Thoughts on Facing Major Surgery in March

thoughts on facing major surgery- Making Nice in the Midwest

Needles? I can handle those. Between IVs, epidurals, and tattoos, I’m quite a big girl when it comes to facing discomfort. But knives? That’s a different matter. I’m no stranger to surgery, but in March I’ll be undergoing the scariest procedure of my life.

One morning last April, I swung my feet out from under the covers of my bed, but when I tried to plant them on the floor, I knew something wasn’t quite right. I couldn’t gain my balance, and I was afraid I might actually tumble to the ground. Hmmm. This isn’t normal, I thought. But I tried to go about my day as usual, hoping I would soon feel fine and that the world would stop spinning around me. But I didn’t get better, and that night I began a week-long stay at the hospital that ended with a discovery of a Paraganglioma, or a carotid body tumor, that was growing in the right side of my neck. At the time, I was just happy to discover this hidden problem, but due to my pregnancy, the doctors decided to wait to take action, and so I pushed my worries to the back of my mind and focused on the excitement of the new life growing inside of me.

Well, recently the time came to finally deal with my tumor, so I began making trips to Cleveland to meet with specialists, to get tests done, and to discuss my treatment options. After becoming educated about Paragangliomas and joining an online support group for people with this rare tumor, I decided against radiation in favor of a less risky treatment option- surgical removal. In the surgeon’s office, I felt very matter-of-fact about the whole prospect. I have a tumor that probably isn’t cancerous, and they’re simply going to take it out. That’s all. It will all be fine. But once I stepped out of the hospital, I began to slip into a bit of a depression.

The removal of Paragangliomas is certainly not without risk. My tumor is about the size and shape of an egg and is nestled behind a bundle of cranial nerves where it’s pushing apart my carotid arteries amongst blood vessels that are feeding it. The tumor might be growing into my carotid arteries, and there’s a chance that the carotid arteries may need repaired, removed, and maybe replaced during surgery. My surgeon comforted me that he had never had anyone die during this procedure, but there’s risk of stroke, cranial nerve damage, not to mention my lingering fear of death, as unlikely as that might be.

I spent many sleepless nights staring into the face of my sleeping baby girl, wondering what her life would be like with a mom who couldn’t talk or eat normally. Would I still be able to take care of her like I should? What if I had a stroke and couldn’t hold her any more? Or even worse, what if I died, and she grew up only knowing me through stories and pictures? I certainly hyped up the risks in my mind, and needed to snap out of it, because I was slipping into a depression, and I was having trouble focusing on work and enjoying my life.

Thanks to Facebook, I became involved with a support group where people just like me from all around the world shared their experiences and encouragement with me. I met people who had recovered from their surgery pretty well, and after a week, were even able to return to work as usual. I even met new moms who were able to continue nursing after their recovery. Some people shared their stories of dealing with the side effects of the surgery, and they seemed to be coping quite well. Some people were living with a permanent feeding tube, and some were living without their carotid arteries on one side, but they were living. I felt like I could deal with whatever would happen, and I could finally come out of the fog of self-pity and fear.

Health crises always make you think more about what you can do to take better care of yourself. At least, they should. We’ve been eating healthier in our home and considering consuming fresher, whole foods. I’ve been told time and again how much worse the outlook for my surgery would be if I were a smoker. Well, the thing is, I was a smoker. For about two years before I became pregnant. And if there was any doubt before, I know now that I definitely won’t be going back to that bad habit. The fun of smoking isn’t worth the crazy effects it has on every aspect of my health.

Facing major surgery has also forced me to look inward at my emotional and spiritual health. It’s caused me to want to live every day with more of an eternal mindset, and to trust in God’s plan for my life and for the life of my little family. Sometimes, though, I honestly don’t know if God has a plan for my life. I believe in a powerful God, and after looking at the intricacies of my body on the MRI results, I can’t deny the existence of a purposeful creator. I believe, too, in the Bible, but I’ve wrestled with how to apply its promises to my life in this modern age. But one thing I do know is that life is short, no matter how you look at it. Whether you’re having surgery, or just getting into your car on the way to work, no day is guaranteed. I believe that putting stock in whatever the world has to offer won’t give me much of a return when those things fade away. I thank God for putting encouraging people into my life who are helping me deal with my questions and who are helping me enjoy this time of stillness before the surgery.

