I’m facing one of those life changing events. We don’t have too many of those. Marriage is one, as is having children. Death of a parent can be, as will the loss of a child or spouse. In general, they only happen on rare occasions. Sometimes we don’t even realize that they are pivotal points in our life until much later. Some things we can control and some we can’t. This one I have chosen and to say I’m scared is an understate.
This month I’m facing surgery. It’s not just a simple surgery. When I see how much medicine has progressed since I was a little girl, it’s amazing. Something that would have sent someone to bed for months doesn’t anymore. In fact, there are some amazing things done now and they have the patients up and on their feet before the day is done. And when they say do these exercises, they mean it! People, who do, recover faster.
My oldest daughter has had surgery on both her shoulders. Small incisions and shoulders as good as new. I know I need surgery on one of mine, but I’m a major chicken. Today it’s very easy to tell someone you’ll do fine and really believe that. I’ve had body parts removed through the tiniest holes. Talk about square pegs going into round holes. We face such things with no fear. Even childbirth is a wee bit like that. I’ve noticed the most petite women manage to have the biggest babies and declare they had no problems! I had perfectly healthy, tiny babies and struggled with each one.
But this surgery I’m facing is different. Why? It’s neurosurgery. They are going to open the skull and go in. Please, no oops, and whatever you do, don’t sneeze. All joking aside, it’s a very delicate procedure. And I’m scared out of my mind, yet I’m the one who has said I can’t handle the pain. For thirty years, I’ve dealt with debilitating pain shooting over my face. The nerves are tangled with some blood vessels and so the nerves misfire, producing pain much like being shocked except this doesn’t let up. When it triggers, it’s actually buckled my knees. There have been times I’ve gone without eating for days because I couldn’t chew without triggering the pain or the pain was gripping me so I couldn’t eat much less swallow. There’s been liquid protein drinks in my house forever just to keep me somewhat nourished during such bouts. I’ve had to drink through a tiny straw-like stir stick that is slipped around and behind my teeth on the opposite side of my mouth because I can’t open my mouth without causing excruciating pain. I’ve had three less invasive surgeries to stop it, but it hasn’t completely put in end to it. The first one was done eleven years ago. It cost over $150,000. Thank goodness for good insurance! The last two were done in 2016 and those two combined were about 1/2 million dollars. This one I suspect will be double that.
Why am I letting him do surgery for the fourth time when the first three haven’t worked? Well, it’s hard to explain, but he warned me from the beginning that this was where I’d probably wind up. People have varying degrees of pain. Each one of the previous surgeries held the possibility of being a cure-all. Each one helped but was never enough. For other people, these less invasive surgeries will remove the pain and they never need anything else. Each time I was hopeful. Each time it didn’t happen. Relief was short-lived.
My doctor tells me I can watch this surgery on YouTube. Yes, someone posted the surgery. No thanks! I don’t do blood and guts. And I think if I watched it, I’d never have surgery. I’d chicken out. But I’ve reached the point where I said enough is enough. Just do it! Except it’s not that simple. I’ve already started to jump through all the hoops. I need to be cleared by various doctors. They don’t want any surprises while I’m having surgery. Well, that’s almost goofy, because no one can really predict such things, and they all know it. Facing hours of being under anesthesia, I must go through all these hoops to assure a few doctors that I’m strong enough to withstand hours of surgery.
In a way, medicine has changed so much that they can now see things that once upon a time not too long ago would have gone unnoticed. They found such a thing on me a several years ago, and now they watch it. It’s never changed and it might not. But if it does, they will fix it. Why don’t they do it now? They say it’s not worth it.
But this time, I’ve called the shots and said do the surgery. I’m tired of coping with the pain. I see one of the best doctors in the country who specializes in this. I’ve trusted him for 12 years. I can trust him one more time. Sounds easy, right? It’s not. I like my brains. I want them to remain intact. I don’t want to lose a single brain cell. Besides, I need every cell I have.
He claims there’s lots of space in there. He showed me this pencil thin empty space between my skull and what he called a thin membrane that protects my brains. He says he has lots of room to work and he won’t be touching my brains. He’s just going to remove a big chunk of my skull and go to the spider web of nerves and pick the right ones (his wording). But on that chart on his wall it shows this big– No, that’s only for ease of display and explaining. It’s a spider web.
