Updates for July    Last updated 1:00 pm, Sunday, July 28th

July 28 Sun  

Hi Everybody – Val here. It’s my turn to finally put my two cents in on this web site, especially now that I can read and type again. It sure feels good! This will be long, so have seat and relax…

First of all, a million thanks and then some to all the wonderful friends and family members everywhere who have been sending me love and support – on all levels – throughout this whole experience. I wouldn’t be here to say so if it weren’t for all of you helping me every step of the way. I cannot possibly express how deeply grateful I truly am to all of you!

My update starts with a special Thank You to my local friends for putting together a Benefit Celebration on our behalf last Sunday. Some very caring and energetic girlfriends organized a day of live bands, good food, kids activities and a Silent Auction to help us defray some of our medical costs. We had perfect weather and good attendance and it was wonderful being able to see so many of my friends again after a long (to me) absence. It made me appreciate even more what "community" means to me and emphasized why I like living here in the Bitterroot Valley.

Since returning to Montana, my life has gone back to being close to "normal" in that I am physically functioning in my daily doings like I was before surgery. I spend about 3-4 hours a day gardening (it used to be 12-14 hours!) and usually run errands and such when it gets too hot to be in the garden. I’m also getting out to be with friends more and am taking the time to enjoy some of the many summer activities offered around here. For example, last Friday I went to an art opening in town where there was a hands-on demonstration of how to ‘marble’ ink onto fabric and I came home with my own swaths of marbled cloth. Yesterday I went with some friends to the All Nations Pow Wow nearby and watched Native Americans dance in full regalia. I am appreciating more the joy of sharing fun experiences with friends and family rather than burying myself in my To-Do lists. It’s a much healthier and happier way to live life!

Now for the regular medical update: last Monday I went for a follow-up visit with Dr. Peter von Doersten, my neurotologist (ear specialist). He was happy to see me in such good shape and exclaimed over my tan, my developed muscles (thanks to all that weight lifting) and my overall level of energy and health. He checked both my ears and said I had the best eardrums and auricles (external ear) he’s seen and then we discussed the possibility of the auditory nerve growing back. Modern medicine says it can’t happen and there’s been no success in grafting sensory nerves when they’ve been removed or damaged, so he figures I’ll never hear from my left ear again. I think it’s too soon to say never. In the meantime, there are hearing devices one can wear that compensate for the hearing loss, but I’m not interested in them in the least.

I then told the good doc about stiffness in the neck muscles and an aberration in the visual field of my left eye. He recommended stretching and massage for the neck muscles, and physical therapy if I felt it would help. As for the eye distortions, I scheduled an appointment with the ophthalmologist to take a look at it. I also asked about ever scuba diving again and he said I could, but to start with shallow dives and work my way into deeper dives according to my comfort level. Both ears can still equalize pressure (they still pop) so the only other consideration would be too avoid a cerebral fluid leak, something not likely to happen after six months post-surgery with no complications.

Yesterday I returned to Dr. Steve, my chiropractor/neurologist who originally diagnosed me with the AN. He too thought I had recovered remarkably fast and was happy to see how well I was doing. We re-tested my visual field and found that my blind spots were finally back to normal for the first time in at least a year! Hooray! He worked on my neck muscles and gave me some exercises to do at home and then checked all the gazillion supplements I’ve been taking to determine which ones I actually need now. It turned out to be about half! I came away from that visit feeling great. My next medical commitment is to see Dr. Nick Chandler, the neurosurgeon, at the end of August.


Many people have asked me what I have learned from this whole experience and what I think it all means beyond the medical aspects. For all those who dare or care to follow me with the answers to those questions, read on. I don’t expect anyone to believe what I do or change their world view because of my views of reality. I’m simply putting forth my own personal perspective on what I’m living through and what it means to me.

When something this big and this life threatening comes into one’s life, I see it as the proverbial "wake up call." For me, it’s the Universe’s way to get my attention that things in my life need to change and that change is always for the better, even if we don’t see the blessings in the situation at the time it’s happening. Because I believe there are no accidents and that everything in our lives is a lesson learned, when I first realized the magnitude of my situation and that I’d need immediate surgery, I found myself absolutely at peace within.

How is that possible, given the many potentially crippling effects or even death, that could result? Easy. I reasoned that if this was a wakeup call and an opportunity for growth and learning, then it wouldn’t make sense to come out of it impaired or dead, else how would I get the lesson? In my worldview, this made perfect sense, so I lost virtually all fear of surgery and death and became rather detached from the whole process. I was able to maintain a totally positive attitude and a sense of humor about the whole thing because I just knew, beyond a doubt, that I’d come out of surgery OK. And I did.

I’ll add a side note here on the power of thought as well. I used a lot of recuperation time to listen to many audio cassettes about the power of the mind to heal and how even remote thoughts and prayers can affect healing outcomes. I already knew and believed that, but it was nice to hear it confirmed by a myriad of medical and spiritual authorities who are published and known worldwide. Anyway, I am absolutely convinced that everyone’s thoughts, prayers and blessings had everything to do with my successful surgery and remarkably fast recovery. It wasn’t only my own attitude and thoughts that did it, but the collective thoughts and power of so many loving people that tipped the scales. For that I am eternally grateful.

