Thursday, March 1, 2012

New Normal

If there are two words I am tired of hearing used together they are "new normal".  Over and over (and over and over and over) in the cancer community you hear people speaking of getting used to the "new normal".  Let me tell you about what is supposed to be considered "normal" for me now that I am supposed to accept and get used to;
  • Severe numbness and tingling in my arms and legs that has been present and not let up since February 2011.
  • Frequent headaches of varying degrees.
  • A blind spot to my right due to losing the vision in the lower right quadrant of both eyes.
  • Walking into stuff on my right side due to said blind spot.
  • Blurry vision that varies in degree of severity day to day.
  • Having my right testicle discarded with the trash.
  • 22 residual tumor masses in my lungs.
  • Having to answer "no, I was not a smoker" in regards to those 22 tumors.
  • Seizures and losing my right to drive for six months.
  • Re-growing a liver with the 10% of my original liver they were able to keep.
  • A 9" scar down the center of my chest/abdomen.
  • A 12 1/2" scar on the back of my head.
  • 6 titanium brackets holding a major portion of my skull in place.
  • Short term memory loss.
  • Fatigue.
  • Major losses in strength/endurance.
  • Short term memory loss. (Did I mention that?)
  • Having people tell me I could have avoided cancer if I had only eaten/not eaten "_____" or done/not done "_____".
  • Balance issues.
  • Cognition issues.
I guess there is a plus side though.  I can rant and rave and complain all I want and if anyone complains about it all I have to say is "sorry, it's my 'new normal', you'll get used to it."

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Reaper Came Knocking

December 17, 2011.
Patient is unresponsive, heart rate is in the 20's...
One emergency craniotomy later I am here to say nice try cancer.
On December 28, 2010 I was diagnosed with cancer. After that day my main goal was to make it to December 28, 2011 to be able to celebrate my "new birthday". One year as a survivor/patient. One year and still going strong.
I almost didn't make it to that day and the celebration.
11 days earlier a newly discovered 9 cm brain tumor in the left occipital lobe very nearly kept me from reaching a very important milestone.
I had been experiencing some vision issues as well as increasingly worsening headaches for a period of a couple of months which lead me to seeking an appointment with Ophthalmology. After a field of vision test it was determined that I had lost my vision in the lower right quadrant of both eyes, leaving me with a blind spot. The speculation was that, worst case scenario, I had a tumor in the occipital lobe of the brain damaging the optic nerve and an urgent MRI was scheduled to be conducted within 48 hours. Thus began a whirlwind 9 day period.
  • December 8, 2011: MRI of the brain.
  • December 9, 2011: Results confirmed and delivered, a 9 cm mass is present in my brain.
  • December 12, 2011: Consult with Neurosurgery, surgery scheduled for December 20, 2011.
  • December 12, 2011: Consult with Radiation Oncology, a course of radiation therapy recommended for post surgery.
  • December 15, 2011: A series of worsening headaches brings me to the ER.
  • December 15, 2011: I "black out" and have no memory of any event until December 20, 2011.
  • December 15, 2011: Admitted to ICU.
  • December 16, 2011: Surgery moved to December 19, 2011.
  • December 17, 2011: Vital signs take a dive, I become unresponsive and my heart rate drops into the 20's.
  • December 17, 2011: Surgery becomes urgent and a left craniotomy to resect my tumor mass is performed this day.
Surgery was a success, but this latest obstacle set me back a bit more and gave me more hurdles to overcome. Prior to discharge day I was evaluated by speech, occupational and physical therapy to determine what services I would need in order to regain my abilities and whether I would be able to be discharged to home or to a treatment facility. With sheer will and determination I was able to prove that I would only need physical therapy and that I would be able to be safe and function at home. When discharge day arrived I needed to use a walker to leave the hospital, but I was able to walk out. It was a slow walk and a bit unstable, but I was walking.
And now to the present day.
After a few weeks with the walker I was able to transition to a cane, presently I use neither.
The vision loss is permanent but I am making adjustments and learning to accomodate for it.
With the help of an amazing physical therapist I am regaining endurance, coordination, balance and strength. I have a ways to go but I am making great progress.
So, to make a long story short, everybody gets knocked down. How quick are you going to get back up?