Elizabeth May's Updates

Updates on my mengioma and life!

Life is Great!

It’s been 7 weeks today since my brain surgery to remove the meningioma (tumor on the meninges…covering of the brain).  The pathology report showed that the tumor was benign.  Thank you God!  My recovery has gone smoothly, and I feel great!  Thank you for the calls, cards, texts, emails and dinners you have sent my way.  All of these contributed to a full and speedy recovery.

My scalp incision now looks like a “one-lane” road versus a “railroad track” (when I had 30 staples on my scalp). My right eye no longer looks like I was in a fight and lost.  My right temple dents in (which it should) versus bulging out (due to swelling).  My forehead nerves are beginning to “wake up” like a face cheek “wakes up” about an hour after receiving a cavity filling at the dentist office.  My left and right eyes’ vision is beginning to “line up” decreasing my “double vision.” I have a follow-up MRI and surgeon office visit scheduled for September 18.

Russell and I flew to Colorado Springs, Colorado last Tuesday and returned Saturday.  He received an award trip to The Broadmoor (if you haven’t been, we highly recommend it!) for being a Top Wealth Management Financial Advisor at Merrill Lynch. We also celebrated our 28th wedding anniversary and Russell’s 50th birthday. Sarah and John “held down the fort” while we were gone.  You’ll be glad to know the titanium screws and plate, which are holding the piece of skull which was removed to remove the tumor, did not set off the security alarms while I walked through the TSA x-ray machines! Yeah!

I hope you are having a fun and safe summer!  Again, thank you for your care and concern during the past several months.

Love,

Elizabeth

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I feel like a toddler on a schedule…

Following the doctor’s orders takes me back in time being a toddler on a schedule!

AWAKE. EAT. CLEAN UP (while singing the Barney song….Clean up. Clean up. Everybody everywhere. Clean up. Clean up. Everybody do your share.) DRESS. PLAY (scrapbook photos in Creative Memories’ albums). READ (Bible or Beth Hoffman’s newest novel “Looking for Me”). SNACK (muffin and a cup of Maxwell House French Vanilla International coffee). CLEAN UP. CHORES (put up laundry or dishes that my family didn’t know where they go; pick off wilted flower buds from potted plants outside; refill cat’s water and food bowls; pay some bills). EAT. Computer (selecting and printing pictures of John to begin creating a Boy Scout scrapbook). READ. NAP (on the couch or in bed). FIELD TRIP (go to Yogurtland with a friend). HANDWRITING (write thank you notes for the delicious dinners friends have brought us!). CHORES. EAT. NATURE (sit on the back patio watching the birds and squirrels play in the back yard). BATH. BEDTIME.

I went to my hairdresser last week for a “trim” so that the hair on my forehead is the same length on both sides.  I know…I’m picky, arent I?!

The swelling around my eye and on my forehead has really subsided. Thank you Lord! The scalp incision, forehead and right temple remain quite tight and tender…almost like my head is in a vice grip…nothing a couple Advil can’t take care of.  🙂

My vision appears to be somewhat clearer, which you’ll be glad to know, since I’m beginning to drive in the neighborhood.  I’m definitely not ready to tackle Central or LBJ just yet. If you see a white 4 door Lexus with license plate 807RBV, that would be me.  If you see me approaching in your rearview mirror, you may want to pull over, like you do when an emergency vehicle is approaching.  I will, however, be driving the speed limit or a bit slower…like a grandma possibly.

I hope you are enjoying your summer, whether you are indoors, as I am often; outdoors swimming, riding bikes, playing ball; or driving across the state to visit family and friends.

Peace and Blessings to each of you ~

Elizabeth

Just Call Me “Winking Ridge”

I’m sure you’re asking yourself, “What does that name possibly mean?”

I mentioned in my previous blog that my vision was affected with the eye swelling, resulting from the surgery.  When both eyes are open, I often have double vision.  (Makes me hum the song, “Double Vision” by Foreigner.) If I close one of my eyes, my vision is better.  Hence the word “Winking” in my “name.”  When I close one of my eyes to see more clearly, it looks like I’m winking!

Now what about the word “Ridge?”  When I rub my finger over my forehead above my right eye, where the tumor was removed, there is a dip and a ridge on my forehead.  Hence the word “Ridge” in my “name.”

I’m sure at this point you’re thinking, “Elizabeth has lost her mind!” No, I’m just finding humor in my post-op condition.

Wednesday our daughter Sarah drove me to my post-op visit.  The 30 staples in my scalp were removed.  Yeah! Thankfully the removal didn’t hurt. The incision is healing nicely.  My next appointment is in mid-September, when I will have a follow-up MRI and review the results with my neurosurgeon. If everything looks ok, I will continue to have MRIs every 6 months for the next couple of years.  Follow-up MRIs serve to monitor possible tumor regrowth, for which there is about a 15% chance.

I will continue to take it easy, not lifting, pushing or pulling anything greater than 10 pounds for the next several weeks per my doctor’s orders.