I also realized that a person does not go through a major life changing event like this and not see the so-called silver lining. From the moment the AN was diagnosed and this process began, I have seen only the blessings it has brought into my life. Never once have I felt like a victim of bad luck or thought this has been anything other than an opportunity for me to grow and change for the better. Put another way, if I don’t "get it" this time around and make the changes I need to, I don’t want to think about what I might manifest the next time around to accomplish the same goal! (By the way, I named the tumor ‘Grok’ after a word meaning to "get it" or to fully comprehend something.)

So what, do you say, are the blessings I would see in all this? Let me count the ways…

  • Grok taught me how to slow down, something I haven’t been able to do for eons. Now I actually stop and smell the roses, and I appreciate each and every one of them. I intend to continue to do so from now on.
  • I am blessed to learn how to live in the present moment. It’s still a challenge to not rehash the past and worry about the future, but actually, the only power we have is in the present moment and too often we don’t appreciate it or live it because we’re hung up either in the past or the future. It’s amazing how precious each moment of each day is, especially when you realize how easily and quickly we can depart this existence. I’ve been given the opportunity to really appreciate the moment, every moment, for that’s all we really have.
  • I am blessed to have a loving husband, family and friends. I never realized how much I was loved, or how much I have given love, until Grok showed me what that was all about. I can’t begin to express what a treasure it is to know such love from so many.
  • I have learned how to receive in so many ways. I was used to always being the one to give, give, give. Boy is it ever hard to learn to receive! And I had to learn to graciously accept help on several levels: physical, emotional, mental, financial and spiritual. (It brought up all my old issues around unworthiness!)
  • I am blessed to learn how to begin to value me. Seems a whole lot of people value me more than I do myself and it has made me think that maybe there’s a reason for that. Self-love is always a tough issue and I’m no exception to the norm in that respect. I see me in a new light and am living life now as if I matter. It’s hard to do but I need to do it. Don’t we all?
  • I am blessed to have had quality time with my mother and sisters, and later with my dad and brothers, something I have desired for years but hadn’t been able to make happen. Grok gave me the perfect opportunity to spend lots of close time with those I love the most, but with whom I spend little time these days. I will treasure the memories of our time together.
  • Grok showed me how to prioritize things in my life. Before all this happened, I was a workaholic who could not say No to anyone’s plea for assistance. I put in 14-16 hour days every day and was going in ten directions at once, all at high speed. Sound familiar? I had no balance in my life between work and play and now I see how essential it is to have that down time, that ‘me’ time. It’s healthy and needed.
  • I am blessed to rediscover my creative side. I used to dabble in the arts and was actually pretty good in drawing, painting and sculpture but haven’t touched it in years. Now I’m back experimenting with watercolors and clay and loving it.
  • Grok has given Joe and I the opportunity to deepen our relationship and explore new nuances of it we didn’t know were there. We have grown closer as a result and for that I feel doubly blessed.
  • For years I have wanted to spend time at the beach, with my family, in the summertime. Well, thanks to Grok I got my wish, with a full month in NC with my parents and my sister and her family. I doubt it would have taken anything less than brain surgery to allow myself that opportunity otherwise, though now I see that it would have been better to have done so without the necessity of surgery to merit it!
  • I have learned to overcome my aversion to the state of modern medicine. Those who know me know that I only use alternative healing techniques to stay healthy, so having to trust and rely on doctors and hospitals was a major step for me. However, I’ve always conceded that modern medicine was good for surgery and drugs and if that’s what you need, then they’re the ones to go to. Guess I did!
  • This experience has given me empathy for others who are going through or will go through the same or similar situations. Now I can relate to the whole doctor/hospital experience and perhaps offer advice on how to cope with it. It doesn’t have to be an awful experience, and there are many good folks in the medical professions.
  • I am blessed to learn that the only limitations we have are those we impose on ourselves or those we accept from others as real. Part of the reason I healed so quickly was precisely because I chose not to accept the doctors’ time prognosis as valid for me. Why can’t I heal in 3 days instead of 6? Why limit myself?
  • This has been perhaps the most profoundly spiritual experience in my life to date. There is not enough time or space here to go into the many ways I have grown spiritually from all this. Suffice it to say that I had been asking for the next step in my personal evolvement and I got exactly what I asked for! Perhaps I’ll expound on that another time…

Well, that’s enough from me for today. You all must be tired of hearing about this by now. J
But please know that I am doing well and that I welcome e-mails, phone calls and visits. I will be in Connecticut from July 29th to August 10th and then back here for the duration. I will probably do another update on this web site after my visit with the neurosurgeon at the end of August. Till then, I thank you all and would like to leave you with my latest goal (below). Thanks again to everyone for all your continued support and good thoughts!

Much love to all,



          Imagine That

I believe that when we send thoughts – in the form of prayers and blessings or any other form, good or bad – we are energizing into being that which we are visualizing as happening. As such, I focus my thoughts on what I want to happen and not on what I don’t want to happen, so as not to create a negative reality. In the case of the remaining tumor in my head, I have consciously chosen to envision only positive thoughts about my health, i.e., I continually imagine and picture a healthy artery feeding a healthy brain stem in my skull. I do not even think about any tumor – the physical manifestation of Grok no longer exists for me and I give no energy whatsoever to it in thought or word. If you are inclined to send me healing energy for my recovery, I ask that you too energize the vision of perfect health in my head and body and not focus on the tumor at all. If we give the body and spirit the right image as a goal, it will find a way to manifest it.

Thank you for assisting me in doing this.