Thursday, February 25, 2010

Kindness of Strangers

I had my MRI and appointment with my Neuro Surgeon yesterday. That went as well as it can when you are placed in something resembling a coffin all the while knowing they are looking at TUMORS in your brain.

Ya. So the valium helped.

I laid there in that thing and the entire time it was buzzing and clicking away I was repeating to myself over and over, "the tumors will be smaller or gone, the tumors will be smaller or gone." Over and over again for the entire 38 minutes I was in there.

I got out, got dressed and they handed me my films. I pulled the first one out and looked at it. And the largest tumor was immediately visible. Not smaller. Still there. I burst into tears.

Then we walked over to see my Neuro Surgeon. His nurse, Mike, came in first and did a lot of preliminary things with the images and then spent some time talking to me about how I was feeling.

Here are the Good Things from yesterday

The tumors showed little to no growth. That is awesome. My brain still seems 'happy' with the tumors right where they are - in other words - the tumors are not causing the brain any problems. At least not yet. Doc said again, he will take them out if I want him too but he doesn't see a reason to go in if we don't have to yet. I totally agree. People keep asking me - why don't you just have them taken out. Well, a few reasons. It is brain surgery. Things can go wrong. And anesthesia. Things can go wrong. Also, they can't get them both with one surgery. It would have to be 2 separate surgeries; 2 separate ICU stays; 2 separate recoveries. There are lots of different complications with these surgeries, anti-seizure drugs, double vision during recovery, the inability to walk and speak sometimes, not to mention the blinding head pain - lots of things. Yes, the tumors would be out but I would be recovering a long time. And I have 3 kids - 2 of them very small. I can't even begin to imagine how I would do it and take care of them at the same time. Also I would still need the MRI's every 6 months to make sure the damn things hadn't come back - because Meningiomas tend to reoccur. So again - why DO all of this until I have to DO all of this?

The So/So news

We talked about the continued facial weakness. I asked about the Bell's palsy treatment facility there and he said yes, they had one, but in truth, they wouldn't be able to help me. He explained that they rate facial nerve paralysis on a scale from 1 to 6 - with 6 being total paralysis and 1 being totally functional. He said right now I'm at about a 2. At the BP treatment facility - their goal is to get their patients to a 3. So I've already naturally healed past the point they would even hope to get me. He said the most they could do would be to put some botox injections into my right cheek to soften the hypertonicity on that side.

He looked me dead in the eyes and said, "I know you don't want to hear this, but you will probably always have an asymmetrical face. There really isn't anything else we can do to improve where it is today." Ok. So I have to just accept what it is now. But it is still really hard. You know there are women, lots of women, out there who are my age and older - who have perfectly symmetrical faces who have NEVER accepted how they look. If they had there would be no plastic surgery industry. I've only had this for 8 months. It may take me a while to totally come to a place of acceptance. I still hate it. I still want my old face back. But in spite of everything, I still have some hope that maybe it will continue to heal, if only just a bit more.

The not-so great news

He said, "My dear, medically you never want to be an unusual case. But you ARE an unusual case." *sigh* I responded that I had always been an over-achiever. He cracked smooth up. And then he talked about the tumor on the eye. Well, it is on my right optic nerve sheath to be exact. These are EXTREMELY rare. And because they are so rare there is not much data on them. There isn't that much information out there on how to treat them. And there isn't that much data out there on what treatments work better than others.

This is what they do know. If it continues to grow - it will take the vision in my right eye. He said it could take as long as 15 years for that to happen. Or it could be 5 years. OR it could just take my color vision in that eye and that is all. I will tell you that I am already color blind in my right eye. I wasn't 3 years ago but I am now. Contrast in colors are hard for me now. OR it could stop growing altogether and leave my vision as it is now.

