Saturday, November 28, 2009

Turkey and Italians

First of all, can I just say that the best part of Thanksgiving is the time spent with family. We had a smallish gathering this year, just Willie's parents, sister, aunt and two cousins. However, you would be totally shocked by how much noise a group this small can make!

And,those of you who are SSD will appreciate how overwhelming it is when lots of people are talking, all at full volume! At some point during dinner, I think my brain just gave up on trying to decipher what people were saying and all I heard was a cluster of unrelated words and a general roar of noise. It was my brain's little way of saying FU to me! The brain always trumps the body.

Anyway, in spite of much noise, it was a good day - made even better by the fresh Canolis that Aunt Rosie brought from Queens! Even after gorging on turkey and the trimmings, we fell on the canollis like a pack of starving wolves. Oh, and I should also mention that Cousin Peter brought a huge tray of anti-paste which was very well received. Actually, as I think about it, the turkey was kind of an afterthought.

We cracked open two bottles of wine - a bottle from my recent batch (malbec/cabernet/syrah) and a bottle of Willamette Pinot (sheer heaven on the tongue). Willie's dad took one taste of the Pinot and pronounced it "table wine". He wasn't impressed. He did, however, love the rather more rustic malbec blend. Which left the pinot completely in the hands (and mouths) of Willie and I. Everyone was happy.

When the evening was winding down, I retreated upstairs to my "cone of silence". Once everyone was loaded into their cars and safely on the road, Willie joined me int the "cone". We sat in total silence for at least an hour - pretty funny when you think about it!

I hope that all of you in the USA had an equally wonderful Thanksgiving - and those of you in the other parts of the world - well, I hope you at least had a good bottle of wine!


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Bobble Head

Or, as some have called it - wonky head. Whatever you call it, I've had it for the last two days. It's freaky and kinda fun all at once. Okay, I may be exaggerating on the "fun" part, but still ...

So what exactly is wonky or bobble head, you ask? It is when you feel like you have a giant wet ball of cotton in your head. As a result of having this mass of cotton where your brain should be, your head feels like it might roll off your neck at any moment. And, because no amusement ride would be complete without sound effects ... there is a whooshing sound in my deaf ear when my heart beats. Yeah, I know - it's impossible for me to hear when I am totally deaf on that side. You're just gonna have to trust me on this.

Yesterday I was a bit unnerved by the whole thing - that would be the freaky part. But today, I kind of got a kick out of the bouncy head feeling - that would be the fun part. However, I think I'm over it now. I am hoping to wake up tomorrow with cottonless head!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Hidden Clues

I read two great books this weekend, both about brain tumor survivors: "I Had Brain Surgery - What's Your Excuse" and "Curve Ball - When Life Throws You a Brain Tumor". I thoroughly enjoyed both of them - the women who wrote them displayed great humor, which I think is mandatory in the brain tumor business. Both authors talked about how they discovered their brain tumors. In both cases, they had missed or ignored early signs. Which got me to thinking about my early warning signs - yes, the ones I ignored or failed to recognize...

Probably the earliest clue I had was a good two years before I was diagnosed. I had decided that I wanted to include yoga classes in my weekly quest to do things for myself. And it really pissed me off that I was the only one in the class who, no matter what, could not do a tree pose. It didn't matter how much I flailed around, there was just no standing peacefully on one foot whilst the other rested on the opposing knee. Nope, not gonna happen. I remember thinking at the time "Jeez, I'm barely 50 and my balance is already starting to go."

Little did I know that this was the first sign that something had invaded my head and was getting cozy with my auditory nerve. Huh.

For at least a year before diagnosis, I was noticing a decline in the hearing on my right side. At some point, I switched my headset from my right to my left ear. And I ignored the occasional "swooshing" noise in my right ear. Well, my dad had lost the hearing in one of his ears when he was in his 30's - I figured it was some hereditary thing. Best to just ignore it. It wasn't until Willie locked himself out of the house one morning and activated the burglar alarm when trying to re-enter that I got worried. You see, the burglar alarm was going off for several minutes and I never heard it. Granted, I was sleeping on my left side with my faulty ear facing the world. But still... I mean, have you HEARD those damned things?? They are like air raid warnings. Yep, that kinda freaked me out. I made an appointment with an audiologist that very day fully expecting that I would be fitted for a hearing aid. Instead, I was fitted for a fat graft and a titanium plate. Talk about getting the fuzzy end of the damned lolly pop!

Never crossed my mind that I had a tumor growing in my cranial cavity! Now, I don't want to scare anyone out there who may be suffering balance and/or asymmetrical hearing loss ... I'm just saying you may want to pay attention.

You know that expression that when you are a hammer, every problem looks like a nail? Well, when you've had a brain tumor, every symptom looks like a cranial invader. I think everyone in my family rushed to see an audiologist after my little adventure. (I'm happy to say, not a brain tumor in the bunch!)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Balancing Act

Catchy title, right? Well, I've been thinking quite a bit lately about balance. It really started on "The Cruise" last month when my balance took a major hit. I sometimes forget how much I rely on sight to compensate for the now-missing balance nerve on my right side. It leads to all kinds of funny situations, and a few hair-raising ones. Mostly funny, though.

The ship, of course, was particularly problematic because of all the colors and patterns that cruise ship companies seem to find necessary - never mind the 20 foot swells and gale-force winds! The patterns alone would have been enough to send my brain running for cover. Interesting, however, how quickly one adjusts. What I have learned is that I have to give the gray matter a chance to settle in for awhile with new surroundings. Kind of like the way I need to let Willie settle in with a new idea (like taking a vacation to Egypt, for example.) Without proper time to adjust, the brain basically gives you a great big finger.

The whole balance thing also doesn't work well in the dark. For example, several weeks ago I was out walking our neurotic collie at night. She, of course, wanted to go to the side of the house where there are no outside lights - and we live in the country where it is pitch black at night. Well, you can see what the problem is. I step onto our lumpy lawn, stumble, and go right down. Yep, on my hands and knees in the dark. I know the damned dog was laughing the whole time.

Last Saturday, Willie and I went to a very nice black-tie event. We arrived well into the cocktail hour - about 200 people (all in formal attire) were milling about in a space designed for maybe 100 people, noise level through the roof - and I was already tired. I think I got about 10 steps into the writhing mass of people when my brain said "not gonna happen!" Fortunately, Willie steered me to a place along the wall where I was able to enter into negotiations with my brain. I eventually won. And it was worth it because they had fillet Mignon for dinner - with a nice glass of Cabernet!

The other day I had lunch with a friend, and as I was hugging her goodbye, I realized that I was losing my balance. I was starting to slowly tip forward, like a tree being felled in the forest. And all the while I was desperately clutching my friend! I could feel it happening, but couldn't do a damned thing to stop it. Fortunately, she kind of gave me a push backwards and I regained my balance. Honestly, it was so funny - I had this momentary vision of us both falling down in a heap in the parking lot! Well, that certainly would have gotten everyone's attention.

So, more entertaining experiences. And I am sure everyone out there who has done battle with an acoustic neuroma will have their own funny balance stories to share....