Monday, May 10, 2010

20-Month Status Report

Not long ago, I wrote about the sensory memory of how it felt trying to sleep when there were still staples in my head. A few days later, the reason for the strength of the memory came to me: every now and then of late, my head hits the pillow oddly and re-awakens some otherwise-inactive nerve endings. I’ve been activating those spots more often lately, and I think that triggers both headaches and bad dreams.

This far out from surgery, it seems likely that what you see is what you get, and dramatic changes are not likely. The question that seems open is whether my scalp will ever return to normal, and if it isn’t what it used to be yet (it isn’t), does that mean that it, and other things, might still progress in a positive direction? At our first office visit with the surgeon after I’d been released from the hospital, we asked about the scalp weirdness. Our understanding is that it stems from the skin being peeled and then reattached, if that isn’t getting too graphic. It’s been both hypersensitive and sort of numb, which is a strange sensation indeed. The surgeon mentioned, off-handedly, that these effects are the last thing to go away in the healing process. So, since there’s still a small area where my scalp feels strange, does that mean healing is still happening and it will get better? Or, does it mean that there will always be a zone of oddity up there?

Aside from the scalp and the major dents in my head, the remaining craniotomy/tumor effects are a subset of those I’ve been writing about pretty much since the beginning: trouble going down stairs, energy shortagess, some cognitive deficits, and the odd overload condition when in loud and/or visually distracting situations. Two recent experiences have reinforced that these effects are triggered most often in the middle of crowds. Being at the edges of a room/crowd doesn’t seem to have the same impact, even if I’m presenting or talking to the crowd. Being immersed in a large group seems to trigger the effects--which can include falling down--every time.

At a large awards banquet not long ago, the combination of the noise and the visual overload of all the people robbed me of my balance: when it was my turn to speak, I had to ask a friend to walk me to the podium and back. My gracious good friend was, of course, happy to help, but it was hard to ask and even harder to accept that it was necessary. Not too many days later, at a crowded school board meeting, I lost my balance again. The noise and sense of being swamped by all that was going on was overwhelming.

It’s particularly vexing that I don’t always recognize in advance when I’m going to lose balance, poise and stamina. The insight that it seems to have something do do with being in the center, rather than at the edge, of a room is an hypothesis we’re going to be testing. We’re going to a large conference in June, and it would be good if I could last for two days’ worth of activities and participate/enjoy the entire event.

The grades for one class, the smallest, are turned in. The two big classes still have a ways to go, but I have faith that one foot in front of the other, repeatedly, will get me to the finish line.

It sounds like we’re going to get a major spring thunder-boomer, as our girls call these storms, tonight. We’re both looking forward to it. We can already hear the fairies dancing on the roof (the way my mother used to explain the sound of rain), and the rumbling of their drums promises one of the great spectacles of nature. What could be better than being home, safe and sound and cosy in bed, during a midwestern thunderstorm? Life is good.

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