My current prayer request is that my double vision and limited close-up focusing ability return to normal.  I trust that my vision will continue to improve as I recover from surgery.  When I get discouraged with my vision, I have to remind myself I did just have brain surgery 11 days ago!

Thank you for your cards, calls, emails, texts, meals, prayers and friendship.  I appreciate each one of you.

I hope you are enjoying your summer with family and friends.

Below is a picture of me “staple-free.”  I’ll spare you the post-op, graphic photos which lead me to this point!

Blessings and love to you and yours ~

Elizabeth

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On the Road Again…Well…Sort of

I’m on the road to recovery, but I am not on the road driving yet. The doctor told me I shouldn’t operate machinery, i.e. a car, while taking controlled substance narcotics for pain and facial muscle relaxers. Gosh. He’s so picky! HaHa!

I came home Thursday afternoon. Boy was it nice to sleep in my own bed with my husband and our cat. I wasn’t woken up for temperature, oxygen and blood pressure “readings.” I did set my iPhone alarm to continue taking pain medicine every 4 hours and facial muscle relaxers every 6 hours. I want to stay “ahead” of the pain and not “behind” the pain.

The bruising on the right side of my face has been “rainbow-color like.” It has been purple, dark red, light red and now is yellow. Isn’t it the small things in life, like noticing bruise color changes after brain surgery, that really matter?!

My right eye, forehead and temple are still quite swollen. The swelling distorts my depth perception. I liken it to getting bi-focal lens for the first time and trying to get used to where steps “actually are” versus where your vision thinks they are. This would be another reason for me to currently not “operate machinery.”

Since my previous surgeries (c-sections, hysterectomy and tonsillectomy), I forgot how tiring just taking a shower can be. Who knew a 5 minute shower would require a nap afterwards?!

I don’t recommend brain surgery; however, if it is necessary, I highly recommend Dr. Bruce Mickey, his team and Zale Lipshy Hospital. Everyone from the custodial staff to the neurosurgeon and everyone in between was so hospitable and attentive. When I thanked them for tending to my needs, they would say, “It was my pleasure. Can I get you anything else? If you need something, don’t hesitate to call me.”

Dr. Mickey, a well-known and highly-respected neurosurgeon, also has great “bedside manners.” He too would ask, “What can I do for you today?” He personally (as well as his team members) visited me 1-2 times each day I was in the hospital. A friend of mine had brought a box of yummy assorted cookies from Highland Park Cafeteria. One day I offered Dr. Mickey a cookie. He just walked over and helped himself to a cookie like we were at each other’s house. Another day my food tray hadn’t been picked up yet. There was a package of saltine crackers on my tray. After he visited me, he helped himself to the saltine crackers. The day of my departure when Dr. Mickey made rounds, I asked if we could have our picture made together for my scrapbook. He said, “Sure!” He sat next to me in the hospital bed, put his arm around me and smiled big for the camera. Now that’s a cool neurosurgeon!

Next Wednesday our daughter Sarah will take me to my post-op appointment to have my 30 staples removed. So long Frankenstein look! A friend who visited me at home offered to use his office staple remover and save me a dr visit. I respectfully declined his offer!

What have I learned during this adventure?

* God hears & answers prayers
* I am loved by many
* Man plans & God directs his steps
* God led me to the best neurosurgeon & hospital
* The body is an amazing “machine”
* Sisters will forgo sleep to stay 24/7 in the hospital to be my advocate
* Nurses are human (A)

A – After introducing herself, one of my night nurses asked, “Do you go by Martha?” I said, “No. I go by Elizabeth.” She replied, “Oh. I’m sorry. That’s my other patient’s name.” When I asked the nurse how long she had worked at the hospital and she replied, “I am contract and work when they are short staffed,” I thought, ‘Oh no. She has no vested interest.’ She quickly redeemed herself and proved her ability to take good care of me through the night. Therefore, the moral of the story is…Don’t judge a book by its cover or don’t judge a nurse’s competency when she calls you by the wrong name!

Praise God! The pathology report showed that the meningioma was benign!

I hope you are able to get outside and enjoy this beautiful weather we’re having.

Love and blessings to each of you!
Elizabeth

Elizabeth’s Surgery Update – Day 3

It’s been a big day for Elizabeth!  It’s shower and shampoo day.  She didn’t realize how tired she would be after that adventure, so she crawled back in bed.  After a quick nap, we were off to walk in the halls.  She must be feeling good – we made two laps around the floor.

Her right eye continues to swell, so she looks like she’s been in a fight.  The staff says the bruising and swelling are normal.  In about 10 days, you won’t even be able to tell she had the surgery.  That’s our story and we’re sticking to it!

Great news: Elizabeth will be going home tomorrow.  We are beyond thankful for Dr. Mickey and his team, as well as the amazing staff at Zale Lipshy.   They have taken great care of Elizabeth.

Nancy Barry (Elizabeth’s sister)

 

 

 

 

Elizabeth’s surgery update – Day 2

God is so good!  Elizabeth is doing well.  They did a CT scan and it looks great.  Her right eye is black and blue, but she’s not in any pain.  Her spirits are good!

