A Box of Sunshine

It can be hard to know what to do when a friend is going through a difficult recovery. Many of my friends sent flowers, and those were appreciated. But then one rainy winter afternoon the doorbell rang, and when I opened the door, I saw a box.

It had been sent by a friend from grad school. While we have kept up on Facebook, we haven’t actually seen each other in almost twenty years.  As I opened the box, I felt a rush of excitement. She had cared enough to take time out of her busy schedule to send a care package to me. I had so much fun emptying the box and seeing each surprise revealed. It hadn’t cost a fortune to buy the random assortment of treats, but each one represented love and goodwill. Everything in the box was yellow or orange! How did she know that I needed a bit of sunshine in the middle of this cold, dark winter?

☀️

I truly have some of the sweetest and most creative friends on the planet!

So, if you have a friend who is in the middle of a difficult recovery, here is an idea. Send them a box filled with sunshine.

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Boston Marathon Survivor’s Story

She had a spinal cord tumor. She had the surgery. She was told she wouldn’t run again. She showed them that they were wrong.

Walk it off…

Being diagnosed with a spinal cord tumor opened me up to an entire world I didn’t know existed before. It probably has a lot to do with google’s algorithms, but suddenly it seems like I am constantly stumbling upon more information about people who have been through surgery to get rid of a spinal cord tumor.

An excellent example is actor Ruth Marshall. You may not recognized her name immediately, but Ruth Marshall is an actor who played a mother to one of the teen characters on the television show Degrassi: The Next Generation. She has also acted in Hollywood films including Casino Jack and Dolores Claiborne.

The reason she is now appearing in this blog is that in 2012, she was diagnosed with a spinal cord tumor. Now that I have had my surgery, I can say her story reminds me how lucky I am (more details about my case coming soon). I heard her interview on the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Company) radio. You can listen for yourself by clicking this link to What’s it like to re-learn how to run, walk, pee, and have sex? ‘Degrassi’ actor tells her story

I plan to get a copy of her book: Walk it Off

Here is a summary from the publisher:
Ruth Marshall—power mom, wife, actor, and daughter—was in great health, until one day, her feet started to tingle. She visited doctors and specialists for tests, but no one could figure out the cause of her symptoms. Was she imagining those pesky tingles? She tried to brush it off, even as she tripped over curbs and stumbled into people. Clumsiness is charming, right?

But when Ruth suddenly couldn’t feel her legs at all, she knew something was terribly wrong. Her fears were confirmed by an MRI revealing a rare tumour that had been quietly growing on her spine for more than a decade. Within days, surgery was scheduled, and after the intense eight-hour ordeal, Ruth woke up to find her legs and feet had forgotten how to do…well, everything. The question that burned in her mind was, “Will I ever walk again?”

What Ruth thought would be three days in the hospital turned into months of rehabilitation as she relearned not only how to walk, run, pee, and even have sex again, but how to better appreciate everyone around her—including her devoted husband, her two young sons, her worried parents, her sisters, her loving friends, and the caring staff at the rehab center who help her tackle her recovery head-on.

Laugh-out-loud outrageous and searingly honest, this is a memoir that not only entertains but inspires readers to put their best foot forward and walk off anything life throws their way.

I will write a review here after I have finished reading it. If any of you have read it, would love to know what you think about it.

Questions for your first consultation with the doctor…

Here is a list of questions that I am compiling in preparation for my first consultation with my neurosurgeon.

  • What type of tumor do I have?
  • I’ve been told the tumor is probably benign, do you agree?
  • What is the natural course of my condition if not addressed?
  • What are my treatment options?
  • What are the treatment goals?
  • Do I need additional tests before we can decide on treatment options?
  • Which treatment option do you recommend?
  • Will the treatment eliminate the current symptoms?
  • What are the risks/side effects?
  • What are the pros/cons of beginning treatment sooner rather than waiting?
  • What should I do to prepare for treatment? Can I continue my current exercise routine? Should I add/subtract anything?
  • How long will the treatment/recovery take?
  • How long is the hospital stay?
  • How long will I be out of work?
  • If I need surgery, do you perform the whole procedure? Will students/other surgeons be doing any parts of the operation? If yes, who are they and what are their qualifications? 
  • Who else will assist you in the operation? What are their background and qualifications?
  • How long would I need to stay in Houston?
  • What is the success rate for this treatment?
  • What is the long-term outlook/prognosis for my condition?
  • What type of follow-up will I need after treatment?
  • I am thinking about going for a second opinion. Is there someone there you would recommend?
  • Can I talk to any other patients who have undergone similar treatment?

If I do need surgery:

  • What kind of pain should I expect post-op? And for how long?
  • How long will I be in the hospital?
  • Will I need to have inpatient PT/rehab following the surgery? If yes, for how long?
  • Will I be able to get adequate PT follow up when I get back home?
  • Will I need any special equipment after surgery (i.e. a back brace, a walker)?
  • How often will I need to come to Houston for follow-up care after the surgery?
  • Do you have any previously existing ties with neurosurgeons/neurologists in my area?
  • What will I do (who do I call) if I have problems after I am back home post-surgery?
  • What kind of assistance will I need during the recovery period?
  • When will I be able to drive?
  • If I have surgery to remove the tumor, what is the likelihood that I will develop another one in the future?

Can you think of anything I missed?

Here are some relate links:

https://www.spine-health.com/blog/40-questions-ask-your-surgeon-back-surgery

https://www.spine-health.com/treatment/spine-specialists/specific-questions-ask-your-spine-surgeon

http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/conditions/surgical_care/questions_to_ask_before_surgery_85,p01409