Thursday, July 03, 2008

You've come a long way, baby

I'm sitting on my couch in the dark, and just got off the phone with a friend with whom I haven't talked in a long time, too long. He's been my friend for several years, went through some major rough patches with me, and has always been a good friend. He was out of the country for the past few weeks, and I just now caught him up on the massive changes in my life that he missed. Telling him the entire story about getting my new job got me seriously reflecting about how truly amazing it is that I got here.

Contemplative Ingrid, somewhere in the Pacific Northwest

Truth be told, I never expected my life goals to be as obtainable as they now seem. I'm still ironing out the details, but everything seems possible now. In order to understand this all in context, and why I'm so surprised, I should explain something that I've hesitated to share in detail on my food blog, because a) it's quite personal, and b) it's not exactly food-related. It seems relevant right now, however, and most of the small population who read ye humble blog seem like good people, so here goes...

I've been an epileptic for my entire life. I had seizures as a child, but I didn't know they were seizures until I was a teenager. I knew them as small, non-convulsive "dizzy spells". I had my first grand mal seizure when I was 14, in a minivan on my way to summer camp. The kind where you black out, convulse on the ground, foam at the mouth, wake up with a massive headache, all that stuff. I had a CT scan and EEG done when I was checked into the hospital, and they found a benign malformation in my brain, between my left temporal and parietal lobes, which was causing neurons in that area of my brain to misfire.

For two years after that, I consulted many doctors, checked into many hospitals, and I continued to have occasional grand mal seizures until I found a mix of anti-seizure medications that successfully halted the grand mals. I was still having small, complex partial seizures, which only continued to grow in intensity and frequency. This is a large part of why school became a struggle for me when, prior to my first grand mal, it came very naturally to me. College was a very difficult time, to say the least.

By the time I moved to Los Angeles, I was having small seizures almost every day, and I was on high dosages of three medications which clearly were not working that well. My driver's license was taken away by my doctor at UCLA (not my favorite doc), and doing the catering work I was doing became increasingly difficult. In fact, everyday life was starting to become a hassle; worrying about crossing the street, or missing my bus stop, or having a seizure at a party, or being mid-conversation and having to excuse myself abruptly. Something needed to change.

Cut to summer 2006: A series of fortuitous circumstances landed me back in North Carolina, consulting my favorite neurologist and a neurosurgeon about having the malformation removed. It was an option when I was 14, but I was too scared then to agree. It was still risky, but I'm glad I waited, because I was truly ready this time. On November 9th, 2006, I underwent a five-hour brain surgery, three hours of which I was awake and quite conscious. On a lot of opiates, but chatting and cracking jokes. I came out of it with a wicked scar, which is now unnoticeable under my fast-growing hair, and a few titanium screws and plates in my cranium.

The surgery was a success, and my daily seizures literally halted. It was a very slow recovery, almost a year, in fact. But for the most part, it's been a night-and-day difference in my life. I can drive, go to school without fear of "blanking out" in the middle of lecture or kitchen work, and work long hours without having to stop what I'm doing to hide somewhere to have a brief "dizzy spell".

So you see, dear readers, this is why I'm amazed, stunned, really, to be where I am. And why I am more grateful than one can possibly ever imagine for the hectic life that I now have. Maybe this is too much information, and maybe I'll change my mind and take this down tomorrow. And really, who knows how this is all going to turn out? But what used to seem impossible (and impossibly frustrating) now feels within reach. I am literally astounded by my life, and amazed that my family and friends have been with me through it all.

So thank you to my mom, dad, brother, sister and friends, and thank you, universe. Keep the surprises coming.


ml said...

im glad your surgery was such a success! i've been meaning to ask you how you've been feeling. i also didn't realize that you had "dizzy spells" prior to that first big one.

i know you are so smart that you will do whatever you want to, and do it damn well!

Karen Andersen said...

I think you are one of the most amazing, caring, and brave women I know. *hugz* I'm so glad we're friends!!!

Tonya said...

Wow. I'm in tears. (In a good way.) Your strength, courage, and humor in the face of such a challenge is truly inspiring.

Ingrid, you once said to me something along the lines of you didn't understand why I believed in you so strongly before I even really knew you. I couldn't answer you then, but I can now. I have always had a knack for recognizing unique, talented, amazing human beings. *hug*

Brian said...

wow Ingrid you are an amazing person. I am so glad everything is falling into place for you and you have found your spot.

I too have been epileptic all my life too. I have had some siezures in the pase but not to the extend of yours. The medication has mine under control and I have not had a seizure in over 15 yrs.

Keep doing what your doing!

andrew morton said...

the scar photo is too good not to share ;)

McAuliflower said...

wow- really interesting.
Great post Ingrid, glad you shared it here.

Bonnie said...

Take the post down? No way! I think it's an important part of your culinary story. You're a tough girl, Ingrid, tougher than all those kitchen doods combined. I miss you!