Elizabeth just moved out of ICU into a room.   It would be best to wait until she’s home to come by to see her.  We want her to get as much rest as possible for the next few days while she’s in the hospital.  Thank you for continuing to pray for Elizabeth!

Nancy Barry (Elizabeth’s sister)

 

Update on Elizabeth’s surgery

Great news!  Elizabeth’s surgery went well.  The doctor said everything looked good from his perspective.  Elizabeth is a bit groggy, but awake and responsive.  Thank you for keeping her in your prayers.

She will be in ICU for 24 hours, then moved to a private room.  I’ll post another update when there is more news to share.

Nancy Barry (Elizabeth’s sister)

 

 

My bag is packed…

Do you remember the John Denver song (ok…I’m dating myself admitting I listened to his music) “Leaving on a Jet Plane”?

The first line is John Denver’s lyrics.  The bold line is Elizabeth’s lyrics!

Imagine me singing my version Monday, June 3, at 4:50 a.m. as I leave home (in a car…not a jet planet) to “report” to Zale Lipshy.

All my bags are packed I’m ready to go

My one bag is packed I’m ready to go

I’m standin’ here outside your door

I’m sittin’ here inside my house 

I hate to wake you up to say goodbye

I won’t wake up John to say goodbye (because it’s 2 hrs before wakin’ up)

But the dawn is breakin’ it’s early morn

But the dawn is breakin’ it’s early morn (4:50 am departure time)

The taxi’s waitin’ he’s blowin’ his horn

The car’s waitin’ Russ isn’t blowin’ the horn

Already I’m so lonesome I could die

Already I’m so ready I want to go and get this behind me!

So kiss me and smile for me

So think of me and pray for me

Tell me that you’ll wait for me

Tell me that you’ll pray for me

Hold me like you’ll never let me go

Hold me like you’ll never let me go

Cause I’m leavin’ on a jet plane

Cause I’m leavin’ in a white car

Don’t know when I’ll be back again

Do know I’ll be home Thursday or Friday

Oh baby, I hate to go

Oh friends, I’m ready to go and get this behind me!

Isn’t it neat (actually sovereign) when you are going through something in life and you hear a song, sermon or radio program that you can totally relate to?  I experienced that on Friday, May 31.  I often listen to KCBI radio station FM 90.9 in the mornings while I’m running errands or doing things at home.  This morning James McDonald and Charles Stanley both talked about trials, suffering and adversity.  Do you think my house is “bugged” and these two ministers and authors know I’m having brain surgery on Monday to remove a meningioma?!  Spooky and coincidental?  No, those programs aired that day was a real-life example of God’s sovereignty (God directs and cares about every detail of our lives) and His love showered (no pun intended…it did sprinkle some on my car while I was running errands that morning) on me through others.

Here’s what I learned that morning from the two radio programs…

God uses adversity to teach His people the quality of His faithfulness. Experiencing adversity is an opportunity for God to show His love for His people. God promises to never leave us or forsake us regardless of our circumstances.  Can I get an amen?!

Benefits of Adversity:

  • Allows us to comfort others
  • Molds us into the image of Jesus Christ
  • Prepares/equips us for future service

Proper Response to Adversity:

  • View everything coming from God (so we won’t be angry or bitter)
  • Ask  God to reveal to you the answer to the question “What’s the goal of this adversity in my life?”
  • Surrender to the unknown will of God
  • Trust God to see you through your adversity

A couple years ago I heard Chuck Swindoll speak on “How Can We Rejoice in Suffering?”

  • We have a Living Hope (we receive divine protection from God & are developing our faith)
  • Trials are Needed (to prove the genuiness of our faith, humble us & make us realistic)
  • Trials are Not Easy (they are distressing & painful, but thankfully last only a little while)

I enter surgery with PRAISE and THANKSGIVING for:

  • God directing me to Dr. Tran,  who was proactive & thorough ordering tests beyond unrelated symptoms I was experiencing
  • God granting me peace beyond my limited, human understanding since the discovery of the meningioma on December 17, 2012
  • God directing me to one of the best neurosurgeons operating at one of Dallas’ best hospital (Zale Lipshy)
  • the location, size and type of tumor (best kind to have if you’re going to have one)
  • My family who has walked alongside me everyday seeing me positive, as well as anxious, “nesting” and unable to sleep at times
  • the friendship and love you’ve extended me, especially these past several months during my medical adventure
  • friends who have signed up to bring us a dinner in June and July to lighten the load for our family

I am THANKFUL IN ADVANCE of surgery BELIEVING:

  • the tumor WILL be completely removed
  • the tumor WILL be benign
  • the surgery WILL be “uneventful” (i.e. no setbacks or surprises discovered by Dr. Mickey during surgery)
  • the recovery WILL be swift and complete as expected
  • future CT scans and MRIs WILL show no signs of tumor re-growth
  • my brain WILL no longer have swelling or begin having seizures as a result of the surgery

Romans 8:28 is the first scripture I memorized when I became a Christian at age 17 and accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Savior…

“For we know that all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purposes.”

