Brain Surgery: 1 Year Later

Posted on
Sep 30, 2013

Things are different now.

I feel like I could make a note in the timeline of my life to reflect this. “Here is everything that happened before brain surgery. Here’s everything after.”

I have trouble with this; I’ve never been that good with change. I like things to stay as they are. I become very unpleasant to be around when changes happen that are beyond my control.

Hell, I get annoyed installing new versions of programs on my computer. I’d still have Windows 95 running on my laptop if it were up to me.

I’ve avoided talking about how things have changed since my surgery because I figured it wouldn’t make for good reading. But a recently conversation with a friend made me realize the merits of discussing my feelings on this issue. Having passed the anniversary of my surgery this summer, I’ve reasoned a follow-up is in order.

A lot has changed in a year.

When I wrote my post, announcing my impending surgery, I mentioned a friend of mine who, at the time, was battling brain cancer. What was most amazing was that he regarded he own diagnosis as … well, as not being that big a deal.

He never seemed upset or bitter over his own situation, but when he found out that I had to have surgery, he was genuinely angry on my behalf. He told me so to my face.

“I’m fucking pissed that you have to go through this,” he said. It remains one of the more touching things anyone has ever said to me.

In April of this year, he passed away. I think about him a lot. I think of the stupid and selfish way I behaved towards him when we were younger, of the apologies I owed him but never delivered. I think of all things that went unsaid. Like how I was sad that he had cancer. And that knowing he had gone through brain surgery made it less scary when I had to face it. And that I was going to miss him.

I wish I had said some of those things. Any of them, really.

In that blog post I wrote more than a year ago, I also mention my neurosurgeon, the talented and lovely Dr. Foltz. As a young man, he was on his way to Julliard (he was a concert pianist), when a friend of his died suddenly from brain cancer. He decided to change the focus of his life, and to dedicate himself to trying to cure the disease.

I learned that when my friend passed away from brain cancer, Dr. Foltz was sitting just outside his room.

But here’s the part that’s … well, it’s just stupid. Honestly, if it were part of a work of fiction, you’d need to take it out, because it’s too fucking ridiculous: on the eve of the year anniversary of my surgery, Dr. Foltz died from pancreatic cancer.

And so, a year later, these two lovely men who played such a pivotal role in my surgery are now gone. I’ve stopped trying to make sense of it, because I barely understand how I feel. I suppose if I were to try to put a name to my emotions, it would be guilt.

I guess, anyway, that it’s guilt. I don’t really know. I just know that there are days when I don’t like myself very much. And then I feel guilty about that, too, because when you get the “it’s not cancer” biopsy result, you forfeit the self-pity card.

There are other things that are bothering me, but they seem stupid in light of everything else. Mostly, they can be summed up simply: I feel different now.

In the weeks prior to my surgery, and in the immediate aftermath of it, I felt a sort of weird, wonderful joy at just being alive. This might have been perspective, which I briefly had. Or perhaps it was just the unexpected and positive side-effect of the many, many medications I had ingested (along with several gift baskets, more or less in their entirety).

For a while after my surgery, I floated in that bubble, and was pretty damn happy.

Actually, that’s kind of inaccurate. For the first couple weeks after my surgery, I was completely and utterly out of it. I must have slept close to 20 hours a day. The first day I really remember was a week after my surgery, and even that is pretty fragmented.

It was a few months before I started feeling even remotely like myself again. But during that time, I remember being content with things, and really happy at how everything had turned out.

It was a while before I realized that things were not the same as they were. I suppose it should have been obvious, but, again, I blame the meds for my fogginess. Or perhaps all the cupcakes.

One by one, changes became apparent to me.

There was the hole in my skull, which was particularly sensitive. Every time I shivered, it felt like the tremors went straight down into my brain. My headaches (which had indirectly led to the discovery of my tumor in the first place, but were likely unrelated) sadly remained,  but now I had added scar tissue into the mix.

The result was that I now felt a weird type of pulling in my head – like there was too little skin up there, and it was stretched too thinly.

There were other things, too. Some were purely aesthetic. Others were cognitive. It would be difficult for someone else to notice any of them. But to me, these changes were vivid and huge. I saw them every time I looked in the mirror, felt them every time I tried to come up with a clever retort, or tried to compose a blog post with the same ease that I used to.

