Saturday, June 15, 2013

My Stroke of Luck

A bad heart, a stroke, and a brain tumor walk into a …..the beginning of a really bad joke?  You betcha, especially when it happens to you. 

I’ve had mild congestive heart failure for quite a few years. It was a direct result of my sleep apnea, which in my case, was  a result of my weight. A friend’s husband however, who is as slim as a Jim, has sleep apnea as well. But, I am a gambler and I always go with the odds. Odds are, being morbidly obese  is at the root of all my evils.

As many of you know, I’ve  struggled with weight for most of my life. It’s amazing how someone can be totally aware of a situation, yet bathe themselves in the river of denial at the same time. Unlike many of my fellow chubbettes, who rage against anyone who brings their weight up including their doctors, I agree when my critics. Yes it is bad, I mumble as I start to drown in guilt and shame. And then, like any good backslidden, former Fundamentalist Christian, I trudge home, feeling worthless as I beat myself up with a Krispy Kreme.

But to me, there was a silver lining of sorts, to having CHF. It meant I would probably die quickly from a heart attack. Here one minute and gone the next, sort of like a bad sitcom on NBC.

I had no idea a bad ticker could lead to a stroke, which was the biggest fear of my life. Like most fat girls, all I had was my brain – take that away and  no one will invite me to the prom and no one will want to hold my hand, kiss me, and no one will especially want to....wait a minute, I don’t have to worry that anymore. I keep forgetting. Twenty-eight years ago I married a gorgeous man who is madly in love with me to this day.  So I should stop complaining about  my high school woes and get right to the point. 

On May 9th I suffered a mild stroke. A pain shot into my head, clinching it tightly and then disappeared. Then it did it again. The vision on my left side was also gone. Suddenly, the world became pixilated. Did I call the ambulance like I should have? Of course not, because I could see out of my right eye enough to Google Web MD. According to my virtual doctor, I suffered a stroke on the right side of my brain.
After lecturing me on calling an ambulance immediately, my real doctor verified the stroke with an MRI. She also verified, something else, something I expecting. She discovered a brain tumor, benign. It is a slow growing meningioma that is attached to the membrane that covers the brain. But, even though it is benign, there is only so much room up there. If it keeps growing, it will have to be removed.
So here I am, at what should be the happiest time in my life;  my first novel, Murder by Chance, published by a wonderful publisher (Forty Press) ,  basking in the glow of extraordinary reviews from strangers, relived to know that Forty Press wants another Betty Chance book,  ­­­and well, now this. 
I have to admit, the totality of it all stopped me in my tracks for a bit.  I’ve always been used to struggling against the odds, but this seemed monumental even to me. But then, as happens in life, I adjusted to my new reality, and started to count my blessings.
I didn’t die of a heart attack. My stroke was mild, and on the right side. None of my motor skills were affected. My vision has mostly returned.  And although it was the right side, my creativity seems fine.  The brain tumor is benign.  And I may out live the slow growing thing anyway. I’ve managed to get Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein out of my mind, and realize modern brain surgery is state of the art. There are even surgeries being performed by a virtual scalpel on an outpatient basis.
But more than anything, I am grateful I am still alive.  Before my stroke, I  normally wallowed in suicidal thoughts and depression, only emerging to make other people laugh or take care of them. Now suddenly, I realize I do want to live. Suicide is not even an option or a want.  For the first time in years, I actually wake up happy with a smile.  Yesterday a store clerk called  me a ray of sunshine. Do you know how many times that has happened to me before?  Ah, like never.
So, because I am on such an upswing, in what could be considered a bad time, I decided to blog about what I will be struggling against, and hopefully conquering over the next few years.  Reading other people’s blogs and books, have helped me so much during this time. I am hoping to do the same for others who might be facing what I am facing… bad heart, recovery after a stroke, a brain tumor that has to be checked every six months, and maybe the hardest of it all, losing the 85 pounds because I promised my doctor I would.  Please feel free to share this post, and others, with someone you know who might be dealing with any of these issues.
I won’t be blogging every day. Just a couple of times a week.  For a while I will writing about some of the procedures I’ve had to endure, like having an MRI and then having a camera meander down the inside of my throat into the cavities of my heart while I was still conscious. Or I will be writing about writing, and tackling creative projects against all odds. And, as per my nature, all of my reporting will undoubtedly have my rather twisted and screwy perspective on things…but hey, that’s one of the good things about having a stroke. Like Sophia, from Golden Girls, I get to play the stroke card. No matter what I say, or write, you can’t hold it against me.  After all, I had a stroke. I don’t know what I am saying, or writing.  :)