A message from the other side of brain surgery
On July 17,2008, my neurosurgeon, Dr. Muizelaar, removed an aggressive meningioma tumor from my brain. The operation was successful and removed a mass the size of a mandarin orange, according to the Doctor! Now there will be a recovery period where I will have to relearn basic functions like sitting, standing, walking, and speaking in complete sentences. I feel great support from you all, through your thoughts, prayers, and postings on CarePages.
From the ragged ruins of my swollen brain, this passage from the poem “Ullyses” by Alfred Lord Tennyson beckons. It brings comfort as evidence of a memory at least partially intact and as a reminder of the brave work of my friends and colleagues who struggle every day to make this world just a little kinder.
Come my friends.
Tis not too late to seek a newer world!
…Though much has been taken,
And though we are not that strength
That in younger years moved earth and heaven,
That which we are, we are.
One equal temper of heroic heart,
Made weak by time and fate,
But strong in will.
To seek, to find, to seize,
And never to yield.
Due to general right side paralysis linked to post operative swelling of the brain, my function is quite limited. I cannot stand, walk, or manipulate the wheelchair without assistance. I cannot speak in complete sentences, though I can conceive what I want to say. The most profound symptom I am faced with is fatigue. 20 minutes of any type of activity leaves me fully spent requiring sustained rest. This will improve as the swelling goes down.
I am in good spirits feeling loved and supported by all. It seems fortuitous that most of the irritation of the brain was in the left hemisphere, the general source of our individuality and ego. As a consequence, I spend a lot of time in that blissful region of the brain where all is “one”. I get weepy at times when I feel the connections with so many who share their own stories and support at this time. We really do have more in common with each other as a species, as a community and as friends than we have dared to admit. I like this side of the brain. It joins, as one, the spiritual presence of my friends and colleagues without regard to generations, decades, or specific relationships. It sustains non-specific bliss and support from all, and in combinations never before thought of....
It sounds like his experience is similar in some respects to that of the neuroscientist Jill Bolte Taylor who wrote a book about how her stroke & subsequent recovery lit up her right hemisphere in such a way as to change her whole view and approach to life.
Interestingly there is a passage from "Ulysses" that frequently pops into my thoughts as well, and has done so for years and years since high school so that it's like a kind of mantra:
"I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro'
Gleams that untravell'd world whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move."
I think especially the line "I am a part of all that I have met" is the one that has always resonated.