Truly Julie with a full head of hair at 3 months! 7) I’m grateful my brain tumor has brought my family closer together. We hit a rough patch after my dad passed. He was the glue. However, my health scare reminded us that it’s not worth arguing about things that don’t matter…with people that matter.
8) I’m happy hair grows back. I know it sounds vain and silly…but it was hard having a third of it buzzed. You can’t see a tumor (excluding X-ray). But you can see long locks hitting the floor & you most certainly can hear the loud humming of a shaver. Plus…I’ve always joked that God didn’t give me height but he gave me a lot of hair. Look at my baby picture above…I was born with a full mop! So to lose some of that identity was unsettling. However, that discomfort was short lived. My hair is growing back fast…and luckily, the bald, patchy parts are in the back of my head so it’s easier to conceal. Again…very trivial thing to worry about given the scope of everything. Regardless, I’m thankful that I’m healthy enough to re-grow hair.
9) I’m grateful I had the chance to work with Lighthouse International for the years I was in New York. For 5 years, I emceed its scholarship lunch where college students with vision loss accomplished the unthinkable. I’ll never forget the story of one scholarship recipient. She was blind since birth. At a young age, she became a single mom to a down syndrome child. Despite the challenges…she worked hard, excelled at school, and replaced the thought of “disability” with “this ability”. Long story short, she got into a masters program at Yale. There…she married a man who respected and admired her for her differences…and had two more children. We honored her with a scholarship so she can continue her work on developing algorithms that benefit those with vision impairment. I also volunteered at the Lighthouse’s Saturday school…where children with vision loss learned how to cook, use computer programs, play instruments, make arts & crafts, etc. They focused on being handy…not “handicapped”. I share these experiences because I genuinely think the Lighthouse was put in my path to help me through this journey: one of the greatest risks of my surgery was the possibility of losing my vision. Last week…my vision test with my neuro-opthalmologist was a bit discouraging. It’s been almost 5 weeks since my brain tumor surgery, and yet, my right field of vision is still impaired. This picture on the left is a diagram of both of my eyes. The black parts are where I can’t see. Will it get better? Maybe. Maybe not. That is out of my control. What is under my control is how I look at it. I’m grateful that I have any vision at all. I’m blessed that my left field of vision was unimpacted. I’m thankful to have met so many abled folks at the Lighthouse to know…that it’s more important to celebrate what you can do than it is to dwell on what you can’t do. Recognizing this analogy may sound trivial, but here’s how I look at it…you can complain that you have so much laundry to do. Or be thankful that you are in a well enough place to own clothes and to have access to clean water. My vision may be compromised…but I hope my spirit never falters.
10) I’m thankful for having health insurance. My brain surgery cost was equivalent to buying a 4-bedroom home. In the initial stages…it wasn’t clear if I’d be covered. At times…you have to have the procedure first, then file a claim…and only then will you find out what part of your procedure will be covered. So, in addition to the scare of having a clementine size tumor in my brain…I was also fearful of going bankrupt. Not to mention…so many of your choices – doctors, hospitals, prescriptions, pre-op/post-op care – are limited by your insurance plan. For the millions who face this dilemma…I empathize with you on a new level.
11) I’m appreciative for my appetite. I didn’t feel like eating a thing for the week I was in the hospital. And once I could eat…my jaw hurt too much to bite on anything good. I could only open it by a centimeter or so. Since the entry to my tumor was through the back of my head…they had me on my face for the 6 hour surgery. Between that and having a breathing tube wedged into my mouth…my jaw was stiff as a board for weeks. We as a society focus so much on NOT eating. Don’t forget…craving and enjoying food (with balance) is a sign of health. So joyful that my appetite came back just in time for the holidays:) Above is my mom’s Korean New Year’s dumpling soup and cucumber kimchee. Mmmmmmm.
12) I’m beyond grateful for what lies ahead. Remember in my last blog post I talked about how you don’t have to see to have a vision? I can already tell that 2014 is going to be a lot brighter. When someone loves you at your worst…weakest…and without a sure answer of how you’ll be after a major brain operation… it provides clarity like you have 20/20 vision. Good bye, tumor. Hello, new year…new chapter.