Two Year ANniversary

What a journey this has been. As I approach my two year ANniversary I want to thank all my family, friends and followers for all your love and support.  My two year ANniversay falls on February 8th. I fight everyday to keep a positive attitude and live a healthy lifestyle. I have accepted that this was the card dealt to me and I will make the best of it.  I could dwell on all the negative challenges and obstacles that I deal with on a daily basis but at the end of the day its not going to get me anywhere. I focus on the positive that I am alive and able to get through each and everyday on my own. I'd be lying if I said everything is back to normal, as stated before this is my new normal. I am single sided deaf with extreme tinnitus, I battle dry eye, balance, coordination issues, dry mouth, and a weak smile. These are all constant reminders of what I've been through and how far I've come. I have great family, and friends who have been through this journey with me to help and support me. I wouldn't have been able to do it without them. I haven't wrote in my blog recently as I felt like  I didn't have much substance and didn't want to sound like a broken record. Most ANTS (Acoustic Neuroma Tumor Survivors) know that the recovery process is long and exhausting. In the beginning you notice changes quite rapidly and then the improvements start to slow. Never give up and push yourself! It gets easier.

I stated in a previous blog about the tear duct plug and I decided to give it a try as it was highly recommended in a couple Facebook AN groups. I was using a tube of Refresh PM ointment about every four days to combat the dry eye discomfort. After the tear duct plug was inserted which was a 2 minute eye doctor procedure, I find myself only using a tube every week. The goal of the plug was to help keep the ointment on the eye longer and if there is any tear production it won't drain out. Overall the dry eye has to be my biggest complaint. I just pray that someday I will have comfort again. 

As for all my recreational activities, I have been league bowling consistently and rolling just above a 170 average. I have adjusted my approach and I'm currently working on my release. I played golf again over thanksgiving and found it to be a lot less challenging as compared to the game I played in June 2013. I am sad to announce that I had to part ways with my street bike because I just didn't feel comfortable riding the style that I owned. I had a KTM Supermoto and felt I'd be more comfortable on a cruiser. I still own my dirt bike and feel most at ease riding that in the sand dunes where there is a lot of wide open space. Trails are very difficult to navigate. I have yet to get back on my snowboard this season and really look forward to making it out a couple times.

I'm still crazy about my healthy lifestyle. After a year of blending smoothies daily in my Vitamix blender I have just switched back to using my Omega Juicer and drinking my daily green drink which typically consists of spinach, kale, cucumber, apple and lemon. The nutritional benefits from either form of blending or juicing are amazing. I'm a true believer they have helped speed up my recovery. I haven't been able to attend the Bikram Yoga as much as I'd like but I do workout at my local gym six days a week. My gym routine usually consists of about 30-45 minutes of weights and 30 minutes of cardio. I've been working really hard to regain the strength and stability in my left arm with the use of free weights. When I get home from the gym I enjoy a quick run around the block as it helps train and eliminate the brain bounce as well as improve the smoothness of my stride.

Back in early fall of 2014 I was interviewed by the Marketing Department of Sunrise Hospital where I completed 5 days of rehabilitation following my surgery. I was informed my success story would be published in a local magazine called HealthCare Quarterly and distributed to local healthcare facilities around the area. After the interview I learned the interviewer was passing the responsibility onto another department and they would follow up with me. Months later I hadn't heard anything and assumed the article was never published. It was brought to my attention by a coworker that while he was at the doctors office he happened to see an incredible write up about me in the Healthcare Quarterly. The very next day I called the publisher and picked up a handful of copies. As I sat in my truck reading the article I began to shed happy tears from my right eye. I still can't believe how far I've come! I've included the article below.


I shared in an earlier blog that I had started a business called Property Image Services, llc. I have been providing Landscape Maintenance, Auto Detail and Handyman Services for close to a year now. The business has been doing okay and has really challenged me physically. During the past year I have been applying and looking for something with a more stable future. Just this last week I was offered a full time position with IBM and I couldn't be happier to join such a successful organization. This opportunity couldn't have come at a better time as I reach another milestone in my recovery.

While visiting my family for Christmas in Michigan, I was given the book Smiling Again by Sally Stap.  A great read, I finished it on the plane ride home and passed it along to my parents to read. If you have a chance pick up a copy on  Sally describes her diagnosis, surgery and recovery experience well. I've found that sharing books and others stories with my family members helps them understand better what we are all experiencing. I am part of a few different Facebook AN groups online and have also involved my parents so they can get a better understanding. They really enjoy reading others stories. It helps them understand when I talk about the brain bounce, dry eye, tinnitus, balance, ect.... 

For the past two years now I have been blogging and sharing my story with others. I plan to share my story and continue reaching out to others. However, I don't plan on writing much more I will continue to share updates on my Facebook at My next MRI is in June and I will keep everyone updated on the result. For now I am going to focus on being awesome and my new exciting career. Love you all!! 

Tough times never last but tough people do

I had my 16 month post op MRI end of June. Arrived in Orange County early AM rented a car and made the short commute to USC. My anxiety was through the roof as I was slid into the MRI tube and  then waited patiently to discuss the results with Gianotta. I can't wait for the day when I walk in walk out without any worry. Its still so fresh to be able to relax. On a positive note Gianotta noted no new signs of visual growth. What one time looked like a marble on my brain now appeared to be the size of a grain of rice. As hard as it was to still see anything on my brain I was reassured that the residual tumor left behind was there not to compromise the facial nerve. Feeling positive Gumby will never regrow, Gianotta advised me to keep up the good work and he'll see me next year for another scan. I asked Gianotta if I could get a scan in Vegas and have it sent to him so I wouldn't have to travel to LA every year for a MRI. He stated that he uses some of the best imaging equipment and wants to continue using only his equipment. I understand and I want the best images so I will continue going to LA for my scans. With that behind me for another year I can keep focusing on my greatness.

Recently spent a week with my family in Traverse City, Mi. and had an amazing trip. While in Michigan I had the opportunity to run another 5k. My goal was to beat last years time of 29:53. This run was much more smooth compared to those in the past I experienced minimal bobble head and brain bounce. Looking left and right while running still creates an issue where I feel like I might trip and fall. My leg now has a much smoother relaxed stride. I finished the race with a time of 28:21 and placed 3rd in my age group. Never give up!

As discussed in my previous blog I've been busy starting Property Image Services, LLC. I'm happy to report that business is picking up and sometimes I feel like I bite off more than I can chew. For example, I took a demolition cleanup job that required removing 16 tons of busted up concrete. A shovel, wheelbarrow, two 8yrd dumpsters, two days and a lot of manual labor I completed the job and the customer was happy. I was exhausted! A task that was nearly impossible a year ago, I was so happy to be able to complete. It was a true test to my balance and stamina. I found using a dual wheel wheelbarrow was key to combating the balance issues.

I'm still learning about my new normal everyday and all the challenges that present themselves. The little things you never thought twice about. For example, when sitting at a table for a meal with others I now have to carefully pick my seating arrangement so I can hear everyone at the table due to my SSD. My dry eye is an ongoing battle I have to say its probably the most aggravating part of this whole recovery. I still haven't found a comfortable alternative to the Refresh PM ointment. I recently tried a product called Lacrisert, which is a small tablet placed under the lower eye lid. Over time the tablet is supposed to dissolve creating moisture and comfort. Well my tablet jelled up and became uncomfortable. I have reached out to others in my situation and their advice is to get a tear duct plug. I definitely will look into the plug.

I find myself who once was very outgoing is now a little more reserved. Its difficult to describe but even though I'm told often that nothing appears to be wrong with me I'm still living the invisible disability. I find most social settings and outings mentally exhausting so I don't enjoy them as much as I once did. I still however try to participate in most outings and functions. I get bored easily and need to keep moving.   