Because this tumor is wrapped around the optic nerve it is inoperable. Also radiation is pretty much out of the question. Now, he said that if we did radiation it could improve my vision for awhile - maybe 5 years. BUT radiation of this type, at this intensity, and in this area tends to cause FURTHER tumors later on. He said if you were standing here and you were in your late 50's or 60's - I would say that radiation would be ok because those further tumors don't tend to show up for 15 - 20 years. BUT you are 37. I don't want you to have further tumors in 15 - 20 years. That is just too young. He went on to tell me that he could refer me to see some radiation specialists and they would probably recommend radiation for that eye. But he also told me to remember they are basically selling a very new technology. They don't even know what all the ramifications would be yet. He said again, in his experience, he didn't know if it would be worth the risk of the future possible problems.

Then he told me the rest of it. With no treatment I probably have 15 years or so before I go blind in my right eye. He also said though that it might not be that long or it could be longer - depends on how fast the tumor grows. These tumors can grow large enough that they can cause the eye to actually bulge out of the socket causing further facial deformity. He said if that happens - they would go in and surgically remove the tumor and the optic nerve hopefully returning the eye back to its normal appearance on the face. He said that the surgery is very tricky and difficult and that of course, I would be blind in that eye when I woke up.

It is a lot to hear. And a lot to process. In 15 years Max will be graduating high school, Pip will be in high school, and Alec will hopefully be graduated from college and starting his life. These are all things I want to see. Without having an ugly bulging eye or being blind in one eye. I wish it were all different.

For someone who is as much of a control freak as I am this is incredibly hard because there is nothing I can do about any of it.

Never under-estimate the power of Kindness

This morning at 8:10am I got a phone call from Mike - my NS's nurse. He came in and visited with us the last time we were there back in September. He remembered us when we got there yesterday. Anyway - my doctor is referring me to a NeuroOpthamologist for my eye. He said he was brilliant and they were going to call in some favors to get me in to see him. He also said he was going to go ahead and set up some appointments for the Bell's too - couldn't hurt to try. Mike called me FIRST thing this morning to tell me he had already got the referrals going. He gave me the names of the 3 different people they want me to see and asked me to call him as soon as I got the first phone call from one of the referral docs. He said he was going to take it from there and make sure that all the appointments were scheduled on the same day, or on two consecutive days, so that I could do it all in 1 trip. How awesome is that?

And then he sat on the phone and asked how I was doing with all of it. He told me about his conversation he had had with my doc this morning and then he let me talk. About all of it. He told me I wasn't crazy and that I was handling it all remarkably well. He told me that I was still very pretty. He said he knew that the Bell's was awful for me but that frankly I was pretty "genetically gifted" to have Bell's and an asymmetrical face and still be beautiful. He told me again that they were going to do everything they could to help me. He didn't have to do that. I know he was busy and had other things to do but taking time and listening was a very kind thing to do. And it made me feel like they care about me and my well being.

They are wonderful - all of them. The nurses and my Neuro Surgeon - they don't talk AT you - they talk to you and with you.  Yesterday my doctor let me cry after he told me everything - told me it was normal to feel like I do, validating my feelings, and said - flat out that it sucks. And it isn't fair. But said that I was handling it all amazingly well. And he gave me a big hug as we left. I don't think you could ask for anything better in a physician and his staff. It is sad to me that this is a rare find in a physician these days but I am so blessed that I was directed straight to this office. So now we wait. And pray. And continue to hope.

Saturday, February 20, 2010


Thanks to all that is sacred and holy our heater is finally working again. It went out on us the first part of last week and stayed out until Thursday night. *groan* But after many wrong parts and 2 different service people being here, my husband actually ended up being the one to get the correct sized part AND put the damn thing in - the furnace started right up. Turns out the motor that turns the fan had died.

Anyway my husband rocks.

But I am frozen. I know it's because of the appointment next Wednesday. I talked about how the closer the appointment comes on the calendar the more afraid I become here. That's what is happening again. And I also know it's the fear that has control of me which is why I can't seem to write anything. All I can think of is the appointment. And the images. And the what if's.

I am afraid. I wish so much that none of this was happening and that I was just living a normal life with my husband and my kids but without MRI's and Neurosurgeons and treatment discussions.