I started mixing up names, something which I’d never done before. I forgot conversations, let a few things slip that, in my estimation at least, I wouldn’t have before my surgery. But more than all of this, I just felt … different.

I asked Dr. Foltz’s assistant about it during one of my follow-ups. Why was I taking so damn long to feel like myself again? Why was I so, so out of it?

“You had brain surgery,” she said delicately. “It’s kind of a big deal.”

I nodded. I just needed time. That was all. Things would go back to how they were. My reflection would look familiar again, and the thoughts would come more quickly, and I would feel like I used to. And so I gave myself a year – an arbitrary date when things would go back to normal.

It came and went. And while the headaches are better now, and I am less foggy than I was, things are still not exactly at they were. My hair over my incision site is growing back, yes, but it is strange and brittle now, crooked and frizzy from having pushed through the thick skin that surrounds the hole in my head.

Ain’t that just one hell of a metaphor?

I asked my friend Michelle about it one night over dinner. I told her everything I was feeling, every strange thing that was bugging me.

“I feel different,” I said. “And I look different.”

“You seem just the same to me,” she said gently.

“But I’m not.” I insisted. Like a five-year-old on the verge of a tantrum.

We sat at one end of her enormous dinner table. There was conversation and laughter at the other end, but I wasn’t a part of it. Not at that moment. And Michelle took herself out of it, too, so that I wouldn’t be alone. I don’t know if she quite realized what that meant to me, or how the words she said next have stayed with me.

They’ve become a sort of weird mantra. It’s not something that I want to be true, but it is, and coming from Michelle, they were that much easier.

“You might just have to accept that maybe things are different now,” she said. “That’s just how it is.”

I will not focus on the fact that while I wrote those last few paragraphs, I momentarily forgot my dear friend’s name. Instead, I will focus on how she gave me some of the best advice I’ve ever received.

The other bit of wisdom that has stayed with me has come from my friend Chad.

He runs the Brain Chancery blog, where he writes about his life with brain cancer. It is brilliant, and beautiful, and funny. It reminds me that my problems are silly and petty and stupid.

In an email conversation I had with Chad, I told him about the death of my friend and my doctor. I told him that I didn’t feel the same. And that I didn’t know what to do.

This is what he told me in reply:

Just let it out when you feel sad, and you’ll get through it.  If you need an ear for letting it out, I can be one.  Heck I can be two!  I have two ears!  You’ll feel better.  It just takes time, and cookies.  And time.  And letting it out.

There was more, and it was lovely and funny. But more than anything that he wrote, what got me was this:  that despite all the crap he has to deal with, despite having to juggle brain cancer and medical bills and seizures and Ativan, he took time to comfort me. This is how beautiful my life is, how wonderful the people in it: those with far bigger problems than my own still take my hand and walk me through mine.

I don’t have any photos of Chad, but here’s one of a miniature horse with pink hair, which I know Chad would appreciate.

(Shameless plug: if you want to help Chad with any of his financial burdens, because medical care is kind of crazy expensive, you can do so here.)

And so here I am, doing what he said: I am letting it out. I am telling all of you that I have been sad. That it has been hard. That brain surgery is fucking difficult even when your tumor isn’t cancerous, and I can’t even imagine what it’s like when it is. That it’s very difficult to see wonderful people get sick, and wonder why it happened to them and not you.

You know what? It feels better just to say that.

I should keep doing it.

God, I’m even lucky enough to have people who will listen when I whine about this stuff. Friends, and family, and a husband who tells me, again and again, that I’m just as clever and lovely as I always was. And I know he genuinely believes it, but here’s the important part: even if I had changed, he wouldn’t care.

He’d love me anyway. That, perhaps, is the one constant in my life.

So that’s it. That’s where I am, one year later. Things are just different now. And I’m trying to be okay with that.

Leave a Comment

  • Penny

    Wow. That’s the best I can articulate after reading that. Wow. In a really good way.

  • I am glad you wrote this post. My uncle died from brain cancer at the age of 45 (almost 6 years ago). I had a very hard time with it and still do because of how much he suffered. I don’t know what else to say other than thanks for helping me remember my uncle through reading this post. Talking is the best way to get the word out there.