So, now I wait. My surgery is scheduled for March 19th, and it’s happening locally at the number two hospital in the country for this type of procedure. The head of vascular surgery at The Cleveland Clinic will be in surgery with me! What a comfort! In the meantime, I’ve been working diligently and scheduling blog posts now so that I can rest and recuperate after going under the knife without worrying about what’s happening here on the ol’ blog. I’ll spend a few days in the hospital, and when I come home, Phil will be on Spring break from teaching, so he’ll be able to help Lucy and I get along while I heal and hopefully get back into the swing of normal life. There’s a chance I’ll need therapy for nerve damage, and there’s a pretty good chance I’ll have some trouble performing normal functions like talking, swallowing, moving my shoulder, dilating my eyes, and even smiling, as my nerves recover from the shock of surgery. But we’ll deal with that if it happens. In the meantime, I’m just trying not to worry too much and just enjoying each day with my little family!

40 Responses

  1. Michal says:

    My prayers are with you! I have confidence that you will have a smooth & successful operation and recovery. You have the right mindset now too! Sometimes dealing with surgery the hardest part is getting your head in the right place so you’re not worrying yourself. You’ll be fine. :)

  2. sending lots of courage and love your way, mama!
    what a comfort to have found a community out there to share experiences.
    i can’t wait to hear the good report of successful surgery and fast healing!

    in the meantime, you’re on my mind. waiting is the worst part!


  3. Cheryl says:

    I’ll definitely be praying for you. I deal with a lot of anxiety myself and I know how hard the unknown can be. I’m sure everything will go just fine. Just trust in Him.

  4. Emily says:

    I will pray for you. I am dealing with some unresolved medical problems right now as well. It’s so easy to get discouraged and depressed, but I try to remember that God’s plan is a good plan and I need to stop worrying! Easier said than done. Speedy recovery :)

  5. Hey Mandy, Get well soon we will be praying for you all the way in Australia! You will do well, think of the good things that will come after surgery, if you focus on that all is well. Lots of love xxxx

  6. kathleenicanrah says:

    am sending so many good thoughts for a safe surgery and full, speedy recovery. xo

  7. I will think of you and wish you the best results and quickest recovery. It will be allright :-)

  8. Orchid Grey says:

    Sending lots of love, positive thoughts, and encouragement your way! I’m glad you were able to find a community where you could seek support and comfort for your fears. When it comes to stuff like this, I think the waiting period can sometimes be the scariest part. We’ll be thinking of you! xo

  9. I’m glad you are a part of a community that can encourage and help you out!! I think the hardest part is preparing and waiting and knowing what will happen, but probably after it happens you’ll be relieved. I am sure it will be painful, but continue to pray for the ability to get through it! Hope it goes well (and quickly and painlessly).

  10. kendra says:

    man Mandy! I can totally understand your thoughts.
    I will be praying that you are at peace, fears are quieted, and more than that, that the Lord will heal!

  11. Cori Magee says:

    My thoughts are with you!!!
    Isn’t blogging wonderful for getting out what’s on your mind and knowing that people are listening?
    Take care of yourself and don’t worry too much. :)

  12. Mandi,

    I will be thinking and praying for you leading up to and during your surgery.

    I appreciate the honesty and beauty that you share on this blog!

    Lucy has a great mama!


  13. Julia says:

    Just think of March 20th when you’ll wake up in the morning with a clean bill of health! We’re so lucky to live in a time and a place where medical needs can be looked after. You’re going to be healthier, stronger and happier when this is all done – how wonderful!

    My thoughts are with you, and your lovely little family. Let them take care of you, you probably need this time off!

    xxo j

  14. Jess R says:

    Mandi, I know Phil, your family and friends, and The Cleveland Clinic will take the best care of you. Even still, I will be thinking happy thoughts for you all the way until you’ve recovered.

  15. Rachel says:

    Your bravery impresses me! I was afraid I’d choke and die during my wisdom teeth removal, which I know is totally ridiculous.
    I’m sure you’ll have a safe surgery and speedy recovery!


  16. Sending happy thoughts and prayers your way.

  17. Gesine says:

    This is my first comment here and I wanted to let you know that I will send healing powers your way!

  18. Meredith says:

    Praying for peace for you and the family, healing for your body. His eye is on the sparrow.

  19. Beth says:

    Praying for you Mandi! We have a loving and powerful God caring for us. Praying you feel his comfort in what must be a worrying and uncertain time xxx

  20. Michelle says:

    Sending positive thoughts to you and your family, Mandi! I hope all goes well.

