Ashley Swafford

I have put together a bit of “What to expect when you are having brain surgery” type of story. I had a craniotomy in December 2016 to remove a Grade I Meningioma about the size of a marble. I have never had seizures. Thank God! This was just a brain tumor that was being watched over a few years. It didn’t seem to be growing at a fast rate until my last brain scan.

To anyone about to read my story: First, I want you to know that whoever you are, I am praying for you! Being a believer has gotten me through much of this! Along with an amazing support system. If you have no one to pray with you, I will pray with you. Repeat after me: God, I am asking you right now to comfort me. Lord, give me the strength to get through this. I was created for a purpose, God and I know you are not done with me yet. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

☺ That’s me smiling, embracing life one day at a time. I wanted to share some of my story as an informative piece more than anything. I don’t know anyone who has gone through this before. I just really wanted to share my insight, possibly prepare someone else for what they are about to experience.

First Post-Operative appointment:
Do you remember that feeling when you first got your license? The rush, the excitement, that freeing feeling. That is what it feels after not being able to drive for an extended period of time. Try not driving for a day, a week, a month. It is probably one of the hardest things I have ever experienced. I love feeling free when I am driving. It has always been so relaxing to drive and listen to music. I was so happy to have that freedom back!

Here is a list of Questions that I asked my neurosurgeon on January 27, 2017.
1. When can I return to work? – Today.
2. When will the sharp pain in my forehead go away? – He said that it was from the pin which placed my head in the operating table and that it could be a few months.
3. When can I drive? – He asked if I had a seizure. I said no. He said then you may return to driving.
4. When can I stop taking the anti-seizure medicine (Keppra)? – He said that I could stop taking it immediately. **Which I thought was interesting because I have always had to gradually ease off of the medications. But it was only a preventative medicine after surgery and I have never had a seizure before in my life.
5. Do I have any restrictions? – No, but you may continue to feel tired for months. (GREAT! … =/ )

Just when I thought it was over, this news I am about to share caught me completely by surprise. I have basically been documenting everything that has happened to me, and that night was rough. I couldn’t fall asleep for anything, and I wondered if it was because that night I didn’t take my usual dose of the Keppra (500mg x2 a day) or the fact that I found out something new that I wasn’t expecting. Apparently I needed to have another MRI in February to see if the brain tumor was completely removed and if it wasn’t, we have to track it all over again. He said right now he believes that he removed as close to 100% as possible. However, I will require annual MRIs for the next five years.

Just when I thought it was over.

Fast Forward to March 2017. It feels like I blink my eyes and months have completely slipped away. I sleep more than I ever thought possible. It could just be that I am adjusting back to a normal life. It could be the amount of emotions I have felt so deeply. I wonder what other people have felt through this experience. I want to relate to people going through this. I want to share my story. I want people who are diagnosed to know that they are NOT alone and they are not a NUMBER, STATISTIC or a DIAGNOSIS. I want to share that they are stronger than they ever thought possible.

I never knew how strong I was until being strong was the only choice I had. Remember that saying, “Take the good with the bad?” I had my post-surgery MRI on Friday March 10, 2017. My neurosurgeon said this: “The MRI looks great, but we will be following up with another MRI in six months because these tumors are likely to recur.”

When people see me, I don’t want them to look at me and feel bad. I have overcome a lot and continue to keep on keeping on! I have seen the worst times of my life and came out on top.

I want my story to encourage you, I want you to know that you are strong. I want you to know you are a fighter. I want you to know you are not alone in this. You are brave. You can do it. If you start to feel alone, remember there is someone out there cheering for you! I am cheering for everyone going through a tough situation. I want you to know you will come out on top too.

I want you to be able to share your story, just like me. This is tough, but you are stronger than you think you are! I felt incredibly blessed when I woke up from surgery. It was like I was given a new chance at life. Every day is a BEAUTIFUL gift.