  • Ashley (@Raignn)

    It’s wonderful to see you writing about this and acknowledging that everything is different and it’s still hard, and that’s ok! Our culture has such a “can-do,” “we can get through anything ok,” mentality that it can often be hard to really sit with our grief over deaths and cancer and traumatic surgery and divorce and all those things and say… things are different now and it’s still hard.

    Your acknowledgement helps us just as much as you!

  • aussiemama

    WOW. My husband had a brain bleed just over 2 years ago and it changed him and us …… we’re still not where we were, and not sure how to get there. He seldom if ever talks about it, and I think talking helps. Maybe it’s a male/female thing, maybe it’s a ‘I had a brain bleed and you didn’t’ thing. All I know is that this kind of stuff HAS to change you, and the people who love you who thought they were going to loose you and for a short while contemplated life without you and realised that they’d do anything, ANYTHING not to have to.
    I’m so happy to know you’re going to be OK.
    It’s great you’ve so much support.
    It’s wonderful to have had those two very special men in your life.
    You’re very lucky, all things considering.
    Now go enjoy everywhere and everything and everyone you can ………. we’ll all be here ready to read and share

  • Amy

    What a beautiful and moving post. You are inspirational!

  • If you ever need someone to talk to, I am here. And I am able and willing to handle the shittiest of your feelings, and know that they don’t mean you’re not also grateful and stupidly joyously happy and all of that.

    I am so glad you’re surviving. And I’m so sorry that you’ve lost your friend and your doctor. I can’t imagine how that must feel. But I’m here to listen if you ever need.


    PS I really mean it.

    • Everywhereist

      Thank you, C. Seriously. Thank you so much.

  • Thank you for saying all the things that I can’t. I feel different, but I don’t look any different and it seems impossible to explain how.

    • Everywhereist

      I totally hear you, lady.

  • David

    Wow. Thanks for making me cry at work while reading that. That was beautiful in so many ways. You always articulate your thoughts magnificently, but as a cancer survivor, I found so much truth and meaning in this post. Thank you for sharing.

  • Beautifully written, thank you for sharing the difficult as well as the sublime (cupcakes!).

  • siobhan

    glad you are doing okay and glad that you wrote that post,I wish you peace in accepting that things are different now.

  • Wow. I remember reading your initial post about the tumor and feeling like it was happening to a friend, even though I’ve never met you. I then obsessively checked Twitter when you said you were going into surgery and was so relieved when your husband tweeted an update that it was benign. Hopefully you find that more touching than creepy — but either way, know that your voice reaches people and touches them and you have a lot of fans out here who are on this journey with you! Keep letting it out, we’re all listening and routing for you! 🙂

    • Everywhereist

      Thanks so much, Britany. It’s nice to know I’ve got you guys in my corner. 🙂

  • My Dad was the 3rd out of 4 in his chemical engineering department to have a brain tumor within the space of a year or two. The 4th guy, Sal, survived. I remember his quiet but important presence at my Dad’s funeral, when I was 18. I remember hearing stories that he struggled, that he quit working full-time, that his marriage broke up. I remember wondering why he lived and why we were not so lucky. But I never begrudged him a single day of it. Not once. I wanted him to keep being the survivor. I know my Dad would’ve wanted that too.

    I think about Sal sometimes. I remembered him while I was reading this. I hope he is still alive and more importantly, not struggling anymore.

    I’m sorry you had to go through all of this. But I’ll just keep saying it, I’m so relieved you ended up being a survivor too. We all need you around in our lives.

  • I have such mixed feelings after reading this post, on one side happy that things are good and there is hope for people with Brain Surgery and on the other side a vacuum kind of feeling after reading about Dr. Foltz and your friend.

    All the best..

  • By gosh you are something very special. Britany is right – we are all listening and we are all on your side x

    • Everywhereist

      You are all way, way too good to me.

      • Christine

        No, we’re not. You’re a rock star. And you remind us to be awesome too.

        Hope it gets easier to be OK with the different.

