Thursday, November 20, 2008

Fear (aka, effed)

I've blogged a little bit about this before, but 13 years ago, the week before Thanksgiving, something completely changed my life. At the time, I was generally pretty happy-go-lucky. I was in my, um, 7th undergraduate year, having switched majors more often than I would have thought was allowable; and was living with my long-term boyfriend while still happily married to my ex-boyfriend. Ok, that sounds pretty...off, but trust me when I say that everybody involved was pretty much okey-dokey with that situation. Then, in a pretty short period of time, I:
  • got the measles
  • got re-vaccinated, all at once, for all of these childhood illnesses for which I apparently had no titers
  • started having some wacky mood swings
  • started putting on weight for really the first time in my life
  • started going blind in one eye
I finally went to my optometrist about the vision problems, but he thought it was something more brain-related, so, at age 25, I made my first trip to a neurologist. Four months and about a kerjillion tests (and dollars) later, my neurologist and her team found a growth on my pituitary gland, right in the middle of my brain. The day before Thanksgiving, she called to tell me that I had a brain tumor. Before that, theories about the cause of my symptoms included ALS (Stephen Hawking's illness), MS, Diabetes, and...a couple more. I can't actually remember a lot of that time period, because getting diagnosed with a brain tumor at age 25 sort-of, oh, made a lot of white noise happen in my head. It was a very Woody Allen moment, because I'd just ASSUMED I was being a hypochondriac, only to learn that it was worse - much worse - than I thought. During those months of testing, I finally divorced my 1st ex, who was going through some personal drama of his own, and also started making plans to marry my (then) current boyfriend. I started taking anti-depressants to deal with the mood swings brought on by the pituitary changes, and then other medication to deal with some of the side effects of the anti-depressants. My weight and the mood swings sort-of stabilized, but I was much heavier and much MUCH more lethargic and generally DOWN than I'd ever been. Before I was diagnosed, when ALS was one of the most likely diagnoses, I conned my friend Boris to steal some cyanide from his job, because I was NO WAY going to live a Stephen Hawking life. That's how it was: I was planning how to die. All of this is pretty much ancient history. This was just the start (and partial catalyst) of a sucky sucky downward spiral. Lots more happened, bad, worse and VERY WORST before things finally got a little bit better, then - eventually - much, much better. 13 years later, I can see all the ways that period of time affected my entire life's trajectory and how much or little drama I decide is warranted for anything else that happens. I'd love to end this with some little placebo-quasi-inspirational nougat about how fear is nothing and you can survive bad and worse...but that's not necessarily true in my own life. I'm still ridiculously histrionic and choose to get dramatic about some really small, lame potatoes. But I also see how that experience enabled me to detach from things I might otherwise freak about. I am better at seeing how my physical life impacts my emotional life. At valuing things I might otherwise have taken for granted. I'm a little bit more prepared to think about dying and what I think that means. And...I know what I fear most, which has nothing to do with getting a brain tumor.

6 comments:

Amy said...

Dood. What a dark period in your history...I've never heard the story. Perhaps soon we can dish about our tuma's?

I love that you came out of all that with your head screwed on straight (leans a little to the left though). I love that I got a chance to know you and call you my friend. And I'm glad the cyanide plan was never put in motion! EEksh!

angstmonkey said...

I am so very in awe of this post. You are so brave for sharing your truth the way that you do.

steenky bee said...

Um, holy freakin' shit. This post is amazing. I had NO CLUE you went through all that. Well, how would I? But I am just humbled by how you've bounced back and carved this life for yourself. You are just simply amazing. That's all.

mama kim said...

i love your blog. it is one of my favorites, and this post is one of the many reasons why.

radishly said...

So not fair that you had to deal with this, and continue to have to deal with it. Though, I do love your brain along whatever little come-alongs you keep in it.

Now, the questions:
Did you name it?
Was 11/20/(95?)the day you found out?
Do you now carry a poison ring filled cyanide? (If so, don't be surprised if I break in and replace it with kool-aid.)

radishly said...

that should read "along with"

and

"filled with"

Damn!