Monday, December 21, 2009

Why I Heart L.A.
Access to the best healthcare.

Last Monday morning, my mother's neurosurgeon walked into her room before surgery and asked "How are you?" She responded with a single word, "Ready."


I couldn't have agreed more.


The last month leading up to the surgery has been an emotional rollercoaster...to put it mildly. My mom has fluctuated from denial to anger to depression - sometimes all within the same exhausting day. As her only daughter and only immediate family member in L.A., I've had a front row seat. I've been the one holding her hand as she struggled with an array of crippling fears.

Her greatest one has never been death. No, what kept her up at night was the thought of surviving the operation but losing her memory or hearing or vision or use of her limbs or all of the above. One day she crumbled in my arms after uttering the words, "I just don't want to ever be a burden to you." The day I had to review her will, instructing me to make the "do not resuscitate" decision, was probably the most surreal of my life.


I never expected this process to be quite so hard. After all, my mother is the strongest person I know. The things that woman has overcome in her life...well, I wouldn't wish them on my worst enemy. Her story has never been one marked by neat, happy endings; it has been one defined by endurance and survival instinct. To me, her story has always been proof of the magnificent resillience of the human spirit, proof that what doesn't break us does truly make us stronger.

That's why, despite her tiny frame, she has always seemed larger than life to me. And yet during the last month, she has seemed so fragile, so small...like a beautiful little china doll that could break at any moment. It's been heartwrenching in ways that I haven't even begun to metabolize.


Then about a week before the surgery things seemed to shift. She seemed to surrender and embrace acceptance. And just like that the fear retracted. She stood a little taller, a little bolder every time I saw her. As if she was ready to face the unknown with everything in her. Sure, there were still the moments of tears and fears but overall she had a serenity about her that was reassuring. I recognized her again.


As I struggled to fall asleep the night before her surgery, I felt a calmness wash over me. I felt confident that everything would be fine. She was in the best hands. And I suddenly remembered: she is a lioness, always has been, always will be. This wouldn't be the thing that beat her.


The morning of the surgery we walked into Saint John's ready, ready to get this done and move on with our story.




We took it as a good omen that her surgery coincided with the opening day of the new wing of the hospital. Everything was pristine and the staff was giddy. Excellent energy to walk into. Didn't feel like a hospital at all. There was promise, not fear in the air.





























Another source of great strength: Mr. Diabolina. He is a blue-eyed blessing. Not sure my mother or I could have made it through all this with out him. His unwavering love and constant devotion to the two of us - no matter how witchy we are - is humbling. And his decision at 4:00 am to put on a suit for my mom's surgery day equals hilarity ;)





















































Not sure how the two of us made it through the five torturous hours that my mom was in surgery. Quiet time in the hospital's new chapel, Wi Fi in the beautiful new cafeteria and lots of piglet snacks helped.
























































As we were waiting, we even peeped the man who made the $100 million gift for the new wing of the hospital. He was taking a tour and graciously speaking with patients and staff. Felt like hugging him and thanking him for making a difficult day easier with a beautiful new facility.








































































At about 1 p.m. my mother's surgeon Dr. Daniel Kelly and his team finally appeared and scanned the cafeteria for me. I stood up just as they saw me. Their faces were so expressionless that I felt my legs buckle underneath me and I grabbed the table to steady myself. Thankfully their words were more comforting than their faces. They said the operation had gone perfectly and they were able to remove the entire tumor and that it looked largely calcified which was consistent with a meningioma not cancer.


For the first time that morning I exhaled. And I allowed myself to cry. I thanked them profusely. And as I looked into Dr. Kelly's kind eyes I thought what a gift doctors have to be able to help people at their most vulnerable, most human moments.































It was another two hours before we could see my mom in the ICU. The first thing I noticed was that adorable side ponytail. Have never been happier to see her open her eyes and talk and hold my hand and wiggle her toes. Was even happier when she asked me to take her picture. Before the surgery, she had said she wanted me to document all of this, to share her story on the blog, to give other mothers and daughters strength during tough moments.

























































During the following 24 hours there were plenty of tough moments. I spent the night in her room on the windowsill but barely slept. She was up every few hours vomitting from the pain. Throwing up is awful enough but imagine how awful it is after brain surgery with all the pressure that puts on your head. Ugh.


























On Tuesday, they moved us out of the ICU and she had a parade of visitors and flowers. She was able to sit up and walk to the bathroom and change into the matching Paul Frank jammies we bought at Target on Sunday. I went home for a few hours while Mr. D stayed with her. Felt incredible to shower and nap in my own bed after 40 hours at the hospital.












































































Tuesday night unfortunately wasn't much easier than the first night after the surgery. My mom was in so much pain that they kept giving her morphine which kept making her sick. Vicious maddening cycle.
The nurses at Saint John's were amazing both nights. Talk about unsung heroes. But it's important to note they were mostly amazing because I kindly but forcibly demanded that they be. If I wasn't there with my mom, they just wouldn't have been as attentive or known exactly when she needed something. She would have thrown up on herself all night, writhing in pain. She would have been like other patients moaning for help in the darkness.