  • Jo

    This is just beautiful and I’ll forward it to my Dad. 2 years ago he got an infection on the brain and had 5 brain surgeries in 6 weeks. He’s 95% recovered but has a piece of skull missing so has a slight dint in his head. Occasionally people stare at him in the street, I look at him & grin from ear to ear (as I also have 2!!) as I see a fighter & survivor. Time does heal, and like you, we were so fortunate to have amazing support. I’ll never forget the people on the ward and their families who didn’t have the happy ending, but I thank my blessings every day that we got ours. Xx.

    • Everywhereist

      Congrats to your dad for coming through with 5 surgeries. I bet he had a few awesome jokes about it. “They gave me a punch card – the sixth surgery is free!”

      I hope that you are all doing wonderfully. Please give him a huge hug for me – we’re both in the dented skull club, he and I. 🙂

  • This summer my husband had an enormous tumor removed that turned out to be very low-grade cancer and we’ve been feeling similar to you in regards of it’s-a-big-deal-but-not-compared-to-what-other-people-go-through.

    I wrote a post a few weeks back on my travel blog about the guilt that goes along with the good. It’s amazing how therapeutic it can be to get it all written down. Thanks for the thoughtful post and I second what your doctor’s assistant said… brain surgery sounds like a big deal to me!

  • Sarah

    My aunt died from brain cancer 3 years ago. She was my mom’s sister and best friend, and she passed away on my mom’s birthday. I was so sad for her but my mom’s outlook is that they get to share the day together. Death absolutely sucks and is so unfair. But I have learned from watching my mom that at the end of the day, it’s about being grateful to have known that person. You have shared the same sentiment beautifully. Thank you for posting this.

    • Everywhereist

      I am so, so sorry for your loss. Your mother’s perspective on the event – that she got to spend her birthday with her sister – is just beautiful. Incidentally, my friend who passed away died on one of his closest friend’s birthdays, too.

  • Hugs. And armadillos. As you do.

  • Kristy

    I’ve been following this blog for a couple of years now…it’s a good outlet for me ha. You allow me to see the world (be it through somewhat crossed eyes from time to time), experience an adventure or two, & feel like my cupcake addiction is somewhat normal.
    I’m sending all the good vibes I can find.

  • Deb

    Geraldine… he was VERY pissed about you having to go through all of this but he also liked having you part of his time again. How do I know- he talked A LOT about his friends. Keep him in your thoughts- guilt-free my dear- for the time you had together to share with each other about things only you two could know. Sometimes I keep things in perspective and then on occasion I’m just pissed that I have to keep things in perspective. -B’s mom

    • Everywhereist

      You are so lovely. I’m constantly marveling at how much time you spend comforting others when you guys have had to deal with so much. Your son was a wonderful guy, and I’m so damn angry that he’s gone.

      It feels really good to say that. He was wonderful, and it sucks that he’s not here anymore.

      Sending you lots of hugs.

      • Deb

        Most accurately… It Fucking Sucks. Keep just saying whatever you want to say and then write it too- you are brilliant you know-right? Well if you don’t believe then go eat more cupcakes until you do. Hugs!!

        • Everywhereist

          I can totally get behind all of that. From how much it sucks to lose him, all the way to the bit about the cupcakes. 🙂

        • Kris

          Geraldine– you are a brilliant writer, and a joy to read. As B’s oldest sister I fully support feeding your feelings with cupcakes, and perhaps that should become an annual tradition. The “Brandon C, I Fucking Hate This” day of rememberance to include large amounts of cupcakes and good whiskey. Otherwise, things will be different for you, and you will have a different perspective on life, and perhaps that is for a reason; perhaps a new door will open because of it.

          • Everywhereist

            Whiskey and cupcakes? I’m so down with that.

  • Andi

    I’ve been staring at this empty comment space for awhile now thinking about how I can convey how much your post touched me (and trying not to cry at work).
    Luckily, I personally have never had to deal with something like this (knock on wood) but I really believe that anyone who has had to, can and will find comfort in your blog.
    I’m so sorry for your losses.


    P.S. Thank you for reminding me about Chad’s blog. I looked it up last year when you mentioned it and will now start reading again.

    • Everywhereist

      Thanks for your kind words, Andi. And totally check out Chad’s blog – he is literally one of the most talented writers I know!

