|Left to Right: 1 day after surgery, 1 week, 1 month, 7 months|
Last March I went through the most difficult, frightening and painful process I’d ever experienced: a craniotomy to remove a 2.6-cm tumor hiding in the right side of my brain. After surgery I awoke in overwhelming darkness, every part of my body strangled by wires, tubes and compression sleeves. Nurses kept telling me not to touch my stitches. “What stitches?” I had no comprehension of the 54 new stitches that now framed my face, let alone the parade of physicians assistants, doctors, and nurses that came in and out of my room at all hours. I only knew that I was in pain. I had reoccurring hallucinations of iron giants crushing my head with their solid metal boots, or of being trapped in a nighttime car crash, waiting at the bottom of a canyon for help that would never arrive. The pain—paired with a complete and total confusion caused by both the anesthesiology and someone mucking around in my brain—led to a rough time in the hospital.
By day seven I was discharged. I remember being driven home—on a road I must have been on 100 times before—and not recognizing a thing. I had no sense of context. I could see a tree, or a human face, and recognize it as a tree or human, and yet have no understanding that the tree was on the corner of my street, or that the face was a friend I’d known for years. The best way I can describe it is that my brain was like a computer hard drive that had been completely wiped clean and was now slowly trying to rebuild itself.
I’d also developed superpowers (yes, seriously). My eyesight was incredible. I could see the texture of the wallpaper from across the room, and yet had no ability to focus on one thing, which meant I could take everything in all at once with absolute clarity. “Were those photos always up there on the top shelf? Do you see how the light streams in from the window like crystals?” Oh, and the hallucinations continued. This time I had no sense of perspective or sizes, so the door to my room appeared 14 feet wide. It was a trippy, trippy ride, and in the times where I felt well enough to sit and take it all in, I appreciated the amazing wonder that is our world. Weeks later (when I once again needed glasses), the physician’s assistant said I wasn’t the only one to have experienced these odd side effects.
Some day I’d love to write down all the good experiences I had that came along with the bad. There was the incredible support of friends and family, and especially my husband, who was with me every step of the way. About 10 days in I also had an absolute sense of clarity of everything important in life: why we’re here, what’s important, what really matters. I’ll have to save that for another time.
For now though, I’m focusing on my joy of living life seven months later. The recent post-op scan came back thankfully clean (knock on wood). And only now in the past week am I finally feeling well enough to routinely work and make art again (despite the big numb spot on the side of my head). Feeling normal has never felt better, and I am appreciating every moment.