Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Personal Note

I have spent the past two weeks dealing with an unexpected health crisis involving a relentless splitting headache, debilitating vision problems, several visits to various specialists (including an opthamologist and a neurologist), an MRI, and a lumbar puncture.  Thankfully, all of my doctors have been working as quickly as possible to rule out something extremely serious like a brain tumor, vasculitis, or a blood clot in my head.  At this point, the swelling on my optic nerve and the elevated spinal fluid levels point to a pseudotumor cerebri (basically a build-up of cerebrospinal fluid that mimics a brain tumor and puts pressure on the optic nerve), and I started taking medication based on that diagnosis last week.  I have already seen some improvement (particularly in reducing the pain when I shift my eyes), which is great.  I have another visit with my opthamologist tomorrow morning to go over my MRI and lumbar puncture results, and she also plans to do a visual field test so that we can monitor my improvement as my condition *hopefully* continues to improve.  

Vision is definitely something you don't fully appreciate until you suddenly begin to lose it.  Of course, all of my favorite hobbies (reading, working on the computer, gardening, genealogy, and sewing) are quite vision-dependent, so I know that I should actually just be thankful for all the blissful years of 20/20 'sparkle-free' vision that didn't hurt when I shifted my eyes up, left, or right.  And I am very lucky to have begun treatment before the vision in my right eye worsened to the degree that my left eye has.  I really haven't had too much difficulty with reading since it is up close and not off to the side (except when I was trying to limit my reading time because my doctor initially believed that the headache and eye pain could be related to eye strain and/or a tension headache), but the computer with its bright screen was initially more of a challenge.  I am ecstatic to report that looking at the computer seems to pose less and less of a challenge with each passing day.  Yay!  

For the past couple of weeks, I've felt uncertain about whether to discuss my health issues here on The Eager Readers because I didn't want to use this space to whine about my ailments.  Plus, I was very scared of receiving unbearably sad news after the MRI (i.e. brain tumor) and that whole concept was frightening to an immobilizing degree.  I couldn't really force myself to discuss that fear with anyone outside of my immediate family.  Basically, it has been an exceedingly scary and miserable two weeks, but I wanted to tell all of you how much I still appreciate having this forum to talk about books I adore with other book-lovers.  I was at my most stressed and panicked last week, right after my opthamologist first mentioned the possibilities of a brain tumor or pseudotumor and I overheard her on the phone with the radiology department at the hospital requesting an 'emergency MRI' that afternoon because she felt it was critical not to wait until the MRI appointment that my neurologist had already scheduled at a later date.  *insert panic here*  At first, I couldn't make myself focus on anything else to take my mind off the overwhelming amount of stress that hit me in that moment.  My headache seemed worse than ever, and I'd started taking three medications, each with upsetting side effects like nausea, fatigue, body aches, and numb/tingling hands and feet.  Blech.  Even if I hadn't been feeling physically wretched that day, hearing that the best-case scenario was one in which my condition may cause blindness? Not particularly ideal.

That was quickly shaping up to be among the most stressful days of my life until we came home from the MRI and my husband put City of Fallen Angels in my hands and asked me if I would continue reading it aloud to him.  Have I mentioned that I love that man more than words can express?  When I am overwhelmed by stress, he often knows just how to be the  perfect calm that I need.  What I needed most that day was normalcy, to immerse myself in a shared activity that was reassuringly familiar, and to feel like we would have a ton of tomorrows to spend reading aloud together just as we have for the past fifteen years.  As I read City of Fallen Angels aloud to my husband that day (and each time we were both free over the next three days), I found myself pleasantly distracted from my nervousness about test results, medical bills, and upcoming appointments.  Reading has been my escape of choice for as long as I can remember, and in the midst of all my anxiety it turned out to be the perfect stress-relief.  This time, it wasn't just because I loved immersing myself in an imaginative fictional world {Which I obviously did, Cassandra Clare's books are freaking phenomenal and so much fun to read aloud!}, but I also loved knowing that I'd get to sit down afterward and think about the whole book all over again in order to write the review here on the blog.  And I loved knowing that the book blogosphere is such a friendly, welcoming place to find other people who are just as passionate about books.  People who are probably just as eager to discuss what they loved or were tortured by in this latest installment of the MI series.  Fun!  I feel so fortunate to be part of a community like that.  So thanks and heartfelt hugs to all of you book-lovers out there!  :)

