As if I’m qualified……
This may seem counterintuitive, but it is a message I’d really like to send to every doctor/surgeon/med student in the world.
You guys have read this already, but I have developed a benign tumor on my right acoustic nerve. It is called an “Acoustic neuroma” or a “Schwannoma”. Either way doesn’t that sound wicked scary?????
Well, it did to me. I have lost some hearing in one ear. I am off balance and walking like a drunken sailor even when I am neither. My lower lip is numb on the right side and my tongue tip is itchy and numb. I have a TUMOR on my freakin’ BRAIN.
I have not been the epitome of grace and acceptance. No. I have been the epitome of “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?”
Now, I will be honest. It isn’t that I am thinking “why me?” Not at all. I am the luckiest human being that I have ever even heard of. Literally everything has gone my way. For my entire life. I have no right and no reason to ask “Why me?”
But I have been asking, “What horrible tortures are going to happen to me?” I have done the unthinkable and checked Google for “Acoustic Neuromas”. I even joined a FB group of “Acoustic Neuroma Survivors”.
Bad ideas. Bad, bad ideas. All full of “I am worse now than I was before surgery!” and “My surgery lasted 15 hours and I was in the hospital for 2 weeks!”
I got scared.
I got really scared. I am not a sick person. I do not do the hospital/surgery/recovery thing.
I’m NONNI, dammit! I play with kids! I cook! I do finger painting and cookie baking and block building and bike riding! I am NONNI!
We drove into Boston this morning to meet the neurosurgeon who works with my chosen ENT surgeon. We parked in the garage. We noted where our car was parked (3D!). We followed the sign that said “EXIT”. We came to a wall. We went back up. We followed another sign that said “EXIT”. We came to a door marked “Emergency Exit ONLY!” We looked at each other. We went back up the stairs. We searched. We looked around.
At last, at last, we found our way out of the parking garage and onto a HUGE city street. Filled with cars and trucks and people and noise and stuff.
It took us almost a half hour to meander our way to the correct corridor in the correct building of the correct Boston hospital. We checked in and filled out papers and tried to relax.
And this is where my advice to doctors comes in.
After short wait, we were taken in to meet with my neurosurgeon. That man who would, theoretically, be drilling into my skull in the next few weeks.
He was kind, friendly, accessible, and open. All good. He ran through my various options, from “Let’s just wait and see” to a non-invasive gamma knife treatment, to the plain old “slice up your skull and dig out the tumor” scalpel surgery.
I already knew that I preferred the surgery, and when our conversation was finished, it was very clear that he agreed. As my ENT surgeon had agreed earlier.
I left the office feeling much calmer and more reassured than I’d been in many weeks. And you want to know why?
It wasn’t because he agreed on surgery. It wasn’t because he was very thorough, and spent as much time as I needed to review my MRI and CT scans. It wasn’t even because he’s the chief of Head and Neck Surgery at one of the best hospitals in the country.
It was because he was remarkably unimpressed with my situation. It was almost a big yawn for him. It was unremarkable and unimpressive and I am certain that tonight when his wife asks about his day, I will not come to mind for a second.
So that is my advice to young medical professionals today. Be unimpressed. Be ever so slightly bored with your patient’s scary crisis.
For me, at least, this was the most reassuring message I could have possibly received.