It has been 18 days since I had the baseball sized tumor removed from head and neck. After 17 hours in the operating room, one night in the “ICU”, 4 nights on the James Cancer Hospital head and neck oncology floor, 6 nights in the Dodd Rehabilitation Hospital, a 2 hour second surgery, and then one more night at the James, I am finally home.
I am making progress. Each and every day is another battle I wake up fighting. As a result of my surgery I lost my external right carotid artery and cranial nerves 9,10, and 12 with damage to 11. The surgery went so well. As well as it anyone could have ever wished and prayed for. My incision is healing beautifully.
Due to positioning during the surgery, I am still unable to move/feel my ankle and foot. There was damage done high in my sciatic nerve and although it is very frustrating to be unable to walk, the nerve will repair over time and will fully heal.
I truly cannot begin to describe to you the amount of change that I have encountered within my life over the past 18 days. While the physical changes are currently the most apparent, they are the changes I feel the least.
The scar is new. The bruises are new. The scabs are new. The leg damage is new. The inability to swallow is new. The inability to talk is new. The Horner’s Syndrome is new. The inability to move my right shoulder is new. The weight loss is new. The bags under my eyes are new.
But, I don’t care about those things. They mean nothing to me. They are frustrating and bothersome. But, I don’t care.
To me, what is most different is my mind; my mind and my heart.
Over the past 18 days I have never felt happier. In a time so easy to be down, I simply have never been happier. It is unbelievable. I know. I look at each day in a way I never knew to before. I think about how I wake up alive. I wake up breathing. I wake up surrounded by love. I wake up able to turn and tell my mom I love her. I wake up overly grateful. For anything. For everything. I learned quickly that it isn’t about solving all problems. Life is not about eliminating the imperfections. Everyone has battles and everyone has flaws. It’s about accepting those and learning to live with them and turn them into motivation. I can’t change my flaws. I can’t eliminate my inability to talk. I can’t eliminate my inability to walk. But I can do so much more than I can’t.
The tumor doesn’t matter.
The scars don’t matter.
My troubles don’t matter.
I learned what love feels like over the past 18 days. I have never felt more loved before. The smiles. The prayers. The flowers. The cards. The hugs. The kisses.
It is beautiful. Life is so beautiful. I am so happy this happened to me. I needed it. I needed to be shown the importance of life and love. The importance of each day. The importance of kindness and prayer. The importance of myself.
I love life now.
I was given these battles to fight and learn. To struggle and push myself. To teach and to love. I have done all these things. I will continue to do all of these things.
Love hard. Love fully. Love like someone is dealing with something so detrimental each day. Realize what you have and how beautiful they are.
It changes everything.