Wednesday morning finally came (never been more thrilled to see the sun rise) and we spent most of the day quietly awaiting her surgeon's arrival. Her general doctor had given the OK for my mom to go home so it was up to Dr. Kelly to look at the incision and make the call. Thankfully, he removed her bandage and tested some motor skills and said she was progressing amazingly well. She was discharged and out the door by 5 pm. We'd arrived for her crainiotomy at 5 am on Monday. Isn't that bananas?






















































































We've been home for almost a week now and her recovery is coming along, slowly but surely. She can't walk too fast but she can sure eat fast. We've been doing quite a bit of soup and oatmeal snarfing along with watching DVDs, online shopping and napping. She's been telling me stories from her childhood and we've been making plans for the future.







I'm still processing everything that's happened, hope to write about it all more eloquently in the near future but just wanted to share a quick update with you - friends and strangers alike. Wanted to let you all know that this Christmas my mother and I are grateful for the support you've all given us over the past year. Thank you and kiss you and happy holidays to you and your family.
























































52 comments:

WendyB said...

I'm so relieved for you all. Hugs and kisses to your mom.

Mar5195 said...

So happy things went well. I cried reading this. I cannot even imagine how it was for YOU. Lil Mama rubbed off on her baby, you carry the same amount of strength and grace.

Hugs!! Love the jammies!!

Mary said...

It's so good to hear that everything went so well-- I hope her recovery is as speedy & painless as possible! Thoughts & prayers are with you both :)

Kyle said...

Muchas fuerzas Mamita Diabolina. Gracias por haber compartido su historia.

My dad just had a stroke and he was alone for the first three days while I tried to get back to the U.S. I understand completely what you are saying about being a patient advocate. As soon as we arrived, he was immediately moved to first, a better room, and then when I bitched again, to a better hospital. It made my heart cry to think of the patients that don't have anybody.

Rachee said...

I'm so happy for you, your momma and Mr. D! I must confess, I have big fat, happy tears in my eyeballs right now.

Artsy Fartsy said...

Oh, D. I know we don't know each other in real life, but I am crying in my office right now reading your post. You, Mr. D, and most of all, your beautiful momma are fierce fighters. I am so glad she is at home and recuperating. I'll be praying for you!

E Hayes said...

Thanks for sharing your story!

My Grandmother is currently over at UCLA with heart problems and today is also the anniversary of my Nana's death 3 years ago. I'm glad to hear your mom made it out of surgery with flying colors and I wish you both the best with her recovery. It was inspiring and uplifting to read something so heartfelt today. Thanks again.

MissJordyPants said...

so so so so so happy! The strength you have for each other is astounding. Hope you're spending days on the couch doing absolutely nothing!

HaveShoesWillTravel said...

Glad your mom is doing well. I can't believe how soon they send people home from the hospital!

lookrichbitch said...

my eyes are filled with tears of happiness. i'm so glad that things went well. and while you feel you're lucky to have her, i tend to think that your mother is the lucky one because she has you.

*hugs* from way up north..

Rizza said...

its so great to hear that your mom is doing good. i'm a frequent reader of your blog and was moved by your post. i wish you and your family a merry christmas!!!

b.b. said...

I've been reading your blog for a while now and haven't commented too much...but this post brought tears to my eyes-in a good way, I just had to comment. Just wanted to say I'm so happy for you and your beautiful momma ;) I'm 20 and I can't even begin to imagine how hard this would be if my mom went through something like this. And I loveeeee that your man wore a suit...so sweet. :) Best wishes to all of you!

fshnonmymind said...

I got all teary eyed reading this because I can tell how much love there is between you and your momma and it must have been a difficult process. I'm happy to see that she is getting better and that the surgery was a success. I wish your mother a speedy recovery!!

Sable Crow said...

Loves you Diabolina.

Anonymous said...

I loe you blog...and i am so happy to hear that you and your momma are doing well

cuidala mucho :)

amber said...

So happy to read this - love and hugs to you both.

xtina said...

I'm a huge Mama Diabolina fan (she is cuteness times 10) and glad to hear she is doing ok. I wish her a speedy recovery!

Beautifully written post. Thanks for sharing.

Ann Marie said...

I am glad for all of you and wish your mom a continued good recovery.

weezermonkey said...

<3 <3 <3

Kimberly said...

Oh goodness, just had to wipe my eyes - so glad to read your mom's surgery went well and she is recovery. You two have a truly special bond!

ALWAYS CHASING said...

This was really touching. Thankyou for sharing. I wish you mother a speedy recovery.

JCH said...

Glad to hear Mamma is progressing and getting better as the days go by...wonderful things to celebrate this Christmas!

xoxo

The Style Rules said...

Thanks so much for sharing D. So, so happy to hear your mama is doing well and is happy. xoxoxo's to you both :)

Mary said...

I'm so glad to hear that your mom is home and recovering well. You guys have such an amazing relationship and i appreciate you sharing it with your readers. Merry Christmas!

