Yesterday, I had a conversation with friends in which they asked me if I was nervous about my approaching surgery. I said "no" and they looked at me like I had fourteen heads! I couldn't explain it well at the time, but it was (and is) true. I'm not nervous, despite the fact that I'm about to have my skull opened up in an OR. That conversation yesterday afternoon has had me thinking hard since then. Why am I not nervous about this surgery? What kind of freak am I that I'm not?
So I've been thinking. A lot. (This is what I often do at times like this - get very introspective.) And I think it comes down to several factors that I'd like to try and explain, mostly so I have the exercise of putting it into words. And see if it makes any sense to anyone else! :-) So, please excuse the novella that follows!
First, I really think I went through all the stages of grief (shock, denial, anger, grief, acceptance) last summer after I was first diagnosed with an acoustic neuroma. And I truly have Accepted this as part of my life now.
While I really don't think I'm "nervous", I freely admit that this is A Big Deal. It has changed my life, and life for me will never again be exactly like it was before. And honestly, the least of it is the loss of hearing on one side. I assume I will have temporary facial paralysis, and hope that it is not permanent. I assume I will have temporary facial numbness, and realize there is a higher likelihood that this will be permanent (feeling like part of your face is on Novacaine all the time). But I really think these, and other possible, minor physical issues will not affect my overall quality of life. I refuse to submit to that. For me, the bigger change has been internally. I have much less tolerance for any bullsh** from anyone. And I've insulated myself from relationships that aren't as two-way as I might have thought. It's just no longer worth my energy to continually reach out to people who aren't willing or able to give back as much as I give them. And so, as often happens in times of crisis, I've been able to differentiate between True Friends and Casual Friends. There is a real difference between the people who really reach out to support me, and those who say they're thinking about me but I never hear from. All this has made me feel much more centered and focused in daily life.
And while I don't participate in organized religion, this has - in its own way - been a very spiritual journey for me. A lot of re-evaluating what's important to me and what fulfills me. A lot of focus on my family. A lot of weeding out of negative energy (as hokey as that sounds). And a lot of faith in the medical choices I've made, with my husband, about treatment and the doctors I'm seeing. I really feel like I did everything I could to possibly learn about what I'm facing; made well-educated, rational choices about treatment; and put myself in the hands of the best possible medical team. I've done everything I can do, and know that I won't second-guess my choices regardless of the outcome. I have to have faith in that or I have nothing.
The other thing that helps is that I've found an online community (a forum sponsored by the Acoustic Neuroma Association) for AN patients all over the world. It's a wonderful resource, and a true community with people from all walks of life who are facing the same challenges. And I've met some of the funniest, honest, most generous-of-spirit people who are a wealth of information. I can practically touch the support from them radiating out of the computer. And, through them, I think I have a realistic picture of what I will be facing post-op. I've had the opportunity to meet a few of these people who live in the Boston area, and that has only solidified my faith in my medical team.
I also know that I simply *can't* allow myself to be wheeled into an OR if I feel uncertain, either about the surgery itself or the outcome. My life won't be the same after - I know that and accept it. But it will continue to be a wonderful, happy life - with a few accommodations.
So, what all this boils down to is that it's been a long journey for me to get to where I'm "not nervous". It's not as simple as it may have sounded yesterday. And while it's hard for me to put words to these thoughts while I'm in the middle of it, or on the spot, it's been a good thing for me too think about. I don't feel like such a freak now! ;-)