Eggstreme relief, saved on an egg

My Easter egg this year has a lot of eggstra special meaning for me.

My daughter, Maddie, was diagnosed last year with a vestibular schwannoma, also known as an acoustic neuroma. The wikipedia explanation for that is ‘vestibular schwannoma (VS) is a benign primary intracranial tumor of the myelin-forming cells of the vestibulocochlear nerve (8th cranial nerve).‘ In lay terms, it’s a benign tumour that grows on the vestibular (balance) nerve, pushing up against the auditory nerve, next to your brain.

It’s an odd thing, that can sit on your head for years and years and do nothing at all, or it can grow, at which point it has to come out before it gets too big and starts pushing against your brain. Because the removal surgery can impact your facial nerve, once they decide to do it the sooner the better.

Unfortunately, Maddie’s tumour grew.

So, in early March, we trooped off to St Vincent’s ENT in Sydney so that my baby (yeah, I know, she’s 22 but that makes no difference to a scared mother!) could undergo a spot of brain surgery.

After the successful surgery – thank you, Dr Flanagan and Dr Biggs! – Maddie posted this beautiful selfie on her Facebook account.


My egg, then, born of immense gratitude and relief is this…


It’s funny, when I went to paint the back of the egg, none of us, including Maddie, could remember what had been done with her hair – was it under that giant bandage? Was it in a ponytail hanging down her back? She has a lot of hair…

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If I judge this egg dispassionately the eyes are really too big. But actually, I feel they are just right, for this is my memory of her, post-surgery. I don’t know whether it was a result of having someone poke around the edges of your brain, or the effect of the drugs, but for the first few days after surgery Maddie’s pupils were so big that she seemed all eyes. She reminded me of this photo I loved as a teenager, from Sir David Attenborough‘s book Life on Earth – a baby Loris, all fluff and eyes.

Baby Loris from David Attenborough's 'Life on Earth'

Baby loris from David Attenborough’s ‘Life on Earth’

It’s taken me a long time to work out how to write this post – I really wanted to, since, for me and Maddie it really is an Eggstraordinary Tale, but how to start? What to say?

Though the surgery went way better than it might have and Maddie’s recovery has gone really well, she has lost hearing completely in one ear, as they had to cut the auditory nerve to get to the tumour. She copes so well that it’s easy to forget there’s anything different, though she does get headaches in noisy situations. She laughs about the problems she has at work, when a customer has been asking a question on her ‘bad’ side and she’s ignored them, because she doesn’t know they’re there.

Well, a few weeks ago I got a fairly severe middle ear infection. It wasn’t too painful – lucky me! – but it meant that for 2 weeks I couldn’t hear from my left ear.

Suddenly, what Maddie goes through every day became very real for me. It’s exhausting, just trying to get through the day. It’s weird – when you only hear from one side, somehow your comprehension is affected. The sound goes in but it seems much harder to interpret meaning. It’s tiring, having to focus that hard!

Maddie, you are a star!

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