Hello everyone! It’s been a little while. I have some life goal updates for you, but first some personal updates:
I’ve been recovering for the past couple of weeks from a surgery on my ear and head. This past summer, I went to see a doctor, thinking I had an ear infection. I have a history of ear problems and have been mostly deaf in my left ear for as long as I can remember. I usually ignored ear infections, honestly, because they seemed so normal to me. But – in this case – I was going to be traveling for about a month and thought I would try to get something to heal it quickly before I left.
Unfortunately, it was not a quick fix. The doctor told me there was a growth in my ear and I needed a CT scan right away. Of course, I was panicked, but I didn’t think he could be serious. He wasn’t my childhood doctor. He probably just wasn’t familiar with the landscape of my ear after so much previous surgery.
I went on my trip anyway. I was gone for a month and got a CT scan when I got back. I also saw two other doctors. The diagnosis was clear: a cholesteatoma – an abnormal, erosive growth behind the eardrum. If left for too long, the growth erodes away the bones of the inner ear, part of the skull, and – in extreme cases – can spread into the brain. Fortunately, we caught mine before it got to that point. I am so grateful. I never go to the doctor. I still can’t believe I went when I did.
So. With that said, this situation is nothing compared to what others go through. However, I have still been terrified. We had no idea how massive the growth had gotten – how close to my brain it was. How it could affect my life, how much it has already affected my body. The doctor had to go in surgically to remove it and see how much damage was done. Although rare, a potential risk to the procedure is partial facial paralysis. As you can imagine, I lost a lot of sleep before my first procedure in December.
To make a very long story shorter, my doctor was able to remove the growth in December, but it was larger than expected. It had eroded away all the bones in my inner ear (my partial eardrum had retracted so far in the process it barely existed at all) and had spread to my mastoid bone in my skull. Not wanting to risk anything, the doctor felt it would be better to go in again in a second surgery to confirm the growth was gone before rebuilding any bones.
It was leading up to my first surgery that I purchased my domain name and started this blog! During my recovery, I was able to write a bit and work on it. I had wanted to start it for so long. I honestly think fear of my surgery was the final push I needed to go for it.
So here I am now, writing another blog post – recovering from Surgery #2, equipped now with some new titanium bones in my ear, a new eardrum, a bad-ass scar, and a reconstructed Eustachian tube. I can hear sounds in my left ear for the first time in my memory. It’s pretty incredible – also very overwhelming, if you can imagine! (My roommate said it best. She said the only way she could relate was if she imagined she could suddenly hear out of her nose! How strange that would feel…)
As part of my recovery, I am not allowed to run, dance, jump, flip or bend over, lift heavy things, sleep laying flat…
You may not know me that well, but I hope you recognize how much I am struggling with this! So many of my goals require me to be active. I’m naturally a very active and busy person. I obviously can’t practice trapeze or aerial silks. I can’t train for another half marathon. Even some goals that don’t seem it, end up being very difficult when your head is sore and you tire after going for a walk! I’m going crazy!
This has set me back a bit on my plan to accomplish a life goal a month this year, but I’m determined to get back on track. Here is the summary:
- January – started a blog!
- February – visited an elephant sanctuary (see here)
- March – crocheted a scarf (delayed to April)
- April – because of the March delay (post here) and surgery, I missed a goal, so will have to make up this month
- May – paint with balloons (an approved post-surgery goal!) AND make homemade pasta (to catch up!)
And! I would like to announce my upcoming goals for the summer. Drum roll…
- June – get officially certified in a fitness course (if I’m clear to move again!)
- July – drive the Pacific Coast Highway
- August – fly a plane!
As a bonus, if the surgery has been successful, I will be able to go underwater for the first time in my life! I’ll actually be able to start working towards some of my crazy goals like scuba diving, surfing, and going into a shark cage!
In the meantime, here is what I have learned since this whole surgery-process started:
- Someone drilling into your skull feels exactly like you think it does.
- Always get as many opinions as you need to feel as confident as possible with a medical procedure. (For anyone wondering, I ended up at Brigham and Women’s Hospital here in Boston.)
- On that same note, I have never been more grateful to live in Boston, where I have so many medical options and know I am getting the best possible care available. This wasn’t exactly something I learned, but was a great reminder.
- The human body is capable of the most wonderful things – warnings and perpetual recovery.
- Be patient with yourself. Ok, ok. I’m still learning this one. It’s a tough one!
- Let people help you. I feel like we’re so often afraid to do that. My parents are incredible. They came to Boston for both my surgeries and helped me for days after: cooking, cleaning, showering, remembering to take my medication. And when they had to leave, I had the most amazing group of friends that showed up at my apartment, ready to help with anything they could and keep me company when I was not asleep. People like to feel needed and helpful – it’s a win-win for both parties. And, it’s also a great reminder for those amazing friends to be grateful for their own health and ability, too. All around positive experience!
- Don’t wait for fear like this to chase down a goal. Live every day with the same determination and appreciation as you would if you thought your life might change forever.
With that, you’ll be hearing (no pun intended!) from me again soon. I’ll be back with more progress reports and more goals to check off the list!
Be well and live passionately. -AS