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  • This process had all started back on September 12th of last year, when I failed my hearing test during my annual physical. Little did I know then what a journey lay a head for me, one filled with testing, proking, prodding, more testing, imaging, vertigo, more imaging, worrying, more vertigo, and finally getting to the point where I was actually looking FORWARD to brain surgery, which was what I was certain was going to be the outcome of my meeting with the doctor today, 11 months later. I wanted them to go in and cut this thing out of there, consequences be damned. Out, you damn bug!

    And to think, 11 months ago I was trying to get used to the idea of wearing a hearing aid. Now, I was thinking more along the lines of needing to wear a face mask to cover up half of my face being paralyzed after surgery! Ever see that dude on Boardwalk Empire? Or, maybe, Tom Cruise in Vanilla Sky with the whole face mask look? Yeah, one of them – or, maybe my Elvis mask!
  • I had no idea what my face would look like after surgery to remove this tumor on my facial nerve, I only knew that it wouldn’t look the same, because the surgery would definitely cause some damage to that nerve. This I knew. I’d done my homework. There was no getting around it.

    But, if it would stop the vertigo, and minimize the amount of damage from what I was sure was going to happen sooner or later by the tumor, I was in.

    As we were leaving for the V.A. this morning, which is on the other side of D.C., a good 45 minute to an hour’s drive, we both were thinking the same thing – “the V.A. never called to confirm the appointment yesterday.” The V.A. always calls to confirm the appointment – unless they call to cancel it, like last week. They hadn’t called. Kathy hadn’t said anything to me – she was bound and determined to show up, and if, for any reason, they didn’t have me in the system for today, we were going to see that doctor. I didn’t say anything, because I was determined that I was going to see that doctor, today. No. Matter. What. Waiting another week was not an option! I didn’t want to call ahead to confirm, only to have the receptionist say they’d messed up, and I’d have to come next week. We both kept quiet about it, and left for the V.A., to find out my fate. Today.

    You know what happened. We got there, and the receptionist couldn’t find my appointment. “I have you in here for next Friday!”

    “Right. I was scheduled for last Friday, I got bumped, you originally scheduled me for next Friday, but I called last Friday and you rescheduled me for 9:00 this morning”.

    “No, you’re not in the system for today. He has a full schedule today. I’m sorry.”

    “You don’t understand. I have a tumor in my head. I have waited over 3 weeks. I came all the way over from Virginia. I'm here. I’m not leaving without talking to Dr. Hoa….”

    Kathy chimed in, “What’s his office number at Georgetown?”
  • Just then, Dr. Hoa appeared from down the hall, looked at me and said, “Come on back – I’ll see you now.” It’s a good thing, too. Sabrina was not giving an inch. I was not leaving. Kathy was worried I was going to lose it and they would need to send in security (it’s happened before – at a car dealer’s service department- many years ago, of course).

    He pulled up my MRI images on the screen. “I thought they’d missed something at first, but then I found it. See that one on the left? That’s actually your right side facial nerve. That’s normal. See the one on the right? See how it’s larger here? (Then he enlarged the image). That’s the lesion. That’s what’s known as facial nerve schwannoma. It’s embedded right there in the nerve. It’s too small to try to remove through surgery. Since you have no signs of facial paralysis, our first concern is preserving your facial function. We’re going to observe it, and see if it grows. It might not. It might even dissipate on its own. We’ll take another MRI in 6 months, and see if there’s any change.”

    “What about the vertigo? I’ve been getting it every ten days or so – eight days this last time. How can we manage that?”

    As I described those symptoms to him, he asked a few questions, and finally said, “What it sounds like you have there is vestibular migraines. There’s a medicine that works well in most patients with that, and should relieve those symptoms. There’s also a migrained diet you might want to look at. Pay attention to what brings them on. That should be manageable. It is completely unrelated to this schwannoma.”

    Cool! Another new term I learned today – vestibular migraine. O.K.

    “What about my hearing? That’s what started me down this road in the first place. I’d like to be able to hear people in meetings, and when people talk softly, I can’t hear a thing.”

    “I’ll put you down for a hearing aid. The V.A. will provide that to you. Go over to audiology in Building 6 and make an appointment. See you in three months.”

    And thus, the journey ends where it began. I’m getting a hearing aid. I can’t wait! I’ll put that face mask order on hold, for now. What?
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