15 Month Post OP Update

I strive to continue on that positive path of recovery and not let anything get in my way. This past week I scheduled my 16 month MRI and check up with Dr. Gianotta at USC. It all became real again as I sat there thinking how far I've come. Emotions ran high reminiscing about the first time I was slid into that MRI tube. I was listening to Jason Aldean on Pandora Radio laying on the MRI table knowing something was wrong with me but not yet quiet sure only to find out a month later I had a brain tumor. I have to apologize that I've been MIA for a little bit. I have been asked by many how I am doing and when I'm going to write again. Recently I've been putting a lot of my energy into figuring out a way to earn a living again. Back in March I began the process of obtaining a Clark County Substitute Teaching License and finally had my orientation a week ago. I didn't realize the process took so long and now that the school year is coming to an end I may have to wait till September to pick up an assignment. While obtaining a teaching license I started Property Image Services, LLC. I provide Auto Detail, Landscape Maintenance and Handyman Services to the Las Vegas Valley. All my business is based on referrals and I've been staying pretty busy. With all my physical challenges it makes working very difficult at times but I refuse to let it get the best of me. I have to keep moving forward challenging myself everyday if I'm going to make any progress. Yes I have days where my balance is just off or my dry eye is extremely frustrating and I want to throw in the towel. I remind myself that I'm alive and mobile, tomorrow will be better! For those pre/post op AN readers curious about MY recovery at 15 months... Well lets just say my issues have improved. Yes the issues are still present and they are a daily reminder. Balance is still a struggle but I've learned to compensate for it. I still bump into walls, lose my footing, stub my toes frequently, and grab onto things before I tip over. My dry eye is probably the most annoying issue I've had to deal with. The only relief I have found is wearing a protective contact lens and applying Refresh PM hourly. Is it getting better? I can close my eye without having to strain to close it but the blinking windshield wiper effect has yet to come back. I'm not sleeping with an eye patch anymore. So yes there is some minor progress. My plan is to take care of and protect the eye in hopes it makes a full recovery. The left side of my mouth is still a little numb and I don't have much taste. I bite my lip a lot and have extreme dry mouth. I like to suck on the TheraBreath Mouth Wetting Lozenges. The tinnitus in my deaf ear is loud all the time and extremely annoying especially in louder environments because it turns up. I've found that if I don't think about it or there is a little background noise I don't really notice it. As for right now while I'm typing about it, it is very loud and disturbing. I'm startled easily if in a room by myself and someone approaches me on my left side. I find it difficult to operate in dim lit environments because I have a hard time navigating dim lit or unfamiliar areas. I think this is a combination of my vision, hearing and coordination. My left hand coordination is still a little out of whack. I've yet to be able to type with 2 hands, buttoning a shirt is awkward, using hand tools is difficult, and the hand becomes weak and fatigued easily. As time goes on these issue seem to get a little easier to deal with yet they are all daily challenges. I have discussed some of my goals in previous blogs like running 5k's Post Op and a Tough Mudder Pre Op. Last month the Tough Mudder was held at Lake Las Vegas, NV and even though I wasn't ready to run it I volunteered the event. It was a great day helping all the participants through the obstacle Arctic Enema. Running has yet to be enjoyable and as much as I wanted to participate in the Las Vegas Tough Mudder I wasn't ready to run through the deserts uneven terrain. Hopefully by next year I'll be able to participate. While running right now my head feels like a bobble head doll and if I'm on uneven terrain I stumble an tumble. I hope with practice that running becomes easy for me again. A couple weeks ago I was asked to sub on a co-ed softball league. I haven't caught a ball or swung a bat since I was a kid. I stepped up to the plate and accepted the challenge. It was slow pitch and the captain assigned me catcher. I found it difficult to catch the ball due to my wacky left hand eye coordination but still manged to make a play at first. When up at bat I had 2 outs and 4 base hits. I used a base runner because I had a difficult time sprinting from home base to first. Overall it was a successful evening and I'm happy that i accepted the challenge. Bowling season is coming to an end and I'm happy to report I averaged a 170 my first season back. Next season I hope to be rolling somewhere in the 180-190 range. As of April 2014, I had officially drank about 20oz of green pressed juice daily for an entire year. I felt great and know it helped my recovery tremendously. I have not given up only altered the juicing process. Instead of pressing juice using an Omega Juicer, I blend my fruit and veggies into a smoothie using a Vitamix. For anyone familiar with a Vitamix knows that this machine will blend concrete. Its quick, simple and easy clean up. My typical breakfast smoothie contains an estimated 700 - 800 calories which includes: Banana, Avocado, Spinach, Kale, Protein Powder, Grapes, Apple, Lemon, Ice and Water. Its so good! As for dinner I have been sampling a few different recipes like a vegan mac and cheese and random quinoa dishes. I continue a routine exercise regiment that includes roughly 5 days of cardio and strength training and 1 day of Bikram Yoga. I want to stay in shape and remain lean. I definitely don't want a Gumby return. With my healthy lifestyle and exercise routine comes a new look or my new normal. I have been informed by some that I look too thin and unhealthy. Sorry you feel that way. I have been through so much trauma and have come so far that I refuse to let any negative remarks or comments bring me down! Keep it to yourself please. I'm going to do me. Life is a garden, Dig it! HAPPY MOTHERS DAY!!        

Lifestyles are permanent diets are temporary

A lot of people have been asking me about my lifestyle lately and I have been asked to share it. So I have taken the time to write up how you can transform your everyday eating habits into healthier choices. I hope you can take a little bit from this article and develop better habits for you and your family. Remember everyone is different and what has been working for me might not necessarily work for you.

Keep in mind I'm not a nutritionist and can't count your calories for you, however, portion control will be something you'll develop over time. As a coach what I can offer is support, recommendations, guidance, healthy meal ideas and alternatives. With personal dedication, self-control and the drive to want it, you can achieve a healthy lifestyle. It all begins from within.

First, you need to change your mindset and thought process when you get hungry. Think of eating to fuel your body with nutrition rather than satisfaction or pleasure. Personally I eat mainly for the health benefits rather than taste. This will take some time to become accustom to. Yes, a bowl of ice cream or candy bar would taste much better than roasted veggies mixed with brown rice but at the end of the day what good was the bowl of ice cream or candy bar good for? I recommend you keep reminding yourself that the ice cream or candy bar is going to give you no nutritional value. It’s all about making smarter decisions. With support, drive and self-control it can be done! So let’s get started to a healthier you....

You can start by slowly eliminating dairy. Dairy is bad news everywhere you look. Almost half of the calories in whole milk come from fat, and nearly all its carbs come from sugar. Also, the fat in dairy is every bit as saturated as the fat in beef. Dairy has no fiber or iron. There are so many alternatives to dairy available.

Butter Substitute -Earth Balance which is a vegan spread - basically I consider it a hardened olive oil.

Milk - Switch to Almond milk

Cheese - Well there is a lot of nondairy cheeses however none that I have found even compare. This is a tough one for most to cut out but over time you can learn to avoid it. Remember you don’t need it!

Cut out all the creams and sauces, mayo, ranch, sour cream etc..

I highly recommend eliminating Red Meat all together. Studies provide clear evidence that regular consumption of red meat, especially processed meats, contribute substantially to cancers and premature deaths. Make the transition by eating more chicken and lean ground turkey. 

Try to eliminate soda or reduce your soda intake, drink lots of water!

Here are some suggestions to get you started with your lifestyle changes

What to consume -

Chicken, Fish, Sushi (be mindful a lot of sushi rolls are prepared with dairy), Eggs, Green Veggies, Brown Rice or Quinoa

Light Fruit (contains a lot of natural sugar)

Plain baked potato

Salad with baby greens - Iceberg has no nutritional value.

