As I walked into my apartment without a helmet for the first time since 2018, I was so sure that I was "normal again." My goal through this entire journey was to get back to the person I was. My focus had been so narrow that I missed the most glaringly obvious fact that I would never be normal, or at least what I considered normal.
My normal was a person who worked full time as a nurse practitioner. A person who did not have a stroke or brain surgery. A person who was newly engaged and planning a wedding. I waited for this "normal" to click back into place, but it never did. It took an unexpected event to help me realize this.
A week after my cranioplasty I was asked to be involved in a discussion with fellow alumnae from Ursuline and administrators from other Ursuline schools from around the country. I had the option to call into the meeting, but I eagerly took the opportunity to go in person. Matt drove me as I was still not cleared to drive. I sat down at the table, head still full of staples. The group talked for about an hour about various aspects of our experiences at the school and recommendations for improvements. I enthusiastically gave my opinions and told my personal story of how the school has impacted me. Matt sat quietly beside me watching. As I spoke I noticed something obviously different. I had a room full of eyes staring at me and I felt confident. It was something I had never felt. My entire life I had crippling performance anxiety. Even practicing a school presentation in front of my mom would give me heart palpitations and my voice would shake. But now, I was talking to a group of strangers like they were old friends. This was not "normal."
After the meeting was over, I gave Matt an impromptu tour of the school. I went to old homerooms and classrooms discussing stories of my teenage years. I reminisced on how public speaking would terrify me. Matt smiled and told me how he was happy he was able to come to this and see me "in action" and how he had never seen me have such a commanding presence in a room. I responded by telling him that despite having half of my head shaved and full of staples, I had never felt more confident. I realized that the teenage girl who walked those halls many years ago no longer existed. The revelation was now so obvious.
I thought back to 12/25/18. The person I was walking into the Needham ER would never be again. The Myra I had been, was indeed dead. While I had survived physically, I could never return to the person I had been before all of this happened. It had changed me, both physically and psychologically. I knew from reading my medical records that there was permanent damage done. My CT scans showed right sided encephalomalacia, which is just the fancy word for loss of brain tissue. The stroke had killed a small part of my brain. Those neurons were dead and would never return.
It dawned on me what I had been struggling with the past few months, grief. I was trying to mourn the person I had lost on 12/25/18. There was a physical death, but also a mental one. I did not know what my limitations would be after all of the surgeries were complete. If I would work again in medicine. If I could be the partner Matt had wanted in October 2018 or if I was too different that he would change his mind. But despite the negative losses, the death gave me positives. My perspective on things had changed permanently.
I had a new found confidence in myself. I was more assertive. I refused to let people walk all over me anymore. I had been a people pleaser my whole life. I now realized that life was too short to push aside your own happiness for the sake of others. I would speak my mind, and if people didn't like that, then that was their problem. It was a lesson I wish I didn't have to learn by almost dying, but a welcome one. I came to terms that this new version of myself might not fit into aspects of my old life. It ended up costing me a friend at a certain point. An unfortunate side effect, but my focus has to be on my wellbeing now, not solely on others like before.
To the Myra Ann Kenny that laid in the hospital bed in Needham on 12/25/18, I salute you. You got me through 26 years unscathed. You helped me find a great career, fiance and got me through school. I know your last moments were terrifying and full of pain. But rest easy now, your job is done. I promise to uphold your legacy to the best of my ability. The fight is over now. REST IN PEACE.