Brain Tumor/Surgery My Recovery Story: Chapter 7 - The Decisive Moment
My first couple of weeks home were surreal and rough. I wasn’t prepared to come home. I was dazed, confused and in pain. In the blur of the pain and fear I started to become angrier and angrier at being discharged so early. My God, less than 48 hours. I was angry at the Doctor, the Hospital and the Insurance Company.
At night I couldn’t lay down for more than an hour without my head pounding. I was being driven crazy by pain… even though I didn’t know I was in pain… which created a totally surreal reality. My husband was doing his best to comfort me and to assure me that I was healing really well. But by the second day things were getting so rough that he went out and bought me a “Barko” lounger. It was a very padded, comfortable chair where I could sleep sitting up.
For two weeks I would alternate between the chair and bed every hour between 10pm and 4am. Sleep was not my friend. My husband was keeping the same schedule and I was becoming concerned about his health. I was afraid, but was not cognitively strong enough to articulate my needs or even contact the doctors office. Besides my doctor was out of town for the two weeks following my surgery. I couldn’t believe that the doctor and hospital would release someone so soon after surgery and with minimal post operative guidelines other than “no contact sports”. They didn’t even tell me not to keep my stitches dry! Friends refrained from contacting me because they assumed I was sleeping all the time. I had so much frenetic energy that I couldn’t rest and when forced to take naps I would sleep for around 15 minutes. They only time I could rest was in front of the TV. My life was miserable.
So let us all breathe. Again. Good.
Why am I sharing this with you? I wanted you to feel how victimized I felt - how out of control - how helpless. How I blamed the Doctor, Hospital and Insurance Company for my circumstance. It was everyone’s fault that I was at home unprepared. Fortunately I verbalized this to a friend and she caught me off guard when she asked me a simple question, “Barbara, who are you really mad at?” I started to get mad at her—hadn’t she listened to my story? Couldn’t she see how wronged I was and how they had not taken care of me well? Did she forget that I just had “BRAIN SURGERY! AND HOW DARE SHE IMPLY THAT THEY MAY NOT HAVE BEEN AT FAULT!
As I was stewing this around in my brain ready to verbally leap on her— another light bulb suddenly came on—Truth be told, I was angry at myself. Mad I that I hadn’t taken the time before surgery to get relevant post operative information. I could have spent some time thinking about what I would need to make my recovery more bearable and put those items in place. Secondly if I didn’t really feel ready to go home, I could have said NO. I am not ready. The doctor would have listened. My husband would have championed me. So would have my son and sister. But the truth was that I was flattered. Flattered when everyone kept on saying “You are doing so remarkably well.” “Amazing recovery.” Blah, blah, blah. The truth was that vanity had won me over. I was mad at me for putting my well being in jeopardy because I wanted to continue to be the shining star.
I realized that I had fallen into a lose-lose situation. This was a place not-so productive in attaining my goal of Perfect Recovery. Once I admitted that hidden truth to myself, the anger which had created muscle tightness, unrest and additional pain began to dissipate. Immediately I began to feel less pain and sleep with less discomfort. When I was feeling like a victim I had no control or power over the situation. Once I admitted to myself the real truth, I took my power back and began my journey again.
Oddly enough these experiences occurred during the same time period as the previous chapters. Magically I was experiencing One Journey, yet Two Adventures.
End Chapter Eight
“Playing the Odds”
When I was in college I learned how to play the “odds” - much like in poker or gambling. I would enter a classroom and determine within a few days the “odds of me getting a good grade within the parameters of how much effort I was willing to make. If the odds seemed favorable I would stay and if not I would drop the class and find another. In this process there was only assessment. Assessment on what course of action would help me reach my goal—graduation with good grades and lots of time to party during my college years.
I have used “Playing the Odds” all of my life. So when my friend presented me with the question “Who are you truly mad at?” I had two options. One to stay in the victim role or secondly rise to the challenge and seriously look at the question. In my life I have taken the approach to look at the “whys” of things which make me angry or blue. I dig deep until I find the truth. I know in this situation I could have solicited all sorts of support which would have enabled me to stay in the blame game… Victim. However, by playing the odds game I quickly could weigh the “odds”. Only when I could re-take control over my life and take responsibility for my actions and decisions would the odds return to my favor for Total Recovery.
"Sometimes intensity of life brings multiple emotions and experiences."
Many years ago my mother died. It was one of my most devastating and defining moments. Grief was like a tsunami wave, huge and overwhelming in its ferocity. Yet as it ebbed and flowed, other emotions surfaced with equal ferocity. Love in all of its facets surfaced. Hate, anger and jealousy came and went. Each experience had a sparkling clarity allowing me to view and interact within the world as never before. So like at that time in my life, here I too was on a roller coaster. Everything experienced was intense and real, flashing by at a rapid rate. One minute happy, the next depressed, the next fuming with anger. Most of my life is spent in the mundane so for me these are once in a lifetime events allowing me to choose whether or not I wish to be propelled into heavenly places or hell. Often one can’t choose the circumstance or event in our life, we can only choose what to do and how we wish to remember it.
"The Ben Gesserit witches in Dune were right." “ Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear, I will permit it to pass over me and through me and when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.” - Frank Herbert, Dune, Ben Gesserit Litany against fear
If there is one thing I learned in these past few months is that fear is the mind numbing, life sucking, light voiding incomprehensible emotion which is the enemy. We as human beings can rise to any challenge when all emotions, feelings and life are free from the shroud of fear.
For me the everyday challenge wasn’t dealing with the brain tumor. That was all ready decided and taken care of, it was how to face all of my little fears, my daily fears and let them pass through me. I will end this book with quotes which inspired me and specifically helped me embrace this truth.
“ Remember the high board at the swimming pool? After days of looking up at it you finally climbed the wet steps to the platform. From there, it was higher than ever. There were only two ways down; the steps to defeat or the dive to vicctory. You stood on the edge, shivering in the hot sun, deathly afraid. At last you leaned too far forward, it was too late for retreat, and you dived. The high board was conquered, and you spent the rest of the day diving. Climbing a thousand high boards, we demolish fear and turn into hu- man beings." - Richard Bach, A Gift of Wings.
“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘ I will try again tomorrow.’ “ - Mary Ann Radmacher-Hersey
“Often the test of courage is not to die but to live." - Vittorio Alfieri, Oreste
“As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others" - Nelson Mandelia
“ The thing most feared in secret always happens.” - Cesare Pavese, in his journal
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.” - Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love
“Only when we are no longer afraid do we begin to live.” - Dorothy Thompson
“Death is not the biggest fear we have...our biggest fear is taking the risk to be alive—the risk to be alive and express what we really are.” - Don Miquel Ruiz
“We gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look at fear in the face. You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” - Eleanor Roosevelt
“Ultimately we know deeply that the other side of every fear is freedom.” - Marilyn Ferguson
“Fear not for the future, weep not for the past.” - Percy
“ Fear is a tyrant and a despot, more terrible than the rack, more potent than the snake.” Edgar Wallace, The Clue of the Twisted Candle (1916)
“What are fears but voices airy? Whispering harm where harm is not. And deluding the unwary Till the fatal bolt is shot!” - Wordsworth
“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself– nameless, unreasoning, unjustified, terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” - Franklyn D. Roosevelt, First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1933