I believe we each entertain the notion that we’re immortal. Being a card-carrying member of the Donna Summer, I’m-Gonna-Live-Forever crowd is part of our American meme and I lived that distinction with grand gusto — until one day fifteen years ago when I started walking funny. Not ha-ha funny, but rather, kind of odd-funny. As my grandfather might say, I had a hitch in my git-a-long. My legs seemed strangely disconnected from my upper carriage. To put it plainly, I didn’t walk — I lurched.
It was my habit at that time to arrive at my office an hour early, park my car and walk eight blocks back to a little coffee shop that not only had killer morning coffee, but also produced fine breads and muffins deep within the mystery of a large, hulking oven. People came for miles to buy their specialty breads, most notably their pungent asiago cheese bread. That morning ritual of walking the 16-block round trip coffee and muffin route was not only part of my exercise routine, it was also my time to gear up for what was always a grueling day in legal-land. I worked as a paralegal for a couple of really sharp, very busy environmental attorneys. The work was long, hard and deeply satisfying.
Until I started to lurch.
Walking those morning blocks soon became a challenge … not only for me, but for passers-by who felt compelled to avert their eyes from the lurching lady with a bouncing, scalding coffee in one hand and a swinging bread bag in the other. They gave me a wide berth and I couldn’t blame them a bit.
Something was obviously wrong and the more I wobbled, the wronger I felt.
It didn’t help that this was midtown Sacramento, an area populated by a wealth of eccentric and gregarious homeless individuals. With my lunging gait, I could have easily been mistaken as a well-dressed member of the morning crowd looking for a quick nip to overcome the previous evening’s bottle-in-a-paper-bag festivities. The more I wobbled, the more accurate that assessment might have seemed. Men shook their heads at me and women pulled their children close to their legs whenever I passed.
When one’s brilliance is darkened by the small gesture of a mother’s protective hand in response to a stranger’s ungainliness, it’s time to haul those lurching legs to the doctor for a consult. My doctor’s response? He grabbed the shoes off my feet and examined their soles as if therein contained the answer to all things medical. My shoes?
In case you’re paying attention, above are rough and skimpy notes chronicling the early days before my diagnosis with a brain tumor nearly fifteen years ago. I get nostalgic this time of year when I approach the anniversary of the removal of The Tumor. (Note, the capitol letters — IMHO, tumors are big deals and deserve to be treated as such.) I’ve recently been asked to write about my experience by a couple of friends — one who’s just been diagnosed with her own bright and shiny new brain tumor. To honor these kind, yet push-me-from-the-nest, requests, I’m hereby starting a string of posts about surviving a brain tumor and learning to live with the New Normal after brain surgery.
Please enjoy the musical interlude until tomorrow’s post.