When I was a kid, I often imagined what I might want to do when I grew up: One day it might be a research scientist, another day, a teacher or a writer. I never thought too much about the money I might make, nor did I ever, once, think, “I can’t wait to take my lifetime savings from working for 30 years and spend it on brain surgery!”
But, because needs demanded it, I went to a bank I have patronized since I was a teenager to close my accounts so I could pay medical bills. I had hoped whoever worked at the bank and ended up helping me would not be grouchy or disapproving because of my decision.
A professional gentleman named Adam prevented me from waiting in line too long and said it was “no problem” when I told him I needed to close my accounts. I appreciated it when I found out he was not only professional but also friendly. When I told him I’d had brain surgery to remove a tumor — a mean one that had apparently been bullying my brain for years — Adam listened patiently, nodded and said he understood.
Then, he shared with me one of his own medical challenges, explaining what he’d been through, how he’d felt and showing me a scar that I hadn’t noticed, giving me hope that I would not always look like Frankenstein’s monster.
“I didn’t talk about the surgery for a few days, but when I did finally open up and talk, it helped a lot,” Adam said.
The conversation and the closing of my account had lasted maybe 10 minutes. But the experience, in addition to being necessary, really lit up my tired brain: Being bullied and now struggling to revive its brilliant flare, my brain wants to talk. But one of my many weaknesses is that I don’t like to ask for help, including the favor of a friend to listen. Asking for help requires courage, and I have never felt or believed myself to be brave.
It turns out that I didn’t have to be brave in order for God to send caring people who were willing to listen my way: Adam is not the only one with whom I had the good fortune to share a story about a crazy, unexpected medical experience.
Seeking information on pain medication, I wrote to a medical column offered by The Lima News. Sitting like a jewel in my email one day was a note from a former colleague, Adrienne, who let me know that not only would I get an answer to my question from a doctor writing the column but also she was there to listen if I wanted to talk. This amazed me. It made my brain hop up and down: Want to talk? Did it ever!
So I responded to Adrienne, and we met for lunch and the best talk I’ve had in, well, longer than my brain can remember. She also shared some of her own challenges and experiences, and despite my brain’s struggle to function well in either speed or depth, I learned some valuable clues about hope and endurance from Adrienne. In response to so much of what she expressed I thought, “Wow, that’s what I thought/how I felt, too!”
There is just something about knowing I’m not alone that helps me through this long, slow, still-painful recovery process. Most days, I am so frustrated by the pain and my slowness that I want to shake my brain as well as shelter it.
As long as my brain is still sparking, it will remember and be grateful for people like Adam and Adrienne, who gladly gave me a few minutes of their time to listen and to share their own stories. Thank you so much.
Dawn Kessinger lives in Lima.