Dressings try and avoid most - use olive oil/vinegar or Vinaigrette. No French, Ranch, Blue Cheese ect..

Wheat toast - plain or with peanut butter (organic peanut butter only - jiff is full of sugar and preservatives)

Avocados are really good for you

Wheat or Veggie Pasta with Marinara (caution - a lot of people cook marinara with cheese and jarred marinara contains a lot of sugar)

Snack on Almonds, guacamole, veggie sticks, hummus, salsa

Avoid - Foods that generally don't go bad or have a long shelf life. (PROCESSED) Extremely unhealthy!!

A rule I try to live by when going grocery shopping. Shop mainly the perimeter of the store.

While traveling or on the go you can apply all these same principles. Make healthy choices and ask the server! They will typically make accommodations. The best part about all this is that you'll be educated.

A couple decent fast food options

Samurai Sams or Teriyaki Madness - Chicken Bowl with brown Rice and Veggies

Burrito Joints - Wheat tortilla, Chicken, or fish pinto beans, salsa, avacado, lettuce

Smoothies are great as long as you are using the right ingredients, Steer clear of the sugars and dairy. Veggie Juices are terrific blended or pressed. Avoid a lot of fruit due to the natural sugars.

I personally like pressed juice loaded with green veggies to get all the nutrients possible.  Purchasing a juicer maybe a good idea but they are expensive. Also a huge commitment and time consuming.

Don’t forget exercise. You need to boost the heart rate 3-4 times a week for approx.  30-45min - start slow. Walks, Jogs, Bike Rides, Stairs ect…    

I understand this might be easier said than done and you may need to take baby steps. With all the above recommendations a healthy lifestyle will be developed. You'll feel great and weight will come off. No cheat days! Remember this is a lifestyle! If you have any questions, please ask me.

I’ve been following  these guidelines  for over 3 years and once you get it dialed in it becomes second nature. You won’t even think twice about a candy bar anymore. I feel it has aided in my recovery tremendously. Good luck!

Operation Cougar

   I've been wanting to write this blog for sometime now. It was such an overwhelming emotional day, I've had a hard time sitting down to write about this memorable day filled with so much emotion.

On May 14th, 2013 I was invited to Operation Cougar, a charity golf tournament in my honor. It was hosted by my good friends Shane, Mike, Danny and many others who took the time to help arrange this special day.  I have been golfing since I was a little kid and have played many rounds with Shane and Mike. They wanted to do something special to help me during my recovery. It was only appropriate to hold a scrambles golf tournament at Angel Park Golf Course, a place we frequent. I had no idea what to expect.

I recall starting my day with loud tinnitus, dry eye, bumping into a few walls, facial paralysis, breakfast, a gym session, lunch and a call to my mom to say hi and tell her that I was headed to the golf outing shortly. Danny picked me up around 1 pm that Tuesday afternoon it was the first 100 degree day of the year. Sun was shinning and it was hot! All I knew is that I was going to the golf course to celebrate and spend the day with my friends on the course. I was excited to see everyone.  

As I walked to the clubhouse I was greeted by some familiar faces. As I proceeded around the side of the clubhouse I notice a bunch of people all wearing custom print Operation Cougar shirts. I'm in shock all of the sudden. Then my mom appears from behind the bar and comes running at me with open arms. Surprise! Wow, I was speechless. Little did I know she was in Vegas when I spoke with here earlier. She had traveled from Michigan to participate in my golf outing. I was so happy! So many people were there to support me during this special day. I'm so thankful for such loving, supporting family and friends. I even got to spend sometime with my nephew, Wyatt.

I was given a box of shirts and a roll of fifty fifty raffle tickets to sell. At this point I wasn't sure how many people or who was all playing golf. It was a shot gun start scheduled for 2 pm. Most of the groups were already spread about their assigned tee boxes ready to start. Unsure how to tackle the day I jumped in a golf cart accompanied by my friend Cindy and took off to thank each foursome for their love and support. My sister, Erin, and friend Ethan followed behind selling shirts and raffle tickets. Cindy photographed the entire day as we visited each foursome.

The day was zipping by, I was having so much fun I didn't want it to end. I was in shock the whole time. Cindy kept reminding that all theses people where there because they love and care about me. I was trying to breathe and take it all in. We made our way around all 18 holes and back to the clubhouse as all the golfers were making their way in. The score cards were tallied, prizes distributed, raffle ticket drawn and I gave a short thank you speech. A few of us headed to a local restaurant for some dinner, where I was able to take a breather and recap the day. The day went by so fast and I was exhausted. While at dinner my mom presented the letter she had wrote to the TODAY SHOW. See "Moms letter to the TODAY SHOW" post. Such a nice letter. Thank you

I've lived in Las Vegas for 9 years and have developed an amazing caring network of friends. I refer to these friends as my Vegas family. Vegas is a very transient town with a lot of flakes. These friendships mean so much to me. I have always been the type of person to give and help others but this day was all about me. It was absolutely amazing! I've never experienced anything quite like this before. To this day I think about all the people who took time from their busy lives to come out and show their love and support. The event was a huge success with about 70 plus golfers and many who just came out to say hi and support. My family, friends and all my supporters have helped keep me strong and push me through this crazy journey. Thank you so much to all those who made this day so special!    

One Year ANniversary

Emotions ran wild, tears were shed, surprise after surprise, family, friends, hugs, laughs, games, Gumby gifts, drinks, celebrations, photos, pretty much sums up the last couple weeks.... I cannot even begin to describe how thankful I am to be able to celebrate my one year ANniversary with so many people that have been by my side through this entire journey. So much love and support! For those that weren't able to be there this past weekend I know you would have been if you could. Thank you everyone who helped make this ANniversary special!! 

I don't even know where to begin... This year has already been an emotional roller coaster as I watched my family - Erin, Kevin, Wyatt and Weston, pack up and move back to Michigan to begin their new chapter. I support their decision, love and miss them so much! I am so thankful that they were so close to me during this past year. I see many summer vacations to visit them in my near future! I continue each day focusing on the positives and moving in the right direction. 

As far as my progress, I was told that at the one year mark I should be feeling pretty good. Well, I do feel good. I still struggle with my 'new normal' daily challenges. Dry eye, dry mouth, balance, tinnitus, and wonky head, are symptoms that I face on a daily basis. Will they get better? Not sure. Are they getting easier to manage? Yes. I find that dog walking, and yoga has helped tremendously with balance. I still struggle in dark rooms, loud environments or if someone has locked arms with me. It takes a lot of focus to maintain a straight line while walking and distractions can really throw me off. To combat dry mouth I found a mouth wetting lozenge that seems to help called TheraBreath. Sometimes the hardest part is when someone says that I look normal.... I wish they could experience a day in my shoes. I recently connected with Hannah, a brain injury survivor who also has a very inspirational story. Through this connection I learned about the Invisible Disability Association. An association that creates awareness and educates people about Invisible Disabilities Look up Hannah and show her some support at 

I mentioned connecting with Adrienne in a prior blog at the LA support group. I had the pleasure of meeting with Adrienne and her husband, Bill last night for dinner. Adrienne had her AN removed by Dr. Gianotta in November of last year. I have to say for three months post op she looks amazing and is doing great. Like all of us she is dealing with some daily challenges as well which I can relate to. Keep up the great work and positive attitude Adrienne! Thank you. 

After visiting with Adrienne last night and comparing our recoveries, it makes me happy that she doesn't have to deal with some of the symptoms that I do. However, I know she has her own challenges. Same tumor, same side, same surgeon but different recoveries. Frustrating at times! The more people I connect with the more I learn about the different outcomes. Some easier than others, mine has been rough and I'm determined it will not get the best of me! As much as I wish my outcome wasn't so difficult I feel its made me a stronger person. Over the past year I've gained a lot more appreciation for what I use to take for granted. Never again will I sweat the small shit. I have a whole new outlook on life. 