The following verse, Romans 8:29, is as important, if not more so…”His purpose is for us to be conformed into the likeness of Christ.”

My hope and prayer is that over the past year experiencing unrelated physical symptoms, visiting doctors, undergoing tests, being informed of the tumor, researching treatment options, electing to have surgery and sharing my faith and life with many, I have been “conformed” and become a little more “Christ-like.”  If that is the case, what I’ve gone through has been minor in comparison!

Russell or my sister Nancy will post an update on this blog website after my surgery is complete and they receive an update from the surgeon.

Blessings and peace to you and yours,

Elizabeth

Pre-op appointment

I only slept from 2:45 am – 5:45 am this morning/last night although I went to bed at 10:45 pm.  So…you ask…what does Elizabeth do from 10:45 pm – 2:45 am when her family is sound asleep, it’s dark outside and she has insomnia?  I “cleaned up” the contacts on my iPhone deleting contacts I no longer needed and merging information for duplicate contacts.  I also spent time in the office on the computer paying bills on-line and sending some emails.

This morning I attended my brain tumor surgery pre-op appointment at Zale Lipshy Hospital from 9 am – noon.  Our daughter, Sarah, and my Godmother, Mary Jane King, went with me to obtain information and for moral support.

I visited with a surgical nurse, anestheiologist, business office and lab.

Receiving answers to my questions gave me more peace as the surgery date is only 6 days away.

Below are answers to several of my questions.

Length of surgery – the “textbook” answer is 270 minutes (4.5 hrs); however, the surgeon said my surgery should be fairly “straight forward” based on the tumor’s location and probably take only 3 hrs.  John, our 15 year-old son, told me this afternoon, “Mom’s surgery is so easy…it’s almost mindless!” Haha!

Time in ICU – 24 hrs after surgery

Days in a regular room – 2-3 days

Incision location – “half circle” in my hair from above my right ear to the middle of the top of my head above my forehead

Incision length – about 8″

Incision hair loss – 1/2 – 1″ strip along incision

Incision closed with stitches or staples – staples

Will the titanium screws used to replace the removed section of skull (to access and remove the tumor) set off the airport security  – no

Anti-seizure Rx  – I won’t be prescribed any unless I have a seizure after surgery, which I’m not planning on having.

Brain Anti-swelling Rx –  take for a week beginning 2 days prior to surgery. (There is swelling around the tumor currently and the brain will likely swell some during and after the surgery from being “messed with”)

Nerve damage/numbness at incision site – not expected

Turn around time for tumor pathology report – 1 week

Post-op facial bruising & swelling – yes beginning the day after surgery for several days. This will not be the best time for a self-portrait!

The tumor is located over and behind my right eye.  Will my right eye vision be affected with the surgery? No

Post-op dr. appt – most likely Wednesday, June 12 to remove staples and observe incision healing

Post-op activity – Per Dr. Mickey, “Your first activities will be resting and eating.”  Sounds good to me, how ’bout to you?!

Shampoo – 2 days after surgery!  WOW…that’s faster than I expected 🙂

Post-op seizures – possible, but not expected

Post-op headache/pain – Yes, especially at my right temple based on the tumor location, incision and a muscle being “moved” to the side during surgery

Resume driving – 2 weeks

CT scan follow-up – morning after surgery to ensure all of the tumor was removed

MRI follow-up – 3 months after surgery; then 6 months after surgery for 1 year

I am very blessed to be covered under Russell’s employer, Merrill Lynch/Bank of America, Aetna insurance plan.  Our out-of-pocket estimated cost for the surgeon, anesthesoloist, and hospital is a mere fraction of the actual cost.  Thank you Lord!

Since I’ll be a little “out of it” (so what’s new?!) and not my “normal” (my Mom used to say, “Define normal”) self,  Russell or my sister, Nancy, will publish a post-surgery update blog on this site.  As I regain consciousness and can think clearly (makes me think of the song…”I can see clearly now the rain is gone”…or my version…”I can THINK clearly now the mengioma is gone…”), I’ll send updates.  If my updates are a little hazy at first, please forgive me and know the “post-surgery fog” has not lifted yet!

I’m overwhelmed and forever grateful for the outpouring of love and concern I’ve received from so many family and friends through prayers, calls, emails, texts and cards over the past several months.

I will probably post another update Sunday prior to the surgery on Monday, June 3.

Blessings to each of you,

Elizabeth

Do you remember the Sound of Music song

Do you remember the Sound of Music song “I am 16 going on 17?”  I am “16 going on 15.” Today is 16 days until my meningioma (tumor on the meninges, i.e. covering of the brain) removal surgery.  Tomorrow will be 15 days until surgery… and so on and so on and so on…

The meningioma was discovered through a brain MRI on December 17, 2012, the day after my 49th birthday. Happy birthday to me…happy birthday to me! I made the decision on February 13 to have it removed.  I scheduled the surgery for June 3, after our daughter Sarah is home from completing her junior year at TCU and our son John will almost be finished with 9th grade, so I wouldn’t be a burden to friends and family during my recovery. At the time, it seemed like an eternity until the surgery date. Now the date is quickly approaching!  Older people say time seems to go by more quickly as we get older. I’m beginning to agree.