  • Lovely to read, even if it’s hard to write. I hope you feel better letting it all out. Cheers to you! It’s OKAY to feel sad too, don’t compare your feelings to other things that are going on. 🙂

  • I’ve got tears in my eyes. A lot of them. And not because I’ve been peeling onions.

    You are so awesome.

    • Everywhereist

      Right back atcha, buddy.

  • Geraldine, I <3 you so much. I have tears rolling down my face as I realize myself how much I relate to this. Thank you for this. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings with us, because when you do it, it makes others realize they're not alone.

    PS. I miss you! 🙂

    • Everywhereist

      I miss you, too. Thanks, lady. For everything.

  • It sounds like a very difficult time but even in the darkest of times you have managed to get through it and although you may feel different now hopefully in time this feeling will fade and you will start to feel like yourself. Brain surgery is a massive deal no matter what for and I think you may of been a little hard on yourself. Stay positive and the best of luck moving forward.

  • I just had my 4th year brain surgery anniversary (9/16/09). The first year is the hardest the hardest for me. It was definitely a dark time. Continue to stay positive and do the things you love. I promise things get easier. Time will heal. I’m sorry for the loss of your friend. Also, your Doctor. Dr. Foltz’s passing was such a shock to all of us in the medical community. Thank you so much for writing this!

  • The thought of writing something that’s even remotely as brave and honest as this makes me pee my pants. I’m so happy you can and you choose to do it, and it this is part of how you changed after the operation you should be effing proud of it!

  • Dominik

    You made me cry twice now. And I am a manly man, so crying isn`t something I do very often :). So right now I am looking forward to and being fearful of your next post all at the same time – kind of confusing. On the matter at hand I also think that writing this blog probably helps you with all your cognitive problems and emotional turmoil (something I think you already figured out). And that is a good thing, for you and for all of us reading your blog.

  • Anna

    thank you. this is very much how I feel-good to be comforted, and good to be reminded.

  • Karianne

    I’m so very sorry for the loss you have dealt with this year. And I’m sorry for the struggles you have faced. It breaks my heart to see people I care about in pain, and I would give anything to be able to take that pain and suffering away. But you are incredibly strong and an inspiration to so many. Thank you for letting us all in and sharing your story.

  • Laura

    It is important to remember that just because someone will always have it worse, doesn’t mean that things can’t suck for you too, sometimes. I used to always tell myself “Be grateful, things could be worse.” And, I think that’s important to remember most of the time, but sometimes, you just need to let yourself feel the negative.

    I’m also going through kind of a weird time in life and it is amazing to me how many people have gone out of their way for me. I don’t feel worthy of any of the love I have received, but it’s a really good reminder that people’s simple kindness can make a dark time a lot less bad.

  • Beth

    I am truly sorry for all your losses this past year, including your own struggles and surgery.

    Keep going, keep plugging along, and I hope keep writing.

  • todd

    Wow is really all can say. Undoubtedly, a lot of people are happy to still have you here to share your story.

  • Jenn

    Yep, you made me get all teary eyed too. I’m with all the others on here, thank you for sharing your story, and please do celebrate the cancer-free part. You probably don’t know how your blog touches people in different ways, but I have been meaning to post to you that you were instrumental in cheering me up about 6 weeks ago. How, you might ask? I was in Boston with my husband after spending the better part of a week on Cape Cod with his family. Boston was our long weekend just for “us” before heading home to Seattle. In the first few hours we were there I got a call from my mom in CA asking me to come home because she had just been diagnosed with breast cancer and she needed surgery and she needed me. We decided to leave the next morning so I could go home and then go to my mom. As I walked down the street in Boston bawling my eyes out, I remembered your blog post about the really good pastry place, the REALLY good one. I furiously searched your blog on my phone and then the hubs and I walked (while I cried) to Modern Pastry and things were a tiny bit better. You helped make that shitty day a tiny bit better. I spent 3 weeks with my mama in California and cared for her through a lumpectomy and then partial mastectomy when lumpectomy proved to be a waste of time. She is doing pretty well, she is amazing. She also marks 6 people in the past year who I know who have been diagnosed with cancer. Fuck cancer, it sucks. I am so glad you didn’t have cancer and that you can celebrate that, even when you might not feel “quite right” in other ways. I am rambling, the point of this post was to thank you for sharing and to tell you that your blog makes a difference to me, and not just for the food recommendations.

