We all have something to be thankful for, I know I do!

  I have so many reasons to be thankful. I have had several pieces of excellent news recently. I met with my neuro surgeon and he showed me my latest MRI scan and low and behold as if by magic (or a 9 hr operations and lots of skilled workmanship) my tumour is 99.9% gone! Hurrah! I hadn’t realised until I got to the appointment how nervous I was, and afterwards burst into tears of relief. My hubby hugged me and said “it’s ok, it’s over now”.
18 months has passed since I was diagnosed with a brain tumour and what a year and a half its been, the highs of getting married, going on honeymoon, buying our first home paralleled with the all time low of discovering I had a brain tumour, brain surgery, and the rocky road to recovery I’ve been traveling on.
I have learnt so many things, but one is don’t be complacent. Make the most of your friends, family, your life! But don’t be stupid, in the busy lives we all lead it’s easy to ignore things, don’t, stop to take time out to take care of yourself. My symptoms weren’t major but they were there and had been for several years, but I’m not one to make a fuss, didn’t want to waste anyone’s time so I was diagnosed several years after I might have been if I’d been honest with myself and my doctor and not just kept on keeping on. So my message to you is be self aware.
Awareness – if you start going deaf (and you’re under 50), get tinnitus, dizziness, unexplained headaches – get it checked out. Go for a hearing test, get an MRI, don’t ignore it. I was lucky to discover my brain tumour when I did, it may have been growing for years and apart from the afore mentioned symptoms I was healthy & leading a normal life but my brain tumour was growing to a size which was peaking on disaster. When they operated to remove the tumour it was compressing on my brain stem, if I hadn’t had the op & it continued to grow … Well let’s not even go there.

I haven’t got lazy and stopped cooking – I promise, I just haven’t been trying any new recipes recently, however I have still been eating lots of yummy things and a lovely friend treated me to afternoon tea at Fortum & Mason yesterday and toasted me for being brave. The tea menu alone is enough to make me tremble with excitement with so many different teas and blends to choose from and then when the afternoon tea sandwich and cake selection came out… Well I was in heaven! Thanks A.x

  

Say what you mean & mean what you say – if only it were that simple!

  It has been over a month since I’ve blogged, I’ve tried a few times, but I’ve had writers block. My mind is tired I think. Over the last 5 months (yes it’s been 5 months since my operation – doesn’t time fly?!)  I have worked tirelessly on improving my balance & stability and getting my face moving again.The physical wounds are healing but the wounds that aren’t immediately obvious still have some time to go. Acceptance is something that I have to work on, I will never be the person I was before I had brain surgery there are pluses and minuses to that. Single sided deadness affects more in life than you think and changes you, I’m exploring hearing aid/implant options but I’ll never have full hearing again and I just have to accept that. Also I have to be realistic that I may never get the smile back I once had, but as my hubby encourages me I need to embrace the person I have now become. In fact he told me the other day he’s pleased that I don’t look exactly the same as it’s important not to forgot what I’ve been through and how I’ve come out the other side. 

But saying that I’m no longer self conscious about my face, it’s not immediately obvious anymore that I have facial palsy problems but a new challenge has surfaced; although thinking thoughts and then getting my brain to relay the message is no longer a problem,( I can jabber away for hours ) I am becoming a bit self conscious of the mistakes I sometimes make. For example I might say a completely normal sentence – “I’m writing a shopping list” – well that’s what I’ve thought I’ve said, when in fact I’ve said “I’m writing a banana list” – the thoughts are linked, I was probably thinking I should put bananas on the list but my mind muddles what I’m thinking & what I’m saying and all of a sudden I’m a crazy banana list maker! Now it’s easy to laugh off and when with friends, family & hubster it’s not such a big deal but at work or in scenarios with strangers who don’t know anything is wrong with me it can become quite embarrassing. It seems whatever hurdle I overcome, there is always another hurdle to jump. In a week I’ll finally get the results from my post op MRI scan (I had the scan in August so it has been a long frustrating wait to get an appointment with my consultant). Hopefully the consultant will show me my scan and the tumour that once blighted my brain will have been magically erased and I can discuss my brain/speech confusions and hopefully he will reassure me that in time my mind & mouth will work in perfect unison again!

Once I’ve got all my appointments out of the way it’s tempting to try and move on and forget what’s happened, I’ve always said I would never let having a brain tumour define me but also I’ve come to realise I shouldn’t be embarrassed, I may get tired quicker or struggle with things sometimes but my strength of character, resilience and tenacity cannot be denied, I am brave and I am strong and I am ready for whatever the world throws at me next!

