I’ve tried sitting down to write this a few times only to be overwhelmed and walk away. But, since I decided to be forthcoming about things and share to begin with, I figured at least one more post is in order.
(And before I say anything else I wanted to thank everyone who has reached out and wished me well. It doesn’t always seem like much but it means a lot. Honestly, I don’t think I would have gotten through November without my friends and talking about things here and on twitter. It’s all been so much harder and so much more than I ever thought I could handle. And people keep saying I’m such a great daughter but even with the hard stuff and the bad stuff there is nowhere else I’d want to be. So thank you to everyone who was there with me offering good thoughts or distractions.)
A recap: My mom had brain surgery on November 22. She had been admitted to the hospital on November 18 after having the latest of what were increasingly frequent non-convulsive seizure in her neuro-surgeon’s office. That Friday she was brought to the surgical prep area at around ten in the morning. They moved her into the operating room by eleven. I wouldn’t hear any news about her until the surgery ended at 10:30 that night. The neurosurgeon said the procedure took twelve hours and was the longest he had ever done. The tumor had wrapped around Mom’s optical nerves but it was all out. The surgery couldn’t have gone better.
Even now, with her recovering at home, it makes me sick to my stomach to say all that. Even now, when the surgery went well and the tumor is out, I keep thinking about all of the ways the surgery could have gone wrong and how she could have died. Even now, with things finally finally getting back to normal, I find that most of my time is spent at least partially terrified that something else is going to happen. I was trying to think objectively about this year and it makes me feel sick. I’m sure it sounds like I’m lying when all of the events are stacked together and I wonder how many people assume I must have made at least some of it up.
Mom came home from the hospital on December 3 after all of the stitches and staples were finally removed. She had finished her regimen of steroids to reduce swelling and antibiotics to prevent infection. Before she left we had a serious talk about whether she would or would not be okay at home alone while I worked during the day. We decided that she would be okay. And she has.
They never show these ugly parts of recovery in movies, rarely even in books. You see the broad strokes of an injury or an illness but then the story moves on with a montage or a black screen to show the passage of time. It isn’t really like that. Recovery has been a part of every single day since the surgery. It is probably going to be a part of every single day for a long time.
I can see the enormity of what happened in little things: Mom can’t remember the week leading up to the surgery or the three days she spent under heavy sedation in the ICU–not even the days where she actually talked to me and held my hand. She doesn’t like food that she used to enjoy. She likes actresses now that she didn’t like before. Swallowing and chewing hurt her head so meals have required a certain degree of creativity. The seizures are done though. And, strange changes aside, her memory is improving. Yesterday Mom told me a story about our dog that I had never heard before (before I was born when Mom took our dog out she used to try to walk on the sides of her feet when Mom put booties on to protect her paws from the snow).
Even knowing it won’t happen, I keep thinking one day we’ll wake up and things will be normal. Maybe, somehow, there will be some miracle recovery. Maybe after a horrible two years that will become our little piece of good fortune.
But there aren’t any miracles. Just hard work.
Mom is sleeping a lot. One of the visiting nurses (she’s had visiting nurses, social workers, occupational therapists, and physical therapists) said it takes something like 40% of your energy to heal a brain injury (because surgery is considered a brain injury). The neurosurgeon said it will take two to three months for the swelling in her brain and optic nerves to go down.
Instead of a miraculous turnaround, I’m watching her recovery in little things. The days she can move around the apartment on steady feet on her own. The first night she was able to sleep in bed instead of the recliner. The night after that when she could get into bed on her own. Her color is back. And the scar is just that now–a big scar that isn’t swollen enough that it looks like a cord. She isn’t as sensitive to loud noises now; we can watch the TV at a normal volume. Her vision, which was never good, is not improving yet. But I think maybe it will. She’s already using her iPad and texting me again–something she couldn’t even consider in the hospital. And as long as I don’t think too hard about what came before, I find that I can see her getting through the rest of this. I can see her being okay.
The last quarter of this year has basically been a wash. I wrote off September and October. November is dead to me. I couldn’t even spend Thanksgiving with Mom while she was in the hospital (where she also spent her birthday). December has been more of a mixed bag. Mom is home. I hosted a cookie swap. Gifts are sent. I probably won’t get to the movies I wanted to see or the holiday displays I wanted to visit. But Mom is home. The house is decorated. And my favorite holiday in the entire year is less than a week away.
One of my Aunt Linda’s friends had a theory that whatever you’re doing on midnight of New Year’s is a pretty good indication of how the next year will go. I can’t talk to Linda about that or anything else now–a months-old wound by now though still shockingly painful. But I think maybe her friend’s theory was sound.
Despite my attempts at staying positive, I can say now with certainty that 2013 was one of the hardest years I’ve ever had. Maybe the worst too. But I still have hopes for 2014. I’m going to make fried eggplant and maybe some ravioli on New Year’s Eve–food Mom might even want to eat by then–and we’re going to watch the ball drop on NY1 like we always do. There will be Cannolis and Chocolate Pixies. And then in 2014 I’m going to start writing again and querying the novel I have finished. I’m going to be interviewing so many amazing people here on the blog and telling you guys about so many good books. Because now that I have a new job, now that Mom doesn’t have anything growing in her brain, now that we’re really okay, I think that when I say 2014 is going to be my year maybe it will really be true.
One thought on “There are no miracles”
Emma, I’ve only started following blogs over the past few months, and whether I missed them or whatever, I wasn’t aware (or simply don’t remember ’cause I forget SO many things like this), of your mother’s situation.
This was heartwrenching reading this because anything like this is about as stressful and draining as something can be. I’m sincerely happy things have gone so well and continue to do so. If you can avoid expectations, everything will be easier—taking one day at a time and accepting whatever good comes each day (or doesn’t come) and to be grateful for each day and having a future with your mother, regardless of how much she recovers or at what speed.
I can’t stress enough to NOT be superstitious, as though one day of the year somehow indicates anything in the future. That’s expectation based on “fortune telling.” I hope you don’t allow yourself to get caught up in that.
Anyway, hang in there and believe you, along with your mother, will continue to get stronger :)