Thursday, August 28, 2008

A Little History

I started having headaches around October of last year. It started out as what felt like eye strain so naturally I went to the optometrist first thinking it was time for a new prescription. Well nothing had changed so the assumption was changed to allergies. I'd never suffered from them before (and was quite smug about it) but I'd had several people say to me if you live in Austin long enough you'll develop allergies. The five year mark seemed to be the birthday for allergies and we had just finished our 5th year here.

So I went to my GP and the symptoms jived with allergies for her too. Thus started the LONG and tedious process of trying different allergy medications. None of them worked and the headaches were starting to get progressively worse. By March I was taking OTC (over the counter) pain meds at least once a day. Went back to the GP in June and she had some Xrays done of my sinuses. Apparently she saw something she didn't like in them because I was on a double strength, double antibiotic for a month, but it STILL wasn't helping the headaches. So back to the doctor again and some med switch ups. She put me on a headache prevention med (which helped with the intensity of the pain but didn't get rid of it completely) and she gave me the name of a neurologist.

The week before school started I went to the neurologist--my brain lady--and she took me off all OTCs. I was up to 4-6 Advil a day and she took them away from me. Turns out she wasn't just being cruel, though you couldn't have convinced me otherwise at the time, but there is a thing called analgesic overuse syndrome which can actually cause you headaches. So she was right. Mark your calendars people, I said someone else was right. Getting off the OTCs helped with one kind of headache but not the other. Did I mention I was having two different kinds of headaches? The "pressure" headaches were the ones that concerned the brain lady so she scheduled me for an MRI, and the rest is history.

So when I'm told that I'm "handling this well" it's partly because there is FINALLY an answer to what has been a long and frustrating process. There is a reason (well, possible reason if you go by what the brain man says, brain lady gives better then 50-50 odds on the tumor being the headache cause) for all the headaches I've been having, and it's a relief to know it's something treatable.

This is not to say that the whole process has been easy. There have been times when the pain has been so intense that all I could do is cry (literally) out to God for comfort and help and healing. The ONLY reason I was and am able to handle it well is because I trust in God's sovereignty. That there is a purpose and a plan for all of the things we are going through (I say we cause the poor hubby gets to go through it too), even if it's just to rely on Him more and bring us closer to Him. That doesn't mean I haven't been frustrated or worried or scared, it just means when those emotions start to take over I can now tell myself "Stop. That's not yours to handle. Give it back to God so He can take care of it for you. He can do it better anyway" I can truly say that without faith that God is in control, without Christ as my Rock and without the training I received at The Stone and the spiritual growing that has accomplished this would not be handled as well as it has been. Not even close; probably more fits of hysteria and much weeping and gnashing of teeth, so thanks to all The "Stoners" out there.

Whew! Sorry for such a long post. Take it in small bites, it'll be easier to digest that way :)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Humor in the insanity

Both of my boys have asked if it will be possible for them to see my brain when/if I have to have the surgery. I had to tell them I don't think the doctors will let them into the surgery. Both were very upset at not being allowed to see my brain. I told them I'd see if I could get a freeze frame of the MRI the next time I go to see the brain man so they could at least see it in a picture if not in person.

Patience-my unripe Fruit

I am impatient. I like instant results and answers and I like definitive plans of action. I did not get those today with my initial surgical consult, though I did get to see my brain (MRI scan) and tumor and that was kind of cool. I have to wait another week before any plan is official. In my naivete I was expecting it to be like my gall bladder surgery where they tell me it needs to come out and BOOM surgery appointment scheduled and good to go. Just a little different here with a growth about the size of Brazil nut and important veins in the area around it.

So i officially probably have a meningioma (the docs gotta leave room for that 1% just in case), which in case you are wondering is not officially a brain tumor since it has no brain matter as part of the tumor, and I might have surgery to remove it or have radiation treatment or they might just leave it alone. The best part is it may or may not be what is causing my headaches. Now that you have the politician answer here's what I actually know and also my impressions:

There are 3 basic treatment options with my kind of tumor: surgery, radiation, combo of the former 2, and to leave the tumor alone. My impression is the brain man is leaning towards option 3. So what does this mean? It means I have to undergo another procedure called a venogram (to map the veins of the tumor and surrounding brain area), then have as much of the tumor mass as possible removed by surgery, and destroy more by radiation. I apparently have an unusual tumor in that it has tentacles (not his word, it's mine and I don't don't know how else to describe it) that are also growing across the top of my brain--think moss on the side of a tree. Surgery will require a 4-6 day hospital stay with a couple days in ICU. No functions (speech, walking, etc) should be affected by the removal of the tumor and rehab will not be required. There is always a slim chance that it is malignant but they won't know that until after pathology is done on the tumor.

Needless to say I'm pretty tired right now and a little disappointed and frustrated that more didn't get accomplished.

i have a brain tumor... that's not a joke or just some catchy title to start off my first ever blog post--which I SWORE I would never have. I was diagnosed yesterday with a meninigioma --basically a growth in the meninges of my brain--sorry to all you medical professionals for incorrect spells and such but I'm just learning this stuff :) I meet with a neurosurgeon today to find out if the tumor is irritating the vein on top of my head and thereby causing my headaches (which have been occuring for the past 6-8 months) or if I'm just lucky and have the tumor in addition to headaches. The American Brain Tumor Association (I know, I was just as surprised to learn of their existence) has great info about meningiomas. Feel free to check it out.

So, some of my family is a little freaked out about it and I find myself being the one to offer comfort. My grandmother keeps telling me "you're so strong, you're so strong" but I'm not. I am a weak-fleshed human being. The ONLY way for me to "be strong" is to be weak and let Christ be my strength and work through me. I am not strong but can do ALL things through Him. He is my rock and my salvation.

One of my favorite people asked me yesterday "How's your heart?' I loved being able to tell him that I'm excited. Some of you are probably now having to go back and read that sentence again because surely I couldn't be crazy enough to be excited about a tumor? Hey, i have a tumor, i can be a little crazy. :) I'm so excited to see how God is going to use this to show others just how AWESOME and amazing He is, I'm excited to have the opportunity to grow to trust Him even more with health, with life, with finances; I'm excited to see how He is going to use me to show His overwhelming and abundant love for us.

If there's anyone reading this who isn't a believer, at this point, they are really thinking I'm crazy. This crazy chic has a tumor and continues to believe that God loves her abundantly--my response would be the line to a MercyMe song that goes "Could circumstances possibly change who I forever am in You?" So who am I? I am a holy, and beloved child of God, saved by grace through the loving sacrifice of His son Christ Jesus who faced the punishment of God and died so that I might have an eternal life, and relationship with Him instead of separation and wrath. A brain tumor is nothing compared to what Jesus went through for me; He knew me before i was born, He knit me in my mother's womb, He has all my days counted, He hems me in and there is no where I can go that He is not there. There is nothing else I COULD do but praise Him, and love Him (so overwhelmingly) and thank Him for being who He is and allowing me to serve Him in this way.