Accepting Losses in Life


I have written about my ridiculously lucky life both here and on other sites. I have had 66 years of unearned health, happiness, serendipity, and joy.

Given all of that, I don’t really complain much. I mean, how could I?

But the past few months have taught me some lessons about adjusting to those moments in life when the crazy luck fades away a bit.

Last August I had 12 hours of brain surgery to remove an acoustic neuroma that was wrapping itself around a couple of my cranial nerves. It was completely benign, and my recovery was absolutely uncomplicated. That luck was on my side! The tumor was mostly removed, and I didn’t suffer from the facial paralysis that often follows this surgery.

Three weeks ago I went back to the neurosurgeons to have a one-time radiation treatment that they call “Gamma Knife surgery.” The good doctors screwed a titanium frame onto my skill, as you can see above. Then they zapped the remaining tumor with gamma rays so it is less likely to come back in the future.

So I’m theoretically all done with treatment for this thing and am ready to put it behind me. Hurray, hoorah, yippee kai-ai-ay.

And that’s why it strikes me as odd that I am feeling a little discouraged about the whole thing. I have made it a choice to keep focusing on the good parts of all of this. My taste has returned. My right eye is no longer painfully dry. The tingles that ran across the right side of my face for six months have mostly disappeared and walking outside in the sunlight is no longer too much for my addled vestibular system to handle.

But I’m totally, completely, irrevocably deaf in my right ear. Like most people my age, I have also lost a bit of hearing in my left ear. In a quiet, one-to-one conversation, this isn’t a problem, as long as my friend remembers not to stand behind me. I’m adjusting to it; I have several sets of mismatched earrings so that I can wear a green one in my good ear and a red one in my bad.

But when I am with a large group, I am alone in my partial deafness. We just spent a few days with old friend in Arizona. It was exciting, fun, and incredibly frustrating. I would ask someone a question, but as they answered me, their voice would be drowned out by the sound of water running in the sink, or someone laughing, or dishes rattling. I kept leaning in, turning my head, cupping my ear like someone from an old movie. It was exhausting. My head hurt the whole time.

Thanksgiving was worse. I always love hosting this epic foodie holiday. I love the crowd and the laughter and the pie.

But this year, with my little house absolutely packed, the entire day felt like standing in a giant wind tunnel. I heard roaring. I heard bursts of laughter. I heard a few words. But mostly I felt like I was standing next to a jet engine all day.

It wasn’t fun. It was depressing, honestly. And the constant struggle to hear and understand made me dizzy and off balance.

You see, the acoustic nerve and the vestibular nerve are branches of the same nerve. So my balance is damaged along with my hearing. It’s not terrible; I can do pretty much everything I want to do on a daily basis.

That’s the positive part.

The negative is that while I go about my day, taking care of my grandkids, cooking, doing laundry, etc, I am continually working to stay upright. I can’t look over my shoulder as I walk. I can’t safely enter a dark room. I can’t lean over to pick things up off the floor. Not without toppling into a heap.

So I find myself in the interesting position of learning to accept some permanent losses (my right ear, my balance) without falling into self-pity. I need to figure out how to grieve about what won’t come back while being grateful for what stayed.

I wish I could hear in a crowd. I wish I could go to a nighttime festival of lights without getting nauseous and scared. I wish I didn’t have a big, aching scar on my skull. I wish I could feel my right ear.

Well.

I’m still the luckiest person I know, honest! I know that.

But, jeez, I miss Thanksgiving conversations.

20 thoughts on “Accepting Losses in Life

  1. Lovely writing and thoughts as always Karen. I think it’s always OK to feel loss and thankfulness at the same time. I’m sorry you are left with the hearing loss. I hope you find ways of dealing with it over time. Sending love!
    Nancy

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    • There most likely will be some small improvement as I go forward, but I need to accept that I can’t hear normally any more. I think it harder than I thought it would be because I am such an auditory person.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. First, I’m glad to hear that the surgery and this last procedure seems to have accomplished what was the original goal. Please try not to set a time limit for yourself on acceptance. I suspect, knowing your strong character from the blog, that you will undoubtedly find a new normal- probably without really realizing it happened. Others will also adjust and adapt to an awareness that you are a bit different going forward, but underlying all of the changes you are the same Karen they love. Thank you for this update. I was thinking it had been some time since you posted and wondering. I continue to wish you the best and wish for ease in adaptation going forward.

