It took 4 weeks from initial discussion with my general physician to formal diagnosis. IN retrospect, not too long. But at the time it felt like 4 months.
- My general physician listened, did tests (including any possible blood test imaginable) while also referring me to the Neurologist – end April
- Neurologist appt: some tests and ordered a MRI – Early May
- Two hours post MRI, Neurologist informed me it looked like a benign vestibular schwannoma and referred me to a neurosurgeon – Mid May
- Neurosurgeon explained more, covered the MRI results, discussed options and referred me to the ENT Surgeon who will be part of the treatment team – Early June
- Met with ENT Surgeon who spent time verifying preferred treatment, possible side effects – June
- Surgery scheduled for August 12.
The decision regarding treatment was relatively easy, and I felt in full control. Post MRI results, Google and I became best friends. I read many testimonials, joined the Amercian Neuroma Associatiojn, read literature, turned to my doctor brother who shared additional literature written for doctors.
I preferred surgical removal. The symptons were impacting my day to day, I could feel my brain inside my skull on hot days, and I was thinking less and less clearly. If the tumor returned over the next few years, I could turn to a less invasive follow up.
The ENT- and Neuro-surgeons each mychoices, without any pressure to select one vs the other. I expressed my preference for surgery and each looked a little relieved at that point.
What I would do the same
After each referral, I asked when I should expect a call back, but still made the call myself the next day. I was open that I had a lot of anxiety, and wanted to schedule things asap. I suspect this cut a month off the timeline.
Use the ‘email feature’ with my physicians to ask questions. I always received prompt responses. At one point I used the email to ask about the pressure I felt in my head, and we were able to immediately address brain swelling.
Shared the diagnosis. This is a highly personal decision, to share or not share. I lead a large, global team at work of a few hundred people. I choose to cancel planned global travel, and was open with the team that I would make a few work changes. I also leveraged my ‘tribe’ at work, current and past collegues and friends.
How I Managed it with Work
As noted above, I stopped work travel in June. I set up my planned proxy when out, and we worked together to put him in the leadership role while I went through this.
I worked remotely more often. Saving two hours / day in travel time was awesome. I often took around 5, if I had late evening calls with my India or China teams.
One of the benefits of where I work is the capability to work remotely, thought we encourage being in the office, due to the benefits of being face to face. As a leader it was tough to be remote but the time I saved helped me be a better leader and prepare for the surgery. I saw a positive difference in my deliverables when I worked shorter days.
Top Four Work Things
- Let go of small things which will eventually work out, freeing up energy for the larger more strategic work.
- Delegate a lot more – which is the control freak in me letting go, it was hard at first but got easier.
- Recognize that work would always be there, the team would be ok without me and embraced the opportunity for the team to step up and show what they can do. This will make my return and overall team performance even more awesome.
- A hard decision was to stop many of the extra things, such as ongoing mentoring or sponsoring of various programs. That saved me about 6 hours / week, but was the toughest decision to make.
Preparing for the Surgery
Once we decided on surgery, I wanted to be as healthy as possible, to make the recovery easier. I set goals, in partnership with one of my best friends who was also trying to be at her best physically.
Weight and exercise: I had been gaining weight steadily for the past 18 months, 11 lbs in a year for example. I would diet, walk, agonize but could not stop myself from too much food. I think I was eating to comfort myself, as my body was fighting off weird symptoms.
I invested in an Apple Watch and the Aaptiv app to ‘gamify’ things for myself. Also did a few months of a healty eathing service (Sunbasket) to simplify meals and eat healthier.
- Walked 5 miles per day. Started the day with 3 miles and added smaller walks whenever I had a break or at night.
- Did 1 core workout from Aaptiv and 1 yoga workout from Aaptiv each day.
My balance, strength, blood pressure and resting pulse improved. I also lost a few pounds, it was visible in my face for example. I believe this is one of the key reasons why I was able to recover so quickly. Within 1 week post-op, I was doing many short walks reaching 10K steps/day.
The Boring Stuff: Updated my estate plans, moved all mail to hardcopy vs soft (moved it back afterwards), completed any pending tasks such as vet appointments, car maintenance, etc.
Visited my Family: Did a trip to Seattle to see the family as well as West Virginia. It was very important to spend quality time before the surgery.