I want it all to go away. And I have a VERY strong desire to go hide. Crawl down into some dark hole and hide. And pretend. And hope that it just goes away. Not very mature - eh? I know. There is a rather large part of me that just does not care.

I am going to attempt to get a hold on this today. I've let it rule me completely for the last week or so but I have to get a grip. I have to take back control. I have to walk past the little holes and caves. I don't get to hide. I owe it to my awesome husband and children to stay on the path and see where it takes me.

 Aye, there's the rub. Because where it takes me it takes them too. I think I hate that the most - that all of this has to happen to them as well. See my instinct is to protect them from the Bad Things. And here I am - the one who is dragging them through all of this. It is because of me that my kids know the words MRI, Meningioma, benign, malignant, and radiation and further know what they mean. But I can't give in to the self-loathing either. That is a well I might never crawl out of and that will get me nowhere.

So today I'm going to take a break from my manic state of denial - read redecorating of our house - and try to find my center. Breathe deeply. And hope I can find the strength I need to walk through this coming week. I am not daft. I know the fear will always stay with me but I just don't want to let it lead me anymore. If I have to carry it with me then I hope I can manage to put it in my back pocket. Right where I can sit on it....and maybe even squash it.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Wordless Wednesday 3


Happy Wednesday!!!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Today it is just too much

I'm not having a good day. Actually I haven't been having a good few days.

The mountain is too high these days. I just don't have the strength to keep climbing and getting knocked down. Again.

I need a break. And I don't want to go to the damn MRI or doctor's appointment next week.

I am scared to death of what they'll tell me. I am so scared it is hard to breathe. 

I need some hope. I need some courage. And I can't seem to locate either just now.

Friday, February 12, 2010

I'm still here

But hubby has been out of town, I'm trying NOT to get sick and basically LIFE has happened. We have a full day tomorrow too so I'm not sure if there will be a post or not. It may be Sunday before I really have time to get back here but I have some things buzzing around in my head to say - so check back.

Hope everyone is doing well and staying warm.

See ya'll on the flip side.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Another day, Another appointment

Yep - Acupuncture again today. I'll be a pin cushion in a couple of hours and I'm excited about it.

I'll check back in after the appointment. Hopefully I have similar results as last week - or maybe even better results. Here's hoping!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

so very grown up now...
Happy Wednesday everyone!

Monday, February 8, 2010

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Or is it?

So I'm going to post pictures of me during this journey with Bell's Palsy. This is *not* a pleasant thing to do and I'm scared to death. It's akin to walking around completely naked and hoping no one laughs. I need to do this though. I feel like this is part of my emotional healing process; me facing my fears. And right now the mirror and how others see me are 2 big fears.

So first off a before picture of me....ready?

So then 1 week after my daughter was born I woke up with Bell's. All of a sudden half my face didn't work. At all. And after about a week it looked like the right side of my face was sliding off my skull. Seriously.

I didn't allow ANY photos of me during that time because it was so awful. I didn't get the nerve up to keep a photo I took of myself until 3 months into this experience. This photo is from September 2009. I can, at least, smile by this time. The right side of my face is still obviously affected but it was SO MUCH BETTER by this time. You can tell my right eye still doesn't want to work and my smile isn't totally correct yet - but we are getting there.

 This next one is from October 2009. I was 4 1/2 months in at this point. Excuse the makeup and such but this was taken on Halloween; I had a vampire costume on and full makeup (I was trying for normalcy here even though I still looked wonky.) So you can see that my right eye is getting better - it isn't totally perfect yet but it IS better just from September. However this is where we start to enter residualville. If you notice - the right side of my mouth is kinda pulling upwards and so is my right nostril. It isn't that bad here yet but this was just the beginning.

