The Best Gift I Ever Received: Part One

In June of 2005 I was diagnosed with a Meningioma. It is a non-malignant, slow growing brain tumor that is hormonally fed.  

For about six months my vision was blacking out in my left eye.  After many tests from multiple doctors I was sent for and MRI. That’s when “Rascal” appeared larger than life.  (I named it Rascal because, well, why not? It came out of nowhere!) I was immediately escorted up to my doctor’s office.  I was angry because I had a massage appointment and didn’t want to be late. The technician reassured me it would take but a few minutes and that I would be out on time.  As I sat in the room waiting for the Dr. I thought to myself wait a minute, something must be on the MRI.  Why else would they ask me to stay?  Well sure enough, in walks my Dr. with the results.

“So Mrs. Plotner,” he says, “your scan shows a very large mass growing over your left optic nerve causing your blackouts.”  Then tells me that he is 95% sure it is not cancer, however, it MUST come out asap. I’m looking at him like he’s the one with the tumor!  

My response is “so, I’ll schedule an appointment for when I get back from my vacation that I’m leaving for in three days”.  

“I have already set you up with a neurosurgeon on Monday–your vacation is going to be on hold.”  Then he proceeds to follow that up with, “now go and get that massage and relax.” I was waiting for that “April fools” moment…yeah that never came.

Let’s just move on to me meeting the man who would be changing my life for the better (of course not knowing that at the time).  All of my surgeries took place at Roswell Cancer Institute in Buffalo, NY. I say all of my surgeries because I ended up having two Meningiomas.  One was the size of my fist and one the size of a pea. I know how to grow ‘em. I had a full craniotomy to remove the large tumor and that was followed by gama knife surgery to shrink and kill the pea that is now dead but still resides in my brain.

Thus begins my journey of pre-tumor life and post-tumor life.  My husband was a Godsend during this time. I think it was more traumatic for him than for me.  I am lucky to have him. During this time in my life my “daughter” was only eight. My husband and I discussed everything from me possibly dying to a very strict schedule for our “daughter” which would become “her” life for the next 7 days.  Each day “she” spent differently. “She” was carted from family members’ homes to friends’ homes. There was baseball practice to attend and birthday parties to go to. We wanted “her” life to stay as normal as “normal” could be. We discussed with “her” that I would be going to the hospital for a few days and that I would be having surgery on my head.  I let “her” cut my hair off and explained that it would help the doctor if I had less hair for him to cut.

I had surgery the day after July 4th.  I didn’t get to see “Kayla” for about three days.  I’ll never forget the day “she” came to see me. My head was very much swollen and I was mostly bald.  “She” was scared. It took a while for “her” to sit with me. It was heartbreaking. I knew this feeling I had would go away.  For “her” it would most likely stay forever. I hated that. It was a very vulnerable time for me.

I shared many jokes with my doctors and the hospital staff.  I needed my sense of humor to get past all of what was happening to me. I felt like it was good to stay positive.  At one point, my doctor told me and my husband that I may not be the same person after all of this was done and over with.  He was very serious. I took that literally. It made me very anxious that I could be someone different. I still had control of me and I wanted to stay me!  After I woke up from surgery and remembered where I was and what happened, I was not going to allow myself to fall asleep. I figured If I didn’t fall asleep, I’d stay the same goofball I am.   That lasted for about three days.

It wasn’t until a few months after my ordeal that I really understood what the doctor meant.  He was right. My priorities changed. Over time, my anxiety levels decreased. I became more spiritual.  I began asking questions about my life. I tried to make a lot of “stuff” in my head more clear. I let go of grudges, had conversations with family and friends about things I wanted to make straight and marched on with a new lease on life.   It felt like a second chance–a cleanse. I took that second chance and ran with it.

I truly believe that God is using what I’ve learned during my brain tumor to help me through this difficult yet educational journey with my son.  

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