Each body, tumor, and outcome is unique. Each scar following surgery is different. Some are a lovely “C” circling the ear. Some leave a creative “S” trailing down into the neck. Mine is a cornered two sided triangle, which I thought was appropriate for my scientific background. Some have a scar above the ear, or none if the surgeons went into the ear directly. It’s all in the surgical approach as well as the approach of the surgeon. I recall the residents talking about incisions and how they are the recognizable signature of surgeons.
As with our scars – or lack of scars – each aspect of our experiences are different. We like to say that we are as unique as snowflakes.
Some people skate through the experience of Acoustic Neuroma diagnosis and treatment. It is a stop on their journey rather than a radical branch in life’s road. Others are debilitated and their life is changed forever. Many of those who were changed band together in support groups to share and encourage. I have seen a unique strength and humor in each person, whether in the status of Watch-and-wait, post-radiation, or post-surgery.
Symptoms prior to an AN diagnosis vary a lot. I found out that I had a brain tumor growing in my head for ten to fifteen years. It had grown to the size of a ping pong ball, just short of 3 cm. I had no bothersome symptoms, although in hindsight I recognized signs.
For example, my facial nerve was flattened like a ribbon across the growing tumor, and I started to experience mysterious symptoms. The size of my eyes was different in pictures. Very odd, but how would one link that to a brain tumor? I had a strange sensation on my face. My right eye was watering excessively. I felt like I was drooling on one side, but felt nothing when I would check the corner of my mouth.
Balance is a common issue that can lead to a diagnosis when one finds them self dizzy and possible falling. However, for me, the tumor grew slowly and my left side was able to take over my body’s balance issues. I have had some issues after surgery, but the doctors were surprised that I had not experienced issues prior given the tumor size.
Hearing loss and tinnitus is what brought me to the doctor, while for some it isn’t an issue. It depends on how much of the tumor is in the skull pushing on the brain and brain-stem versus how much is growing into the ear canal. I was expecting a “nothing can be done about it” diagnosis of aging, but had learned of Meniere’s Disease and had heard of issues with inner-ear bones. I was shocked to hear brain tumor.
And then there’s the journey after diagnosis and treatment. I’ll continue to address each of those areas as they each warrant a complete post.
Unique is the word of the day. That is what brings each of our stories into color. . .