I am asked constantly whats next? Well aside from my health that I continue to focus on daily I need to earn an income. I've tackled all my recreational recovery goals its now time to make a living! I really enjoy inspiring, speaking, coaching and helping others. Now if I could turn it into a living I'd be all set! This past week I was invited back to speak in front of about 50 students in a Kinesiology program at UNLV. One door can open another... The instructor asked that I share the past years journey focusing on the benefits of living a healthy lifestyle to aid in recovery. If it wasn't for my physical condition pre surgery I'd be nowhere close to where I'm at today physically.

My plan is to continue my blog every couple weeks with updates as to whats going on. Please share my site with everyone.  Thank you for all the continued love and support, I love you all. Stay healthy my friends. Cheers to a successful 2014!  



363 Days Post OP

A lot of Refresh PM eye ointment and a great pair of Smith goggles, I strapped on my snowboard and hit the slopes yesterday. It felt so good to shred again! I spent the day at Brianhead, Utah with my friend, Joanne. Brianhead is conveniently located about 3 hrs north of Las Vegas. Like everything else I've set out to accomplish in this recovery it will take a lot of practice. There will be no cliff jumping or back flips quite yet....

I've been snowboarding since the age of 13 and its always been a huge part of my life. Since moving west in 2005 I'll never forget the first time snowboarding on a real snow covered 11,000 ft elevation mountain. I felt right at home! I grew up shredding fake snow and ice on the hills of Michigan. No comparison and I'm spoiled now with mountains surrounding the Vegas valley.  

The first decent down Giant Steps, the main run at Brianhead, was a little shaky as I tried to focus on keeping my balance. I was having a difficult time relaxing and maintained a stiff posture throughout the run. When I reached the bottom and looked back up at the mountain my emotions ran high. I couldn't believe I successfully conquered yet another milestone days before my 1 year ANniversary. We quickly jumped back on the chair lift and cracked an ice cold trophy brew to celebrate! Throughout the day as I worked on my turns, speed and maintaining my balance I was having a hard time with my peripheral vision. As I tried to scan my surroundings it would throw off my balance and focus. Some I've heard refer to this a wonky head. The mountain was fairly empty so I didn't have to worry to much about others crossing my path which allowed me a lot of freedom on the runs to practice. As the day went on I became a little more confident and started to venture off the groomed trails onto the fresh pow pow. The deep pow pow really tested my ability to keep form and balance. I couldn't bring myself to attempt any rails or jumps this time.... I'll save that for the next trip. I am just so happy I was able to make it down the hill keeping the bottom of the snowboard on the snow the entire time. I cannot wait till the next trip!!! Happy ANniversary to me! :) 


Dry Eye

Just had a follow up visit with Dr. Mark Lee regarding my dry eye. Lee has been following my progress for a few months now. Due to surgery I am experiencing chronic dry eye. My eye doesn't blink. Basically the windshield wiper effect doesn't work and creates extreme discomfort. Currently I wear a high moisture non corrective contact lens to prevent cornea abrasions. Along with the lens I use multiple different Refresh products throughout the day to combat the dry eye sensation. I prefer the drops rather than the ointment due to the fact the ointment creates blurred vision. Problem with the drops is that they don't hold up that long and I find myself applying drops every 20-30 minutes rather than every couple hours with the ointment. Trying to find a level of comfort throughout the day is extremely frustrating at times. I'll usually wear my eye patch while looking at my computer screen for any length of time to prevent the eye from drying out. Before bed I remove the contact, apply Refresh PM and an eye patch. I went into the Dr. for a checkup today praying for a positive progress report. Unfortunately I was informed that there's no new noticeable progress. Lee told me this process could take years as the nerves regenerate. He did suggest purchasing moisture chamber type of glasses to help prevent the eye from drying out so quickly throughout the day. With a price tag of a $150, I think I'll sleep on that idea for a little while. The glasses are made by Panoptix  and the frames are by 7 Eyes. They are offered in many styles with clear and tinted lens options. For the meantime I will continue taking extreme care of the eye with a combination of the contact, drops, ointment and eye patch.

I currently own a few good pair of goggles that I wear when snowboarding and riding my motorcycles. So far I haven't experienced any issues from the wind or dirt while riding. I hope that my snowboarding experience in February goes smoothly as well. 


Happy New Year

As I approach my 1 year ANniversary, which is on Feb 8th, 2014 my emotions are running wild... Its been one hell of a  journey! I can't thank all my family, friends and followers enough for all your love and support. I've come so far and yet have a long way to go. Hope everyone had a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year celebration. I was just so happy to spend the holidays with my family and friends without Gumbi growing in my head.  

As I mentioned in my last blog I was headed to Glamis sand dunes to ride my dirt bike with my folks for New Years. For those unfamiliar with Glamis its located in the southeastern portion of  California, near the border with Arizona and the Mexican state of Baja California. The dunes are approximately 45 miles long by 6 miles wide. Its a huge place and has been a childhood dream of mine to ride there. Check that off the bucket list. Again riding in the dunes is another true balance test and great exercise. I don't feel it was any easier from the beginning of December when I rode in Dumont Dunes. I can still compare my skills to riding a bicycle on the beach. Extremely unstable and difficult. Like everything else I've accomplished its taken a lot of time and hard work. I know my mom was a nervous wreck watching me ride. Sorry mom. Its time to stop playing in the sand and get back in the dirt. 

Whats next I keep asking myself....? Dirt bike aside, I have always had a passion for snowboarding. On Feb 6th, two days before my ANniversay my amazing friend, Joanne, is joining me in Brianhead, Utah as I test out my snowboarding skills. Not sure what to expect, but I sure can't wait to try. Not promising any back-flips or 360's.... Last time I went snowboarding was in January a year ago. I will let you know how it all works out in my next blog. Stay tuned.

I'm still practicing Bikram Yoga on average of 2-3 days each week as well as working out at the gym. Yoga is amazing and my balance postures improve every week. I Still struggle on my left leg quite a bit. I can almost complete the tree pose transition to toe stand. I spend on average about 90 minutes at the gym splitting my time up between weights and cardio exercise. I am still juicing my fruits and veggies and drink about 16 ounces a day. I have found some tasty creations. I switch it up occasionally but my go to is typically Spinach, Kale, Cucumber, Apple, and Lemon. Sometimes I use Dandelion Greens, Carrots, and Celery as well. If you're not a juicer I highly recommend it. As much as I like animals I have been walking dogs, and pet sitting. It keeps me busy, earns me a little income and helps aid in my recovery. All around a win win. If you know of anyone that needs pet care in the Las Vegas area please have them contact me I really enjoy it and would appreciate the referral.

My bowling average is on the rise. A little better each week, I'm currently rolling a 172 average and even rolled a 600 series a couple weeks back. 200 games are not uncommon anymore. Due to my uncomfortable dry eye it still presents a challenge as I approach the line to release the ball. My depth perception tends to be a little off. We bowl with about 32 teams and for the first half of the season our team finished in the middle about 15th place. 

I'm still learning to accept this so called "new normal" with so many challenges from single side hearing, tinnitus, dry eye to daily balance issues I find them becoming easier over time. While still all extremely frustrating I'm dealing with it. A positive attitude and healthy lifestyle keeps me going strong. I was having a drink with some friends the other night and a lady in the group mentioned she was an audiologist. I immediately engaged in conversation with her. She was very knowledgeable about my situation after I shared my story with her. She practices in Florida and wants to help locate me a local audiologist. She feels that there is  a way with a hidden hearing device in the ear canal to restore my ability to hear from the left side. The way she described it to me is that the device would tuck down into the ear canal and reroute the sound via wireless to the working ear. She also mentioned it would help tone down the tinnitus. I'm interested!  After some research I believe she was describing the CROS.  

