August 22nd 2022, the day before the first of two surgeries. This photo was taken of me kayaking with our dog Jack. It sums up how I was feeling that day and everyday. I felt normal, or at least my normal. That's why my symptoms were so easy to dismiss. On a scale of 1 to 10, mine were .05, something I just learned to live with. The biggest issue with chronic anything, is that you get use to it.
FATIGUE. The biggest symptom was I always felt tired, even after a good nights sleep. I often thought it was stress or my busy life that made me feel that way. Unfortunately, I ignored what my body was saying and just pushed through it, I was too busy to be tired. To get my attention my body added a few more symptoms and more frequently. Our bodies have a way of sitting us down when we try to ignore it.
HEADACHES. In addition to being tired I would have headaches a few times a week. They would start as soon as I would sit up in bed. The pain started at my shoulders and went to the back of my head. They would often go way by the afternoon. That was why I didn't think it was anything major. They always seemed to go away on their own. Occasionally, I would get a migraine. Something that a long nap would cure.
VISION. Being in my late 40's my vision was getting worse, something easy to be dismissed with age. One of the biggest warning signs was that my vision had changed so much in a year that my prescription for glasses had come with an in-between prescription to get my eyes use to my new lenses. I often share with others that this was the one thing I would do differently. I would have seen an Ophthalmologist at least once a year instead of only going to an Optometrist. The difference is Ophthalmologist are MD's and have advanced training. They have been credited to catching brain tumors early in some brain tumor survivors.
OTHER SYMPTOMS (Tinnitus, Speech and Balance Issues) A few other symptoms were ringing in my ears and being lightheaded. Very subtle and would last for a second or two. Another was my words would get tongue tied, something I thought was because I was trying to speak too fast. I would also lose my balance slightly when I would stand up after sitting for long time. These symptoms didn't' happen that often, roughly two or three times a year. All so sporadic and what seemed unrelated.
SYMPTOMS THAT LED ME TO GET AN MRI. The symptoms that led me to get checked however were more frequent and longer occurring. Two weeks before my diagnosis, I had one of the worst headaches in my life. One that should have kept me home to sleep it off, but I had an important day and forced my body to work through it. The next day, I started having numbness in my elbows along with feeling dizzy. These symptoms lasted consistently over the next 14 days. I was giving a presentation that afternoon and didn't feel well. I dismissed this, thinking I just needed to eat something. After eating, I was just as dizzy and started stumbling over my words. I remember giving my presentation and asking the audience to read the slides as I could see and read the words, I just couldn't articulate them. I had to rest my hand on the corner of the table for balance. At that time I should have said something, but I was embarrassed and didn't want to draw attention to the issue. After sending my husband a message, he urged me to go to an Urgent Care nearby. He thought I was having a mini stroke and asked that I go get it checked to rule it out.
FOLLOW UP. The importance of following through. As you can see I developed a pattern of ignoring signs along the way. That didn't stop after going to an Urgent Care. At that time it was determined that I didn't have a stroke, they asked that I go to an Emergency Room for further testing. For me the reassurance of not having a stroke was all I needed. I asked if I was ok to drive, they said yes. I felt better and went on my way. That evening I was going to attend an event with a friend. A doctor of neuroscience was giving a presentation about the brain. The universe has a funny way of sending all types of signs. What a random event to go to the night before you find out you have a brain tumor. That night we listened to Dr. Andrew Huberman speak. The following day I woke up lightheaded and tired. With my husband nudging me to go, I went to the emergency room for further testing. In my mind I still didn't think I was sick enough to go the ER, but I did and that’s what brought me to get an MRI. The news that all these subtle symptoms were related and were signs of having a brain tumor was a relief in an odd way. Now I had answers to why I was so tired all the time and could gain understanding on how to treat it.
BEST GIFT TO SELF. Three months after I was diagnosed, this photo was taken while I was waiting to go back the surgery. I was painting watercolor on postcards. Future gifts to my friends and family. Painting has always been my happy place, it puts my mind at peace. I spent the three months pre surgery being as healthy as I could be. I rested when needed. I went on an anti-inflammatory diet. (I will share more about this on a later post) That simple shift in diet was something that quickly help boost my energy and made me feel better. I also, spent my days in nature and walking as much as possible. Went on many adventures with family and friends. Some were casual talks as we walked outside. I made sure to capture every moment I could. This is one of the things I am so thankful for doing for myself.
Advice I give anyone in a similar situation. Listening to your body, enjoy being still and find the good in everything around you. Being present in life can fill your mind with wonderful memories and help get through the toughest days.
Be kind to those around you too. Its tougher on them, then on you.
Written by Kimberly Adams Tremper Feb. 21, 2023