You know how life situations hit you when you least expect it and you’re caught off guard? Well that’s how my July 4th weekend started out. I never expected to have the following conversation:
“Your MRI shows a lesion on your brain. It’s located in the speech center and it’s about the size of dime. Let me show you what we’ve found.” This was how I learned why I had been having problems with speech. I’d ignored the symptoms for several weeks. My speech was slurred intermediately and I conveniently decided that my mouth was just losing it’s pucker. The image on the computer screen showed an almost perfectly round spot. Looking at it was very surreal. My mind went from “this can’t be happening” to “look at that…it’s so small so I’m not really worried.”
I had gotten all kinds to evidence that something was not right. “You’re slurring your words” my husband pointed out during a phone conversation several weeks ago. “No I’m not!” I replied. “It’s probably a bad connection” I remarked. “Not to worry” I reassured him. A couple of weeks later I was talking to my sister-again on the phone. She made the same comment about my speech. I blew it off and blamed it on the phone connection. A part of me didn’t want to really listen to myself so I ignored it…..until I found myself getting tongue tied more often. Looking in the mirror one day last week I noticed a slight droop in my upper right-hand lip. I also noticed that when I talked my mouth just wasn’t cooperating.
I talk for a living…on a weekly radio program, on video interviews, on podcasts and speaking gigs. I’m all about communicating especially through speech; so the thought of not having the ability to speak was terrifying. That’s why I decided to ignore the slurred speech and drooping lip.
However, as my speech worsened and the sagging mouth became more pronounced, my husband demanded that we go to my physician. My doctor sent us to the emergency room. It was a quiet time in the ER so we had everyone’s immediate attention. The process of elimination had begun. Trying to figure out what was causing my speech issues was now “job one”. Blood work was ordered and an MRI and CT scan. I had convinced myself I had Bell’s palsy. It’s a condition of uncertain origins although research is pointing to a virus. It’s characterized by paralysis of half of the face. It’s usually a temporary condition which is why Bell’s palsy got my vote.
However, the tests ruled out stroke and Bell’s palsy. The results of a lesion was the farthest thing from my mind. It’s very strange to have someone talking about your brain with a growth on it. The facts don’t sink in immediately. My reaction was kind of an “out of body” thing where I could see these two people in a hospital room. One of them was showing an image on a computer screen and pointing to a small round blob on a brain scan. The other person was sitting perfectly still on a hospital bed. Her face showed no emotion. The feelings would come later after the doctors and nurses had gone. I started to let the situation slowly sink in and tried to figure out “why me?” I don’t have an answer…..yet.
One thing I do know is that writing about this experience and what I’m learning is important. It’s important for me. It’s also important for others who face big, life changing events. We’re all in this together and we learn from each other. This situation certainly got my attention. Even in this short period of time since I learned the diagnosis I’ve started to understand to spend time on things that are really important. Let go of stupid stuff and focus on what will make a difference. I know I’m just one person, but I have a gift for writing and writing very powerfully.
This is a very human experience and involves a range of emotions and physical challenges. I know we can all learn something that will help us be better human beings: better parents, better friends, better lovers, better co-workers. Sometimes we all need a wakeup call that reminds us to stop going through the daily motions of life and pay attention to what’s really important.
This is one of those times. I’ll keep you posted.