Laura’s Story

Site created on April 27, 2014

November 15th: Six months post-op update
Time has flown, and danced, and scaled steep cliffs, and wandered lonely as a cloud, and driven a thousand miles across England and Scotland... In short, the recovery period may be deemed ended, and the rest of life may now be resumed where I left off. (Just kidding: I do realize that the new normal means I keep up balance exercises as if my life depended on them.) If the doctors and Joyce the P/T were to ask where I think I am on the recovery scale today, I'd have to say 95% or better. There's more on the Journal page, plus a couple of new photos...

August 19th: Three months post-op update
On August 15th, two days after the three-month post-surgery mark, I ankled down to Longview to see Dr Delashaw one last time. In hand: the results of the previous week's MRI, the hearing test performed by Dr Marlan, and a report from Joyce, the physical therapist. Mixed results,  at least from my point of view, but jolly good from the doctors' standpoint. More of the story over on the Journal page, plus a new photo or two...

June 20th: A solstice update at 5+ weeks
Today's almost-six-weeks check-up with Dr D was smiles and laughter, all the way -- from the receptionist (whom I recognized from Seattle) through the lead nurse to the good doctor himself. See the update on June 20 journal entry for more details.

There's another MRI to endure in early August, and a hearing test before I travel at the end of that month. Dr D and I will reconvene over the results of both, probably after I return in early September. Until then, I'll only post when something exciting happens: no more kazoo ear, or actually hearing in that ear, or no more rats!

Friday afternoon's update
The old saw about 'if Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy' has a corollary in the world of medicine, viz: If the surgeon is happy, everybody can go home happy.

Timothy drove me down to Longview on Friday of the long weekend, for the first post-surgery check-up with Dr Johnny Delashaw,. He was indeed one happy camper regarding my progress: I can walk reasonably straight lines, but also more challenging curved lines (followed tarmac patches on the rec trail the other day); I can hear (barely) two fingers softly rubbed together outside the duff ear; and while I still squint sidewise, Dr Johnny says my formerly symmetrical facial expressions will return, in their own sweet time.

earlier... update
I have now been to see Mom and Dad, from our temporary base at the Ramada, and 'asked forgiveness instead of permission.' They took it in stride, mostly because I was so evidently alive and on my feet, if none too steady and looking a little wan and peaky.

The surgery on May 13th went as well as could be hoped. And I intend to soldier on through the weeks of rehab and recovery so that I can enjoy summer as it should be celebrated... will post here as that gets under way.
So how did this start? Last fall, I found myself having dizzy spells and the sensation of someone pressing a thumb to my right eye and cheekbone. I chalked it up to holiday tension until January-ish, when the sound I call 'aircraft-at-30000-feet hiss' was superseded by dog-whistle high pitches in my right ear. When my GP couldn't find anything more interesting than ear-wax, I asked for a referral to my Mom's current ENT in Olympia, Dr Marlan. I think he was humoring me when he scheduled an MRI, but ...

The MRI showed an acoustic neuroma in the right ear, 6mm x 4mm x3mm -- small by any standard, but there nonetheless. My hearing is excellent, tailing off only in the 6000-8000 hz range where the dog-whistle kicks in, and I'd like to try and keep as much as possible. At 57, I feel a little too young for radio-surgery, worrying if it'll come back (altho' I gather that can happen with any procedure), and see little gain in hanging around waiting to see if the darn thing grows fast or slow. There's a lull at work this spring/summer, before I travel to the UK in late August, but we get crazy busy again in October, then it's the holidays, and then it's next year this time... When it could be bigger, more troublesome to whack, and potentially more symptomatic.

No matter how you slice or dice: it's brain surgery, not ear surgery. It's one of the few surgeries where you have no idea what your results will be when it's over. You have your appendix or tonsils scheduled for removal, you know you'll have no appendix or tonsils, a scar, and then on with your life. This could involve damage to my hearing (50%-70% chance of saving it), facial nerve, or clobbering my balance. They won't know until they get in there and dig around... and I won't know until I wake up and recover a bit how lasting or not the effects will be.

Surgery date was May 13 first thing in the morning. Timothy will take over updating the site once I'm "under the influence" and let you know how progress goes until I can do it myself.

If you want some back-story:

My Mom was diagnosed in 2005 at age 82 with an 8mm schwannoma, after having had gradual hearing loss and balance issues that she "just got used to." In 2007, at 14mm, she had gamma knife radio-surgery at Medical College of Georgia hospital, and recovered well enough that in 2008, Tim and I encouraged her and my dad to relocate to Olympia WA when we did. She's had monitoring MRIs every 18 months or so, and the last one, November 2013,  showed the little bugger had regrown slightly and was impinging on the balance nerve more than the auditory nerve where it started -- this means she now uses a walker rather than a cane, and complains often about the wonky-head dizziness. Bad data in... the brain complains. She's holding her own, for which we are very grateful, especially my Dad!

Newest Update

Journal entry by Laura Cameron

The summer of 2017 was a stressful mash-up of other peoples' multiple medical issues and Extreme Makeover (Home Edition) projects.*

As for myself: never mind the bursitis brought on by lifting (while cataloging) 1500-odd books in my Dad's collection and assorted gardening chores, by September, I knew my hearing was wonky in the AN ear. It took a couple of months to get a new ENT, an updated MRI, and a new neuro-otologist at Virginia Mason, Dr Zeitler (Drs Backous and Delashaw having departed Swedish under clouded circumstances). And the results were underwhelming...  

The good Dr Z and I can speculate forever on whether all that stress and consequent inflammation were sufficient trigger Sudden Unexplained Hearing Loss, but that's what I've got... It isn't uncommon in people who have already had hearing/brain issues such as mine, but that doesn't make it less irksome. So the local Olympia ENT has fitted me out with a trial hearing aid to see if we can boost the signal sufficiently to regain hearing, as it is down by 48%. Fingers crossed, it seems to be helping -- at least the cats singing for supper is once again loud and clear!

I'll post this also on the ANA website, as a long-term follow up helps those in the throes of making treatment decision a lot.

Till more news,

*What it was all about: Timothy endured multiple hospitalizations, including two-weeks for sepsis and another 10 days for major surgery. My mother's front garden looked like a wasteland, so I embarked on a complete renovation, with new flower beds and lawns, aided by a great garden company and the evergreen-thumbed Donna. And my mother's own health was slipping as her balance and vision deteriorated: she asked me to clear my Dad's library -- untouched since he passed away in 2015 -- so we could convert it to a bedroom for a live-in companion. All seemed to be on an improving, or at least stable, course for me (yay! full range of motion!). Mom had a nasty bout of bronchitis in January 2018 and turned some sort of health corner, perhaps involving TIA mini-strokes. Her care needs have increased considerably, but we're holding our own keeping her in the Olympia house she enjoys so much.
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