That time I had brain surgery



I'm guessing that few people noticed that I've been offline and out of contact with the world for the last few weeks, which is something that makes me rather pleased with myself, as my whole goal was to drop out of sight and return, just like this, with an announcement about where I'd been and why some of you might have heard a thing or two about my next book, The Rogue Not Taken, being moved back in the calendar. You see, I didn't want to tell anyone what I was up to until it was over. 

It was just this minor thing. I had a little bit of brain surgery. (NB: My surgeon would interrupt me here to tell me that I'm lying to you. It wasn't really brain surgery it was vascular surgery. But he cut a hole in my skull and went spelunking in there, so I'm going to point to my lack of a medical degree and say, if there's a hole in my skull it counts.) 

A few years ago, during a routine MRI, the doctors found a small, asymptomatic aneurysm (most aneurysms are small and asymptomatic, which is why they're so scary -- because you don't find them until it's late and scary and you might die). But I wasn't going to die. It was small and I was possibly pregnant, so my neurologist suggested we watch and wait and see. And so we did. And then, in late March of this year, we watched and suddenly it was much bigger than it had been. Within days I was meeting with a neurosurgeon, and I was scheduled for what's called an open craniotomy, which my friend Meghan has basically told me I should never say out loud because it sounds scary. Essentially, they planned to cut a big hole in my head, clip the aneurysm, and "obliterate it." Suffice to say, I liked my Dr. very much when he said that part. I like obliteration as a solution to problems.

So, I won't bore you with details. We'll leave it at this -- on Wednesday, I went in and had it done. The surgery took a few hours, and I was out and in the incredible care of the Neurology ICU staff at NYU Hospital. On Thursday, I lost the ability to use all my numbers. Not some. Not just math. All of them. No dates, no counting, nothing. And then, 36 hours later, on Friday, everything came back. Like a switch. As though it had never happened (though, to be honest, I am going to have Eric read this blog post before I post it, in case I've lost all my skill at writing, which, it occurs to me, might have happened. This could all be jibberish and just sound coherent and interesting to me). Come to think of it, it could just sound interesting to me if it is coherent, so I'll get on with it. 

The morning of the surgery, I turned to Eric in the cab, and said, "I'm ready. This is going to be an adventure." I think it was probably more of an adventure for him than for me. I was unconscious and then very out of it for four days. He had to entertain family, text friends, and pretend like he was totally not freaked out by my losing my numbers for a day and a half. And now that I'm home, he has to take care of a kiddo, make sure I don't hurt myself, and also, you know, be a human. We'll leave the fact that I love him more every day, and that I'm not quite sure how I landed such a top notch guy, here.

Man, do I feel lucky -- Not only because my family and friends have overflowed with generosity. Not only every time my phone rings with a text message from a friend checking in. Not only every time beautiful flowers arrive from thoughtful people. I feel so lucky to live in New York City, where one of the most brilliant aneurysm surgeons in the world also lives. I feel so lucky to have health insurance. To have access to this entire world of research and study. To have been randomly tested for something else entirely and to have stumbled upon this scary thing. 

I feel very lucky to have this scar. It runs about seven inches just inside my hairline--once I'm healed, people won't know I've had surgery unless I choose to tell them. I could have told you that my book was just late. It wouldn't be the first time I'd written one that got moved because I'm a slow writer. But I'm proud of this.

This scar is my badge of honor and, compared to the scars that others bear, it's not that impressive. But it's mine.

It's my fear. The mark that makes me more me than I was two weeks ago. The mark that reminds me that sometimes, you stand up, you say yes. You take the risk. Because the reward is worth it. And because risk is where growth happens. Because the you on the other side of risk is very likely better than the you on this side of it.

There are lots of marks on my body right now -- pin pricks and bruises that are fading from black to purple to yellow and aches and pains, some that I expected and some that I didn't. It's weird to look at myself and think, this time last week, my head was open. My brain was in the air. My world was in the hands of a man I'd met twice. A man I've promised to dedicate my next book to.

Because that's what I'm doing today. Thinking about my book. And my future.

And feeling very very lucky. 

Oh, Olympics, How Do I Love Thee?

I do not like to watch sports on TV. I'll go to a hockey game, or to the US Open--and when I was in high school I had a big fat crush on a soccer player so, yeah, I've been to my fair share of soccer games--but when it comes down to it, I'd rather do anything than watch sports.

But there is something about the Olympics. Every two years (although I still think of them as every-four-years kind of things)...a bunch of kids from around the world come together and they compete. And every year, I am glued to the tv. Because there is something about the Olympics. Something really remarkable.

I think it's hope. I think it's the fact that today, in this world that is filled with people (myself included) who are filled with boredom and ennui and a real sense that there is nothing that can really awe us, there are hundreds of athletes in Vancouver who are literally experiencing the most amazing days of their lives.

You can see it on their faces when they enter the opening ceremonies in the parade of nations. You can see it in their eyes when they stick their landings. In the way they clutch their partners when they finish their remarkable iceskating routines. In the way they collapse to the ground when they cross the finish lines after the Nordic combined (did you SEE that?!).

