Physically speaking there is a huge “healing curve” between zero-to-one year and one-to-two, obviously. Both the brain and the body are undergoing massive amounts of healing from the trauma that occurred in that first 12 months, both internally and externally. To me, the changes that took place in the second year have been much more subtle, and really much less at all. One thing many people may not realize, however, is that two years later, I still experience daily head pains because of the brain tumor and the brain surgery. I don’t know if these pains will be with me for the rest of my life but in many ways they are bearable for the pure and simple reason that I know what the cause of that pain is. At times the pains are beyond sharp and highly localized, and at other times, a migraine headache may take over my entire cranium. I deal with it, I function, I take my meds and I get on with my day! I rarely panic any more and know that if I need him, I have the world’s greatest neurologist who is always only a phone call, email or text message away. I certainly do not welcome the pain, but there is some level of power, control in the fact that pains just remind me of where I have been and how far I have come. I do, however, wonder from time to time if I have normal tolerance for pain and whether I can remember a day when I didn’t have a pain in the head!
On a lighter note, I can now achieve near perfect eyebrow symmetry, as I can lift my left eyebrow to match my right! One of my doctors had initially predicted it would take at least a year, and up to 18 months to regain full function of my forehead on the left side, but it turned out to be closer to two years for me! This, I always joked, was the least of my concerns and was actually more of a boon, as we all know of a “friend” who may actually pay a lot of money to suspend the motion of their faces artificially with the help of those friendly pharmaceuticals like botulinum toxin. But this 47 year old is happy to actually be able to move her forehead again, so just a mundane, if not shallow, point for me to be able to note.
It follows metaphorically that much in the same way that my brain and body underwent a massive shock to their systems in the first 12 months following my surgery, my life has followed suit in the second 12 months, with shake-ups of external relationships, friendships and just a further filtering and honing of my life’s perspective in general. For me this has all been in the most positive and uplifting of ways, or at least I always try to make sure that is the lesson I always take out of it in the end. I live my life with a clean and honest feeling leaving no room for false pretexts after all is said and done. Suffice it to say that clichés are true because they are. Without getting too philosophical here because I cannot at this moment, but hope to someday, I have lost and gained but never live with regret because I know that I cannot and I will not; being a two-year brain tumor survivor allows me to say that.
When a brain tumor is removed it initially leaves a dark spot, a shadow on the MRI…this is the area where the tumor once was. That area is medically referred to as Pneumocephalus: the presence of air or gas within the cranial cavity; usually associated with disruption of the skull: after head and facial trauma, tumors of the skull base, after neurosurgery…and rarely, spontaneously. I was left with a void an area that was gradually filled in as I healed, but I also view it symbolically. My outlook post-surgery has been unique. I, of course, lost the tumor and it was replaced with a special strength and courage that very few can understand and it comes from a place deep within my spirit…or does it come from that place deep in the middle of my brain!