I’ve been reflecting on how much better I have felt these past couple of weeks. I haven’t woken with a headache in a while and although I am still on slow release morphine morning and night, I can now go three hours each morning before needing any acute pain relief. My use of Endone (more morphine) has all but ceased, leading to a clearing of my mind and lifting of paralysing lethargy. I am beginning to feel much more like me again and perhaps even vaguely human!
Thanks to having more energy I can contribute around the house in a more meaningful way. Jobs like un-stacking the dishwasher are now possible, as the intensity of the pain in my head when bending down has lessened greatly.
There are still mornings when I wake with swelling around my right eye but it generally resolves as I move about throughout the day. The pesky double vision visits me most frequently at night when I am tired; and while my daytime vision is good, there are still limits on how long I can read or write, although it has increased much farther than the 10-minute mark of early days. Jason knows it is past time for me to be in bed when he notices I am holding one eye closed while watching T.V. It’s a ‘tell’ I hope to lose soon, although it does serve as a definitive signal of fatigue.
Driving has been restored to me with the okay from my doctor. I am sure you can understand if I take a moment to shout ‘Independence is mine’. The timing was helpful as the financial pressure from me not bringing home any pay for five and half months was making taxis a luxury we could no longer support. My first few outings, I was acutely aware of how long it had been since I drove and took it slow and very easy. I can say happily that driving has become more natural again but as a precaution, I still take my time checking for traffic and ensuring my decisions are not rushed. Whenever I head out, I am thankful to live in a small town with small town traffic.
My head is clearing relative to the slow but steady reduction of pain meds and my doctor thinks I could be off everything by the end of the year. Over coffee recently with a former boss, now friend, I was asked what am I working towards in the next few months and after a short pause I told her that, “I would very much like to enjoy a glass of champagne on Christmas Day (having not drunk alcohol since April) and another on New Years Eve so I can fondly say farewell to 2014”, a year that will now always be the year I had brain surgery. What’s that saying? What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I think I must have that tattooed on my arse or somewhere else I can’t see, you know, like a birthmark.
I am noticing other improvements as the weeks slide by and am thankful that my hair has stopped falling out and breaking at the slightest touch. With hair long enough to get caught in my armpits (why did no one warn me when I said I’m growing my hair?). Anyway, with long hair that continually shed, a house with all tile floors, it’s safe to say we’ve had Veraina tumble weeds rolling about the place. Thankfully it appears to have slowed. I recall how freaked out I was when my hair was first washed after surgery (by a lovely nurse who regaled me with stories of the annual spiritual (and boozing) retreats she organises). As she began rinsing my head a couple of clots of blood and hair came off from the points where they drill into your scalp to hold the head still during surgery. Ewww!! Even more came away when we combed it. I lost tons of hair in the first few months, thankfully not enough to be noticeable to others. It was a result of the stress upon my body, the anaesthetic and other drugs etc. My appointment with the hairdresser sadly had to be cancelled as my scalp and scar were still too tender but I think next month’s the charm. This is the longest break I think I’ve had from getting my hair coloured. It has proven a trifling entertainment to rediscover my natural colour. It’s a little sparklier under bright lights than I remember.
So, as the improvements roll on through, I have enjoyed my first few days with pain-free hours, no icepack on the head for break through pain, no waking in the middle of the night because I’ve been resting on my scar for too long and no ice pick stabbing pains in my skull. Yes, I still need to medicate when the headache seeps back in, to prevent it from becoming a migraine, but the intensity is nowhere near what it was. I do still occasionally get the electric-spider-dance pain across my forehead but I have found rubbing the skin furiously works well in dealing with that. And thankfully, the whole ingrown hair torment seems resolved, although I have leant the important lesson of getting a promise from Jason before he ‘looks’ at my scar, that there will be no squeezing without explicit consent.
Speaking of scars, mine has healed remarkably well and with the hair growing back, it cannot be seen without close inspection. I had thought it would be visible should I have short hair again, but it wont. My surgeon did an incredible job keeping the entire scar within my hairline.
In feeling more human I have had a tentative peek at a full recovery. I can for the first time, see the end in sight. Five months isn’t really a lot of time but being in pain and a drug fog, stumbling about trying to rehabilitate, it has at times certainly felt like a long time.
I read a passage today that spoke to me about dealing with adversity.
“Even the worse things can exude some lightness: Yes, this is terrible, this is not what I wanted, not what I’d hoped for, not what I’d worked for, maybe even what I feared. But also it’s not that bad. It is like a dream. It’s happening and not happening. Soon it will be in the past. So I can look at it differently, I don’t need to validate all these dire thoughts that only make matters worse. Maybe I don’t need to be so worked up about it. Maybe I can just figure out how to deal with it without that extra measure of anxiety and freak-out.” Training in Compassion by Norman Fischer
I certainly indulged in a fair bit of freak out in the beginning of this journey but in the end, despite brain surgery being the scariest thing I have faced, I turned up and did what I had to in order to keep living. I worked hard at rehab, have struggled with the side effects of medicines but have, with lots of love and support begun to find my way out, my way out of the dream. The surgery is in the past as is most of the pain associated with it. I can now turn and face the future while residing in the present; there is after all, still work to be done today, so I may reach my best ever recovery and future.