This evening it threw at me (not literally) a fruit bowl full of past their best bananas, and when life gives you browning bananas what else can you do but make banana bread?!

  

My birthday wish came true!

Today is my birthday! I’ve had so many great gifts and have been spoilt rotten – massive thank you to everyone who has made it so special already and to my hubby for making me a delicious birthday cake! But I cheated this year and didn’t wait until I blew out the candles on my cake to make my birthday wish, I made it in advance so I had more chance of it coming true!! (my favourite motto; prior preparation, prevents poor performance ๐Ÿ˜œ). My wish was to smile again! I’ve worked really hard and done hours of facial exercises and it’s finally starting to pay off, over the last week or so I’ve slowly had some movement on the left palsy side of my face and now I can just about do a closed mouth smile!! ๐Ÿ˜Š Thank you birthday fairies for making my wish come true.

But that’s not all… I’ve received an unexpected gift since my last blog. I went to see an audiologist last week, a truly lovely man who didn’t just see me as a patient but a person and was so compassionate I almost broke down and sobbed. He totally shocked me when he said “how about I give you a hearing aid to take away and try and see how you get on?” Now I’m thinking oh no a huge geriatric looking box behind my ear with a loop round the back to the good ear (traditional CROS aid) but he got out a tiny box and explained they were the new digital CROS hearing aids which just fit behind your ear and could help me hear on my deaf side by routing the sound round. He fitted them to my ears and made me turn my good ear away from him and he spoke to my deaf ear, and I could hear him, I couldn’t quite take it in, I was gobsmacked. As my hubby and I walked out of the hospital I heard some beautiful music and turned to my left and saw someone playing the piano, (normally when I hear music I no longer know what direction it’s coming from) and my husband leant in to my left, deaf ear and whispered “I love you” and I HEARD HIM!! That was it, I became a crying mess. It reminded me of when I saw this Video a few weeks ago and wondered what this would feel like for me.

I haven’t told anyone about my new present as I wanted to test it without lots of people asking me about it, and I guess there is a bit of vanity about it, (feels a bit weird wearing a hearing aid at 31!) But it’s well and truly tested after the party we had last night and I think for now it’s a good option to help me when I’m around lots of people, so we’ll see how I go, early days!

Now although I made some delicious sausage rolls and dips and bits for the BBQ we had yesterday, I failed to take any photos. But I did take a photo of the vodka jelly!
  

Phased return to life…

So I’ve been pretty quiet of late, I’ve not been cooking much or blogging about anything really. I guess I’ve been in a weird place not sure what I’m feeling and lots of confusing thoughts. I guess my conclusion is; life is hard, for all of us, in different ways, at different times. We all face challenges but it’s how we address those challenges that sets us apart. 
The last few weeks has been a tidal wave of change for me, my hubby has finished and submitted his Masters thesis (yaaay soo proud) so now he’s not studying I get to spend much more time with him which I’m loving ๐Ÿ’•, I’ve also passed the 3 month post op milestone and it’s amazing to see how far I’ve come, from needing help with everything from washing my hair and walking to the toilet, being reminded to take all my meds and sleeping constantly, to being independent! I now have the confidence and the physical ability to get on a bus by myself and meet a friend for a drink & a natter and I’ve started to socialise more in groups, and the biggest, newest change and hurdle is going back to work, albeit on a passed return.
 I was a bundle of nerves on Sunday night, like a child starting a new school after summer break, the anticipation of returning to work left me with a mix of emotions; anxiety, excitement, fear. How would it be in an open plan office now I’ve got total hearing loss on one side? Could my eyes cope with sitting in front of a computer screen for hours? How tired would I get? How would people react to me? How self conscious would I be about my facial palsy? Would my brain and my mouth work together and say what I’m thinking and want to express? 
 Monday was a tough day, I won’t deny it, 3 months where I work is not an insignificant period of time, so much has changed in my team, so many news faces and it’s tough not knowing quite how you fit in. It wasn’t easy, but I’m sure it will get easier. I miss working and the temptation is to throw myself back into everything 150% like I used to, but I know I have to be kind to my body and take things slowly and gently so I can build up my stamina.
In just over a week I will turn 31 and that is the next big milestone for me in many ways. I’m having a party* to celebrate getting older, surviving my brain tumour and living in our gorgeous house with my wonderful hubby. I feel like a debutante (yes Gossip Girl is never far from mind) looking forward to her first official soiree or debutante ball and the way my face keeps twitching I’m sure my mouth is telling me it’s getting ready to smile for the occasion! 
I feel like I’m having a phased return to normal life and every little thing, the text, the card, the fluffy pen (totally ‘Clueless’ I love it!) makes me smile inside and reminds me that people are there for me and care, giving me that silent support I need as I continue on my journey to recovery.

