Hi there! Thanks for checking in with Flawed yet Functional today! December 3rd is a deeply sentimental day for my family. Today is the day we celebrate the anniversary of my brain surgery which removed a mass of arteries and veins from my right frontal lobe. It seems like a long time ago and yet just yesterday at the same time. Today I’d like to share some reflections on my 9-year AVM anniversary about life after brain surgery. What did my life look like then and where am I now?
To read my story from the beginning click here.
If you take the time to read through my story, you will see that I didn’t quite finish it. It’s hard to write about a certain period in your life and then end the story, because life goes on. My life didn’t end when I finished physical therapy; I went back to work. It didn’t end when I was able to hold my job and my life together again; I just began cleaning and cooking again. Life goes on.
So how do I begin to wrap up that event in my life?
Today I’d like to share where I am today in contrast to where I was after my surgery like a pseudo wrap-up to my story. A major surgery is not the end of your story as it was not the end of my story. The physical and mental condition immediately after brain surgery is not the end of the tale. In fact, two years out from major surgery is not the end; although many doctors will tell you it is!
The brain and body God has given you is an amazing creation. The things you can continue to learn is incredible. If you find yourself in a time of discouragement over your health or physical condition today, I hope you find encouragement here today, friend.
When I woke up from surgery I was paralyzed on the left side of my body. I could not move my left arm, leg, hand, or foot. However, I did have a slight sense of touch. When the left side of my body when it was poked, it felt like a far-off other-body pain.
Now I walk, talk, and move as if I never had the surgery…almost. The only negative physical aspect that remains from the surgery is I am not very coordinated in my left hand.
My left hand is not my dominant hand, so you might think who is coordinated with their left hand? I share with you openly that this used to be a sense of pride in my pre-surgery life. I was quite adroit in my left hand. The ability to fix my hair was one area that I was especially proud of prior to the surgery. I could make my hair look as good on the right side as it did on the left. Many girls know, it is difficult to get hair to be styled symmetrically left to right. The opposite of your dominant side usually looks better than the side of your dominant side. So basically I could twirl my hair brush with my left or my right hand.
After surgery, I could not turn my hair brush with my left hand. It is the one thing that I remember telling the therapist that I wanted to be able to do. I wanted to be able to turn my hair brush with my left hand. I still cannot do that today, but I can’t say that I’ve actually been practicing either! So don’t cry over me not being able to twirl the hairbrush with my left hand. It’s silly, and not the basis for an accurate assessment of healing.
Today I can run with my kids. I can roll on the floor with them and tickle them with both of my hands. When it’s time for dinner, I can use a very sharp knife to chop any vegetable or meat or fruit. Should I need to help my church set up chairs, I can grasp the chair with both arms and hands lift and set the chairs down where they need to be. All of these things I can do on my own without assistance which would have been very questionable in the days after my surgery.
Physically, I am completely healed.
My pride was hurt immensely during speech therapy because I was told repeatedly that I was slow. God has gifted me with some pretty good smarts, and I was working as an actuary analyst prior to the surgery. So math is my jam, you might say I am pretty good at it. Naturally, I took it very personally when I was told that my thought processes weren’t functioning at a normal level.
I left my therapy sessions and passed an actuary exam which bolstered my ego that I had in fact return to my full intellectual capacity.
However, it is hard for me to know if I’m actually back to full speed. I have times where I desperately search for a word and can’t find it. The more frustrated I get the harder it is for me to actually figure out what word I want to say. So frustration gets me nowhere. I’ve heard many of my mom friends say that they struggle with the same thing so maybe it has nothing to do with my brain surgery and more to do with me being a mom. Who knows? Again, this does not drastically affect my everyday life.
Today, I can read, write, type, do math, all the things I was hoping I’d be able to do as I lay in that hospital bed recovering. My brain functions just fine for me on a daily basis, and I think my family would agree.
Mentally, I am completely healed.
