Tag Archives: Brain Tumor


I got an email the other day from someone who was about to have brain surgery. This, in and of itself, isn’t anything new – since writing about my own surgery, I get a couple of emails a week from people who are in similar (or, as is often the case, far scarier) situations. But this last email I received was a little different – the author asked me just one simple question.

Did I have any practical advice for things she should do before her surgery?

I realized that while I had written rather extensively about the emotions that surround brain surgery, and I’d discussed a few of the things I learned from it, I hadn’t really discussed what I did beforehand to prepare for the experience.

And so, since I haven’t been traveling all that much of late, and there is little to report on that front, I thought I’d dedicate a blog post to her question. I want to make it clear – this is just stuff that I felt the need to do. When I’m stressed, when I feel like my life is a little out of control, I get very organized.

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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.”

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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.

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Today, a friend of mine is having surgery to remove a brain tumor. We talked about it a little bit last year, not long after my surgery. His doctors were able to confirm right away that his tumor wasn’t cancerous (which is all kinds of YES), but in the last few months, it started growing at a rather unpleasant rate, so they elected to pull that sucker out. 

I meant to write this post a while ago for him, about what he could expect after his surgery. But instead I’m writing it right now, which means that he’s going to read it after his surgery, and really, what good is that going to do him?

“Here’s what you can expect … from the experience that you are going through right now!”

Oh, well. Better late than never. And who knows … maybe some other fool with a hole in their head can benefit from my “wisdom.”

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Sunday was a landmark of sorts, and it passed without me realizing it.

That, I suppose, was most significant at all. Sunday was the four-month anniversary of my surgery.

At some point, I’d stopped counting the days since my brain surgery, and then the weeks, and now, it seems, the months. Rand had left town the day before, so I mostly sat around, working on our Halloween costumes, and yelling at the football game that was playing on the T.V. in a vain attempt to pretend that he was still home.

It almost worked. Turns out, I’m nearly as adept at taunting Tony Romo as my husband is.

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Hanging out in the hospital exam room.

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I was hoping that brain surgery would teach me a thing or two. That I would wake up from my operation with some sort of hidden knowledge that’s only accessible to those who’ve had their skulls cracked open.

It’s not that I thought I’d wake up speaking French or anything (though I wouldn’t have been against that. I’ve always wanted to learn French). Rather, I imagined I’d groggily rub my eyes and look around with a new appreciation for the world around me. My new perspective would prevent me from getting upset about the small stuff.

I thought that after brain surgery, I could rise above the trivial crap we often find ourselves miring in.

And for a while, that was the case. They say that your true self comes out when you are heavily medicated, and my true self, to everyone’s surprise, was an absolute sweetheart. I loved all my nurses, even the blond that Rand had dubbed “the nasty one” (“You just don’t understand her like I do,” I said, drooling onto my gown). I declared my mother the best mother – NAY, the best HUMAN – in the entire universe. I was even tempted to call a few people that I hated and tell them how I had changed my mind about them, how I was wrong to suggest that if they were a crossword puzzle clue, they’d be “a four-letter word that starts with ‘c’ and rhymes with punt.”

Trust me, no one was more shocked than I about my new-found niceness and goodwill.

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One of the nice things about brain surgery is that you can pick out all sorts of clever things to say for when you come to. I had a few quips lined up (“I have a splitting headache!”, “Who wants morphine? I do! I do!”, and “Which of you bastards tried to tip my surgeon to ‘throw in a lobotomy’ while he was in there?”) but it was my friend Natalie who gave me the winner.

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It’s been six weeks since my surgery.

My surgeon said that it would take about six weeks until I felt completely like myself again. Six weeks until I was more or less recovered. And he was right. I feel like myself.

More or less.

I feel more tired. And more sensitive. Literally. I have a soft spot. Like babies do.

And I am less … tumor-y. And less headache-y. Are those even real words? I’m not sure. And I’m less concerned about whether or not they are.

Here’s what my head looked like right after my surgery:

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Hour 2 of 5 at the doctor’s office.

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There are things that you can imagine yourself saying.

Things like, “Why thank you, yes, I will take a third helping of dessert.”

or

“We can hang out at our house, but you guys have to not touch the dust piles. I’ve been collecting them for three months, and there’s one specimen that I think is becoming sentient.”

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