Now I couldn’t leave you without a nice photo, I haven’t been cooking so much, well nothing worthy of photography but I have been working on a little creative project I’d like to share. I up-cycled a boring pine chest of drawers into a ‘Laurita original’… voila! Impressed? You should be, a lot of blood, sweat and tears went into that baby! ๐Ÿ™‚ 
  *(now don’t get offended if you’re reading this and haven’t been invited, I’m keeping it quite small an intimate as otherwise it will be quite overwhelming for me).

11 weeks ago I was in hospital following brain surgery….

11 weeks on I’m home, and I’m taking steps forward to full recovery every day. 11 weeks ago I couldn’t walk on my own, wash on my own, go to the toilet on my own, now I can do all of that and so much more! I’m not afraid to ask for help, and struggle with some things still, but as I’ve said before it’s a journey; highs, lows, the whole  shebang! As part of the journey I’ve seen it as an opportunity to improve me, both physically and mentally. Before the op my balance was pretty bad because of the positioning of the tumour but now it’s gone there’s no reason I can’t make my balance better than it ever was before, with physio & exercise and a positve state of mind. Before my op sometimes I used to take life too seriously, get stressed, upset or frustrated but now I know it’s just not worth it, life’s too short, I’ve discovered mindfulness and meditation and have realised my health and happiness is number one!

Yesterday I celebrated being normal with some of my bestest friends, cooking dinner for them, sitting around the table and chatting, something I haven’t done in so long, but which felt so good and made me happy and even if I can’t smile, happiness is sometimes the best medication!

So what did I cook the girls? We started with a few dips, chips and cruditรฉs while we had a catch up and then followed with roasted pepper, ginger prawn quinoa and rice pilaf with chilli coriander oil. This recipe is based on a Sainsbury’s magazine recipe with a few tweaks and additions. I served this with a sweet and sour cucumber & carrot noodle salad (using my spiralizer) and a dressing made with lemon juice, honey, fish sauce, white wine vinegar, rice vinegar, finely chopped garlic and onion and some toasted seeds.

   
 

For pudding I made Nigella’s Bailey tiramisu, a delicious recipe which my mother in law introduced me to.  But the showstopper of the meal was the amazing chocolate orange brownies my beautiful friend made, she’s very modest and not an overly confident baker but it’s official, in writing, they were delicious and you are fantastic! (The photographer skills though are perhaps not as good! ๐Ÿ˜‹)

 

Friends are for life, not just for Christmas…

  Ok so maybe I stole that line from a dogs charity and altered it slightly, and before anyone starts getting offended, I’m in no way comparing my friends to dogs, although thinking about it some of them might quite like that… (I’m thinking cute puppies here). Anyway the point I’m making is true friends are there whatever the weather. The last few months have been tough but my friends have really shown their true, bright, brilliant colours (I’m including my hubby & ma in that as they are also amazing friends as well as all the other roles they play in my life). The compassion, concern, generosity, thoughtfulness – I could keep reeling off adjectives but I won’t -in short they’ve been amazing through each and every stage of recovery I’ve gone through.

 Recently I guess I’ve been going through an angry and slightly depressive stage, my anger is without logic or boundaries from the obvious “why did this happen to me? I want my life back” to anger in all sorts of situations including things like TV license payment plans (why if you pay by direct debit is a years license not split into 12 equal monthly instalments?! – clearly I’m not over that one). I get tired, I get frustrated, I get angry, I get upset – it’s a messy cycle! But my friends pull me out the other side and remind me that the way things are for me at the moment, are just that, at the moment and they have done soo much lately to cheer me up and help me feel normal. And normal for once in my life is all I want. Normal; a walk around a beautiful park with a friend, meeting friends for brunch, enjoying the warmth of the sun whilst breathing sea air, eating in a restaurant, doing a weekly shop (with help), reading a magazine!! Now I know that all sounds basic stuff, but walking around a park, and managing without my crutch is quite major for me, meeting friends for brunch and getting the bus on my own there, (admittedly using my crutch to do it) & not being too self conscious about my face and managing to hear most of the conversation- big achievement! reading a magazine and no not just the pictures (!!) – it seems hourly eye drops are finally doing something!

