I am strong. I will master my pain. I will get better.

I am strong. I will master my pain. I will get better. I am strong. I will master my pain. I will get better. I am strong. I will master my pain. I will get better. That’s what I tell myself. Every time the pain gets past the 2/10 level where it normally hovers. I tell myself that over and over again as I take deep inhales that wash over my third eye center, down to my sacram and wave back over my body as I exhale. Concentrating on the words, the breath, it saves me every time. Sometimes the mantra changes, I am strong. I am powerful. I can beat this. Or I am strong. I have strong will. I will master my pain. Despite the minor variations the jist is the same. I am stronger than the pain I am experiencing and I will get better. I seemed to have forgotten what it was like to be in chronic pain from the time I suffered from so-called “migraines” but I trained my body to manage it. I weened my body of of the pills and the narcotics. I mastered my pain. I can do it again. Just 4 days out from surgery I weened myself off the Percocet and though I carry it around with me, it serves only as a reminder of what I won’t do. I won’t take it. I won’t succumb to that pain. I can do this. I will do this.

It sounds really convincing right? Well easier said than done but I will say I am proud of my progress. In order to ween myself off of the Percocet I had to replace it with something more manageable and my zen did not necessarily come as easily as I make it sound. I went from Percocet every four hours to the doctor telling me I could take ibuprofen every 4 to 6 hours, emphasizing the 6 hours. In the night, my body would automatically wake me up at the four-hour mark, without fail, throbbing pain overtaking my body. I would be sweaty, nauseous and uncomfortable. I would take the dose of Advil and try to go back to sleep. Sleep. It wasn’t restful, it still really isn’t. Sleep is my body at its most vulnerable. I can’t master my mind and body if I am at rest. So I resist it. My body hates it. The rest is overwhelming, overbearing almost. I started fudging my Advil dose from 600mg to 800. I took it every four hours and if the pain was bad, every 3. It just hurt. But it never hurt bad enough to want to go back to the way I felt with the more narcotic pain killers. I could feel my joyful self coming back to my body and I wanted that. I had endured a pretty much constant headache since waking from surgery, though and the pain was often well beyond my tolerance level. I was struggling to keep my head up. I would convince myself I was fine, work up my resolve to argue my ability to go to the gym to my family, and step up to get dressed. Shit, I dropped something. I would bend to pick it up, halfway to the ground I would clutch my head. Ow. Shit. That hurts. I would rise up and the room would spin, I’d find my focal point, a drishti, I’d steady out. Okay, we’re good. I’d move my head side to side according to the therapy sheet I’d been given. Side to side and back again. Ugh. Annoying. My neck aches on the right side. It’s like someone cut through all the muscles. Which they did, which is why it is like that. That’s when I remembered the focus I had when I had suffered from headaches that took over my body. I remembered the resolve. I heard my sister’s voice in my head telling me to take “yoga breaths.” I remembered that I am not that woman who gives up, feels pity for herself and let’s the pain be her master. I keep saying, “I got this,” well I damn well better go get it then. So I did. I am down to taking ibuprofen twice a day, morning and night, maybe once in the middle of the night. I am showering regularly with much less fear of washing my hair now that the stitches are out (got them out NYE!) and I even manage the occasionally leg lift while walking so as to ensure my tight ass doesn’t turn into a disgusting pile of cottage cheese while I am on this forced respite from the gym. I have managed to make a habit of full neck rolls which given the dizziness that accompanies them, though only momentarily, is pretty awesome. They provide a tinge of pain and then relief to the sore, knotted muscles in my neck. The pain is becoming more manageable and I think in due time very little medicine will be needed. I haven’t taken Zofran in over 4 days and I am working through the nausea and regaining the ten pounds I lost after surgery. (I was not that upset about the ten pounds but it will give me something to work with once I can finally be fully active again). My family thinks I am nuts about getting better and think that I need to give up my relentless gym habits but I know my body and will test and push my limits (SAFELY) to see how I progress. I am hopeful. I am strong. I will master my pain. I will get better.

Better. I will get better. I will heal. I may not get better. Will I be any better at my job? Maybe. Will I excel at helping women around the world more than I did before? Maybe. I don’t know. It’s so unknown. Will I get better? Will I be somehow enlightened? I have no idea. We all get better everyday, we learn, we grow, we become stronger. Isn’t that just life? Then, this, this HERBERT INVASION is just another of life’s lessons. It will make me better. I hope it does. There is a lesson to be learned here, perhaps more than one, and I’ll be damned (perpetual student that I am) if I don’t learn every last one. Here are some I have learned so far.