As mentioned in my last blog I received a nice email from Adrienne. I had been meaning to connect with her and see how she is doing. About a week ago she emailed me informing that she would be in Vegas for a few days with her husband and would like to connect. I called Adrienne that evening to confirm. During my conversation with her it sounds like shes doing great - about 8 weeks post op and shes has started driving and doing balance therapy. I am excited to meet with them while they are in town.

Happy 2014 Cheers!

Quick Update

I jumped back on the dirt bike and went riding in the sand dunes this week. Dumont Sand Dunes, California. I was getting a little choked up just thinking 10 months ago I couldn't even stand up. I couldn't believe I was able to keep my balance in the sand. Talk about some serious balance exercise. The best comparison would be riding a bicycle through beach sand. Not easy, right? Going fast in a straight line wasn't too difficult. Trouble was trying to ride up a steep hill and turn around to come back down. Lost my balance a few times and fell over in the sand. Riding wheelies and jumping will take some more practice..... Next Trip will be Glamis sand dunes for New Years with the folks.

On a side note while camping in the dunes this week connected with two people who both their mothers had recently had Acoustic Neuromas. Both had Gamma Knife treatment and are doing well but it just blew my mind. Its a rare tumor and to meet not only one but two people whose mothers both had an Acoustic Neuroma is just unheard of. 

Another great story I want to share that brightened my day yesterday. While in LA at the support group I connected with a wonderful family whose mother, Adrienne, was recently diagnosed. While speaking with them I could sense all the emotions that they were experiencing. It helped me better understand how my family felt when I was diagnosed. Sadness, fears, questions and unknowns... Yesterday I received a wonderful email from Adrienne. She had her surgery on Nov. 26 with Dr. Friedman and Dr. Giannotta. at USC. Her surgery was on Tues and was released on Fri. Without trying to write her an email back, she had left a phone number and I couldn't wait to call her to find out how she was doing. I phoned Adrienne last night and we spoke for over an hour before I went to my Yoga class. I can't even describe how nice it was to hear her voice and talk with her about our journey. We were able to connect immediately and share our stories. As Adrienne expressed to me how frustrating her eye issue is becoming I was quickly able to relate and give her some suggestions. I hope she doesn't mind but I'd like to share her email in my comment section. It clearly made my day! Its so nice to connect with others that share similar experiences that can relate to what our "new normal" is. I can honestly say I had a "new normal" smile yesterday :)

9 month Post Op

Almost the one year mark. Wow! What a journey its been.... I don't even know where to begin. Where did I leave off? After my six month check up in LA I veered of track mentally. The positive path I've been heading down became a little rocky after I attended an Acoustic Neuroma support group during my LA visit. The check up with Gianotta  at USC went well as he said he's extremely happy with my progress. My next scheduled MRI isn't till June 2014. Not so sure I am ready to subject myself to a support group where I felt as if I was reliving my journey from the beginning. I was in a room of about 20 AN patients who were either just diagnosed, 2 weeks post op or years post op. All who had similar journeys yet some better than others. Emotions ran high and I was just overwhelmed. Without being rude I stayed for the whole meeting and tried to remain positive. After my return to Vegas I became very worried that my tumor was regrowing and started to stress myself out which caused me to feel as if my symptoms were coming back. I called USC and talked to Gianotta's PA, Dawn who reassured me it was all stress and that I needed to relax. Since that episode I have returned to my "new normal" thank god.

I have continued to remain active and healthy. I am regaining my strength through exercising, Bikram Yoga, and daily vegetable juicing. I have joined my bowling league again for the fall/winter season. I started out pretty strong but yet to have found my happy medium as I struggle with balance and vision. I currently hold a 170 average and hope to improve that to a 185 by the season end. As for the dry eye and vision I visited a new eye doctor recently who reported that my eye is blinking roughly 25% and he would like it to blink about 90% to properly lubricate the cornea. Mind you 9 months ago the eye wasn't blinking at all. There is hope! Up until about 2 weeks ago I was using ointment all day to prevent any damage to the cornea which obstructed my vision making it extremely blurry. My eye doctor recommended a high moisture contact that will protect the cornea which I just have to add eye drops. As frustrating as it is on a positive note I can see again. On the other hand my balance doesn't really seem to be improving anymore. If it is I'm not really noticing that much. I feel like I'm becoming a highly skilled walking drunk, I'm able to correct most of my stumbling and wobbling easier. I wish everyone could walk in my shoes for just one day to understand exactly what I'm talking about. I have been slowly relearning all the things I use to enjoy for example riding my motorcycles. I've recently went on a couple rides and as enjoyable as it was it was also challenging. I have to really focus which makes sightseeing almost impossible. This should become easier over time. I'm excited to strap on my snowboard and hit the mountain slopes this season. Ill keep you posted and let you know how that goes. Lately I've been trying to avoid naps at all cost and push through the day. When and if I lay down for a nap instead of a 30 min cat nap it becomes about a 2 hour hibernation. Doctor says listen to your body and trust me I know when its time to hibernate.... When my drunk walk becomes an uncontrollable stumble and wobble I know its time to hibernate. I live in Las Vegas so its acceptable, I fit right in. 

Back in June you may recall my Yoga goal and the instructor Sharon who was really inspired by me. Well since then Sharon has invited me back to UNLV to speak to her wellness class again. This time after speaking I was asked to be a part of a group project and share the benefits of yoga and how it has helped my recovery. "If I can do it so can you." The students are finalizing the project and are going to send me a copy which I hope to share on this site. It makes me so happy to help others.


Recovery Road

I checked out of Sunrise on February 18th, I was headed home to continue my recovery. The best part about checking out was I was able to attend my little sister Erin’s birthday dinner with the family. Dinner that evening was almost too overwhelming. The noise, lights, commotion, and crowded restaurant made it difficult to enjoy the evening but I was excited to be with my family. That next day I was determined to begin my rehabilitation. First, I needed to check into a rehab center.  I chose Dynamic Sport and Spine, which was recommended by friend Allison. My parents drove me to rehab and watched as I was harnessed to the ceiling while learning how to walk again. Throughout the 8 weeks spent at Dynamic the therapists assisted me with multiple walking exercises, some resistance exercises and facial nerve stimulation to help the feeling return in my face. After every session I would notice improvement. The first week at home I was always sure to keep a wall close by as I shuffled around the house. Nothing came easy; from taking a shower to cooking food but I had to do it on my own as I was trying to become independent again. By the second week of rehab I had switched from my walker to a cane. I was feeling confident and asked my roommate to give me a ride to the gym.  Moving around the gym was difficult due to all the distractions. Such as;the loud noise, lots of moving equipment, and people. Everything just felt as if it was in my way. I made my way to the seated elliptical to concentrate on leg and arm coordination because I could sit as I worked out. I spent an hour each day on the same machine increasing the resistance each time. By now I was still not driving due to the motion sickness, vertigo and dizziness. I was becoming more stable and independent. Knowing my parents had a Panama Canal cruise coming up I told them that I was confident with the help of my sister and Justin, I'd be okay on my own. It was difficult to see them go as much as I appreciated their help, I needed to do it all on my own. After my parents left I spent a few more weeks at rehab and a lot of time at the gym. By March progress was slowing down, I was noticing changes weekly instead of daily. This was frustrating because I wanted it now! Progress had been for weeks moving right along and now all of the sudden it was slowing down. The fact that I was still progressing kept me going each day. I was still determined to continue my rehab. I’ll never forget the night Justin and his girlfriend, Mia, invited me to go see a movie. Arriving to the theater and finding a seat wasn't an issue it was trying to exit a dark crowded theater. After sitting for 90 minutes I believe my left side went to sleep and as I tried to exit the theater I had to hold onto Justin for balance and stability. It was extremely difficult and exhausting. When I left USC after surgery, my left eye wasn't making tears, closing nor blinking. Gianotta instructed me to use artificial tears to prevent dry eye. A few weeks after surgery I noticed myself putting in eye drops about every 5 minutes. I was becoming very irritated. Towards the end of March I started to develop some pain in my left eye and I was instructed by my surgeon to see an eye doctor. I made an appointment the first part of April to see Dr. Perozek here in Las Vegas. I went to see Perozek and he had determined that I had developed microscopic cornea abrasions. Perozek instructed me to start applying an ointment to help lubricate and protect the eye. He also suggested a Gold Weight. A Gold Weight works as an assist after surgically implanted into the eyelid that helps keep the eyelid closed at night, which after reading about I kindly declined. I met with Gianotta for a follow up in June and he told me to avoid the Gold Weight and educated me on the Palpebral Eyelid Spring. The eyelid spring is also surgically implanted into the eyelid and assists the eyelid opening and closing. I've been researching the pros and cons of this spring and have been holding off in hopes that it will start working on its own soon. Good news - I have been able to strain and completely shut the eyelid. Bad news - It isn't blinking or making tears, I still apply ointment all day long and sleep with an eye patch on. I have a follow up with Gianotta mid-September for another progress report. I plan to discuss the eye progress a little more in depth.

