*Note: This post and all others to follow were written post-op.
As my surgery date crept closer anxiety was trying to work its way up from my core, and while I didn’t want to ignore it and keep it bottled up, I was determined to deal with it peacefully. This final pre-op week was all about maintaining peace, self-care, and connection to my family and friends.
In terms of physical self-care I opted for a 90-minute warm stone massage (yay for birthday day spa gift cards!), a few acupuncture treatments, morning walks on the beach alone, and running and brunching with friends. I stopped taking all supplements a week before, and continued my focus on nutrient-dense foods, while avoiding all those that may affect anesthesia or bleeding time.
In terms of emotional care I continued my morning and evening meditation practice, and tried to take advantage of as many fun opportunities as I could in that final week, in order to keep my spirits up. We took a family day trip to Big Sur, we took the kids to their first big concert at the Shoreline Amphitheater (to see Imagine Dragons–awesome show!), and we wrapped up my last night by watching an amazing fireworks show at the beach, to name a few. (I LOVE fireworks!)
While I spent a lot of time alone and managing my emotions, this was an incredible time of connection with loved ones as well. I am very fortunate to have a community of dear, thoughtful friends and family. One group of close girlfriends, for example, planned a sunrise blessing circle at the beach, which was one of the more heartwarming experiences I’ve ever been treated to. Another day my oldest childhood friend came to visit and we spent hours at the beautiful and peaceful Land of Medicine Buddha, getting lost in the woods, laughing and feeling free. Another day a sweet friend orchestrated a secret group effort to have more friends paint a section of a tree branch, which she delivered to me the evening before surgery, calling it the “Tree of Hugs.” These are just a few of the impactful ways in which my lovable community of friends reached out to support me. Allowing myself to soak up the love and warmth from this kind of outreach, rather than let fear and anxiety overwhelm me, absolutely helped to keep a genuine smile on my face and peace in my heart.
I recognize that I was fortunate to have so many people reaching out to me to offer support in so many ways, and I also knew that there was still more that I could (and needed to) ask for. I was not about to leave any stone unturned in my preparations for brain surgery. Per the recommendations in Peggy Huddleston’s book, I decided to share the following Facebook post and photo the day before surgery:
“Hi all! In an effort to find a deep sense of calm through this intense brain tumor adventure, I have been diligent about setting aside time to meditate at the start and end of every day. Though I am a meditation rookie, I am quite sure that my practice with guided imagery has had a giant impact on my ability to cope. One of the steps I follow is to imagine myself in “my ideal place of relaxation.” The first one that came to mind was a camping trip to Big Sur 15 years ago, before kids, when Simon and I took countless naps in the shade of the trees outside the tent, with the sound of the ocean in the background. Apparently there were no other times of significant relaxation for the next 15 years, since the only other one I could come up with was when I was lying on an inflatable raft on the Adriatic Sea on our kid-free trip last summer. (I love my children more than words can say; I guess I just haven’t *fully* learned yet how to relax in their presence.) ANYWAY, this most recent experience is the one that helps me best conjure a *fully* relaxed state of mind. I can still feel the soft raft beneath me, the warm sun shining on me, and my arms being refreshed in the cool, gently lapping water. I can look around and can clearly see the beauty, and can feel a strong sense of safety and peacefulness. I remember a mindful moment of joy and peace on that wonderful $8 yellow raft when I felt like I could fully “let go,” and I am actually able to now get myself back to BEING there in my mind. ❤
One of the other key steps in my practice is to imagine myself surrounded by love. (You guys have made that easy so far. <3) So…in my mind, when I relax on my raft, I imagine that you are all there (in a more glowy, hovering form), holding hands in a big, protective circle around me. The meditation guide says that at that time, I should ‘imagine every good wish that has ever been felt for me, being called home.’ (That part always makes me feel very warm and a little teary-eyed, since you guys are all so wonderful. <3)
It is suggested that I ask my friends and family to send focused thoughts of PEACE for at
least 30 minutes before surgery. If you are willing to imagine yourself in my Croatian yellow raft circle (which I highly recommend, as it’s a lovely place to be), or just think about a happy memory we’ve shared, while sending thoughts of peace to me on my yellow raft, I would love to soak up all that directed energy while waiting for surgery to begin at 8:15 AM on Monday. (So please send your thoughts starting around 7:30 or 7:45 AM- on.) Peace for my mind and heart, peace for my body, peace for my brain and cranial nerves all throughout the procedure and beyond, a peaceful departure of the tumor that has quietly resided there for so long, a peaceful recovery in the hospital and at home, and peace for my family. Thank you, thank you, thank you in advance.)”
All throughout the day friends commented and messaged me with their RSVP to my protective raft circle. People were genuine and loving in their replies, whether this was their “thing” or not. It’s kind of hippie-ish, I admit, and I felt a bit vulnerable asking for it because it felt pretty far along the hippie spectrum, which wasn’t necessarily my “thing” either, but that vulnerability made it even better. It was well-worth reaching out in those final hours for one last, very targeted sense of connection and support. Whether they were even on the hippie spectrum or not, or wanted to RSVP privately instead, about 150 people assured me that they would be a part of my yellow raft circle the next morning. To have that giant crew show up for me gave me an incredibly strong emotional boost through the hardest remaining hours, when anxiety could have easily overtaken me.
As I mentioned before, we took the kids to a fireworks show at the beach on that last night, which felt like a powerfully positive and beautiful way to wrap up my pre-op efforts. I had been dreading saying good-bye to my kids, since we were leaving for the hospital before they woke up in the morning, and they were going to be staying at home and school through my surgery. I was worried that I would totally burst into tears and worry them, but I was really actually ok. My daughter got sad when I was tucking her in, knowing she wouldn’t see me for several days, and said, “I don’t want you to go,” so that got to me and made me need to hug her even harder, but I assured her I would be ok and in touch from the hospital, and then she was more ok, too. I listened to one last round of evening meditation (maybe two) and actually fell asleep peacefully, despite knowing how terrifying the next part of my path was going to be.
I have to finish this entry with a reflection I had in my final pre-op weeks, and shared via another Facebook post:
“Two months ago this week I was high on life and celebrating in a Croatian paradise. One month ago this week I was trying to process the news that I had a brain tumor, and was sending my babies off to middle school and high school. This week I am no longer a shop owner, and because of vision problems, am now limited to only driving short distances, and only in the mornings. How quickly life changes! So…in an effort to make the best of things, I am spending my newfound free time every morning in different, beautiful places. This morning I found someone’s seaweed spiral during my beach walk, and I was reminded of a quote I have always loved (from a wine bottle label–slightly embarrassing!): “As humanity’s oldest symbol, the spiral represents eternal change, reminding us that life is not in a straight line. It symbolizes new beginnings, renewal and hope for the future.”
Logistical side notes:
Our friend organized a meal train for us, and we finalized all of the details with her in this last week, which included our nutritional preferences, directions to the house, instructions about containers, and frequency. We started with a plan to have dinner delivered every day for a month, starting with the day after surgery. (We figured we’d all be able to eat the leftovers for lunches.)
My husband had arranged for different friends and neighbors to pick up and drop off our kids before and after school, so he made each of them a chart to help keep track of who to expect each day, and their contact numbers. That all worked out very well, and continued regularly for about two months.