This next photo is from November 2009. Not a great picture, I had been crying right before this so my nose is all red. Again, my eye is better but still not normal. Also you can really see that the right side of my mouth is pulling upwards now, as well as the right nostril. I can't do anything about that - it is involuntary. The muscles have become hypertonic - after months of being lax now they are receiving nerve signals and pull constantly. It is way worse when I close that eye. I'll see if I can find a picture of that too. This was taken on Thanksgiving Day and at 5 1/2 months into Bell's Palsy.

This photo is from about the second week in December. Not so different from the last picture. I took it on my 6th month anniversary with Bell's. It seems I hit a sort of "plateau" with my recovery here. I am better here but

This photo is from the first week in January. I took this at 1 week shy of 7 months living with Bell's.

This is still January 2010 and is a photo (taken at the same time as the other one) of my residuals. This is what happens when I try to close my right eye. You will notice how much the right side of my mouth pulls. I have zero control over that. The nerve evidently re-connected wrong. It sucks out loud ya'll.

This photo I took last week - still a bit off but better. This was right before I left for my Acupuncture appointment. My eyes are almost the same size again. Although I think one of the damn residuals is that now instead of my right eye being too large it's actually becoming smaller than the left. *shaking head* This is the craziest condition ever I think.

And this is the same day/time but with my eyes closed to show the residuals. My mouth is still pulling upwards but not as bad and my eye is closed. Now I'm having to really try to hold my eye closed but it's so much better than it was.

This is me today. I just went and put my contacts in (I have not been able to wear my contacts in almost 8 months) and put makeup on. Still not normal yet but so much better. I see improvement just from last week. I am 4 days shy of having had this damn shit for 8 months. Here are the places I still need to heal: my mouth - I still can't pucker my lips or really control my top or bottom lip on the right side, and the top of my eye/forehead - I can't raise my right eyebrow or wrinkle the right side of my forehead.
I would like the residuals to go away. The one that causes my mouth to pull upwards and the newest one - the dimple on my chin. See it? I don't actually have a dimple but now the muscles that connect there have also become hypertonic and pull constantly in two different directions causing the weird dimple. *sigh*

BUT I'm hopeful. I'm working at accepting me the way I am. Some days I am considerably better at it than others. Today is a good day and I'm hopeful. There is improvement and I am holding on to that. Maybe. Maybe it will still come back. Baby steps. And courage in small doses.

Friday, February 5, 2010

I'm a Believer

No, not the song written by Mr. Neil Diamond and made famous by the Monkees. I am a believer in Acupuncture.

I had Acupuncture done on Wednesday and here is what I can tell you about it and about me.

I HATE NEEDLES. I hate needles with a sort of fervor that borders on phobia. Whenever I have to have an IV inserted it is really a Very.Big.Deal. if I do not, in fact, pass smooth out. I still have to MAKE myself sit still and breathe deeply during a blood draw or shot. Actually during a blood draw not two years ago I DID pass smooth out.

This brings us to Acupuncture; lots of little needles sticking out of my FACE (of all places) making me resemble that disgusting movie personality Pinhead. (I hated this movie. It is the only movie that I have ever gotten up and walked out of - true story - I digress.) I should have been wigged completely out. Except I wasn't. I kept expecting the panic, the DREAD feeling to descend upon me as the appointment day drew closer: 2 days before, the day before, the day OF. But I woke up Wednesday morning and still I didn't feel it. I kept waiting for it to arrive, but no, it just never showed.

So I got there and was still relaxed and we started and she was doing deep massage on my back and shoulders and telling me I was "very blocked" and I felt a sort of *pinch*. I asked her what that was and she said, "Oh, it's the needles." I said, YOU PUT A NEEDLE IN MY BACK? She said, "Oh ya, there are lots in actually - you OK?" Shocked, I told her I was fine. I had only felt that ONE. Evidently my back was a pin cushion and I didn't even know. Before too much longer I realized she was massaging my entire back and I inquired about the needles; because how could you massage if there were needles back there? She said, "Oh, those have been out a few minutes now." Again - I wasn't even aware they had come OUT. WOW. I turned over and this continued on my face. She told me if I was scared of needles to keep my eyes shut. I did for a bit. These I could feel as they went in, well, maybe half of them I could feel - the others I didn't have any sense of at all. I opened my eyes to see little needles - like trees all around my right eye - on my eyebrow, forehead, upper cheek, and it stuck with me that they sort of swayed if I moved or spoke. It didn't scare me a bit. And it didn't hurt. On some of them I felt a pinch for literally 2 -3 seconds - and then nothing. No pain whatsoever. I also had no sense of when they were removed.