Setting Goals

  Two 5k's, flying in an airplane, working out, Bikram Yoga, a round of golf, bowling, riding a bicycle, motorcycle, and stand-up jetski are some goals and accomplishments I've overcome during this recovery. Its now been 6 months post surgery, I've accomplished so much and yet have a long way to go.  Back in March while hanging out with my bowling crew I was challenged to run a 5k on May 4th for the Susan Komen Cancer Foundation. Good friend Anna aka 'buddy' said she would run it with me. I thought to myself it was time to DO WORK! At this point walking and standing up was still a challenge. The next day I was in the gym on the treadmill hanging on for dear life as the belt slowly turned. I could see progress daily and kept at it. A couple weeks in I ran to my mailbox. The run was awkward, painful and extremely uncomfortable. By April I was able to speed up the treadmill and while holding on maintain a steady jog. May 4th and it was time to run a 5k. Buddy and her son Eric picked me up that morning ready as can be we headed downtown. Unsure if I was going to run the whole way due to my awkward running posture I was determined to give it hell and finish. Started running and it took about a minute to find a somewhat a happy pace and posture. I knew already I was going to run the whole thing. It was hot outside and there were so many people.  During the run I encountered so many obstacles while trying to focus.  It seemed as if everything was in my way from the manhole covers, curbs, debris, all the people to the cracks in the street. I had to focus and try to maintain my balance and pace. Ill never forget the lady running next to me says at the 1 mile mark "only 1 mile, my ankle hurts." I thought to myself lady you have no idea and that motivated me to finish in 37 minutes. I felt an amazing sense of accomplishment and success. The next couple days were extremely painful due to my awkward running posture. Huge thanks to buddy and Eric for the challenge and running with me.  I couldn't stop now I had to keep setting goals and working on my recovery. I spent the last couple weeks of May in Michigan with my friends and family. My cousin lent me his Trek road bike which I practiced riding everyday. Riding a road bike with skinny tires was very challenging, it really put my balance to the test. Due to my hearing loss on the left side I had to be very cautious as it was difficult to hear cars behind me. I hear the noise on the right as it passes me on the left. Its taking a lot of time to get use to that. As my balance improved I began practicing riding my motorcycle through my neighborhood working on my coordination. Its hard to describe but I basically have to retrain my left side to operate properly. I am relearning to shift my motorcycle from gear to gear. Like anything else it takes practice.  I returned to Las Vegas and continued my recovery. Good friends Bryan and Anna along with my brother in law took me golfing for the first time on Fathers Day. I think I shot a 98 and enjoyed every minute. I didn't experience too much trouble swinging the clubs off the tee box and fairway but the chipping and putting were extremely difficult. I was having trouble controlling and judging the distance due to my uncoordinated left arm plus my blurry vision in my left eye. My vision is blurry due to the ointment I have to apply in my eye every hour to prevent dry eye and cornea abrasions. Doctors think anytime now my eye may come back around and start to blink and water on its own. It had been about 10 months since I had played golf I was so happy that I completed a round. I was so exhausted from the round of golf it took about a day for me to  rest up and bounce back.  A recovery goal of mine for the month of June was to begin Bikram Yoga. Last year I was practicing regular yoga weekly and developed great strength, posture and balance. I had read about all the benefits of doing yoga in a hot room and purchased a groupon for a 1 month trial. It couldn't hurt and I knew it would help improve my balance.  June 13th, I enrolled at Westside Yoga and entered a 115 degree 50% humidity room for 90 minutes and practiced yoga. Holy HOT! I managed to make it through the 90 minutes and perform about 90% of the postures. I felt great! I had difficulty with the standing and balancing postures so I positioned myself near a wall moving forward to help assist me. While explaining my story to my instructor, Sharon Jalene, and why I needed to use the wall for assistance she became very inspired and wanted to learn more about my story. We chatted briefly and emailed back and forth. Sharon shared my story with the yoga classes and asked me to speak at UNLV for one of her health and wellness classes she teaches. I was so honored to speak for her students, we set a date to make it happen. June 26th I met Sharon at UNLV, she introduced me to Dick Tandy, the department chair of the Kinesiology program. I shared my story with Dick before I was introduced to the class of roughly 15 students. Sharon made me feel comfortable knowing this was my first time sharing my story in front of a group in a lecture hall. I was a little nervous as a told my story and answered questions. Afterwards I sent a thank you email to both Sharon and Dick for the opportunity. As a thank you from Sharon she was able to give me 2 months free yoga and feature me as student of the month in the Yoga newsletter. I have been practicing Bikram Yoga for just over 2 months and I'm proud to say I can perform 99% of all the postures and balance on one leg. Huge thanks to Sharon and Westside Yoga for the continued love and support. I had a trip planned with my family to spend the 4th of July in Northern Michigan. My goal for the month of July was to run another 5k under 35 minutes. I  ran my 2nd 5k on July 4th in Fife Lake, Mi. I called in reinforcements and ran the race with my cousin Katie, her husband Dave, my friend Kyle and friend Jeff who took off with a goal in mind to finish around 20 minutes. I myself found my stride and pace much quicker this time. My posture was a little better, it was still stiff and awkward. My group helped me keep pace and I finished in 29 minuets. Very impressed with my time I received a bronze medal for my age group. Once again I was overwhelmed with excitement that I accomplished another goal and it had only been 5 months post surgery. Again the next day was quite painful. While spending time on the lake I manged to keep balance and ride a stand-up jetski. For those who are familiar with these watercraft, they take some amazing skill and balance to master.    As you all know by now bowling is a passion of mine and fall league is quickly approaching. Remember my goal to leave the rehabilitation hospital to a have a beer with my bowling on February 20th? Well, I accomplished that goal. Bowling actually begins September 4th, and I have signed up again this season. My goal for the month of August has been to bowl. I went bowling back in April with friends Bryan and Anna and wasn't able to walk to the foul line and release the ball in one continuous motion. At the time I had to stand at the foul line and release the ball. I think my score barely broke 100. Regardless of the score I went bowling, had a great time and remained positive. 6 months post surgery I attempted my bowling skill again. I was able in one continuous motion walk to the foul line and release the ball. My approach was way off balance and awkward. I probably looked like I had too many adult beverages. I was sober. That day I threw two games before becoming overly exhausted. Best score that day was an acceptable 135. I have been bowling again and threw a coupe games averaging a score of 130. Practice makes perfect and I'm only going to improve over time.  Life is a garden, Dig It! I have to keep keepin on!                 