I find myself, sometimes a couple times a day, counting the days until surgery, not quite believing the “number.”  Part of me wants the date to come and go so I can “move on” with recovery and life.  Part of me wants time to stand still so June 3 doesn’t come at all.  Can I get an amen from anyone?!  I compare the waiting for the surgery date to approaching a semester exam week. When I was a student, I wanted exam week to arrive to complete the semester; however, I wanted a little more time to study to ensure I knew the material prior to the exam.

In December 1993, at the age of 30, I had my tonsils removed.  Tonsils should serve as a “filter” of germs to prevent illness.  My tonsils served as a “trap” for germs, which caused me to have tonsillitis 3-4 times a year.  I remember, like it was yesterday, being prepped for surgery and telling Russell, “I REALLY don’t mind having tonsillitis several times a year, and I REALLY don’t want to have surgery.”  I have a hunch I may be saying the same thing at 5:30 a.m. on June 3 as I’m being prepped for brain surgery.  I can hear myself now rationalizing, “I don’t have any symptoms. I REALLY don’t want to have surgery.  I want to go home.” However, being the “rule-abiding, people-pleaser” person that I am, I wouldn’t want to “stand up” my surgeon, anesthesiologist and hospital staff.

I woke up at 4:30 a.m. this morning, as I couldn’t sleep thinking about several upcoming events and “to dos.” I googled “meningioma surgery and recovery” and stumbled on a Canadian girl’s blog.  She blogged about her discovery, surgery and recovery. Her blog was informative, graphic and encouraging.  I sent her an email to let her know I enjoyed reading her blog. Her email address must have changed because the email was undeliverable.

I’ll post an update after my pre-op appointment, which is Tuesday, May 28.  I hope to have answers to my many (and possibly silly and vain) questions regarding surgery and recovery.

I wish you and yours a happy and safe Memorial Day weekend next weekend.

Blessings to each of you,
Elizabeth

Time is flying by!  How can it already

Time is flying by!  How can it already be May?  For parents and children this is a busy time of the school year with concerts, talent shows, class parties, field trips, field days, exams, etc.  I don’t know about your children, but John, our 9th grader, is counting down the days until summer break…LITERALLY! He has a stack of post-it notes, each with a number, in descending order, representing the number of days left of school.  Each morning he or I remove a post-it note and announce the new number.  Today’s number is 24.

I followed John’s “count down” idea and made one for the number of days, in descending order, until my meningioma (brain tumor) will be surgically removed on June 3.  Today’s number is 32.  Eeek!

The remaining days will go by fast as I spend it with family and friends at the following events: band concert, choir concert, scrapbook weekend with girlfriends, church friend’s wedding, Goddaughter’s college graduation, Memorial Day weekend, Bible study, 2 book reviews with my Godmother, “girls getaway” weekend with our daughter Sarah, Sunday School social, Boy Scout Court of Honor, church youth banquet, Arboretum with a girlfriend, church each Sunday, taking food to a neighbor recovering from knee surgery and a 3-day Santa Fe business trip with Russell.

I will attend a pre-op appointment on Tuesday, May 28 for 3-4 hours.  I will talk to an anesthesiologist, as well as a surgical nurse and a hospital business office employee.  Being the detailed and planning person that I am, I have a list of questions regarding the surgery, as well as post-op and recovery expectations.  I’m sure the hospital staff have answered questions from previous patients.  But, then again, they haven’t met ME yet! I’ll try to be “easy” on them and not drill them too long.  I need to follow the ‘ole saying, “Let go and let God.”  I will after I have my questions answered! 🙂

I hope you are able to get outside some and enjoy the beautiful weather we are having these days.

Thank you for your continued thoughts, prayers, calls, texts and emails.  I appreciate and am thankful for each one of you!

Blessings to you and yours,

Elizabeth

When I looked at my blog site this afternoon, I was surprised to see (not) that several paragraphs I typed after the James 1:2-3 scripture reference were not included in the blog.  I know I typed them, but where are they now? Again, I’m blaming THIS “disappearance” of text on my brain tumor.

Below is what I meant to include for the remainder of yesterday’s blog I posted.  Please excuse this “operator error.”  I know just enough about this blog our daughter Sarah set up for me to be dangerous.

James 1:2-3 tells us…”Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” We often read a passage and develop an interpretation without considering how the words are being used. James does not tell us to be joyful, or even thankful, for trials. Trials are the inevitable troubles Jesus spoke about: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Rather, James is writing to help us walk through the trials as they come. And his main advice? “Consider it joy!”