  21. Zero Style says:

    the cleveland clinic is one of the best hospitals in the country, i know they will take good care of you! sending good vibes your way. <333

  22. Monica says:

    I’ve only been reading your blog for a couple months, and never really comment. But I must say this post touched me very much and I wish you a complete and fully recovery!

  23. lisa g says:

    mandi– today i read your blog and i wrote a comment, but didn’t post it. i was thanking you for your honesty, for sharing with us what you are really thinking through this time. i wasn’t sure what stopped me. but, then i read this post: , oh i lover her blog. and that led me to this: and for some reason after i read it i thought of you– of how you might be encouraged by reading that. So, i hope you are!

  24. Kelly says:

    Sending good thoughts and lots of love!!!! Hugs!!!

  25. paula strong says:

    Jer.29:11 When I get to questioning I force myself to claim this verse. Will pray for you and your family Paula

  26. Chloe Moon says:

    Oh dear…I haven’t followed your blog long…but I wish you all the strength and courage in the world. You can do this and I’m sure there will be so much support if the facility is the #2 facility that does this procedure. Surgery is never easy…I once had fibroids removed and my gall bladder… I know that pales in comparsion to what your going through but I’ve found that the nurses and therapists are the nicest people ever and really are there to help. You can do this! For yourself and for your family. Good luck and we all will be thinking about you!!

  27. Mandy, you are such a brave and incredible woman! All of your fears and thoughts are totally rational but I know that you’re going to be just fine and come out even stronger than before. I admire you so very much and meeting you at the blogger brunch last week was a total dream! You are one impeccable lady and Lucy is so lucky to have you. I’ll be thinking + praying for you that all goes well. Take care! x

  28. Tonya says:

    Mandy, I’m sorry you have to have this surgery, but so glad they were able to tell you what was wrong. Continue to have faith in Jesus, because He will be with you every step of this journey and watch over your sweet family during your time of surgery and healing. Blessings!

  29. Kipin says:

    Trials like this are so difficult, mentally, spiritually, physically. Wishing you all the best Mandi! recently saw this video and I found it really really inspiring I’ll be praying for you and your sweet little family.

  30. Anissa says:


    I’m sending you lots of positive thoughts and wishes for a smooth and speedy recovery. You are so brave and having a little one myself I can totally understand all of the what ifs. I would be a mess! Take care and get well soon:)

  31. Mandi…I can only imagine all of the emotions you are feeling but I’m sure that they are ALL totally normal. I’ll pray that you can stay peaceful and know that you are in the best possible hands for your surgery and recovery. Big hugs to you!

  32. Heather R. says:

    Oh my gosh. What a challenge. We’re all thinking of you. You’re a strong woman and will kick ass at recovery. We won’t hold it against you if you’re quiet here for a while. Do what you need to do, and rest!

  33. look see. says:

    Thinking of you – take care!

  34. Kelsey says:

    I have followed your blog for years. I do not comment on blogs in general, but I feel compelled to say I will be thinking of you and your family and praying for a speedy recovery.

  35. HI!
    I’ve been reading your blog for a little while now and I’ve always respected your honesty and frankness about life. I had an long term illness a couple of years ago and since then I find it so refreshing to find a blogger that is open about illness instead of sugar coating everything.
    I really hope everything goes well (I’m sure it will!) and I’m sending you prayers from the UK!

  36. Tina says:

    Good luck lady! I hope the surgery goes well and that any side effects are minor and fade fast. Crossing my fingers that this will be hugely beneficial to you – thinking of you!

  37. Oooh…good luck, Mandy! What a frightening thing to have happen! Hugs to you – all will be well! :) Happy thoughts coming your way…

  38. Le BHCH says:

    As you know you have lots to live for and I believe in miracles so sending many positive vibes and just knowing your internal fortitude will get you thru and out the otherside – le xox

  39. Mary Ann says:

    I just heard about your blog through reading The Quiet LIfe of Violet. I do believe in miracles and will be praying for one for you. Sending good vibes your way. ((Hugs))

  40. Annie says:

    I pray the Lord’s hands guide the surgeon’s hands and that His peace that passes understanding guard your heart and mind. I just happened to find your blog through “random” clicking but God’s plans are never random. I don’t believe in coincidences. Sweet blessings to you.