Hear that sound? It’s my heart sinking someplace into the pit of my abdomen. My daughter, the RN, thinks I should be overjoyed and skipping with glee because I’m going to be pain-free. She swears I’ve lived with pain for so long that I don’t remember what it’s like to not have to worry and wait for the next bout. I’m forced to hide from overhead fans that are apt to trigger the pain just from the air circulating around my face, I must kill every upper vent in the car for the same reason, and to have an open the car window on a beautiful day has been unthinkable. I bundle up against the slightest downward trend in temperature, because I can be in serious pain from it. My daughter says I’ve forgotten what it’s like to live normally. She says I run on autopilot until what is abnormal has become normal for me.
My collection of hoodies, scarves, earmuffs, and hats with flaps over the ears and face is unreal. Even on the hottest day, I never drink anything with ice in it. But I have learned to somehow eat ice cream if it’s not frozen solid. An ice cream cone can be impossible., because it requires the tongue movement that can trigger the pain. But I don’t dare let the ice cream near the right side of my mouth. Maybe my daughter is correct in her assessment of my situation, because I almost can’t imagine drinking an icy glass of tea or enjoying a breeze.
I’m worried my girls are going to raid my closets of scarves, stupid-looking hats, and all the things that have protected me. No, I can’t imagine living without the constant fear of pain. I can barely imagine a winter with pain-free days and nights, or not bundling up like a crazy person just to grab the mail from the box that hangs inches from the screen door.
Nope, I can’t envision it. I can’t imagine being able to brush my teeth without pain or open my mouth all the way. I don’t care if I’m trading pain for complete numbness. There are some drawbacks to that, but I’ll get used to it. I wonder if food will taste different?
So I’ll vanish from the blog for a while. I’ll be a week in the hospital and then my daughter, the RN, is taking me to her house in North Carolina, where I will (be held hostage) recuperate for several weeks. Seriously, I love her to death and it’s really sweet of her to take that many weeks off from work to babysit me. I’m hoping I can get lots of writing done while I’m there. I’m hoping I can remember how to string words together and form sentences.
But I’ve got to convince her that chicken fried chicken and macaroni and cheese are not my idea of a meal. I want lettuce! Chicken is fine, but please don’t fry it. Collards are not lettuce. Fixing cream of sand aka grits is not my idea of breakfast; cream of wheat or oatmeal is a fine breakfast food unless it’s made with that instant stuff. It only takes about 45 minutes to cook steel-cut oatmeal and it cooks itself. It only needs occasional stirring. My darling little girl married a Southern boy and has learned to cook his favorites. My friends from the South are laughing at me because they appreciate and love greasy-fatback-laden good eats, and they know that Yankees never will.
But before everyone south of the Mason-Dixon line jumps on me, I do love some Southern food. I never ate corn pudding until I moved to the South. It’s one of my favorite foods and so very easy to make. In fact, it’s easy to cheat if you don’t have creamed corn and only have plain in the pantry just add a dash more milk.
1 can of creamed corn
2/3 cup of milk
2 Tablespoons of sugar or a little less. 🙂
2 Tablespoons of cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon of salt
Combine cornstarch in milk. No lumps! Put to one side. Then break two eggs into a bowl and mix well. Add corn, sugar, and salt. Now add the cornstarch and milk to the corn mixture.
Grease a one-quart casserole with butter, I like to use a round casserole with nice high sides – don’t substitute a pie pan. Pour the mixture into the casserole dish and dot with butter on the top of the mixture. Oven bake, uncovered, for 45 minutes at 350 degrees. I watch it, because I like it almost brown on top – that pretty deep gold shade. Yummy!
Sorry to my friends in the UK for my American measurements.
I know I’m facing surgery on April 16th that will change my life for the better. I know the authors here on Main Street will post on our Facebook page of my progress. So cross your fingers, send a few prayers, good vibes, or whatever you want because all that positive energy has to help but don’t just send them to me. I get to sleep through it – my doctor is the one that has to do all the work. I want a perfect job. I want to awaken pain-free and well, I want to awaken . I want to be able to wiggle my toes and fingers, count to ten, and still be able to write books. My doctor has warned me I’m going to have a vicious headache for a little while. How long is a little while? OMG! I hate pain meds. Yes, send lots of positive energy. I think I’m going to need all of it.