  • Hola! Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings. One of the reasons that blogs are so popular, people like to read about other people. You have your husband, family and friends to hear you out and your readers! the ones you don’t know but read you when you post, like me!

    Being sad is a human emotion, Chad is right, let it out.

    Take care ok?

  • Monique

    You say “And then I feel guilty about that, too, because when you get the “it’s not cancer” biopsy result, you forfeit the self-pity card.” – but that’s not true. You had brain surgery. As your surgeon’s assistant said, that’s a big deal. It’s a HUGE deal. And you came through it with grace and strength, and you carry on in your living and your loving, and you do NOT define yourself by this event, and that too is a big deal, maybe much more than you know. I am part of a support group for my type of tumor, and I see so many that have simply become their condition – it’s all they talk about, all they focus on, it takes all their energy, and it makes me sad.

    Your friend is right about accepting that things are different now – I just call this my “new normal”, and try to focus on all the good it brings. My 2nd craniversary is coming up 11/11 – 2 years ago. And I feel like you feel – and just reading this blog made me feel less alone, less “weird”, less whiny when I do complain about something (which, like you, is rare – I am SO MUCH BETTER now…but I’m just not the same). Less scared.

    Thank you for posting this.

  • Just wanted to let you know I think you’re amazing for writing this. You touched many people. Probably a lot more than are commenting.
    Be sad when you need to, you are awesome no matter what.

  • Sammi

    Beautiful post, Geraldine.

    I hope you find peace with this 🙂 it is a really big thing to deal with, even tho’ the tumor turned out not to be cancerous. someone still prodded around in there. Just be what you need to be, it helps rather than bottling it up! And look at all the wonderful comments you’ve got- and there are probably a load more that will read this and not comment.

    lots of love X

  • Gah, Geraldine – I empathize with those emotions on a much smaller scale.

    When I was diagnosed out of nowhere with Crohn’s while I was in the emergency room, I went into this heroic and euphoric state. Like, I had to focus all my strength on recovering as fast as I could so I could get out of the hospital. But it wasn’t enough when I got out of the hospital. I still struggled with taming this out-of-control chronic disease that was sending me to the ER every other month.

    So I went into heroic mode again for another four months until I got everything under control. “Yay, normal life!” Not for long. It started to sink in that I was never going to be the same again. I was going to live with dangerously narrow intestines, or get surgery that would only be a temporary fix. And I would always have to be getting immune suppressants pumped into me every eight weeks for the rest of my life.

    I struggled pretty hard with that for the rest of the year. I’m doing much better these days but I still have to confront that realization every time the doctor hooks me up to an IV bag for my medication, the realization that I’ll never be the same again and I now rely on medication.

    The good news is that it gets easier every time. This is just becoming a new way of life. I’m sorry you’re going through this, too. There will be a day that we won’t notice anything different–and it will be so liberating. 🙂

  • Hi Geraldine, I first saw your 20 things, then 70 things and now this touching post. I am so moved, Thank you for sharing. On Sept. 6th, Nicole and I found out I had a fast-growing brain tumor and in the 10 days from then to the operation, your words really helped us prepare for the surgery, and for the distinct possibility that I either wouldn’t survive it, or survive it as a vegetable, or survive it with some degree of mental impairment. It’s now been 10 days since the surgery and I am just cogent enough to write you to thank you for your caring and encouraging words of wisdom. You inspired me to write my own little ghost of a chronicle, through my sister – at I am so thankful to be alive, to be surrounded by loving family and friends and to be more or less intact – in the noggin – and you get props for your witty yet accurate descriptions of what it’s like to go through this. I’m just at the start of my healing and I know that it will be a long road with an end that won’t be anything like what I was before, but you’ve taught me well-I will get through it. I also tried to connect with Chad, and he’s also a wonderful role model for me, although his circumstances are way different than mine. I hope to read more about you and Chad in the coming months as we come to grips with the whole ‘after brain surgery’ life we are just starting. Still don’t have the final pathology on my tumor, but am hoping and praying for no recurrence. Thanks again for your posts!