Consider is a verb used to indicate thinking, not feeling. James is not saying we ought to feel joyful; he is saying we ought to engage in the thought process of pure joy. But the question then becomes, what are we to think about as pure joy? The answer from the passage is the ambiguous word, “it.” I do not believe that “it” refers to the specific trial. The word does not refer to earthquakes, tsunamis, divorce, hunger, cancer or my brain tumor; there is no joy in these events. Rather, “it” represents the bigger picture of life as we walk through the terrible event. In the midst of tragic events, which contain no hint of joy, we are to think of things, maybe little nuggets, of pure joy. And as we look for the joy, we will find the actual trial less difficult to bear; and yes, in the process we will develop perseverance and maturity.

So, having a tumor on the covering of my brain and facing surgery on June 3, which I don’t wish on myself or anyone else, I am thinking of several things which ought to be considered as pure joy.

First, I think about my ability to have quality medical care…a highly sought out UTSW neurosurgeon who will remove the tumor at Zale Lipshy Hospital. I am extremely joyful that God has allowed me to live exactly where I do.

Second, I think about the joy of reconnecting to many of you from Sarah and John’s White Rock Elementary (WRE) school days.  What a tight knit group we WRE Seahawks are!

Third, I think about the love and support of my family…Russell, Sarah and John…especially during the past several months as I’ve attended doctor appointments, undergone tests, been educated on meningiomas and made the proactive decision to have it surgically removed.

Finally, I think about how God has been with me each step of the way…giving me peace that passes my limited, human understanding.

Therefore, as I walk through this “trial”, I will consider it pure joy as James calls me to.

If you, too, are facing a trial, I challenge you to find joy and give thanks along the way.

Blessings and peace to you all,

Elizabeth

 

If laughter is medicine for the soul, I almost overdosed yesterday! I was talking to a friend on the phone, and she was asking me about the surgery. I told her that the piece of skull removed to excise the tumor will be put back with titanium screws. I told her if I’m having a bad day or can’t remember something, I’m going to say I’ve got a screw loose! She ask if the screws will set off the metal detector at the airport. The surgeon said no. If I just monitored the tumor through periodic MRIs and didn’t have it removed, the thought of having a brain tumor would be luring in the back of my mind. Except it’s not in the back, it’s in the front!

On a separate note, I am overwhelmed with friends’ generosity in signing up to bring us a dinner during my recovery. All the dates were taken within 24 hours! Because several of you wanted to help, but all the dates were taken, I set up a few more dates. I don’t want to appear needy or greedy, but didn’t want to deny someone the opportunity either.

I receive a daily email devotion from Steve Troxel of God’s Daily Word. Yesterday’s was very timely considering the “journey” I am on. It talked about James 1:2-3.

June 2012

I began noticing loss of strength in my right hand, especially when opening ziplock bags and removing foil lids off milk and yogurt containers.  I “chalked” it up to “getting older.”  As the loss of strength continued, I was proactive and made an appointment with Dr. Duc Tran, the neurologist who diagnosed my Mom with ALS, A.K.A. Lou Gehrig’s Disease.  Weakness in hands is one of the symptoms of ALS.  I thought to myself, “Do I have the beginnings of ALS like my Mom had and died from?” I wanted Dr. Tran to run tests and tell me what I was experiencing.  

September 24, 2012

I met with Dr. Tran. Based on an exam, he ruled out ALS.  Thank you Lord!  The first test he ordered was an EMG (electromyography), which evaluates and records the electrical activity produced by skeletal muscles.

November 5, 2012

I had the EMG, whereby numerous needles were stuck in my hand and forearm during the test.  I do not like needles but had to be a “big girl” during the EMG to help determine the cause of my loss of strength.

The second test Dr. Tran ordered was an MRI of my neck to determine if I had any bulging or herniated disks, which may be causing pinched nerves and possible damage to my right hand strength.  This was my first experience with an MRI.  It’s a good thing I’m not claustrophobic. I laid on a table where a full body cylinder encased my body.  I wore headphones and listened to Christian music.  The MRI machine was so loud that I could barely here the music!  I hope I don’t have hearing loss because of this MRI. What did you say?!  Dr. Tran said if the MRI of my neck came back ok, he would order an MRI of my brain.  I jokingly said, “You can take an MRI of my brain, but it probably won’t show much!” 

The neck MRI results didn’t show any abnormalities.  The EMG showed I have mild carpal tunnel syndrome in my right wrist, which is probably causing the loss of hand strength.

Since the neck MRI was ok, Dr. Tran ordered an MRI of my brain.

December 17, 2012

Today is the day after my 49th birthday and I’m having an MRI of my brain. Happy birthday to me…happy birthday to me…

December 19, 2012

Dr. Tran called and told me I have a meningioma, a tumor on my meninges, the covering of my brain.  I was not familiar with that medical term so I asked, “What does that mean and what do we do about it?”  Dr. Tran said meningiomas are fairly common, and if I had something wrong with my brain, it’s the best thing to have and it’s in the best location.  Now that’s comforting to know, right?! I knew I was “special,” but I didn’t want to be THAT “special!”

