It was one year on the sixteenth of this month since I’ve had neurosurgery. Is it a reason to celebrate? I happen to think so. After thirty years of unbelievable pain and another ten years prior where the pain was occasional and not diagnosed because it was random, the pain was finally over – sort of. It’s been a strange journey. Two gamma-knife procedures, the first in 2007 and one in 2016 were followed with an injection of a chemical into the nerve before that year ended, and still some of the pain continued. After serious consideration, I made the decision that I’d go for the invasive procedure in 2018. Each surgery helped but didn’t put an end to it until this last one.
They had me on medication. Normal pain killers don’t touch this sort of pain. They chemically attempted to control the pain but tricking the brain into not sending signals. Except that drug has side effects – serious ones. I was lucky I was able to tolerate it. And the drugs were expensive. In the last few years, the drug cost me over $600 a month and that was with insurance paying a portion of it. After spending years on this medication, coming off of it could cause seizures and all sorts of horrible things. The medication also lowered my salt levels to dangerous low levels. It made me gain weight. The list of things it did is lengthy.
Surgery came at a cost. There are all sort of odd things as a result of the surgery. When they destroy the nerve, they destroy the feeling. I don’t feel pain, I’m numb. I didn’t realize just what that would really be like. It’s like going to the dentist and being numbed and trying to drink. It’s accidentally chewing on my tongue, lip, and the inside of my cheek. It’s keeping the skin from breaking down on my face. A little scratch can become a huge problem for me. I fight chapping of the skin. The inside tissue of the nose broke down and that was another fight.
Makeup? I couldn’t wear any for ages and I’m still very limited. I can’t get anything into my eye. No powders, no creams, no eye liner allowed in the eye, and I don’t dare miss and stick the liner pencil into my eye.
But probably the worse thing that happened was my eye was damaged at some point during or right after surgery. The surface of the eyeball was sliced off. I’ll never know how it got damaged and there’s been some very good educated guesses by the eye doctors. It was just something that happened. It was complicated by the the eye being numb. Numbness prevents the body of sending notices to the brain to come fix things. So the eye couldn’t tell the brain to fix it.
No matter how I look at what happened, no one did anything on purpose. Sometimes we just have to suck it up and say stuff happens. I came out of surgery blinded in the right eye. I almost lost the eye. They talked about my eye melting and I figured that was a lay term to explain what was happening. Nope, it’s a real term. It didn’t melt. The eye doctors on my team were very aggressive and they saved the eye and my sight! The good news is, a year later the eye is healed. My sight has changed – big time! But it’s being corrected to 20/20. That is amazing. And a big thanks to stem cells and their proteins! There’s still a slight haze in a cornea layer and there’s still hope that the slight ever so thin cloud of scar tissue will vanish.
Setting aside my eye problem, I’m lucky. What was basically a nine and a half hour procedure…I came through with flying colors. I awakened the next morning in the neuro ICU with both my daughters at my side and my granddaughter followed them. Long story short, my doctor came into the room and asked how I was. I was one happy camper. My fingers worked, my toes worked, and I could still think. He told me ahead of time that I would spend three to five days in the hospital and he expected me to be five. So I jokingly said, I get to go home today, right? He looked at my daughter who is an RN and asked if she was taking me home. Her answer was of course! (We’ve known this doctor since 2006 and he knows my daughter.) He looked at me and then my daughter and said okay. HUH??? I went home with my daughter. Okay, there were some caveats to my leaving, but we are all fine with them. And if my daughter weren’t an RN and hadn’t established a professional relationship with my doctor, I probably would never been allowed to leave.
So a year later, I’m here. The nerves are regenerating. That’s a horrendously slow process that I wish would be faster. I now have some feeling on the right half of my tongue and that means I’m tasting things a little more. I hadn’t even thought that the surgery would remove my ability to taste. I never dreamed my hearing might change slightly, because the skull behind the ear was replaced with “plastic”. Or that the “plastic” would transfer heat really fast, so I must be very careful when washing my hair not to use water that is more than tepid. I can’t tell if the right side of my face is getting rinsed under the shower head. I can’t feel the water on it.
I never dreamed I’d have some of the strangest and often not the most pleasant sensations as the nerves regenerate. I get headaches occasionally. Something I’ve rarely had. Related or not, I have no idea. They don’t last more than a few minutes. But all these small things are just small things.
So much can go wrong during surgery – even with things that are considered just minor surgical procedures. I lost a dear friend after minor outpatient surgery and another friend suffered a stroke after her test procedure. Anything can be dangerous and what I had done could have had a horrible outcome. But it didn’t. Needless to say, I really dread ever having another surgery for any reason and hope I will never need one. Maybe I’ve used up all my nine lives. (Do humans have nine lives, too?) Whatever, I’m here and I’m enjoying life.
I’m celebrating. And the big question is… Would I do it again knowing what I know now? Yes. And as long as I can say yes, I know I made the right decision.
It’s been a productive year as I’ve written quite a few things. And I’m glad I’m writing and my muse hasn’t gone on hiatus. Writing is what I do and I love it. It’s my job.
Here’s an upcoming book available on pre-order on Amazon!
And a little sneak preview. (Unedited version)
Two flights of stairs, and several hallways led from Arabelle’s attic room on the third floor, to the children’s schoolroom on the first floor. Her biggest problem was meals. She had to negotiate an extra hallway and a set of narrow steps to the basement’s kitchen. If she was lucky, Mr. Harrod wasn’t waiting for her. She hated when he grabbed her.
