When you look at my life, I want you to readily recognize that God is important to me. Daily, I take time to observe the way He is working in my life and I count my blessings. I have the privilege of being surrounded by people who pray for me and my family. They have done so on a variety of occasions, for extended periods of time. I do not take lightly these past commitments to my family, nor the power of these prayers. And yet, I did not lean on most you for this latest issue. Upon Brad’s urging, I share it now.
Last October, I began noticing a problem with my vision. At first I thought the problem was with my contacts. Each eye has its own prescription, and initially I simply thought I was wearing the wrong contact. After days of trial and error, I finally discovered that the problem was with my left eye itself. Basically, I couldn’t see out of the left side of my left eye. If looking at a picture on the wall using my left eye alone, my vision only allowed me to see the items on the right side of the picture. In trying to read a book with only that eye, my vision was completely obstructed.
I mentioned it to my primary care provider at my annual exam. She displayed a moment of panic which had me sitting in an optometrist office twenty minutes later. After a long series of tests, I was told that the surface of my eyes was dry. I was given a steroid drop and various over-the-counter lubricants and sent on my way. When weeks and weeks of drops did not work, I was told that I had a chronic issue that would require a lifetime of drops with a monthly prescription cost that I wasn’t ready to accept.
After a couple of other missteps, I finally found myself in the ophthalmologist office. I told my story and without hesitation or test, my young whippersnapper of a doctor knew the problem. An MRI four days later confirmed the diagnosis: a pituitary gland tumor. If you’re wondering – the optic nerves cross just over your pituitary gland, which is roughly the size of a pea. My benign tumor (between a grape and a walnut in size) was pushing out and compressing my optic nerve – thus the vision impairment. The remedy would require brain surgery.
For those of you who really know us, it will come as no surprise to learn that Brad Barghols had four or five connections that seated us in front of one of the nation’s finest neurosurgeons (who actually specializes in pituitary gland tumors) in a mere matter of days. I had very little time to worry about the worst case scenario. Dr. Dunn explained how he would partner with an ENT surgeon (Dr. McKinney) and use my nasal passages as a less invasive way to remove the tumor. On one hand, it was a large tumor and needed to be addressed. On the other hand, it was benign and slow-growing. Surgery was set for eight weeks out.
If I didn’t talk about it, it didn’t seem real. I told very few people. I put it out of my mind. And then COVID-19 entered our world. I don’t have to tell anyone reading this about the havoc that virus has caused to our daily lives. However, I didn’t want to play out the various scenarios in my mind because that would require me to think about a tumor growing in my head.
As surgery day drew near, COVID restrictions began to ease and my surgery was set to proceed. Last Wednesday (April 29), Brad dropped me at the front door of the OU Medical Center. Visitors are not even allowed into the lobby. I was all on my own. And if I must say so myself, I was a champ. The tumor was successfully removed and the improved vision was apparent as soon as I was first coherent enough to do a little self-check.
As with all surgeries, there are inherent risks of complications. The pituitary gland is a mighty contributor to overall body function and when you aggressively operate on it to remove a large tumor, you should expect it to revolt. Standard protocol requires recovery in the ICU for this very reason. I immediately experienced diabetes insipidus, which took several days to correct. Two days after surgery, my gland decided that it would withhold cortisol production. That resulted in my heart stopping for a mere five seconds – which is just long enough to send anyone’s world into a frenzy. But, the marvels of medicine are truly amazing and I am now home and recovering well. The blessing of COVID is that Brad, Cooper, and Delaney have plenty of time to take care of me. (I’m hoping they will let me get back to gardening very soon!) The cortisol and heart issues will now require additional follow-up with those respective teams, but I am optimistic that with time and rest both my heart and my pituitary gland will return to their proper functioning levels.
In all of this, I am reminded of the grace of God that allows me to draw each breath. I am well-aware of and grateful for the goodness of people – including friends, acquaintances, and total strangers. Your kind words, your prayers, and your good deeds are essential to my life. In this instance, just knowing that you exist sustained me. Thank you for that!