It’s okay to be imperfect, no one is judging you and if they are, it really doesn’t matter anyway.
Do vestibular therapy no matter who is looking, the crazy lady walking, shaking her head all around will make people laugh, we could all use a bit more crazy.
Family is the most important thing in life, ever. I have learned that mine is relentlessly loving, deeply supportive and fundamentally amazing.
You can’t be mad about what you can’t control.
The future is unknown, so just do your best to be amazing no matter what the circumstance.
Don’t give up on yourself, because no one else has.
Pain is not beauty, pain is pain and it sucks, and it’s okay to admit that.
Brain tumors – not all they are chalked up to be.
Mark Ruffalo had an acoustic neuroma, I’ve learned that I am practically famous by default. I got “Ruffalo-ed.”
Be present now, in this moment. You won’t ever get it back.
Even the awful moments have beauty there, you just have to be looking.
Exist with the people around you. All we have are people at the end of the day.
Be brave into infinity. Don’t let fear blind you. Be the person you dreamed yourself to be.
I’ve learned that lessons learned make you sound like a big, corny, dorky cliche.
I’ve learned that I will never stop learning.
I’ve learned there is more love out there than we could ever harness, so spread it out, share it.
I’ve learned to be grateful.
I’ve learned that, no matter what is going on, in my brothers words – “it’s really not that big of a deal.”
We never know where each other has been so next time you are the nail salon, the store, on the phone, in your car, be patient with the people around you, they may have more in common than you’d think.
We have kindred spirits all around the world.

Through my adventures of learning to leave the house again, driving again (YAY! No more driving restriction!), meeting new people again I’ve learned a lot. Cried a bit, laughed super hard, been a bit snarky, but I’ve survived and I know that I am lucky. I faced death in the nose and walked away. I lived. I get to eat pie, I get to go back to school, I get to work. I get to smile and laugh and eat. I get to have a life. I am so lucky. I get to pay it forward, I get to work towards my goals of fair representations for women around the world. I get so much. It’s like I won the lottery.

Yesterday I went to my appointment at Barrow, and though being completely disappointed at Dr. Spetzler’s casual attitude towards post-surgical care and recovery, I am eternally grateful to that man and his team. Though I can’t hear on the right side and the struggles inherent in that are more exhaustive than I really care to get into at this point in recovery (ex. buying a sandwich at the airport: Server:”Would you like chips or fruit with your sandwich?” Me: “Sami” – he was apparently not asking the name to use on the order? Hmmm. What did he say? Oh was someone speaking to me? I can’t hear you over the hair dryer noise that lives in my right ear, must be one of Herbert’s loud mouthed cousins come to visit him after surgery), I can fully move my face, I can smile at myself in the mirror. I can wink, I can blink, I can wiggle my cheeks. I can swallow. Dr. Spetzler gave me a chance that no single doctor in Colorado would risk. He’s brave, he’s talented and he has some solidly steady hands. Dr. Weiskopf, the delightful neuro-otologist that worked with him was just as phenomenal, if not more, because he engaged me on a more human level. Either way, personality quirks aside – they are both on my list of life’s heroes. I am ETERNALLY GRATEFUL. Not just to them but to every resident (the patient Chief resident in particular), every person who came in and worked on that team, they helped me right a wrong my body had done to itself. At Monday’s appointment I got my stitches removed (super creepy sensation), a few questions answered and most importantly I got cleared to come home. I came home 8 hours early. It was just time to get back. I still have a ton of questions about recovery, I am hopeful that my hearing and taste sensations will return as the recovery continues. It’s been 11 days. I have to remember where I’ve been and how far I’ve come. I have left messages with my doctors here (all wonderful and trustworthy doctors) to follow-up post-operatively and hopefully get my lingering questions answered. I’ll take a hearing test at about 6 weeks and we’ll see how much of a life adjustment Herbert will force me to make then. Until then, DENY, DENY, DENY. In the meantime I am looking forward to a beautiful 2013. My birthday is in a few days so tomorrow I’ll go buy myself a gift. An infinity bracelet, to sit between the words tattooed on my hand. Laugh into infinity. Be fearless into infinity. Live infinitely. I’ve given up on acting casual. Casual is not always my best bet and instead I am just acting like me. Vulnerable, hopeful, funny, cranky, whatever I might be, that is what you will get. I look forward to many more small victories, getting through this week. Reading a book again in preparation for school. Getting back to my house. Learning to live alone again. Each step will be profound and important. Today’s victory? I went to the grocery store and only looked moderately like a jackass. Yesterday’s victory? I made spaghetti and meatballs and only had to take one break laying down on the kitchen floor. Tomorrow’s victory? Well we’ll just have to wait and see. Point is, I’m winning, and not like Charlie Sheen.

To those that have continuously sent me emails, messages, comments, etc. Thank you. I have no words (I know – shocking – my big mouth is at a loss) to express my gratitude. You’ve helped me more than you can ever know.

Mark Ruffalo did it, so I’m going to do it.

I am strong. I will master my pain. I will get better.

Peace and Love –


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