Recovery by numbers

April 22, 2009

People often ask what I have been doing with all my time off work. Well, recovery from major surgery takes time and these are the kind of numbers that get you there…

1 Meningioma
1 Craniotomy
4 CT Scans
1 Chest x-ray
3 GPs
1 Neurosurgeon
1 Senior Neurosurgical Resident
5+ Interns/Residents (doctors in training)
3 Anesthestists
10+ Nurses
2 Neurologists
1 Social Worker
1 Physiotherapist
1 Pharmacist
10 Receptionists 
6 Imaging Technicians
3 Film library people
1 Naturopath
1 Osteopath
1 Cleaner
4 hours of surgery
1 Night in Neuro ICU
2.5 days in hospital
35 Staples
5 Stitches
3 Titanium plates
6 Titanium screws
3  Imaginary smells
3 Prescribed drugs
2 Over the counter drugs
7+ Vitamins/Supplements 
4 Homeopathic remedies
1 Complete diet overhaul
1 Husband
1 Dog
3 House guests
2 Provincial health cards
3 Health Benefits case workers
1 Dent
2 Boxes Purdey’s Chocolates
73+ Blog post
112+ Blog comments
4,500+ Blog hits (not bad going for a measly blog about my brain)
13 weeks off work

Yes, that’s 40+ medical professionals I have seen in the last 4 months. Those are the people I remember through my drug induced haze, which means there must be a good 10 more that I don’t recall.

What should this list tell you? It is essential to know how to navigate the health system.

Back to it

April 13, 2009

When I went for my first CT scan that eventually led to my diagnosis, I had lived in Toronto for less than 3 months. I still had my Alberta health card, and had only just moved into my apartment. Frankly there is nothing like finding out you have a brain tumour when you are on the other side of the country from your best friends and family. Add to that the fact that I was grounded and could not fly to see them.

It was just over a week ago now that the neurosurgeon gave me the all clear saying I could get back to life as normal. No restrictions.

I can now drink caffeine and alcohol, exercise, drive, fly, and work again.

The day after receiving the good news I booked flights to Alberta and left 2 days later. It was such a relief to be able to get away after being stuck here for 4 months. Now I hate flying as it is, but flying for the first time after brain surgery gave me a whole new level of anxiety. 

My head was fine however, and for once I didn’t throw up (yes, I’m “that” person). The titanium clips in my head didn’t even set off the machines at security screening.

Caffeine I have passed on… for now at least. I stopped craving it after about 4 weeks so I am going to attempt life without it. I took my Dad’s C350 out for a spin, drank wine, and arranged to be back at work part time in 2 weeks.

Today I checked my final conquest off my list. A successful 4km run. It was perhaps the shortest run I have done in years, but I’ll take it, all things considered. I am glad to get the first run under my belt so I can now start rebuilding my fitness without trepidation. People and busy places can make me tired, running it seems, does not. 

When I look back it is incredible to think about what has happened in the past few months. The unlikelihood of it all, the fact it happened to ME. The fact I happened to move to a city with a top medical community, that I found out I had a brain tumour of all things, that it was successfully removed… and then experienced (in the words of my surgeon) a remarkable recovery. Here I am able to tell the story.


Life is amazing.


I am on a constant look out for all natural products. Being back in Alberta this week I rediscovered Rocky Mountain Soap Company. How did I forget about them, I always used to drop into their store every time I went to Banff! Their products are 100% natural, (not in a hippy-dippy inaccessible way) and give a list of ingredients they feel we all need to avoid. 

They have an online store so now all us displaced Albertans can still buy their products, plus many vendors across Canada who sell select products.

The neurosurgeon says…

April 2, 2009

The tumour was 100% removed, no residual tumour remains.

Pathology states that the tumour was definitely benign & WHO Grade 1.

The cerebral edema is now 100% gone.

Incision has healed perfectly.

I can now drink caffeine, and alcohol. Can’t go too crazy on the alcohol though as it lowers seizure threshold. I can also exercise without restrictions, just have to build up like anyone who has been off exercise for a few months.


The fact I am having olfactory hallucinations means my brain has some unusual electrical activity going on, it’s probably re-jigging itself. Add to this the fact I can taste food means that my sense of smell will most likely come back. Apparently if your sense of smell has truly gone, food tastes like straw. Being a neurological issue it could take a year the prognosis looks good!

I am one seriously happy lady! My life of riley is over though, bittersweet, bittersweet.

So as you may have guessed I had a CT scan today in preparation for my follow-up appointment tomorrow. The CT itself is a doddle, but the contrast IV today was painful!

It took 4, *YES 4*, tries for them to get that needle in! The first 2 veins were “rolling” which the tech said is when the needle pushes the vein out the way rather than penetrating it. Maybe this was an excuse for inexperience, I don’t know. The third vein went ok but the needle slipped out (of the vein not my arm), then the tech burst my vein. ICK. This unsurprisingly left me with an instant and large blue bump of a bruise. It hurts. Fourth vein lucky, and in went that contrast solution.

I was dehydrated which I don’t think helped. MUST remember to drink lots of water before needles!

Before surgery Meningioma, bilateral frontal edema.


Day after surgery Pneumocephalus (air in the cranial cavity), hemorrhage, bilateral frontal edema stable. *Slightly different slice.


Day after surgery Lots of staples, and 3 plates/screws.


Today 3 plates/screws