Linda said...

so glad to hear that your mom is doing well!

Shannon said...

all the best to you and your beautiful, strong mama - you both are so very inspirational and eloquent. here's to many more happy holidays for you all! xxoo

Anonymous said...

You & your mom are both an inspiration. So glad to hear she is doing well. Merry Christmas to you!

tam pham said...

thank you for the update! lots of hugs for both of you! kiss.

honey my heart said...

continued thoughts and prayers for your mother's recovery. thank you for sharing your story and your strength.

Anonymous said...

My dad had a brain tumor and underwent surgery. Praying for a quick recovery for your sweet adorable mama. And may God give you strength to help her heal. The tough part is behind you and a beautiful future lies ahead . Don't know you or your mom and Mr. D but I wish you alll the best and love reading your story ;)

JCHokie said...

This is such wonderful news. I am so happy for you & your family that your mom's surgery went so well. Wishing her a speedy recovery. Happy Holidays to you all!

choofy said...

your momma is in good hands and you so fortunate to have a strong, special lady like her. she's such a cutie and looks amazing in these photos. its nice to appreciate angry weather and oceans like her and feel alive. i'll be thinking of both of you. {abrazos}

Jennifer said...

(((HUGS))) and then more (((HUGS)))! It warms my heart knowing that you and your mama will be able enjoy the rest of your holidays together cheerfully, lovingly, and with lots of pigging out! I mean it when I say I don't know you guys, but I love you! ;-) Here's to a fast and swift recovery for your moms!

Sheila said...

So happy for your mom, what a great Christmas present! Get well soon and Happy Holidays.

Lotus said...

I'm so glad your mom is doing well-hope you all have an amazing xmas and may 2010 bring you lots of happiness! :)

Victoria said...

This is the best Christmas present ever for you guys! I am so happy to hear it went so well and that incision is like a work of art! Enjoy the holidays and here's to a wonderful 2010!

Anonymous said...

dearest diabolina,
you are a rock. i adore the bonds shared among you, your momma, and Mr. D. your post is plenty eloquent already, and reveals how much the act of writing is in your bones. have you read "writing as a way of healing" by louise desalvo? if i could, i'd send it to you as thank you gift for all the bittersweet affect, self-effacing humor, and endless insights revealed on your blog. wishing you many blessings and peace in the new year.

Lynn Tran said...

I'm so glad to hear that her surgery went well and that she is steadily improving her motor skills. You are an amazing daughter and I know you guys will emerge stronger than ever. <3 <3 <3

Rate Your Hairdresser said...

Blessings to you all.

St.Jude said...

Thank you for the update. You guys have been in our thoughts. So happy the surgery was a success! Please give momma a big hug and kiss from us, and pass Mr. D some more gin and juice :) Hope to see you all soon.

Stacy said...

So glad that your mom's surgery went well. I, too, took a big fat exhale after I read what her surgeons said to you. Here's to wishing the both of you a swift and sound recovery. I hope you guys have a great Merry Christmas.

Fabulosity said...

Glad to hear she's recovering well. Bless you for being such a great daughter.

g said...

just got back from HK and am so, so glad i caught this...it's beautiful, aching and joyous all at once...love you, your mommy and the mr.

Rosemary said...

My favorite post yet! Very sweet, big hugs to your mom! Last year, a family member underwent major surgery at St. John's--by far the best hospital I've ever encountered.

~kelly marie~ said...

I am so glad your mother's surgery went well. Your words brought tears to my eyes. I know I don't know you, but I will be sending healthy and happy thoughts to you and your beautiful mom.

J.A.S. said...

What a gift you are to each other:) Love your usual blog posts, but am loving the sweet words about such a difficult time even more. Have a merry Christmas!

Adeleno5 said...

What a relief to hear that your mom is doing so well - thanks to you both for sharing your story. I hope 2010 brings health, happiness, and joy to the whole Diabolina family.

{grace} said...

This post brought tears to my eyes. I am so happy to hear your mom is doing well. Today is the 8 yr anniversary of my dad's brain surgery, so this post brought back a lot of memories of my dad's experience.

Reading this update made me very happy for you and your mom. I'm glad that you could be there for her during the surgery and recovery. I hope your family has a happy and healthy 2010!

Kate of All Trades said...

Cute cute and cute. LOVE that Mr. D put on a suit. G, I love him. So glad mommy is on the mend. Just now seeing this...may-jah drama on the Kate front these past couple weeks but I can't really talk about it on the internets. I hate it when things cross that line... Like "Oh this circumstance totally sucks AND I can't even get any cyber attention for it?" I digress, talking about myself when all I really wanted to say was that I am so glad everything went well.

Kanishka B. said...

Your writing about this whole ordeal has been amazing. I'm so happy to hear that everything so well and that all three of you have been able to be there for each other.

Tiffany said...

really great post, I'm so glad that you shared with us. hugs and kisses to you and your mama!

happy new year!

Sabrina said...

Such a moving story, thank you for sharing it with us (wiping the tears from my eyes).

I am so happy that your mom is doing well.

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