Adult female looks to the right with a calm expression. On the side of her head there is a craniotomy scar. Behind her there are windows showing the passage of time through a sunrise. post operation, post surgery, healing, recovery, POC

What It's Really Like To Have A Craniotomy

Having brain metastases, routine brain MRIs are the norm for me. But never did I think one would discover an old hemorrhage. It was then I was told I would need a craniotomy, and my whole life changed in an instant.

Brain mets

In my case, I had several small brain mets in addition to one of major concern. It was decided my skull would be drilled in three areas on my right side, removing three brain mets. The rest of the metastases would be later radiated over three sessions of brain radiation. That involved having a custom mask fitted to my face. The mask was then bolted to the board of the machine so I would not move during the session.

Finding my strength and independence again

After the craniotomy, I spent ten days in the hospital. They discouraged much movement, so I spent 23 hours a day in bed or sitting in a recliner.
During this time,  I lost a lot of my arm and leg muscle strength, which I am still trying to gain back. I can't even get off the couch without assistance. Over the weeks that followed, I became more independent! Still unsteady sometimes, I use a walker when outside. This enables me to also bring my portable oxygen machine, too. Being able to get outside and walk feels so amazing! I have started cooking again, which I love. It took me a little time to get accustomed to cutting with knives and figuring out temperatures, and other things like that, which used to be second nature. My first meal was wild-caught salmon with a lemon-dill butter sauce and I was so thrilled to have my own recipe again. It seems small, but it really made me feel like me again.

Metastatic parenting

While in the hospital, it was decided that my three children should live full time with their father. It was an enormously painful decision, but what was best for all of us. My surgery was two months ago, and I am still recovering. That, combined, with living with metastatic breast cancer and its treatment, made raising three children full-time challenging. While I miss them, it is nice for my body to rest when it needs to, something that would be impossible to do with them here every day. Coming home to a house without them is still an adjustment, especially when I see Lightning McQueen and Buzz Lightyear. They come over one night a week at the moment, and we order pizza and watch movies, with lots of cuddles! It is my hope for them to soon spend all weekend, every weekend, with me.

Finding grace while living with MBC

I am grateful for the opportunity to have had some brain Mets removed, and hope I recover completely soon. Reminding myself to take it slow and one day at a time helps a lot. I have learned to be easy with myself and have grace. If it takes an hour to do something that once took twenty minutes, then it takes an hour! It's okay. I am so proud of myself and my body for all it endures.

Have you had a craniotomy? What was your experience like?

Editor’s Note: We are extremely saddened to share that on Friday, October 29, 2021, Danielle Thurston passed away. We know that Danielle’s voice and perspective continue to reach so many. She will be deeply missed.

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