  • You are perfectly wonderful and wonderfully appreciated–before and after. But I think it’s the after that’s really making a difference in other people’s lives, as evidenced by all of the moving comments in response. That said, it’s okay to feel sad and guilty and pissed off and confused, too. Too often a well-meaning world tries to get us to smile, buck up, and move on from difficult experiences. But as Joseph Campbell said, “Where you stumble, there lies your treasure.” If you spend all your effort trying to move on, I think you’re fighting the natural need to take the time and introspection to nurse your wounds and discover what it is you need to find. And while you’re doing that, lean on your friends. Be honest with us. Tell us how you’re truly feeling and what you need. You do know, of course, that people would be fighting for the chance to help you. You are well loved, just as you are.

  • Juliane

    This. Was beautiful.
    Thank you so much.

  • Anisa

    This brought tears to my eyes.
    So glad to hear you are doing better and are willing to share such private things with your readers.
    You are such an inspiration.
    So sorry for your loss of your friend and your Dr. (shocking)

  • chrissy

    <3 <3 <3 i wish i had words right now, but the hearts will have to do. i love you so friggin' much. <3 <3 <3

  • Thank you for sharing your story, your humor and your wisdom. I had surgery on the 3rd of Oct. was released from the hospital with hopefully a 2.5 cm meningioma( biopsy results next week.) I had found th 70 things to do prior to surgery, it helped me keep my sense of humor, by posting an Eviction Notice for my bubble.

    Following surgery my sister-in-law forwarded 20 things,following surgery.

    Thank you, it is a gift to know we are not on this path alone. God Bless you, Terese

  • Holy Crap-ola! I’ve been an occasional reader and hadn’t been here for awhile. Although I knew you had had surgery, it really has been several months since I read and knew that you were in the early part of recovery. I did follow the tweets for a while, just because when you read someones bIog there some time invested and I want to make sure I can come back for more of your wit and charm.

    But I ask you this… How could things NOT be different? I type that sentence in a tone of wonderment, for the innate survival skills we people possess and the wonderment of a man who took a turn on the way to Julliard and then he ultimately left this planet far to early. To have a friend like Chad…well, we all need a friend like Chad and there’s probably not enough of him to go around…so my goal is to be somebody’s Chad…who’s with me?

    And another thing…
    As I read comments, it struck me how many people actually have brain cancer or tumors. That sucks monkey balls. My husbands aunt died earlier this summer after a couple years with brain cancer. And a former boy friend of mine died of brain cancer just about a year ago. And even though we did not have any relationship ship at all, his parents asked me to speak at his funeral. I did and it was only awkward until I stopped talking and sat down. The way that I bring this rambling all together is this. If I hadn’t met the former boyfriend who died of brain cancer in the first place, I never would have moved to Seattle, where I basically ‘grew up’, met my husband and have the life that I love. And I wouldn’t have found your blog and wish you the best from here on out.
    Life is pretty fucking amazing….even when and especially when death is involved.

  • Michelle

    I know exactly what you’re talking about when you say that the brain surgery has divided your life into before and after the surgery. I had 5 operations on a cyst in my brain in my early 20s, I’m now 46, and it took a very long time until that sharp line blurred again and it all became part of the past. But it did… not even quite sure when it happened, just gradually I guess and life kept on going, other things happened and eventually I stopped thinking every single day about it and how it had changed my life. Now I just look back and think wow, that was intense. 🙂

  • Akriti

    I read your list of 70 too and it brought me here and all i want to say is GOD BLESS YOU! May you never see another moment of pain here on and may you keep writing as wonderfully as you do.

    God bless.

  • Karen Alexis

    Its okay to be sad. I feel sad too alot. Brain surgery IS a big deal. Life will never be the same. You are a brave, amazing, extraordinary woman. Thank you for your blog. Love and light to you.
    ~Karen Alexis, Bronx NY