?'s to ask your surgeon - Pre Surgery

I've compiled a list of questions to ask your surgeon during your initial consultation. I recommend a few different consultations. Record each one and listen to them repeatedly. 

How long have you been practicing? 

How many Acoustic Neuroma removals have you performed? 

What is the estimated tumor size?  

What is your surgical approach? RetroSigmoid or Translabrynthine

Do I have time for a second opinion? 

If you had an Acoustic Neuroma, who would remove yours? 

What is the average healing process and time frame? 

Will I have facial paralysis? 

Will my balance nerve be affected? 

Can you save my hearing nerve? 

How long do you anticipate surgery?

What kind of pre-surgery testing is required? 

How long do you anticipate my hospital stay?

What are my restrictions following surgery? 

Will I need and rehab or physical therapy?

What is your recommended follow up schedule? 




One week at Sunrise

I arrived at Sunrise Rehabilitation Center late Sunday afternoon. The place was a ghost town as mom scrambled to get me checked in and provide me with a wheelchair. I was wheeled up to my room and given a quick evaluation. This is where I would be spending my recovery learning how to walk, use my left arm, eat, talk, shower, and get dressed. I've been doing these tasks for years and now had to learn how to do them again. Talk about frustrating! My family hung out for most the evening and stocked me up with vitamin water, naked juice and magazines. The first night wasn't very pleasant. Due to my condition I was a fall risk and had to wear a special bracelet plus use a bed alarm. Throughout the night my bed alarm went off every move I made and the nurses had to come shut it off. I was given medication about every 4 hours as well. Monday morning about 7am I was greeted by a therapist who came to help me eat my breakfast and help me get ready for the day. Slowly and carefully I finished breakfast, showered and dressed myself. About 8am I was introduced to Marc Liveratti, Marc was scheduled to be my physical therapist and help get back on my feet. I give a ton of credit to Marc, he was extremely patient with me, I was a stubborn patient the first day because I wanted to do everything myself. After an evaluation with Marc he quickly put me in my place and informed me if I followed his directions it would all come back to me quickly. By now I was able to use a walker while Marc held me up with a gait belt. At this point I was already noticing progress from the time I tried to stand up at USC on Saturday. Marc spent about an hour or so with me that morning and then let me rest before lunch. During that time I met my rehabilitation doctor, Dr. Mark Steinhauer aka Groucho Marx. Groucho gave me a quick overview and set my goal of release for February 26th. Being goal oriented and determined I told Groucho my goal was to walk out on the 20th. I wanted to go home, feed the cat, go to the bowling alley and have a beer with my team. He told me he would continue to watch my progress and see how I was doing. During my time with Marc we practiced stairs, side stepping, pedaling, numerous walking and balancing exercises. I knew if I stayed focused and kept a positive attitude I would be going home soon. Over the next couple days I had numerous visitors and phone calls. Family, friends and coworkers brought lunch and dinner daily to help me avoid eating the dreaded hospital food. TAO Restaurant and Nightclub, my place of employment, delivered a Valentines Day feast to my family and I. So much love and support, thank you. My sister, Erin and nephew, Wyatt would take me outside in my wheelchair and push me around the hospital grounds. It felt so good to get outside and get some sun on my shoulders. I looked up positive, inspirational and uplifting quotes everyday, I read magazines and worked on my fine motor skills to pass the time. Completing simple tasks as easy as putting a nail into a hole with my left hand was nearly impossible. I pulled rope through pulleys, threw balls into boxes, reached high and low for post it notes and stacked cups. All extremely simple tasks, were a complete struggle for me. As the days passed by I was noticing daily progress which gave me hope that I was going home much sooner than Feb. 26th. I spent a lot of time working closely with Marc, focused and following all of his direction. Towards the end of the week I was operating the walker with no assistance. My progress was excelling so quickly the staff was so impressed. I contribute my speedy progress to being in great physical shape, a positive attitude, a healthy diet and all the support from my family and friends. I was feeling that I was ready to go home and continue my recovery. As I sat and talked with my brother in law, Kevin on Saturday afternoon we discussed my sisters birthday which was Monday the 18th. I told him it would be really cool if I could get released to have dinner with the family for her birthday on Monday. He was excited but at the same time pondering what to do for her birthday. We brainstormed a few ideas and I suggested something out of her comfort zone and that evening Kevin, surprised my sister with an indoor skydiving experience she would never forget. My sister called me scared shitless when she found out what was in store, I reassured her if I could go through 6 hours of brain surgery she could do anything. It brought tears to my eyes to know that she was about to do something totally out of her comfort zone. I couldn't wait for her to call me afterwards. A couple hours later she called to thank me for an amazing opportunity, I could hear the excitement in her voice. Now I was reconsidering my goal to be released on Monday Feb. 18th. Sunday was the longest day in the rehab center. I was told its a day of rest and all I kept thinking was that I wanted to go home! My parents spent the day with me. They took me for a wheelchair ride to Walgreens to get a new magazine and we hung out in the cafeteria planning my escape. Monday couldn't come soon enough. At the end of the day I still had to prove to Groucho I was ready to go home. Monday morning I told Marc I was ready for my evaluation so that I could be released. He didn't hesitate and told me we had to go walk the hospital grounds and take on some stairs. I was feeling really good and motivated to complete all the requirements immediately. Marc informed me I did great and he had to meet with Groucho for approval to release me. As we were waiting for the verdict my parents left and prepared to move into my house as my new roommates/caretakers. My best friend, Brandons parents were in town visiting. Mom and dad #2 had stopped by the hospital just as I was given the okay to go home. Happy tears of joy filled the room! I had come so far in such short time I couldn't believe it. I was going home! We called my parents and told them the exciting news. Mom and dad #2 offered to take me home, we signed all the paperwork and packed up my belongings. I couldn't have been happier, I was headed home to continue my recovery. Best part was I beat my release date goal and was going to be able to have dinner with the family for my sisters birthday.  Huge thanks to all my family, friends, coworkers, the Sunrise staff especially Marc Liveratti for all your help and patience. 

I Can't Stand Up.....

If I remember correctly those were the words I said to my dad as I tried to get out of the bed to use the restroom.  February 9th, reality hit me as I realized this recovery process wasn't going to be a  walk in the park. Giannotta came into my room, I asked him if this was permanent and he reassured me it was a temporary issue. Giannotta began to fill my family and I in about the surgery process and recovery. Apparently my tumor had became very vascular and bloody. It had grown another .5cm since November. Giannotta explained to us this was one of the most difficult removals to date. Surgery was expected to only be 4 hours and ended up taking 6 hours. Giannotta told us he had to cut the left balance nerve and tried to preserve the hearing nerve which unfortunately by now my hearing was gone. He also left a little piece of tumor on the facial nerve to prevent permanent facial paralysis. Giannotta was confident it wouldn't come back. I was informed that I would need to be transferred to a rehabilitation center. Shortly after, my mom teamed up with USC to find me the best rehab center in Las Vegas. While researching rehab centers the nurses wanted to see if I could walk. Lets just say it took 3 people to hold me up. I was trying to stay positive but this had to be the biggest blow I've ever experienced. I walked into the hospital February 8th and couldn't walk let alone stand up the next day. How does one keep a positive attitude? I sat in bed with my little buddy Wyatt and talked with my family. I was dealing with extreme head pressure, headaches, facial paralysis, tinnitus, and a sore throat. I was so uncomfortable it was hard to eat, swallow and talk. My family was so kind to keep bringing me juice and vitamin waters, they even brought me dairy free ice cream. During the weekend I had some friends local to the area stop by and pay me a visit. Thank you so much, that's something I'll never forget. Monday morning February 11th, my mom informs me that we received approval to transfer to Sunrise Rehabilitation Center, Las Vegas, NV. We packed up and prepared to head to Vegas however, I was not looking forward to a 4 hour ride in the truck. I thanked the USC staff and off we went. The longest most painful 4 hour car ride of my life!! 