She rounded the corner to enter the kitchen staircase when a hand clasped her elbow. She didn’t need to wonder whose hand had captured her. His other fat hand roamed over her chest, and he gave a slight squeeze as he did.
“Good morning, Arabelle. You are up early today.” His hot breath could be felt on the nape of her neck.
“Please release me, Mr. Harrod. I wish only to break my fast.”
“A body such as yours needs more than food. My wife intends to visit her sister next week. I will devote my time to you and show you the pleasures of my wealth.”
If there had been anything in her stomach, she might have vomited. She propelled herself away from him and then heard his laugh as she went down the stairs.
In the kitchen sat an envelope addressed to her. She picked it up and wondered what it would say this time. Slipping the letter into her pocket, she would read it when she was alone. There was no reason to alarm anyone.
That evening when she retired to her room, she took out the envelope and read its brief message.
I want my money.
Twice more that week Mr. Harrod caught her, and each time he became more aggressive. That last time, she knew she had to leave immediately. If she stayed, he would ruin her. Bile rose up the back of her throat and she swallowed hard. During her midday meal, she told the cook that she was quite ill. “Please inform Mrs. Harrod that I will not be teaching the children this afternoon.”
Arabelle decided that she would be gone from this house before the clock struck midnight. No longer could she stand another pawing from Mr. Harrod or his hot, alcohol-laden breath upon her skin. The man made her flesh crawl. If she could leave without being seen, she was certain the letters would also stop, for no one would know where she had gone.
The problem was that the Harrods were supposed to be a good Christian family. Everyone knew they were patrons of the church. They could be counted on for extra money whenever there was a need. Accepting a job as governess to their children was considered a plum. At the time, Arabelle felt honored to be able to teach the young sons when she finished her schooling. Little did she know what was awaiting her. When she tried to tell the nuns who had placed her what was happening, they refused to listen and blamed her for arousing the master of the house.
In her bedroom, the afternoon sun filtered through a small window that she had opened to allow the trapped heat in her attic room to escape. Every Sunday morning, for the last four months, she had sat by the small window reading the letters that a Mr. Claude Rumstiller had sent. His penmanship was plain and lacked the flourishes of men who had attended better schools. But each letter was neat and properly aligned as though he had used a ruler. It was very easy to read. But this was a Thursday, and the ruckus from the children floated up the stairs to her room. She no longer cared if the boys destroyed the entire house. Enough is enough.
Arabelle looked at the letters and tried to decide if she wanted to marry this stranger. She could stay where she was and put up with Mr. Harrod – although death would be better than bedding the master of the house. It was one thing to teach four spoilt children, and quite another to succumb to the man’s constant sexual invitations. Had he no care for his own wife, the mother of his children? Rumor had it that he had taken the scullery maid to his bed every chance he had. When she was with child, he tossed her out and would not acknowledge his own offspring. Certainly marrying a man with an honest job was better than staying where danger lurked in every hallway.
From an envelope posted in Morgan’s Crossing and mailed to the Longwood Bridal Agency, she withdrew the first letter from Claude.
I’m thrilled that you’ve answered my letter to the agency. I’m not exactly certain what to tell you, but I’ll do my best. I read and write. No one has had to help pen my letters, although I am without a proper writing desk. My home is quite humble and I have no complaints, as it is mine alone. I live in town, but I’ve been saving for a piece of land. Homesteading is popular and it’s easy to see why. The lure of untamed land is exciting. Unfortunately, many who attempt it fail. Frequently the city boys will try it. They have no idea how to live off the land. Others might know how to herd a few animals, but they aren’t savvy enough to succeed.
I’m a farm boy and the third son. My family’s farm goes to my oldest brother. I wound up here in Morgan’s Crossing working for my father’s friend, Mr. Michael Morgan. He’s the nicest boss anyone could have, and he takes good care of his workers. It’s a small town in the middle of no place. Mountains are on one side of town and the prairie is on the other. Mr. Morgan owns a gold mine. I work the mine’s stamp. The stamp breaks the rock into powder so that it can be separated from the gold, or rather the gold from the rock. It’s a mechanical job and I’m responsible for daily operations.
I would like to find a place to homestead where I can build a house and settle down as a rancher. As much as I admire Mr. Morgan and appreciate my job here, I want more. That includes a family of my own.
I do hope that you are willing to help me achieve my goals. As promised, I will give you time to decide on marriage once you have arrived. If I do not suit you or you find me objectionable, I will provide you with the money to return.
It was the first of many letters. Each she had read multiple times. Every letter seemed better than the one before it, and all of them held the promise of an exciting life. And Mr. Rumstiller was romantic enough to stir something inside of her. She bundled the letters and put them away. She didn’t have time to think of love. Besides love was elusive, an unknown entity. Having been raised by nuns, she’d been cared for and educated, but she couldn’t say she was loved, although Sister Mary Elizabeth did seem to care more than the other nuns at the orphanage.
Arabelle watched other people. The quick kiss that someone stole before hopping on the trolley, and the mother who hugged her crying child. The young couple walking arm in arm, stealing occasional kisses. She had never experienced any of these things. No one had ever kissed her. How could she love somebody when she didn’t know what love was?
Arabelle read through Claude’s letters one more time. She didn’t need to do it. Each had been memorized as they arrived. This was her chance at a life of her own. The nuns had given her more than enough cash. Passage wasn’t the problem. She had nowhere to go, Claude was her only hope for a future. With an old carpetbag for her possessions, she determined she could buy whatever she needed when she arrived.
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