This has been quite a month. At my two month follow-up with the neurosurgeon, I got a good report – things are healing nicely. But he also said that my issues with speech and swallowing are going to take a lot longer to resolve themselves. I had been under the impression that the “two to three month” recovery meant that in two to three months you would have no idea that I had been operated on. Wrong! The two to three months was the amount of time it would take me to regain a modicum of health and wholeness sufficient to begin returning to my normal routines. He assured me that I would not know the degree to which my swallow and speech will normalize for eight months to a year.
A real sign of returning to normalcy was going to get my haircut last Wednesday, October 18. The gal who cuts my hair has a beautiful Armenian name- that I can never remember. But she took the scar in stride and did a good job of fixing the haircut my surgeon had given me. There were, however, two discoveries made after the haircut when she held up the mirror so that I could see her work. I have bald spots as a result of surgery. One on each side, each about the size of a quarter or half-dollar.
Oh well. I still have more hair than my brothers…
Eating is going well – but I have been losing weight. I am only a couple of pounds from my seminary weight. Because eating takes longer and involves a measure of concentration, I am simply eating less. And some high calorie foods that I use to love – like cheeseburgers – don’t even bear thinking about. Bread is very hard to eat. I am mostly doing soups and good old-fashioned “hot dishes” when that is an option. Pizza I can do, but only if it’s thin crust.
Yesterday I had a graphic reminder that much has changed because of this surgery. A young man I have had the great privilege of coaching just committed to play Division I lacrosse at Jacksonville University in Florida. It is a new program, but it will do well and Joey should get a lot of great experience playing LSM there (“Long Stick Midfielder” for any non-laxers). In the maxpreps press release, he chose a picture of himself in action on one of our favorite rivals’ fields in sunny Agoura, California. In the background, to the left of him in the picture, I am on the sideline.
Two things struck me when I noticed that. First, that pot belly is gone. And good riddance I suppose, although I think it did make me more buoyant – which is a good thing? But the other thing I noticed was my left hand. Applying pressure to the left side of my neck – trying to minimize what was often excruciating nerve pain while cheering the boys on. It is nice to know that that is a posture I will no longer have to maintain. And as I work out the speech and swallowing issues it is a great reminder that there was a good reason for risking the surgery!
During these past ten weeks of recovery it has been easy to completely forget about how bad the pain was and instead focus only on how hard the recovery is. Pictures like these help us to remember that the past is rarely as wonderful as we make it out to be. Solomon offers a piece of advice in Ecclesiastes 7:10:
“Do not say, ‘Why were the old days better than these?’ For it is not wise to ask such questions.”
The reality is that the “old days” had problems of their own. And even if in some ways those days were better, how is it wise to dwell on them without appreciating that undoubtedly “today” holds some advantage over yesterday as well?
This past week I have also been very encouraged by a lot of folks who have been concerned that this blog was down! Last night I was sitting with Kerrie in a small examination room at the Calabasas Urgent Care- she was having some really bad back pain we wanted to check out (just a painful muscle spasm). After her appointment, while we were waiting for the nurse practitioner to return with some paperwork, there was a knock on the door and a familiar face said hello. It was another doctor who has on several occasions visited church with her family! She and her husband have been reading this blog and she shared with me that they have been praying for me – and she noticed that the blog was down.
It has taken me three days to discover the reason for the site failing – it involved the email subscription “plug-in” that I use. In its last update, something that loaded onto my site was incompatible with my site. So it could not open. I would never have sorted it out if it were not for Ezekiel at Bluehost knowing his stuff so well – thanks Ezekiel.
And I thank all of you who read this blog – for your prayers and encouragement. I am doing well. I am planning a return to full time ministry in early or mid-November. My voice is not what it was, perhaps it will never be. It tends to be very hoarse and I can’t make myself heard over the dishwasher. My singing range is less than an octave. And I have made my peace with the prospect of no more burgers or deep-dish pizzas too!
The old days were not better than these. And “no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9). My best is yet to come; isn’t yours? Only love God through whatever old days and new days you are thinking about and experiencing – all will be well.
N.B. The picture of the right side of my head pictures the bald spot that is opposite of the surgery site. The cut started at the nape of my neck, went straight up the back of my head and at the top of my ears went straight to the left. There were staples on the right side of my head, but I have no idea why. Presumably, this bald spot is due to having had some staples there.