while my intrepid co-presenter ran the show. There’s something that triggers the depletion state, which comes on both quickly and unpredictably; downshifting from stimulation to quiet (a full-out nap is better) refuels. That I am beginning to find ways to refuel in short segments is a huge advance. On the other hand, I was wiped out after two days and am still recovering from that. Bouncing back happens faster now, too, though. All of this sums up to the fact that progress is steady and measurable, if you use a weekly scale, not a daily one. This is yet another contribution to the search for patience, as a weekly scale hadn’t ever featured in my aspirations in the past.

One element that is constant from “before” and “now” is how much it’s the people who matter in this life. We had a great weekend visit after the work was over, which helped to provided an even better form of refueling. Aside from lots of conversation and low-key time, we grazed our way through a farmer’s market, had some great meals, wandered through a terrific a museum‘s special exhibit and sculpture garden, all in beautiful weather while the Midwest was still paralyzed by cold. It was practically balmy by the time we got home, as it was all the way up to 14 degrees. The return travel was within current standards, which means we got here with only moderate hassle and delays that could be measured in single-digit numbers of hours. On the topic of travel, still no word from SuperShuttle… I went ahead and filed a safety complaint with the airport authority that licenses them for operation.

Unfortunately, we missed all of the pre-inaugural concert while we were in transit. Thanks to the internet, we’ve been able to find the highlights (the speech!). We are so looking forward to tomorrow.

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