For the most part I was at peace and calm throughout the whole hospitalization surgery, and rehabilitation. I look over that time with fondness knowing how closely My Savior, my husband, my family, and my friends were watching over me. I was at peace that everything was under control.
I’m not angry that this happened to me. I find great comfort in Psalm 139 where it talks about God knowing me before I was even formed in my mom’s womb. He knew every aspect of me: my AVM, my diabetes, gestational diabetes, difficulty conceiving…everything. No aspect of my health has been a surprise to him. In fact, not only is it not a surprise, He did it on purpose! That does not make me angry, rather it gives me peace. Peace that my health struggles are part of His plan. He is using me and my health to glorify Him, to praise His great name. I am happy to have Him use me in any way He sees fit.
Emotionally, I am completely healed.
Do you find yourself in a tricky, complicated or painful health situation today? Do you know the Creator of your body, the world, everything? He made you the way you are on purpose. It was not a mistake for you to have the challenges you’re facing right now, and he means for you to conquer them and to live for Him and for His glory no matter what your body is doing right now. May I encourage you not to be angry over your health circumstances? Choose to embrace them and live to the fullest for God’s glory. In that light, your pain will become meaningful, and maybe even joyful as you find a purpose higher than your own life and health.
I know you don’t know me, but I would just like to tell you that this post is incredibly inspiring to me. When I was 16 I began fighting migraines, which led to us discovering a tumour in my left frontal lobe. Well, we think it’s a tumour. Five and a half years later, we still don’t know what it is, but have finally decided to remove it. I know the surgery will take place sometime in the next three months, and I’ve been having a lot of anxiety about it. I’m worried about the recovery and the effects it will have on my life. I’m an architect, so math is also my jam. I’m fortunate enough to also have a relationship with God and that has given me incredible peace in the whole situation. I’ve even managed to find humour in it all. I’ve named the tumour Hank, and the surgery will be “Operation Yank Hank”.
Anyway. Thank you so much for your inspiring message, it means a lot to me.
LOL…Operation Yank Hank is hilarious!
Thank you for reaching out! I totally understand your apprehension about your upcoming surgery. Brain surgery is scary stuff! I’ll be praying for God’s healing and His work through the surgeon’s hands. Have you read my whole AVM story? I go into some detail of the aftermath: rehab and adjusting to life going home.
I’m so glad you found my writing encouraging. That is my goal on this blog.
Please feel free to reach out again. I’d love to hear how your surgery turns out!
Ohhh I’m so glad I ran into this post on Pinterest! I am also an AVM survivor and a lot.of the things you described I can totally relate. I was only able write about what I remembered (or was told was happened) and have always wanted to tell what happens afterwards but could never find the words. Thank you for sharing your story
So glad it spoke to you!
As a AVM survivor as well, I am finding difficultly in memory. It is hard to obtain and remember new information. Everything needs to be said slowly and repeated till it sticks. I was never this way before my AVM removal. I had gamma knife operation in 99 for the removal method. I had previously had a horrible car accident in 1998 that showed my AVM during a cat Scan. Doctors never said that memory would be a issue but i find it to be the biggest issue since the these events in my life. Anyone Else experiencing this as well?
Janet, I am so sorry to hear of your memory issues. I just asked my husband to verify, but it looks like my ability to retain new information is about the same. The location of the AVM makes a difference in these matters though. Mine was in my right frontal lobe, up against my motor movement for my left side from my chip to my toes. While my gross motor movement is almost completely back, I have obvious deficits in my left hand and fingers. I cannot move, sense, or control my left hand as I once could. Was your AVM up against your memory center? If so, then your struggles would make sense to me. Not that it makes it easier to accept.
Thanks for this article! I am 7years post TBI. Depressed akull fracture where the bones were shattered. Anyway, learning to cope emotionally has been very difficult for me. I am getting ready to take a CDL test to become a bus driver tomorrow and SO needed this encouragement! Bless you for sharing.