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Aftermath of a Tumor

The brick in the creek I wanted to obtain is from a manufacturer who held shop in Ellis County, once. It was a CRISP brick. Of course I got it, but then could not pull myself from the creek bed.

In October of 2023, I lost hearing in my left year. No big deal, I thought, because my right ear more than made up for the loss, and I could use the deafness as an excuse from a multitude of things I don't want to do. but I still went to the doctor to check on my unilateral hearing loss because other weird things were happening to me.

The most obvious "something is seriously wrong" event took place in Fannin County, Texas. I had been taking photographs of Powder Creek park and the old railroad infrastructure when I spotted a brick in the creek. I wanted the brick for my collection; I did not have one that was stamped "CRISP." I went down into the creek to retrieve it but had a horrible time of it. My feet did not want to move, rather, my brain did not want my feet to move either up or down, right or left. It was like I was paralyzed but still could feel my body. I finally managed to get up out of the creek using tree roots to pull myself up.

I had gone to my regular physician but he labeled me spastic, and the referral for an MRI never came through. So I went to a "doc in the box," aka a stand-alone health clinic, and they hooked me up with a scan that revealed a giant vestibular schwannoma, also known as an acoustic neuroma. It measured 35 millimeters - almost the size of a ping pong ball - and took up a sizeable portion of my brain stem. These kinds of tumors are almost always benign but can interfere with balance and hearing, as they grow on the main nerve that connects the inner ear to the brain. The excessive growth of schwann cells, aka nerve sheath cells, that compose the tumor is either just a fluke or a congenital misalignment of the stars.

And now, I have it.

Surgery was never a wait and see approach. The tumor was too big for radiation, and if nothing was done, I would have suffered seizures that would have damaged more than just my hearing and balance. So at the end of February, I had brain surgery.

I'm a dour person, so when this happened to me, I felt the injustice of it all. I felt betrayed by nature, a punchline for a cruel joke. But in more serene moments, I recognized that it is simply dumb luck and if I had to be doled this fate in the lottery of life, it was not world-ending. I had health insurance. I have a paid-for home. I have a husband of 34 years who loves me very much. I have a son who lives about 45 minutes from me, and my mother is just 20 minutes, and my sister is a practicing nurse who promised to be there during recovery. I'd rather this happen to me than to a person who does not have these resources.

But what If it happened to someone who doesn't have these advantages? It actually happens all the time. Maybe not a schwannoma - these are exceedingly rare tumors - but a horrible diagnosis that will lead to bankruptcy for many people.

So here's where this missive should end, but its not gonna. Because contemplating brain surgery and the many unknowns that accompany it lead down paths that must be explored further; in this case, political paths. Seriously, what if a person is facing this kind of surgery without a social safety net, such as health insurance or a safe place to return to? I am tired of my country acting like access to healthcare is not a concern of everyone. People get sick; they deserve to be treated well and not be destroyed by the insane prices that the US has allowed, and they deserve to be treated, and they deserve to be supported, and they deserve to return to work. Because without resources that will allow the sick to get better and return to work, they will go on disability and will never contribute again.

It is imperative that the United States adopt universal healthcare. This can look like Canada's or Germany's or England's system... we just need to ensure that our citizens have the safety to be sick and the ability to become well.

My tumor looks like my brain had an idea, ha ha.

Surgery scar
A forever scar.

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