  • Dear Geraldine,
    Only a few times I’ve read your blog, commented also and than read about your upcoming surgery.
    We lost my husband’s brother in August of last year; brain cancer. Our foster-daughter in Indonesia (whose college and university we supported) lost her biological Dad of brain cancer + lung cancer, the day after my husband’s brother. We lost the eldest son of a dear friend in Miami, he just turned 30 and fought brain cancer for over two years… On top of that I learned that I had a complex Adnexal tumor. Had my major surgery (all removed) and it turned out to be non-cancerous. Well, life goes on and even with the joy that it was not the dreaded thing, I had to heal from a bad Hematoma, bleeding under the skin. I’m not yet there but will. Come Christmas I will be there; always looking forward and the hardest thing is to learn to have PATIENCE! That is awfully hard.
    I will have Open House this Saturday for trying to sell some of my Giovanni Raspini Italian silver jewelry and upscale French gifts. Trying to get back into the mainstream and paying my medical bills. Life goes on but I don’t care if my home is less clean or less perfect. I’ve had enough time to think long and deep. Priorities in life are not the same anymore after such surgery and after loosing several loved ones to brain cancer.
    A tight hug and keep going strong. And yes, I know a role model that survived brain injury and after five years was doing great. Okay, she was brilliant before and had a top executive function and was into sports like kick boxing. Maybe that’s why she is now where she is; the right fighter spirit.
    Best wishes!

  • I just found your blog through Pinterest. All I have to say is you get it. All of us brain tumor patients go through similar struggles. We may define them differently, and there are infinite variables. None of us come out unchanged. A good support system is vital.

    All the best to you. I will be following you on your blog as well as Facebook.

  • Yolande

    I want to add my ‘wow and thank you’ for your blog post. Not being alone in this journey is so important. Your written contributions are valuable to both the person with the brain tumor (w/wo cancer) and their friends and family.

    Being different is an overriding feeling once in recovery from a brain tumor. I spent a lot of time figuring out the surgery and what the after math would and feel like. I had my first brain surgery to remove a cancerous tumor in October 2012. My second was in September 2013 to remove another tumor. After the second surgery I’ve found a much different reaction. Different is how I would describe my feelings and reaction.

    Each day I’m getting better and feeling more ‘normal’. Post surgery I’ve had lots of headaches that are debilitating and taking steroids to reduce their impact. I HATE the headaches and having to rely on the steroids. I want the headaches to be gone and the necessary use of the steroids to end. Cupcakes have a whole new meaning when one is taking steroids. That’s like a snack at 2:00am and also for lunch and late afternoon. Lots of weight gain for me, loss of sleep and weird feeling of nervousness. BUT, the headaches are managed. And to that I say, thank goodness!!

    Your writing is a gift to many so please keep up the blog as I am a devoted reader.

    All the best to you as you continue to recover.


  • Marike

    I can totally agree with everything that you wrote. I laughed and cried through both of your blogs about brain surgery. I had a bleeding brain tumor removed from my brain -stem at the age of 22, 2 years ago. Somedays it feels surreal, like it never happened and I feel all happy and “on top of the world” then I get those days when a normal headache makes me want to hide in the darkest corner. I am so blessed for having
    no side effects after my surgery , but still no day passes without me thinking of another tumor returning.

    I am so grateful for your blog , to know that there are other people in the world that also has the exact same fears and feelings that I do.

    I won’t change a thing about my surgery and the whole situation. I learned that God never leaves your side, true friends will never judge, even when my head was shaved and our family grew stronger than ever,I also learned that my husband (boyfriend then) will even teach me how to drive again , help with my balance while climbing stairs and offer to also shave his head to look like mine.

  • Korey To

    Thank you so so so so much for posting this a year ago. I know i am late on responding to this article. But this post has in a sense changed my life. Everything you wrote is exactly true! I am 19 years old and had brain surgery and I couldn’t put into words how i felt after the surgery but not I have a better sense of what to tell people. I will never be the so callled ‘same’ person but it will be for the better! thank you and i hope your health is still doing well!

  • SKelley

    I just discovered your website and blog and each day I’ve been treating myself to a blog or two after I get work done (well, OK, sometimes before). This was the last I read.

    It’s now February 2015. I hope either the problems that bothered you have disappeared or become more tolerable. I also hope your headaches have eased.

    Thank you for writing this blog, for sharing your feelings and worries and guilts (if there isn’t such a word, there should be) so honestly.

    Thank you for my tears as I read your words … and the thoughts I had while reading.

    About how quickly how our bodies and minds operate can change to something unexpected, at times unwelcome;

    about the importance of being honest with ourselves;

    about the fragility of life – and its inherent wonder.

    May the universe bless you and keep you well!

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