It’s my last Sunday with a tumor. Tomorrow morning we’ll be heading down to Los Angeles for a series of pre-op appointments, then we’ll spend what I am sure will be a delightful night in a residence adjacent to the hospital, and I’ll be wheeled in for The Grand Opening early Tuesday morning. This has been a big distraction for some time now, and I look forward to having it behind me and engaging in the world again, in both frivolous and constructive ways.
A couple of years ago, I ran into someone who told me that she had come across my book by chance, and having nothing else to read, picked it up and read it. There was a pause, and I waited, and I finally dared to ask what she thought of it. Her reply: “It’s so personal.”
Well, there you have it. I’m a personal kind of person, and my writing reflects that, and I long ago made the decision that this blog, which no one is required to read anyway, will be as personal as it wants to be. I’m just talking here, maybe mostly to myself, and the wonder of it is that sometimes I connect with others too, and if my experiences, questions, and reflections make somebody else feel a little less alone, I’m happy about that.
And today the topic is acoustic neuroma surgery, because that’s what I’m about to undergo this week, and it’s kind of a big deal to me. Also, I know I’m not the only one who will come upon such a detour on the road of life, so I’m hoping my report might be helpful.
The type of operation I am having is called a translabyrinthine craniotomy, a delicate micro-surgery in which the semicircular canals and vestibule of the inner ear are removed with a surgical drill to get to the tumor, which is located on the vestibular portion of the eighth cranial nerve. At this point a neurosurgeon steps in to perform the actual task of extricating the tumor. Then the flap around my ear, having been opened like a doorway, will be stitched shut, and I’ll be good to go. Eight hours will have passed, but I’ll wake up thinking it was no time at all.
I’ll be very pleased to have the tumor gone. It’s benign, and it’s not even very large, but it’s in a tricky location, inextricably linked to balance and hearing, and it can cause even more serious problems as it grows. I’ll be completely deaf forever in the affected ear after the operation, but I’ve already lost a lot of hearing on that side anyway, so maybe I won’t really notice, and I am told that the translabyrinthine approach is more likely than other approaches to keep facial nerve functioning intact. I’m also going to a place which is world-renowned for this type of procedure, with experienced surgeons, and I guess at some point, it’s a matter of faith.
But one reason I want to talk about it freely is because the willingness of others to do so helped me greatly, and being candid and forthcoming is my way of beginning to “pay it forward”. One woman in particular, whose name is Terry, had the same operation less than a year ago, and she has become my acoustic-neuroma-surgery guide and role model. Terry has been honest about the challenges of the recovery process, but she is also living evidence that I’ll probably be just fine. She is thriving, robust and sunny-natured, and I feel better just looking at her. She even gave me a pretty scarf to wrap around my head. It’s the proverbial kindness of strangers, although she doesn’t seem like a stranger anymore.
And my relationships have deepened with people who were already not strangers. It’s a funny flip side to the vulnerability and anxiety, a reminder that I have many fine fellow travelers in my life, and I’m so very grateful for the encouragement and love from these dear ones near and far.
I appreciate the prayers too, prayers in all forms, whatever they are. I especially like knowing that prayer flags are fluttering in the wind right now at the foothills of the Himalayas, placed there by a friend of a friend, with me in mind.
I know very well that others are going through struggles far worse, and I don’t want to overestimate my own significance in the universe, but I do feel a little shaky right now. I’m willing to receive.
I’ve been thinking a lot about ideas that were discussed during the “On Being” gathering last week, and I still intend to revisit these, but for now it’s just interesting to note how it all comes together. I want to talk about life on the Möbius Strip, and making my inner truth become the plumb line for the choices I make about my life. On the cusp of my own Grand Opening, I am hoping that my true self will step into the light, and I will awaken into wholeness. And I’ll tell you about it, because telling is what I do.
Seems like a good moment to quote William Stafford:
And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
a remote important region in all who talk:
Though we could fool each other, we should consider–
lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.
But I guess I’m about to fall silent for a few days. I’ll let you know how it goes.