A recent health scare has taught me some very important life lessons. After having routine lab work done in April, I got the report that one of my hormone levels – Prolactin – was elevated. My doctor recommended that I see an endocrinologist, but since I couldn’t get an appointment for several months with an endocrinologist, I asked the doctor if I should have a contrast MRI of the brain/pituitary gland done, just to make sure that there were no abnormalities that could be causing the elevated Prolactin level. After the MRI, I got a phone call…not from one of the doctor’s office secretaries, but from the doctor herself: the MRI showed a pituitary tumor.
After this diagnosis, I did even more research (on reputable medical websites) on elevated Prolactin levels and pituitary tumors. The more research I did, the more I learned and understood about this condition…and the more scared I got. I read about medications that had very serious side effects and saw statistics showing that almost everyone who took these medications experienced these side effects. I read on multiple websites that the most common course of action was surgery. I became horrified when I saw that the surgery is typically done transsphenoidally (going through the nose and the sphenoid bone.) Since the nasal cavity is a resonance chamber for the singing voice, I felt that this was the worst possible thing that could happen to me; I would have much preferred that they just cut open my head. In the meantime, I saw an endocrinologist and an ophthalmologist. The reason I was referred to an ophthalmologist is that sometimes these tumors can press on the optic nerve at the optic chiasm affecting peripheral vision, but this isn’t the case for me.
Because of my concerns with my singing voice, I went to see a team of doctors at Johns Hopkins Pituitary Center in Baltimore, Maryland. They were able to get me in for an appointment last Thursday, and that appointment brought me good news. The doctors are recommending that this tumor be monitored through serial MRIs. I will have repeat blood work in 6 months and a repeat contrast MRI after that. Then, they will see if the tumor has grown over time, stayed the same size, or has shrunk. At this time, they do not feel that medication or surgery is necessary…since I have not been experiencing any symptoms.
This was the best possible outcome I could have hoped for. While I will need to follow up and monitor this condition, I am not looking at surgery or medication right now…and possibly will never need to do anything to treat it.
I believe that everything happens for a reason, and I do want to take away from this the life lessons that are mine to learn. A health scare of any kind is always a reminder to be thankful for one’s good health. This also has reminded me that everyone has challenging times and things to deal with that are very scary, sad, and painful…so I hold that in my heart as I am interacting with people, whether it is a student of mine, a parent of a student, my friends, a cashier at a business, someone whom I meet while waiting in line at the post office, anyone… I am reminded of the quote that was attributed to Plato, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
I know that another lesson for me in this is to let go and release my grip on “how things should be.” We can sometimes get so fixated on there being only one possible outcome…one possible way for things to go that would be “the right way.” But that is not the case…and so often, there is something better in store for us. I knew, as I was going through this, that I would have to get to a place in which I was going to accept and be okay with whatever the outcome was. If I was going to need surgery, then I’d need to believe that this was happening because maybe my body needed a time to slow down and step away from it all, and this would be a time to take good care of myself. If surgery or medication would affect my singing voice, I’d have to accept that there was some other way that I was to share of myself with others and contribute to the world. And this was a reminder that I am not entitled to anything & that nothing is a guarantee…I’m not entitled to one more day with the voice I have; I’m not guaranteed one more day on the planet. I can hope for more days to lift my voice in song and more time to do the things I love, but none of it is guaranteed. This has reminded me to see it all as a gift and has allowed me to be so grateful and so amazed by the tremendous gifts I’ve been given and continue to get.
It took me a while to process all of this & feel my feelings & come to peace. I did get to that place, and I think that was a major reason that the Universe orchestrated this challenge for me. Even though it wasn’t in a pleasant form, it was something that I had to experience in order to grow. There are so many other lessons to take away from it all. I also know this was an opportunity to practice advocating for myself and my health and remembering that I know my body best. Finally, this experience showed me that there are so many people who care about me and that I have wonderful friends who are willing to listen and to share of their experiences with me in a beautiful and authentic way. If I never had this experience, I wouldn’t have had these same conversations…wouldn’t have become so vulnerable in my sharing and wouldn’t have heard the supportive words from friends & experienced such wonderful connections.
So I do believe this happened for a reason, and I’m grateful for the life lessons I’ve learned and am still learning from it. Of course, the future with this tumor is uncertain. At any time in the future, I could notice symptoms. I could have my repeat blood work and repeat MRI and get a bad report. But on the other hand, I could end up having this for the rest of my life and have no problems at all from it…it very well could even shrink. And that is life: never knowing what is coming next, so therefore, being in the present moment and engaging wholeheartedly with the life that is right in front of you.