 Normal is good, I don’t need to be wrapped in cotton wool, I appreciate everyones concern, but I need to test myself and push myself to get better. All I ask is people remember I’m deaf in my left ear and no matter what I do that won’t change, so unless I manage to get some amazing type of hearing aid (which I hope one day i will) for the forseable future please try and position yourself on my right if we’re chatting one on one, or if we’re in a group just be aware I might not always hear you, don’t be afraid to touch me on the arm or something to get my attention, no violence though please ladies ๐Ÿ˜œ

So you’ve read my ramblings but what you really want to know is “what’s cooking?!” If I’m honest I haven’t done too much cooking this week, but tonight I decided to cook a rather unconventional Sunday dinner, Aubergine Parmigiana from the Waitrose August recipe card collection, it got a thumbs up from my hubby, although we agreed a crusty loaf of bread would be the perfect accompaniment, I’ll remember for next time I cook it! 

 

I’m smiling on the inside. I promise.

 

 Weddings are beautiful, happy days celebrating the love of two people, smiling, laughter & chatter …

But what if your smile is only on the inside? You try as you might to make your happiness shine through but your head & your heart just can’t get your body to respond, it’s frustrating, upsetting and somewhat depressing. 
The last two weekends I’ve been lucky enough to go to two absolutely fantastic weddings filled with love, laughter & happiness. Seeing friends get married is so special, and in the last couple of weeks I have had the privilege of seeing one of my husbands oldest friends get married and one of my best & oldest friends tie the knot.

Weddings normally fill me only with joy and happiness but ‘new me’ finds them a bit tricky. When I wrote the first draft of this blog I wrote about all the things that are difficult for me, but I’ve decided I don’t want to dwell on them too much as I still had lots of fun and I just have to accept the new me is different and there will be challenges but I will overcome them.

Old me would be dancing the night away on the dance floor, downing shots whilst engaging in cheeky banter all topped off with big smiles all round. But I’m not old me, my single sided deafness prevents me from really getting involved in group conversation and I’m conscious I can’t smile & so look miserable in all the photos. It breaks my heart not to be able to have a photo with the bride with my matching beaming smile on show, but I can’t and I don’t know when I’ll be able to again but that is ok, for now this is me, but just for now, I haven’t given up.  But darling P when I get my smile back I may make you put your beautiful gown back on so I can have that photo with you!

At P&P’s wedding when the band played our first dance song my hubby led me to the dance floor and reminded me that only 10 weeks ago I had my tumour removed and that it was amazing how well I was doing, ‘it’s a difficult journey but I’m with you every step of the way’. And he is, along with my mum and an amazing group of friends. They say you know who your real friends are when something difficult happens in life, and they have all truly shown themselves to be amazing. From the smallest of gestures, a text, a Facebook message, an email, to the visits and trips out and amazing surprises that turn up my doorstep week in, week out showing that no one has forgotten me! These recent weddings have been the first time I’ve seen a lot of people post op (apart from my besties) and I want to say thank you to those who haven’t seen me in a while who had the courage to ask how I am, it’s not easy & I know it can seem like the elephant in the room, it’s as awkward for you as me, but the acknowledgement means a lot.

So I haven’t excatly been cooking a dish a day, we’ve had a bit of a cheap & cheerful using-up-stuff-in-the-fridge & freezer week! Including a chorizo & halloumi frittata and we had a big old fry up pre wedding so I’ll share the photos of those…

   

 

OMG Courgetti!

One thing I’ve noticed since being home from hospital is that I’m steadily gaining a few extra pounds, not just because of the cookies, muffins, fudge and other sweet delights which have been gifted to me but because I can’t exercise like I used to๐Ÿ˜ž Admittedly pre-op I wasn’t some die hard get-up-at-6am-and-run-25k-types but I did enjoy reformer Pilates, Zumba classes and this time last year was in rehearsals with my samba troop for Nottinghill Carnival which I’m gutted to be missing out on this year! (Good luck to Paraiso this year! Fingers crossed for sunshine!) 

 At the moment exercise-wise I’m limited to taking short walks whilst I build up my stamina and balance, and short walks won’t maintain the temple that is my body! ๐Ÿ˜œ If I can’t burn calories off I need to work out another way to keep trim. Now my wonderful mother has always been very generous and thoughtful, and whilst she has been staying with us looking after me she has witnessed the amazing generosity of my friends and family with all the flowers, gifts and cards I have received so she decided that it was time my hubby got a present too. He is a gadget man and has wanted a spiralizer for a while, so my mum decided to indulge him. She researched it and got him the Hemsley & Hemsley one which is fantastic, obviously I let him play with it first, but then I decided it was my turn and using it would be a great way to make carb free spaghetti with veg. I’m also trying to cook on a budget at the moment, so I decided a dish of courgette spaghetti,(courgetti)  turkey meatballs and a spicy tomato sauce would be delicious, cheap, easy & healthy! 