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      • I wonder if that’s a matter of practice Karen- much like relearning after a stroke? They did a heck of a lot of work inside your head and I can imagine that was a major disruption. I won’t tell anyone if you choose to spend all day talking out loud to yourself to get all the neurons firing once again 😉 Maybe practice reading out or even singing? Your grands would love that!

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      • You’ve hit on it, Deb! I sang with a local choir for many years, but stopped during the pandemic. Just rejoined this semester and it has been…..interesting! Listening to the group was very hard at first, and made me dizzy as heck. Much better ten weeks later!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Do you have access to physical and occupational therapy? I have no idea if they can help or not, but hey it’s worth a try. You will find your way, but it sure would be nice to have a few knowledgeable hands to help you. I just googled organizations for the deaf. There is help out there. Don’t go it alone.

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    • You’re so kind!!! I actually have been a speech pathologist working with deaf kids for many years. I have a dear friend (former student!) who is deaf and got her cochlear implant at the age of 21. She is a great resource! And I have another friend who has a progressive hearing loss, and has worn hearing aides for twenty years. I am very lucky! There is a great place locally for vestibular therapy, too, so I’m getting great support. Thank you for your kindness!

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  4. Oh I’m sorry to hear of your losses and struggles! We never know what awaits us round every corner do we? I hope your hearing improves even a little, and that as suggested by other commenters, you get some physio and other strategies to help you adjust. Best wishes to you from Australia, G

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    • Thank you! Life is a journey, for sure. I am working on giving myself a break now and then, you know? I will continue to improve slowly and am doing my vestibular therapy every day (multiple times a day!). It’s all a learning experience!

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  5. Oh Karen, I am so sorry to read of the challenges you are experiencing. Having to readjust to your new normal will take time; I am sure and I am certain everything you are feeling is completely normal. It must feel so incredibly frustrating for you. I wonder if seeing an audiologist would be helpful in determining if there might be some sort of a hearing aid that would help? Take good care of yourself💕

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    • Thanks, Lynn! I think that I have just come to the point in my recovery where I am realizing that things will never go back to the way they were. I am being seen by a wonderful audiologist and ENT, and am investigating a “BiCros” hearing aid system where the hearing aid in my dead ear will transmit to my better ear. But I won’t get my balance back, or my ability to function well in a crowd. Just time to adjust my focus, feel sad for the loss and then time to move forward!

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  6. Karen,
    So good to hear from you! Keep going, stay strong & don’t give up, think of those beautiful babies that love you!! I know that’s what keeps me going😊 As days go by the things that have changed become the new normal and life goes on… Personally I’m thrilled you’re here with all of us and no matter what is to come make yourself comfortable and look forward♥️

    Hugs,
    Karen M

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  7. I’ve been wondering how you are, Karen. It was good to have this post from you and know that you’re still staying positive in spite of such big health challenges. I’m sending you love and healing thoughts for a happy Christmas and a healthy 2023.
    (I’d also be honoured to gift you one of my novels if you’re in the mood for some reading during your recovery. If yes, I’d just need a postal address which you could provide to me privately via the ‘Contact’ section on my website: carmelbendon.com )

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  8. Karen, it’s been ages since I’ve read any blogs in my feed–life just got much too busy, I guess. So, I don’t know why I checked my blog feed today, but since you were always one of my favorite bloggers, I toggled down to check out what you were up to. Imagine my surprise upon reading this heartbreaking, beautiful post. So sorry to hear of this latest part of your journey. We are of similar ages, and I too wrestle with how to keep focus on what I still have and not on what I’ve lost and am losing. If it’s any consultation, I’ll be adding you to my prayers. Stay strong, sweet lady, and continue to carry on. Already, in your suffering, you have comforted those who similarly suffer with what has brought you comfort.

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    • Hi, Eleanor!!!!
      I have barely been reading either….so much going on. So many political sites to follow, so many ways to try to make a difference!
      I am so delighted to hear from you; you have no idea!
      Life is still so good; people are mostly incredibly kind and supportive and my family has been just great. My littlest grandchild, Max aged 2 1/2, thinks it is great fun to help Nonni with her balance exercises.
      I wish you and your family a most joyful, blessed and healthy Christmas season!!!

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