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The Art of Becoming Deaf

A fear of flying: not something I ever thought I’d develop.


I’ve flown at least twice a year since birth. A diet of pretzels, peanuts, and complementary ginger ale are some of my favorite snacks. And a few free hours to read or watch a movie are something I rarely pass up.


This past May my husband was out of the country working for 3-weeks. While he was gone, I took a trip to Mississippi for my best friend’s baby shower.


Since a direct flight from Orlando to Gulfport is a rare find, I ended up on a tiny express jet for the second leg of my journey. After a relatively uneventful flight and a slightly bumpy landing, I made it.


While talking in the car the next night, I noticed my voice started sounding far away and a little fuzzy.


Soon I started hearing a robotic echo as my friend spoke. The ringing in my ears amplified and my panic grew.


One of the most frustrating parts of having brain tumors is you feel like everything is in your head (literally). You question your symptoms and think, “is that really happening?” “Or am I just going crazy?”


My consensus—it’s a little of both.


Over the next hour, it became clear that I was in fact not losing my mind. My hearing in my good ear was declining. Fast.


While on the phone with my husband, we sobbed in disbelief. Could this really be the last time I’ll ever hear his voice?


All I could say was, “I’m not ready yet. I’m not ready yet. It’s too soon.”


The next morning my hearing was worse. I could still hear on the phone despite voices sounding distorted, so I called my friend (who also happens to be part of my medical team). She called my neuro-oncologist, and he instructed me to start taking a high dose of steroids.


A few hours later, I received a call from my NF doctor. He concluded that even though it’s not common, it’s possible that my flight the previous day caused my sudden drop in hearing.


A few weeks after finishing the course of steroids, I had a hearing test and MRI. Both were stable—which provided further evidence for the plane causing my problem, not tumor growth.


Now, 8-months later, I found myself once again on a tiny airplane to visit that very same friend (except this time to meet her baby)!


The fear of altitude-induced hearing loss combined with a lingering sinus infection: not my idea of a good time. No amount of airplane peanuts and free soda could calm my nerves.


Unlike my experience in May though, my prep for flying comes with a few more steps.


A few hours before each flight, per my doctor’s request, I take a small dose of steroids and Sudafed.


Usually, this is enough to prevent any problems, but given my recent congestion and the size of the airplane, I opted to wear special pressurizing earplugs and sucked on life savers during take off and landing to help my ears pop.


At this point, I’m beginning to feel like I’ve mastered the art of hearing preservation.


The past few weeks, my hearing has been particularly challenging. Allergies have gotten the best of me, and after two ear infections and two sinus infections, the threat of hearing loss has been somewhat all-consuming.


I must admit it’s been hard not to think, “What the heck was I thinking deciding to spend the next year traveling…and flying…all the time!”


To pacify my fears, I’m doing everything I can to preserve my hearing.


BUT, I’m not letting it stop me from living my life.


Fear is often paralyzing—at times all I can think about is my fear of becoming deaf. The terrible thought of losing such a precious sense: the ability to hear my husband say, “I love you.”


You never realize how much something means to you until life suddenly threatens to take it away.


Unfortunately, I don’t think that fear will ever entirely go away (no matter how many hearing loss free flights I experience,) but how I handle my fear certainly has changed.


I used to focus on avoidance, as I’m sure most of you do too, but since that’s no longer an option for me, I focus on trust.


The reality is it’s possible that I might lose my hearing over this next year. And as terrified of that as I am, I’m more afraid of letting my fear become my legacy.


If you read my other posts, then you already know that God has done some pretty big things in my life. Through each incident, he’s given me every reason to believe that He is taking care of me.


God often allows us to sit in places where we’re uncomfortable. In those moments, it’s easy to be angry with God and to feel like He’s abandoned us. As painful as those times are, that’s also when we can learn to really trust Him.


I often find myself thinking, “How am I going to handle this or that?” I get stuck thinking about how I’ll survive my potentially challenging future.


When I get caught up in those thoughts, I have to remind myself that God only gives us enough grace to handle today.


The reason the future feels so scary is that God hasn’t given us the means to deal with it yet.


I know that a significant theme in my life this next year is facing my fears. God might be prepping me to be able to handle much scarier things in my life—particularly regarding my health. But, I also know that there are worse things in life and that I’m going to be okay.


So here I am, learning to be brave.


And trying to find the balance between enjoying every bit of hearing I have left, but not holding too tightly to my need to hear to enjoy life.


Whether you’re afraid of flying, afraid to be single, afraid of feeling inadequate or afraid of spiders, we all experience fear but, we don’t have to let our fears take away from our experiences.


What fears have you had to face lately? Feel free to email me, or comment below!


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