Monday, October 15, 2012

Lifestyle: Happy that I can smile :)

"We have good news, we didn't find cancer, we were able to excise the tumour by removing the entire gland, and our tests confirm, it did not become cancerous and it has not spread!  You will experience facial paralysis on the right side of your face, for 3 - 6 months, but please don’t worry, it is temporary..."

Two years ago today I heard the faint voice of my surgeon tell me the above.  What did I feel: Relief, Euphoria, Happiness, Love, Faith, Lucky? All of the f*%ing above!

I think it’s important to be thankful and remember every single obstacle you have to go through on this journey of life to get to the top of the mountain.  I am getting closer to that mountain and realised there are many mountains for me to climb and reach the top of, and this is just the beginning.

2 years ago, I went to my doctor to find out what could be done for the many sinus related issues I was having.  On her advice, I went to numerous specialists until ultimately I was referred to the ENT who literally changed my life!

It was a pretty routine visit, questions about history, issues I was having and anything odd that needed to be brought to his attention. Now, I was at this visit to inquire about my sinus issues, so when I told him about this tiny bump I had under my ear, I was pretty sure that it was nothing, as my GP had concluded, “It was nothing to worry about”, so I was already committed to that opinion. Nonetheless, I brought it to his attention.

There is a tiny chill you will experience when the demeanour of your Doctor changes when he’s trying to alert you or is about to discuss with you something of concern that somehow may be life changing.

Needless to say, he was concerned about the tiny bump, my initial reasons for the visit were put on the back-burner and from that point forward, the course of action that my life was about to take, all of the various tests/scans, the agonizing and waiting would lead me to the scariest 8 months of my life.

This tiny bump, was cause for concern, it was a tumour and therefore I was quickly scheduled for a number of tests to help conclude whether it was what the doctor assumed it to be.  I got a call from my GP’s office regarding the test results, which stated that the tumour was benign (non-cancerous), so of course when I heard this news I was once again committed to this conclusion and felt safe.  So when I got the call from the specialists office to come in and see him regarding the results, I was already on cloud 9 and assumed it was a due diligence visit.  After all, everything was fine.

That was not the case!  My assumption was wrong.  The tests concluded that I had a tumour; it was a special kind of tumour that changes over time and becomes a malignant (cancerous) tumour. There was no way to know how long that would take to happen; therefore the tumour had to be removed.  On top of that news, I was also told that the surgery has major complications as there was no clear way of knowing prior to the surgery how intricate this tumour was.  The position of the tumour could be affecting my facial nerves and that there was a chance that I would lose permanent movement from the right side of my face post surgery.  

This complication could result in not being able to blink, close my eyes or smile properly. I would lose the ability to show expressions correctly.  This was a lot of detailed information and therefore I was encouraged to get a second opinion before making a final decision, but the only decision was to remove the tumour.


That is how I felt as he was telling me the news.  My safe bubble had popped...I couldn't figure out what just happened, only a few hours before this visit, I was euphoric, and now I was crashing like no tomorrow, and all I did was try to absorb the information as best as I could, and I wanted to run.  I had to take the long elevator ride down to the lobby, walk to my car as fast as I could and then sit in my car in the parking lot and cry.

My course of action was clear, the tumour had to be removed and I confirmed and booked the surgery.  Unfortunately, I was placed on a waiting list with no timeline on when I would have my surgery.  No way of knowing whether the tumour would change as I waited. The only thing I did know was that the tumour was growing at a rapid rate.  So I had no choice but to wait.

Was this a dark period for me? Was this something that could have broken me? Did this make me want to not be around anyone? Feel a little selfish? YES!

I chose to let this be a learning period for me.  This whole experience taught me patience, learning not to stress about the small things, learning how to be more pro-active about health, learning about what I was dealing with and facing the facts.  It taught me to be less dismissive about my health and ultimately it taught me how to appreciate who I was, why I was here, what goals I had left to accomplish, what I wanted out of my life and appreciate the people that were in my life.  I would continue climbing those mountains, no matter what.

Fast forward to the surgery day, the 8 months of waiting, worrying, talking with friends and family, feeling their support, trying to be calm and peaceful I faced my surgery.  How did I do that? By being as calm as a cucumber, saying a prayer and leaving my outcome in the capable hands of my amazing ENT/Surgeon and, of course, God.

I remember being awoken from an amazing sleep to flashing lights and noises and wondering who had turned the lights on since I wanted to sleep in. I remember trying to move to the side that I sleep on, which turns out to be the side of the surgery and being informed by the nurses not to move, not knowing who the F was trying to mess with my sleep.  Then, it hit me where I was and everything came back, washing over me like Oceanic waves.  I didn't feel scared, I didn't feel lost, I felt relieved, I was happy to be awake and knowing that everything was going to be fine. 

My surgeon came by and gave me the news as stated above.  I was elated, I didn't have cancer, it had not spread and the tumour was taken out in the safest smartest way they could, they removed the entire gland that contained the tumour.  The nerves were protected and left intact, however I did experience temporary facial paralysis which lasted for about 4 months, permanent numbness on the right side of my face, an indent on where the gland was, perspiration on the side of my face any time I think or eat food and a 7 inch scar, which in the last two years, is hardly visible.  If you haven't seen me in a few years, you would never really know anything had happened.

I was left with the gift of life, the gift of living life on my own terms, the gift to conquer my mountains, the gift of being able to smile as much as I possibly can. 

I reflect on where I was today 2 years ago, where it took me emotionally, how I grew and adapted to become the person I am now.  It was a dark period in my life, but it taught me to appreciate life, and to really go after my hopes and dreams and to appreciate all the love and support I received from all of my loved ones.  I am going after my dreams, climbing those mountains and ultimately this experience taught me, no matter what, you should...

 Always Smile! - :) Sand