Dr. Tran referred me to Dr. Jon Krumerman, a neurosurgeon, for his opinion and treatment recommendations.

January 10, 2013

I saw Dr. Krumerman.  He reviewed my MRI and said if it were him or his family member, he would recommend the meningioma be removed sometime in 2013 since there is swelling/edema around it and to prevent possible future health problems.  I jokingly told Dr. Krumerman that I could have it removed in December 2013 for my 50th birthday! That would be a birthday worth remembering. The meningioma is small…about the size of my pinky fingernail.  Thankfully I am NOT experiencing any symptoms…blurred vision, headaches, seizures, speech issues, gait issues, etc.

I asked Dr. Krumerman about the surgery, recovery and possible risks.

  • 1-2 hour surgery
  • 1 day ICU
  • possible infection (if so, take antibiotics)
  • 3-4 day total hospital stay (a break from housework!)
  • 2-3 weeks no driving 
  • 3 months feeling a little crummy and “foggy” (I already experience that some days!)
  • 6 months feel more normal (my Mom would say “define normal”)
  • the tumor could grow back
  • I could experience seizures (Great…I don’t currently!)
  • I will take anti-seizure Rx for awhile after surgery for precautionary reasons
  • I will have follow-up MRIs of my brain for a year or so after surgery to monitor healing and potential tumor recurrence
  • 90% chance tumor is benign; 10% chance tumor is malignant; they will send the tumor off to pathology

If I have the meningioma removed, I’m looking at June 2013 timeframe when John & Sarah are on summer break and can help more (unless future MRIs indicate growth and the need for earlier removal).

Because it is “my brain,” I asked my husband, Russell’s, UTSW internist, Dr. Hugh McClung, for a neurosurgeon recommendation to obtain another treatment opinion before I make a final decision whether to monitor it with future MRIs for years or have it surgically removed.  He highly recommended UTSW neurosurgeon, Dr. Bruce Mickey. As I began telling friends about my “condition,” several independently recommended Dr. Mickey as well, which gave me confirmation and peace that I should make an appointment with him for a second opinion.

I may need to ask some favors of you along the way. Thank you in advance for your assistance!

It’s a blessing “it” was detected through unrelated medical tests. This is an indication of God’s sovereignty (He controls every detail of our lives) and His unending love for His people, including me and you!  

One of my favorite scriptures is Romans 8:28, which  I’m claiming for this situation. “We know that in ALL things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose.”

Thank you in advance for prayers for peace and clear treatment direction.

Love, Elizabeth

January 16, 2013

Part of having a meningioma must be the inability to properly fax documents!  I discovered when Dr. Mickey’s office had not received my authorization to obtain my medical records from Dr. Tran & Dr. Krumerman for his review, I had faxed the papers face up versus face down! The authorization finally made it to Dr. Mickey’s office. Yeah! 

Three days after the authorization made its way to Dr. Mickey’s office, they hadn’t received my medical records (MRI results and doctor notes).  Therefore, I took matters into my own hands. (I hope it doesn’t backfire on me like in Genesis when Sarai couldn’t get pregnant and gave Hagar to Abram to bear a child!) I called Dr. Tran and Dr. Krumerman directly and requested them to send my medical records ASAP to Dr. Mickey. Through my prayers, as well as many friend’s prayers, Dr. Mickey’s office received my medical records to review them. Praise God!  I haven’t had headaches up until now from my meningioma, but they might begin soon trying to get papers in the hands of those who need them.

This week reminds me of the book “If you give a mouse a cookie.” I don’t know if you have ever read it to your children or not. If you give a mouse a cookie, he’ll ask for a glass of milk.  If you give him a glass of milk, he’ll ask for a straw. Then he’ll ask for a napkin. It goes on and on and on. Maybe this is a lesson in persistence and patience more than a medical issue.

January 23, 2013

Dear Faithful Friends,

The first available appointment with Dr. Mickey, UTSW Neurosurgeon, is February 13 to obtain his opinion on treatment options for my recently discovered meningioma. Russell will attend the appointment with me. A second set of ears at a doctor appointment is beneficial, especially when talking about MY brain!

If my “condition” was very serious, I presume they would have worked me in sooner. Therefore, the fact that my consultation appointment is three weeks away must be a good thing. 🙂

I trust God’s perfect timing and sovereignty.  He is the Ultimate Physician and Healer. I give thanks, in advance, whether I’m “healed” by His hands or human hands.  I pray God is known and glorified through my current “life adventure.”

Thank you for “walking alongside” me and my family. 

Love,  Elizabeth

February 14, 2013

Dear Friends,

I had an appointment yesterday afternoon with Dr. Bruce Mickey, UTSW neurosurgeon, to obtain his opinion on “watching” or removing my meningioma, which was found in an MRI on December 17, 2012. (Medical refresher…a meningioma is a most-likely benign tumor on the meninges, i.e. covering of the brain).