FEB 8th, 2013 Day of Surgery at USC

I don't even know where to begin.. Feb. 7th, I rode to California with my sister Erin, brother in law Kevin and my little nephew Wyatt.  We drove to Long Beach, California to have dinner and meet my parents who drove from AZ to meet us. I am so thankful they were all able to be by my side. I love my family so much! That evening we stayed in a hotel where I received a couple amazing gifts. I had previously given my mom about 50 Crown Royal bags and asked her to make me a quilt. She had rushed the quilt along after I was diagnosed in November. She presented the quilt to me in the hotel that evening. I also received a cane as a gag gift from my amazing friend Joanne which later came in handy. I couldn't sleep that evening knowing what life changing event I was about to experience the next morning. I think my surgery was scheduled for 8am and we had to be to USC at 5am. In the waiting room I spent that time with my family. I remember teaching my nephew Wyatt who was about 21 months old at the time to drink from a water fountain. My name was called, I hugged everyone and was escorted into surgery prep. The roller coaster of emotions were out of control but I manged to remain calm. I was prepped for surgery and escorted for a MRI. I was so tired I kept falling asleep and twitching in the MRI tube which made it difficult to capture the images. After my MRI I was escorted back to surgery prep where I was able to hug my parents one last time. Extremely tough! I was administered an IV and began to fall asleep. I remember being rolled into surgery, lifted onto an operating table, my head was strapped into a holding device and I was out cold. I woke up about 6 hours later in ICU with my parents looking down on me. Feeling happy I made it through surgery. I had so much head pressure, an extremely sore side, dry mouth and a sore throat. That evening I remember being uncomfortable, no sleep, mom feeding me ice chips, and a upset stomach. Dad at one point tried to whisper in my left ear which I faintly remember hearing something. That slowly faded throughout the night, by the next day I had lost my hearing completely in my left ear. I was developing extreme tinnitus which I was told is normal.

Moms letter to the TODAY SHOW

Let me first start with saying my husband I watch the Today Show daily and have seen several heartwarming stories and wanted to share one of our own.

It is regarding our son Matt who is 31, single and living in Las Vegas.  He spends every day at the gym and eats extremely healthy.  Last November he was diagnosed with an Acoustic Neuroma Brain Tumor.  He called his dad at our winter home in Arizona and said, “Dad I have a brain tumor and I don’t know how to tell mom”.  My husband replied “I don’t either”.  After conferring with a friend he found the courage to deliver the news. That was the worst day of our lives when we heard those words: BRAIN TUMOR. 

As parents of an adult child, we found it extremely hard to let him make his own decisions regarding his life.  After meeting with 4 neurosurgeons the decision was made to have the tumor removed at USC in Los Angeles by a surgeon that has removed over 500 of these tumors.  The surgeon also studied at the University of Michigan and MI is where our son was born & raised.  At this point I felt very confident that he had made the right decision.

The tumor was removed on Feb 8th 2013. A case in point, all 4 surgeons said it was benign, slow growing and there was no hurry for surgery, but the tumor had to come out.  After surgery the surgeon informed us that it had grown 20% in 3 months and was the bloodiest tumor he had ever worked on.  He said with the exception of the loss of hearing in his left ear, he is expected to have a full recovery, but it will take a long time.

He was discharged from USC in a wheel chair on Feb 11th and was admitted into a Rehab hospital in Las Vegas.  His balance nerve was damaged during surgery and he had to learn how to walk all over again.  All his caregivers said being he was in such good shape physically, he would not be in rehab long.  His goal was to be discharged from rehab on February 18th so that he could go out to eat with his sister on her birthday.  He reached that goal and was discharged with a walker.  Dinner that night was so difficult for him with all the noise and commotion at the restaurant however, he remained positive & upbeat. 

Upon arrival at home Physical Therapy began, the hardest part as a parent was to sit there and watch him with a harness on learning how to walk again; all the while he never lost his sense of humor.

We (the other roommates) were all prepared to stay and help our son as long as he needed us.  However, knowing we had a Panama Canal cruise scheduled, and with the help of his sister & his roommate he felt he could make it without us.  To leave him in that condition  was another tough day for us knowing we would be miles apart.

This was his Facebook not minutes after we left:

 My roommates moved out today. :-( A huge thank you to my parents who have been taking care of me the last 3 weeks. Its been a difficult road of Recovery but each day I am showing progress. Thank you mom and dad for everything. Also a big thank you to my friends for all your support. I still have a long way to go. 1 day at a time!

Prior to surgery our son said, “Mom I have worked so hard to get in the best shape I have ever been and now I have this to deal with this”.  He has a long road ahead of him, as all the nerves on his left side have to regenerate. He has remained so positive throughout this difficult time and has been such an inspiration to all his family & friends.  For someone that couldn’t walk 9 weeks ago, his goal is to run a 5k on May 4th. Understand, just a few days ago he was only able to jog 1 minute on the treadmill and that was with a death grip.  His progress is slow and has to be measured by weeks not days. 

The following is an excerpt from an article titled,

Lost & Found: What Brain Injury Survivors Want You to Know

Don’t confuse Hope for Denial. We are learning more and more about the amazing brain and there are remarkable stories about healing in the news every day. No one can know for certain what our potential is. We need Hope to be able to employ the many, many coping mechanisms, accommodations and strategies needed to navigate our new lives. Everything single thing in our lives is extraordinarily difficult for us now. It would be easy to give up without Hope.

Matt sent this article to his family & close friends so that they would understand what he is coping with and as he refers to it “his new normal”.

The heartwarming part of this story is the love and support that has been expressed by all that has come in contact with him.  He has always been a hardworking young man and is finding it hard to accept help from his family & friends, during this difficult time of his life.

He is currently off of work on a Family Leave Act, not receiving any compensation and is required to pay his medical insurance.  -

His fellow co-workers are planning a Charity Golf outing on May 14th in Las Vegas to help defer the cost of his bills as he continues to recover.  The following is an excerpt from the flyer that was distributed to his co-workers and as I read great things about our son it just brings tears to my eyes. Just don’t know how many times we have heard you have raised a wonderful son.  Let’s not forget that we also have a thoughtful, caring and very giving daughter and son in-law. 

Hello friends, our good and dear pal Matt Crigger has come upon a very difficult obstacle that he needs help to overcome.  Matt is a very good friend and could use all of our help to hurdle this obstacle that he has already started to overcome.    Matt is a great guy and if you know who he is you already know this, but for those of you who don’t know Matt, let me tell you a little bit about him.  Matt is the type of guy that would give you the shirt off his back, if he knew you could make better use for it.  Matt is willing to help out a friend when the times are tough, and this is why we all need to help him out now.  He is an honest hard working individual that has a strong sense of family and moral values that we could all learn from.   Matt is an all-around GREAT guy and a friend in need is a friend indeed!

Our daughter & son in-law have been such a great help to him even extending the outing to their fellow co-workers.  Along with the golf, there will be shirts, food and as staying with the Vegas style a LIVE BAND.  I am flying to Las Vegas from Michigan to surprise him and golf in this outing; I would not miss it for anything.  The problem is it will be an extremely emotional day for me as I try to suppress the tears as I witness the abundant love and support.  Due to the expense my husband will not be flying out with me.

FYI: If you recall the prank that the Waterford, MI police department played on Katie Couric & Matt Lauer many years ago, regarding the Hi “Jack” story, at the Oakland International airport in Waterford, MI, my husband was a Lieutenant there at the time and was involved with that prank.