Are You Contemplating Brain Surgery to Eliminate Seizures?

I remember taking literature classes in college and my professors becoming so aggravated with me every time they assigned a story or poem to read and find the meaning of. Though I love reading and writing poetry, I was not the least bit interested in reading poems that had been written years before and cutting them to pieces in order to discover their meaning.   As an older college student my attitude was probably somewhat expected by the professors but as an honors student I imagine I should have been less verbal with my opinions about assignments that I considered a waste of my time.  Not saying what I think is a skill I have never managed.

I have learned since then that life gives us assignments that are much more difficult than those given by college professors. I never lost the habit of being too verbal about my dismay over some of the chores that life has sent my way. However; as the years pass I have learned to appreciate those old college assignments. I believe everything we do is guided by our interpretation of circumstances we encounter. We write our own lines as we live day by day and whether those lines rhyme or not they become what we are known for.

As I was contemplating writing this post I came across this poem published in 1916 that was written by Robert Frost:

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost said this about the poem, “One stanza of ‘The Road Not Taken’ was written while I was sitting on a sofa in the middle of England. I found the stanza three or four years later and I couldn’t bear not to finish it. I wasn’t thinking about myself there, but about a friend who had gone off to war, a person who, whichever road he went, would be sorry he didn’t go the other. He was hard on himself that way.”

If you are considering brain surgery to eliminate seizures there are two things about reading this poem that may help you during your journey. The first is every time you read the poem the meaning can be interpreted differently. While contemplating the possible outcome of brain surgery you will interpret the future in many ways, both good and bad. No one can tell you what the final results of surgery will be and they certainly do not know what it feels like to be choosing which road to travel.  That decision may be to continue having seizures and not undergo brain surgery which is fine as long as that choice brings with it acceptance of your illness. Charley could never accept having seizures but the choice to have brain surgery was still not easy to make.

The second element about this poem I liked is it reminded me of the first time Charley and I visited with his brain surgeon, Dr Bruce Mickey. Reading this poem made me feel exactly like I had when we walked out of Dr. Mickey’s office.  Charley and I were saying to each other, “What did he say? Do you have a clue what he meant? Did he use normal words? What is he going to do? Do you want to do this? When do we come back? Did you understand him? Was he talking too fast? What did he say?” No matter the words used by the brain surgeon with all the apprehension caused by being in their office every time you try to remember what they said it will be like reading this poem and trying to interpret the words of another person and put meaning to them for yourself. Prepare yourself for that element of your experience with the brain surgeon.

I don’t blame you if you are afraid of having brain surgery, it is the road less traveled at this point in epilepsy treatment. I am hoping my book, Epilepsy Unveiled, will help those who suffer with seizures to realize there is a progression with seizures (especially tonic-clonic seizures) that can lead to psychosis after a number of years. I want others who are trying to decide which road to travel to fully understand that the road with seizures they are on now could lead to psychosis that is caused by those seizures. I believe that information will help with understanding what the future may hold if brain surgery is decided against. I state in Epilepsy Unveiled Charley and I should have been much more afraid of the psychosis than the surgery. I never will retract that statement.

There is also a progression that takes place after brain surgery if your seizures are eliminated. For Charley that progression included obtaining his driver’s license and being able to drive again and enjoy his freedom. He also began to dream which was completely foreign to him. I write about this experience in Chapter 23, “I Thought Dreams Were Things People Wanted.” Charley also began to connect feelings with different life experiences and began to understand himself and others in a more loving and accepting way. This is explained in Chapter 22, “Who Says the Mind is Kind?” We had a rough time for a while after Charley’s surgery but the positive eventually outweighed the negative a billion to one.

When you visit your surgeon be sure to write down your questions and their answers to those questions so maybe you won’t be as confused as Charley and I were. The choice you make about brain surgery is scary and personal. No matter which road you choose be sure you weigh every option one by one and then choose the road that will make all the difference in your life.

About Lola Jines-Burritt