Because there is swelling on my brain around the meningioma, Dr. Mickey recommends (as did Dr. Krumerman, the first neurosurgeon I visited) that it be removed; however, the decision is up to me. Removal won’t alleviate symptoms because, thankfully, I don’t have any. However, removal will reduce the potential risks of future problems if it is left. Think of it as “preventative maintenance!” 

I asked Dr. Mickey about the surgery, recovery and possible risks.

  • 3 hour surgery
  • 1 day ICU
  • possible infection (if so, take antibiotics)
  • 3-4 day total hospital stay (a break from housework!)
  • no driving until off “heavy duty” pain Rx 
  • fatigue for 6-8 weeks (I already experience that some days!)
  • 10% chance the tumor could grow back
  • I will take anti-seizure Rx for awhile after surgery for precautionary reasons
  • Cerebral edema is common after surgery. I will take Rx 2 days prior to surgery and several days after surgery to minimize fluid accumulation and swelling in the brain
  • I will have follow-up MRIs of my brain for a year or so after surgery to monitor healing and potential tumor recurrence
  • 90% chance tumor is benign; 10% chance tumor is malignant; they will send the tumor off to pathology

I wonder how much hair they will have to shave off at the incision site.  My sister Kathleen, who is a nurse, told me, “They’ll shave off what they need.  Asking ‘how much’ won’t change what they need to do.”  I have to remind myself, “It’s just hair, and it will grow back.”  I just may have a “different” style on my right side for awhile. Maybe I’ll create a new fashion style for the summer of 2013!

I have decided to have it removed. Because I wouldn’t have surgery until John is out of school for summer break and Sarah is home from TCU to help with the house, John (& Russell!) and errands, Dr. Mickey wants me to have another MRI to compare with the Dec. 17 MRI. On March 6, 2013, I will have another MRI of my brain and review the results with Dr. Mickey. If the new MRI shows the meningioma has materially grown or the swelling has increased, the surgery might be sooner than the end of the spring semester of school.

I THANK GOD for MANY THINGS:

  • an unrelated health issue I had last Fall, which led me to Dr. Tran, Neurolgy Consultants of Dallas, who PROACTIVELY ordered an MRI, which revealed the meningioma 
  • the meningioma is only the size of my “pinky” fingernail 
  • several of YOU who independently directed me to Dr. Mickey, UTSW, for a second opinion
  • the type of tumor and location (I’ve been told if I was going to have a brain tumor, this is the best kind and place to have one. Now that’s comforting to hear, right?!)
  • peace beyond understanding during tests, doctor appointments and waiting 
  • your calls, cards, emails, texts, prayers and friendship!

I’ll send another update after March 6.

Love to you all,  Elizabeth 

March 5, 2013

I had another MRI of my brain taken this morning in the basement of Parkland Hospital.

March 6, 2013

Russell, Mary Jane King (my Godmother) and I met with Dr. Mickey today. We reviewed and discussed yesterday’s MRI results, along with the results from December 17, 2012.  Thank you Lord that the meningioma hadn’t increased in size, nor had the swelling around it increased.  Dr. Mickey continues to recommend that “it” be surgically removed this year at my convenience.  I told him I will have the surgery in June when our college age daughter is home and available for errands, running the house and driving our 15 year old son places as needed.  Dr. Mickey thought that was a great plan.  I told him I’d look at our other June commitments (Sarah visiting her TCU roommate’s family’s beach house in Fort Walton Beach, FL; John helping with our church’s VBS; John’s band leadership camp; John’s Boy Scout summer camp) and let him know what date would be best for us so we could go ahead and schedule the surgery. Nothing like staying busy, right?!

Russell said to me, “Do you know what the difference between major and minor surgery is?” I said, “No. What?”  He said, “Major surgery is what you’re having. Minor surgery is what everyone else is having.” Thanks Russell 🙂

March 20, 2013

I left a voice mail message with Mike Levy, RN, who is the liaison between Dr. Mickey and his surgery patients.  I told him I wanted to have the meningioma removed Monday, June 3 and to please let me know what I need to do prior to surgery.  Mike is very busy, and we often play “phone tag” leaving one another voice mail messages. I will go to Zale Lipshy Hospital on Tuesday, May 28, 2013, for about four hours for pre-op.  This will include talking to an anesthesiologist, surgical nurses, business manager regarding estimated out-of-pocket expenses, and having blood drawn for tests.  I will report at 5:30 a.m. on Monday, June 3, 2013, for surgery also at Zale Lipshy Hospital. Boy is that early!  I sure hope Dr. Mickey and his medical team are well rested and have eaten a hearty breakfast in preparation for my three hour surgery!  If all goes as expected, I should be home Thursday or Friday, June 6 or 7.  Russell, my husband, or Sarah, our daughter, will post blog updates until I am able to think clearly and post updates myself. Thank you again for walking alongside me during my “adventure.”  I am claiming the following verse, especially as it gets closer to the surgery date as I expect some anxiety to set in….Philippians 4:13…”I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” 

Love, Elizabeth