They are awestruck. And they are hopeful. And they know that TODAY is the greatest day they have ever had.

And that is some serious mojo.

Serious enough that I feel it through my tv.

Eric makes fun of me. He thinks I'm silly to care about curling. But I do care. Not because I know anything about curling or ever will. But because these guys care about it. And they've been working their whole lives to be the best in the world at it.

And that's something. Because I recognize that I'm not the best in the world at anything. So I give mad props to anyone who can lay claim to that superlative.

So, to the Olympians...all of them...go you. I'm watching.

It isn't Thanksgiving without some drama, right?

As I write this, I'm curled up in a big armchair in my parents' house, post-Thanksgiving smells wafting through the air as Eric online Christmas shops (hopefully for me?), Baxter snoozes, and my dad reads his Daniel Silva book.  

It's warm and cozy and quiet today...about the exact opposite of twenty-four hours ago, when I was at one of those crazy wonderful giant family Thanksgivings, complete with thirteen adults, six kids under the age of 7 (and one yet to come), three dogs, an enormous bird and more stuffing than any 19 humans should be able to consume.  Holidays at our house are way too loud, way too political, and really really fun...but, as the old adage tells us, it's all fun and games until someone gets hurt.  And last night proved that saying very very true.  
In a triptophanic, apple-pie-induced food coma, my sister...pictured above, much smaller, balder and fuzzier than she is now...had a devastating meeting with a model train and a flight of stairs.  She came out of it with a dislocated and fractured shoulder.  Lesson learned.  In battle, model trains will win.  
So...Eric (who earned his keep as new husband/brother-in-law) and I brought her to a sleepy little emergency room in a small town in Massachusetts (quoth Eric: "Chiara!  We brought you to 1952!"), where my sister was wheeled into Trauma Room B and a lovely nurse pumped her full of morphine and a remarkable ER doc (v. George Clooney, but maybe Noah Wylie-esque) slowly and impressively relocated her shoulder.  She came through it like a trooper...I'm certain that was no picnic...but I was in the room and she neither lost her cool nor her consciousness,  
At some point, I looked down at the floor and saw a lone penny, lying face up.  Just as I was about to reach down and pick it up, because certainly my sister could have used some good luck right about then, I realized that, at some point, someone in Trauma Room B would need better luck than we had.  Because while she's definitely in some serious pain, she's going to be just fine...soon able to once again wave her hands around like the Italian she is.  
And for that, I am thankful. So I left the penny where it was. For someone who needs a little good luck for themselves.  


I've written about YOGAmazing before...but today I did a class with Chaz called Yoga for Creativity...and I just had to write about it.  

For those of you who aren't familiar with the show, Chaz takes email requests from viewers and creates 30 minute yoga sessions for them.  Recently, he's done Yoga for Gardeners, Yoga for Summer, Yoga for Hips and Knees, and Yoga for PMS & Cramps (a great one!). Today's session (which is actually from May) was in response to a writer who wrote in asking for a workout that would help get the juices flowing and the muses talking.  Chaz just free flowed the whole workout...everything from downward dog to crow pose.  
It was challenging and fast and terrific. And I'm feeling really jazzed about my writing plans today. Even though it's 3:30 in the afternoon and the sun is sinking and I've done nothing but watch the olympics.  But i console myself with the fact that it was fencing...and there's a fencing scene in my next research is important, right?
I forget how much I like doing makes me feel so relaxed and energized and, after the week I've had, I could seriously use the destressing.  
Other musings you might enjoy...

Poetry for Karma Repair

yoga. yogi. yogurt.

i am crazy about yoga. i think it's one of the most brilliant ways to exercise and to find peace on days when you're stressed, busy, sick or feeling generally out of sorts. the problem is, i don't do it nearly enough. i am making 2008 the year of yoga, though...because i'm turning 30 this year and, at 30, my mom started feeling the aches and pains of the hereditary arthritis that courses through the gene pool of the maclean women. for generations we've all been over 5' 10" and...well...let's just say that we're not small people. we're scots, we like to say, but who really knows? :)

so...i'm committing to doing yoga as often as possible...not just because it's good for me, or because i'm terrified of arthritis, but because i enjoy it. once i've finished with a day's practice, i feel peaceful and calm and rested and ready to take on the world. even if baxter feels it necessary to show off his incredible skill at downward facing if to say, "you're not doing it right, mom. woof."

to show his support of this commitment, eric loaded our new apple tv up with a bunch of video podcasts of yogis from around the country. my favorite is YOGAmazing, a podcast from Louisville, KY, hosted by a cool-seeming guy named Chaz who doesn't beat around the bush like all the other yoga videos do. He expects you to work hard and keep up. And I love it. I (heart) Chaz. (Apparently I'm not the only one...he's got millions of viewers, I just read.)

here's an example of one of chaz's's shorter than usual...but i totally recommend checking him out!

Other musings you might enjoy...