Even though I’ve been sharing snippets here, on Facebook, and on Instagram of how my recovery is going, I thought that the process warranted a longer, more detailed post. Mainly because this whole experience has taught me SO MUCH, and I sort of feel like I need to capture it in some way. If you’re new here and wondering what I’m talking about; I recently had surgery to remove an acoustic neuroma tumor (also called a vestibular schwannoma) from my inner ear, near my brain.
Don’t worry, no gross medical-related photos will be shared in the course of this post! I can’t even stand the sight of my incision!
Leading up to surgery day, I’d really been downplaying this whole thing, both to myself and to my friends and family. I don’t like people making a big fuss over me; I don’t want to feel like I’m inconveniencing anyone. I also didn’t see the point in dwelling in the negatives or feeling sorry for myself. This tumor happened for whatever reason, and it needed to come out. Plain and simple. But in the days following surgery, I realized just what a big deal this really was. It’s not like I went in for some routine kind of procedure. These tumors are rare, and the size and location of mine made it a little tricky. This was really serious surgery, this was brain surgery.
I know the whole situation could be a ton worse, but still. The only other medical procedures I’ve ever had done are gum surgery and having my wisdom teeth pulled. And I had to be knocked out to have a broken wrist re-set when I was 18. But to go from being pretty darn healthy and active to facing brain surgery… it’s a bit of a shock. And I don’t think any of this really hit me until it was all over, which, looking back, is probably a very good thing!
The surgery itself went as well as it could have. The surgeons were able to remove all of the tumor without doing too much damage to my main nerves. It was a long procedure, lasting about 6 hours. And from the time that I was wheeled into the operating room to the time I woke up in my recovery room, it was about 10 hours. I remember slowly waking up in recovery, feeling cold and wondering what all the beeping sounds were. I’d been telling myself for weeks pre-surgery to try and think happy thoughts of going to Disney World while I was being knocked out. Well, it must have worked because as I was coming to, I remember thinking “Dangit! This doesn’t sound like Disney World!”
I was also immediately aware of the fact that I couldn’t hear anything out of my left ear. In my original post, I mentioned that my otolaryngologist (a fancy Ear-Nose-Throat surgeon) gave me a 50/50 chance of hearing loss/deafness as a result of the surgery. My neurosurgeon had upgraded it to a 75% or greater chance. And it’s looking like my neurosurgeon was right. So far, there’s nothing. But the area is still healing; the swelling takes a while to go down and the nerves can take months to regenerate, so there’s a slight chance I could regain some hearing in the future. Fingers are crossed, but so far, adapting to just one ear hasn’t been too bad. But it’s definitely different.
I spent 3 nights in the hospital, the first under ICU status, in a special wing designated for brain surgery patients. I wasn’t necessarily in any amount of intense pain, but I felt generally sore and uncomfortable. I had a steady headache, which is a normal side-effect. And I was constantly visited by doctors and nurses checking my incision, my hearing, my facial nerve control, my blood pressure and my pulse. So, it wasn’t exactly a restful stay! But the hospital staff was incredibly kind and helpful. If you are a nurse or doctor – thank you for all that you do for your patients!!
I’ve been home for about 12 days and have been taking it very easy. I was on a pretty steady diet of ginger ale and Rice Krispies there for a few days, but now my appetite is back to normal. I do get tired easily, and have headaches that come and go. I’ve had all sorts of crazy numbness, tingling and weird pulsing sensations on the left side of my face as my nerves are starting to regenerate. And thankfully, my 798 IV-and-head-brace-inflicted bruises are fading. I looked pretty rough there for a while! I also started vestibular rehab yesterday, which is a fancy term for balance therapy. I’m not driving yet, but hopefully will feel ready to soon.
The last piece of this puzzle is waiting on the results of genetic testing to determine if this tumor is related to a disorder known as NF2. It could be a few weeks or even a month or two before the results come in.
I know this post has gotten pretty long, but thanks for sticking with me 🙂
Lastly, I just want to give a shout-out to everyone who prayed for me and supported me throughout this process. Whether you left a comment on a post, sent a card or flowers or a meal, please know that I have been so, so appreciative of every single word and gesture. It has seriously meant the world to me and I am so grateful to have so many wonderful people cheering for me. You rock!