Also, I would give City of Fallen Angels 100 flowers out of 10 if I could because it was exactly what I needed, and I adored every minute of it despite physical discomfort and my potentially paralyzing anxiety level during some of the most nerve-wracking days of my life.  It seriously helped save my sanity when all signs were pointing toward a stress-induced meltdown.  Do you guys have a book like that?  A book that proved to be exactly what you needed to get you through a trying time?  I'd love to hear about it in the comments.  If my opthamologist doesn't keep me in town for another barrage of tests tomorrow or start me on a new medication that knocks me out, I plan to head up to see Cassandra Clare and Holly Black on tour tomorrow evening.  I'll be the one with a giant stack of books and a ridiculous fangirl smile whose husband will probably be by her side reminding her to take one of her medications every couple of hours.  Haha!  Can't wait!  :-)


Anna said...

Oh Violet! I wish you all the best. Losing my vision is probably my biggest health fear as well. I hope and pray for your recovery.

There have been so many times as I have been reading Jace snark that I have almost texted you. I wish I had.

For me, the book that saved me was Komarr by Lois McMaster Bujold. It gave me peace and it gave me the ability to leave an abusive relationship.

Anonymous said...

Glad you feel like this is a safe place to share your feelings. It's amazing how "strangers" can create such a loving, supportive community, isn't it? That book for me was actually the first Mortal Instruments, City of Bones. I think the first two were already out when I started reading and they got me through my own crisis in a perfect, complete absorption in something other than my stress, sort-of way. Cassandra Clare rocks!

Chachic said...

So sad to hear that you're going through a rough time right now. :( I'm glad things are starting to look up and that reading has help you pull through. It's amazing how books can be helpful in situations like this. Whenever I need a pick-me-up, I just reread an old favorite because it helps to be distracted and step away from real life problems for some time.

Violet said...

Anna - Thank you! ((hugs)) I <3 Snarky Jace!! I also love Jace at the grocery store & Jace invading Simon's personal space & how funny was Jace's comment about Kyle's videogame being stupid because you couldn't kick anyone (you could only use guns). So hilarious! But I was also quite taken by devoted, sentimental Jace in this book too. I like that he would never ask Clary not to be a Shadowhunter because he knows that wouldn't be fair, and I love that he recognizes that he doesn't get to tell her where to go or when. And when he talks with her about the Morgenstern ring... *melt*

I am so glad that Komarr gave you peace and the strength and resolve to get out of that relationship. It is incredible how the right book at the right time can prove to be so meaningful. I love that you were able to meet Lois McMaster Bujold & tell her how important that book was to you.

ashweyreadsalot - It really is a very supportive community. And I totally agree with you about Cassandra Clare! Her books are so absorbing, and CoFA was exactly what I needed to make me take a break from my stressed-out tunnel-vision. Not only is the MI world easy to immerse yourself in, but the characters themselves are all remarkably compelling. It is impossible not to laugh with them, cheer for them, & ache for them. So glad to hear that City of Bones and City of Ashes were able to help get you through a difficult time. :)

Chachic - Thank you, Chachic. Oh, old favorites really can be the best. Familiar and comforting, all at once. :)

Candace said...

Well, I've been horrible about checking your blog! I had no idea you went through this!
I'm going to have to send you a message on facebook because I want to hear all about the signing that I missed (I really thought it was the next day!).

Suzanne Young said...

I'm thinking of you!

Lisa Schroeder said...

Oh dear... you are in my thoughts and prayers. And how much do I love that you and your husband read YA books together??? Take good care and I really hope this story has a happy ending.


Melissa said...

Just popped over here from Candace's blog to send you some positive healing vibes!!

Chrystal said...

Violet - I am sending you some good thoughts and prayers. I hope they figure out what is wrong soon and that you are on the mend quickly. I feel for you and your fear of losing your sight. I had lost my sight in my right eye back in 1999 due to a car accident, though I was lucky enough to regain 98% of my vision in my right eye, it was still such a shock. I'm a new follower of your blog and I would love to hear updates. Oh and I love that you read out loud to your hubby... so cute! Take care!

Ivana said...

Oh, dear, I truly hope everything pans out soon and you don't have to experience that kind of stress anymore. It's wonderful to hear that you have a lot of love and support. I'm sending you lots of positive vibes!

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