Right after the procedure was over I *did* notice a difference with my face. There was significantly more blood flow to the side affected by the Bell's Palsy (the right side), which was what she intended. And the hypertonic muscles by mouth seemed more relaxed and I could definitely raise my right eyebrow more. Since then those results have faded a bit but I have lots more hope; I believe I could see some improvement and that I will continue to see improvement. Also, the day after my back and shoulders were very sore, even so I slept very well that night and last night I got good, deep sleep. I woke up today feeling WONDERFUL. I've also been markedly more relaxed and HAPPY. I have not had another headache and my face has not hurt much since Tuesday night.

Is it the Acupuncture? Is it the massage? Is it the prayer? I don't know. It is probably some combination of the three. But whatever it is I am thankful for it. And, for a change, I feel GOOD. I really think I forgot what it was like to feel good.

So thank you - to my wonderful friends sending their prayers and energy, to my amazing Acupuncturist/Massage Therapist for her abilities, and to the Divine for allowing me to experience all of it.

Today is a musical day for me. I have always felt like my life had a soundtrack (that is another post to come) and big moments in my life have had some sort of song attached - at least in my mind. I'm going to leave you with a few words from the song that's been stuck in my head since yesterday...In the immortal words of The Rolling Stones...
You Can't Always Get What You Want
But if you try sometimes
You might just find
You Get What You Need.


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Wordless Wednesday




Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Do you feel it?

Today is Imbolc. It holds the first whisper of the coming Spring. It knows the secret that Winter will not stay forever. It is a day for New Beginnings. I'm doing what I can to acknowledge this and look forward. Our ground is covered in snow and ice still but I can see that my Phlox is beginning to perk up. And any day I expect to see the first shoots of my daffodils.

In truth, my head hurts too damn much to type anything that would make any sort of sense. The headache belabored me yesterday evening and last night too. I had a respite from it for most of today, however, it seems it is back now. It is very hard dealing with small children when your head feels like it is ringing and splitting all at once. I just wish it would stop. The pain really is something. Impressive even. I'm going to go take an Excedrin. And hope. Maybe make another pot of coffee. And hope. Try not to imagine all the could be's, yet.

The Wheel of the Year turns once more toward what comes next. I would that it was starting differently for me but it is as it is.
Another Imbolc and I am here to see it - this time with a daughter in my arms. This feels right. I am so grateful for all that I have. I am ready for Spring and to see what it brings us - to see what comes next. And so it turns and turns again...

Monday, February 1, 2010

Dealing with an Ice Storm

Didn't mean to bail on everyone but we got this crazy ice storm on Thursday and then it dropped several inches of snow on top of that on Friday. Our power went on Thursday evening and stay off until Sunday afternoon. When the power finally came back on it took until around 9pm last night to get the house warmed up to 68 degrees. My dishsoap was frozen. Most of the contents of the refrigerator had to be thrown out and the household is just 'out of sorts'. It all around pretty much sucked.

Here are some pictures:

Our home and driveway - the limbs of the tree to the right do not normally slope downwards

This limb had fallen against the back of our house - thankfully it finally fell to the ground without putting out any windows

Several piles of limbs we stacked up

This limb landed on the roof of our bathroom

The next 2 photos are from outside my son's school

Oak trees are not supposed to look like this

A stand of trees by his school

It's been a crazy few days. I'm taking today and probably tomorrow to try and get my house in order and then I'll get back to posting. Hope everyone out there is staying warm.

And be grateful every single day for your electricity.