selfie with electrodes on my neck

Happy New Year!

I’m a little overdue for an update, so I thought I’d start my new year out doing just that.

This past Tuesday made 11 weeks post-op and I’m fast approaching my 3 month mark. Things have for the most part been going well and I continue to improve day by day. I have been walking two dog clients these past few weeks, and this next week I take the rest of my pre-surgery schedule back for a total of 4 daily dog walks. We’ll see how I manage that in addition to continuing 2x/week PT and the addition of 2x/week speech therapy. It feels like a lot but there’s no way to build back my endurance without pushing it a little, so I’m gonna try and see how it goes. My undying gratitude to Jen Sharp who has been walking all my dogs all this time since October and keeping my human clients happy until I could get back to them. It’s a huge gift to have a job/business to return to after an almost 3 month absence. I won’t likely be adding any new dogs or any pet sitting to the mix for a while until I’m certain I can handle what I’ve got, so please hit Jen up (or ask me to connect you) if you locals have petsitting or dog walking needs.

PT is winding down. I’m still scheduled through January 11th, so a few more sessions, but I’ll be “graduating” soon! This past week I advanced to using the weight machines, instead of the leg exercises w/ankle weights I’d been doing. (I still do the exercises at home every day.) I think my balance is back to normal and my legs and core are in pretty good shape. We still spend about half my sessions doing the eye exercises, which have been getting a tiny bit easier to do. My ST thinks my eyes have improved a lot in the time I’ve been seeing her, and I will say that I’ve had about a week of “good eye days” now. My vision isn’t perfect on those days, it’s just not so blurry that I notice it a lot and I don’t feel impeded by it. So that is good!

I still haven’t figured out an ophthalmologist to go see. If anyone local has a good reference, lemme know. I do think I’m gonna need a new prescription but I’d rather see an actual medical doctor since my nerves are involved. My current eye doctor is just an optometrist and I frankly don’t think he got my last prescription right, so I need to see someone new.

The big news is that I started back to speech therapy. My ENT finally put the order through for the VitalStim therapy, so we did that for the first time yesterday. The attached pic is me all hooked up with electrodes all over my neck – not a sexy photo, for sure, but wanted to share what it looks like. The electrodes are attached to a little machine that controls the intensity. The electricity pulses up and down slowly, and it took a minute to figure out that sweet spot where it wasn’t so intense that it was super uncomfortable but was intense enough that it feels like it’s reaching the right muscles to affect them. IT IS THE WEIRDEST FEELING IN THE WORLD, especially on one’s neck/throat! It took some getting used to but after a few minutes, I did. And then we just had our usual session, with me doing my vocal exercises plus some new ones, intermittently sipping from a water bottle so I could swallow as many times as possible while hooked up. Can’t say that I see any difference so far but I’m told after a few sessions I should start seeing some improvement in my swallowing ability, and it might even help my vocal fold paralysis some. (Not guaranteed but could be a delightful side effect.) So crossing fingers. I have back to back PT and ST 2x/week til the 11th when PT is over, and then will go to 3x/week on the ST through January. And then at some point, they will have me do another swallow study to see if this therapy has indeed helped. (I go back to Dr. Ballay, the ENT, on the 26th of this month for a follow-up.)

What else? Oh, I have driven at night a few times now, successfully, and yesterday I got caught in a storm while driving over the CCC bridge on my way to PT/ST. But it was fine! So that is progress! Driving is still a little tricky sometimes, depending on how my eyes are doing, but I’ve pretty much adapted to using tricks and cheats to get me through safely. It’s really great feeling independent again. (I probably still won’t like driving at night anytime soon, though.)

I have a few overdue thanks to folks for food they’ve made me. Anita delivered me the most delicious homemade spanakopita the weekend before Christmas; I ate some and froze the rest and have been periodically enjoying some since. (I heated some up for breakfast this morning! So good!) My neighbor Rhonda has now twice made me Crawfish Monica, the second time being last night for my New Year’s Eve dinner! So delicious and sweet of her to do! And Audra has kept me supplied with the most amazing soups in multiple deliveries; her butternut squash (or was it acorn squash?) soup is to die for! I really am so very grateful for everyone’s kindness and generosity. Though I am certainly well enough now to feed myself, those who know me well know that cooking is not my forté and if I won the lottery my very first indulgence would be to hire a personal chef so I never had to think about what or how to feed myself again. So I am always and particularly grateful for the gift of food. (This is not me asking for any more food or monetary donations, just being grateful for those who have provided me with such.)

Speaking of which… I don’t know what to do with this Mealtrain site. When I first decided to do my updates here, it seemed logical and I was trying to cut down on having multiple sites to keep up with. We – my friends who have helped administer this site – collectively decided to pay for the premium service, though I don’t even remember anymore what that entails. But now that I no longer need meals, donations or even rides, it seems silly to keep paying for this site and using it for updates. Do y’all even still want updates somewhere other than my regular social media? Should I find another site to continue updates? Or should I just keep using this one? Not sure what to do now that my health is approaching something closer to “normal” and there’s less to report on the regular. (Which is in no way to say I won’t still be dealing with my recovery for the next many months, and well, my neurosurgeon and I haven’t even started discussing my SECOND meningioma and what to do about it. But the frequency with which I actually have enough to share that constitutes an “update” is definitely lessening.) Please let me know your thoughts.

So there ya have it. My New Year’s update. I’m glad we are done with 2020. There was a lot of awful to go around, for most everyone. But I am trying to remain focused on all the positive things that happened last year and all that I learned through the pandemic and my brain surgery journey. I remain grateful to every single one of you who is reading this, for whatever ways you helped me, cared for me, loved me through 2020. I hope you can feel the love and gratitude I am sending back out to you.

Happy New Year, everyone!

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