two years ago today, i had my picture taken.
my ENT, dr. benton, had said that there was a one-in-a-million chance that my mysterious hearing loss in my left ear was caused by a brain tumor, and the MRI was to rule that out, so not to expect to hear from him for a week or so. when my phone rang a few hours after the MRI and it was him, all of the sudden that thing that only happens to somebody else was happening to me. he told me that i had that one-in-a-million brain tumor, and i needed to call a neurosurgeon right away.
so what do you do after a phone call like that? i truly hope that you never find out, and who am i to say what would be best for you? i can just tell you what i did. i walked a few blocks down my street to 7-11 and got a slurpee and some lottery tickets (one-in-a-million?! time to play the lottery.).
a year later i was back living in my house and just starting to be able to walk with a cane a few blocks. i took up the whole sidewalk back then, but on my first scanniversary i walked to the same 7-11 and bought a slurpee and 2 lottery tickets. i took myself out to dinner at the restaurant next door to my house, murphy’s, and wrote a thank-you letter to dr. benton. the guy saved my life by sending me for that MRI, and that had to be a terribly hard phone call to make. so i wanted to make sure that he knew that he had my gratitude on the anniversary of that call. i tucked one of the lottery tickets into my note.
and gratitude to my friend bucko barnhart who coined the word “scanniversary” – a good name is critical. and this one is perfect.
so the tradition has been set. my scanniversary is a day for me to perform feats of strength and gratitude. and to eat at murphy’s to celebrate.
in the year since my last scanniversary i’ve gone from who my local newspaper referred to as a “vulnerable pedestrian” to someone who has easily finished 3 official 5K walks. so it seemed fitting that i walk from my new apartment to my old 7-11, about 2 miles away.
blue sky and fluffy white clouds greeted me when i left my apartment.
i headed south along the river. i thought about how happy i am to live in corvallis. how happy i am just to live. truly happy. when i was diagnosed, i was feeling the best i’d ever felt, and i was in the best shape of my life. when i was recovering, i couldn’t get any exercise and i wasn’t in good shape at all. i’d gained a lot of weight – understandable, but it made me feel like i wasn’t me. once i could start walking long distances i started losing weight. and now that i’m living downtown i can go to my gym everyday. i do strength training at i do an hour on the elliptical. i’m feeling really strong, and when i see my reflection, i look like me. well almost. i used to always wear my hair pulled back, and since my head was partially shaved for my surgeries i needed to cut it really short. i’ve actually really enjoyed having short hair, but i want to be able to pull it back. so i’m growing it out. once i can pull it back – so soon – i’ll look “right” again.
so i thought about this stuff and more while i passed the skatepark and made my way into southtown. then 7-11 was in view.
i really couldn’t believe how quickly i got there. until pretty recently, i couldn’t walk and think about other things. the act of walking required all of my concentration. but i read a book about walking meditation and decided to try the technique of inhaling for a certain number of strides (3 works for me) and exhaling and smiling for the same number of strides. thinking back, that’s how i mastered using my thoughts for something other than thinking about the mechanics of walking when i was walking.
the guys who work in the 7-11 were glad to see me. i’m constantly surprised by the folks who have noticed me on this journey and are cheering me on. i got my slurpee and my lottery tickets and headed out to the curb. i sat down on it and looked at the clouds and drank my slurpee. no brain freeze (is that meaningful?).
this set-up is significant because it’s more progress. pre-stroke, i loved to sit on the ground. post-stroke, the ground was a place i didn’t go, because i couldn’t get back up on my own. in my house, in private, i spent a lot of time practicing different ways of balancing myself so that i could manage it – some daintier than others. just recently, i’ve been able to start sitting on the floor and curbs and steps. more of the new normal. and more gratitude for the me a few months ago who did the unglamorous practicing. i raise my slurpee in thanks, kriste.
after my slurpee, i crossed the street (now i can make it across while the lights are still flashing!) and walked to murphy’s. settled down in a familiar booth.
a feat of gratitude to follow a feat of strength – wrote my thank you letter to dr. benton. told him some of my accomplishments from the past year. thanked him for my life. gave him the bacon-related lottery ticket because i’m a vegetarian. got down to the business of eating my salad until the croutons were gone, at which point i’m finished with my salad. had a veggie burger which the owners keep for me in the freezer. lost count of how many drinks i had, which is fine because i was drinking arnold palmers. splurged and had a slice of cake for dessert.
ritual matters in my recovery. when i think about it, celebrating my “scanniversary” has helped me redefine something so that it’s helpful for me. getting that news changed my life for sure, and my life is better now than it was. that day two years ago didn’t ruin my life, it improved it. and ultimately, that day was just july 20th, and i choose to use july 20th to remind myself of how important choosing your attitude is, and how much of a survivor i’ve turned out to be, and of the wonderful people (from the guys at 7-11 to dr. benton) who have helped me get from july 20, 2009 to july 20, 2011.
so put july 20, 2012 on your calendar and help me celebrate my scanniversary. you have a whole year to get ready for your feats of strength and gratitude. maybe we can meet at murphy’s after for a celebratory dinner.