 
Method: To make the courgetti I used the spiralizer, it reminded me of a play dough machine from when I was little! You could just use a peeler and have more of a thicker courgette linguine if you don’t have a spiralizer. For the meatballs I used 250g turkey mince, mixed in a bowl with a tsp cumin, a beaten egg, 2 slices of white bread made into breadcrumbs, some chopped chilli, 2 cloves of crush finely chopped garlic, one onion finely chopped. Then I formed the mixture into balls (this mix made 10 balls) and put in the fridge to firm up for 1 hr. After an hour I transferred the meatballs to a casserole dish, added a tin of chopped tomatoes, a pinch of salt, a pinch of sugar, a couple of squeezes of tomato purรฉe and popped it in the oven to cook for 30 mins at around 180 degrees. When the meatballs were cooked, I turned the oven off and heated a dribble of olive oil in a wide based pan on the hob, I then added the courgetti to the pan and cooked for a couple of minutes, making sure I didn’t over cook it so the courgetti was still slightly al dente. Then I plated it up, voila spaghetti & meatballs the cheap, healthy way! 

  

My name’s Laura and I have facial palsy (and SSD – single sided deafness)…

When introducing yourself becomes like being at an AA meeting (or as they’re portrayed in films anyhow!) life can seem quite depressing. So I have decided I won’t take the advice of one of my specialists and instead deal with things in my own way, and that doesn’t necessarily include labelling myself with a condition that I’m unfortunately suffering from. Instead I will accept the situation I’m currently in, and work hard to improve things.
“You’ve got to hit rock bottom before things can look up.” Sound advice from my hubby over Whatsapp. I replied “I’ve grazed my knee” he was somewhat confused, and I said “when I hit rock bottom”. Now I’m being a little over dramatic…. rock bottom is something I luckily haven’t experienced, things can be hard, challenging, exhausting and upsetting at times but the trick is to always find that little bit of light at the end of the tunnel and follow it , it’s always there if you look hard enough.

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged & I guess that’s because I’ve been mulling things over. Perhaps I should rename my blog ‘lauritas dish every once in a while’…  I think before I had my operation I was a bit unrealistic about my recovery, I thought that after a couple of weeks I’d be bored at home and that making a ‘dish a day’ would give me focus, the reality is that between my numerous appointments (Ophthalmologists, Surgeons, Physiotherapists, facial palsy experts, acupuncturist…) and the many exercises I have been given each day to help aid my recovery, coupled with the social interaction and environment tasks I’ve been set by one of my specialists (seeing people in different environments to get used to my SSD and come to terms with my palsy and learning to walk on different surfaces, going on escalators, getting on & off trains – all things I used to take for granted) I am actually incredibly busy, and when I’m not doing one of those things I’m pretty tired so need to nap and rest and have started an unhealthy relationship with Gossip Girl… And an unhealthy crush on Chuck …
  My hubby has reminded me numerous times it’s not real life and Chuck is just a character so I don’t think he feels too threatened!!

So that’s an update on where my head’s at, (and my heart) but what about my stomach? This week I’ve cooked Waitrose recipe Sticky aubergine & pork on rice ( I pimped the rice & made it egg fried!) and also made my first Mousakka which was delicious! 

 

Oh yes Mike you are magical…

 

You know you have the best friends in the world when they give up a sunny Saturday to take you to see Magic Mike XXL in the daytime so that you can avoid the crowds, awkwardness of facing people, and carry your popcorn so that you can use your crutch whilst being on hand to help you navigate through the dark in the cinema. Going to the cinema was a bit of a test, a totally new sensory appearance being deaf on one side, it makes it feel like the speakers have gone on one side of the room, but luckily the dialogue in the film was not hard to follow and the imagery more than made up for what I might have not heard! ๐Ÿ˜‰ My oldest friend (and by that I mean one I used to share a bath with and play barbies with) collected and me and dropped me home, and made sure I was ok, and the whole experience elated me, making me feel normal and seeing Channing Tatum grind to Pony can’t fail to bring a smile to your face, even if it is one sided! 

A good day can always become a great day with the right company and some delicious food. So I rustled up a chorizo & pea risotto with some lush homemade chicken stock I had in the freezer, a splash of vino and voilร - now for Movie time with the hubby – the best Saturday I’ve had in ages!