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.