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.