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What Are You Doing To Get Ready for Summer?


This is my road to physical stability after craniotomy…

By Lu Sobredo

Fifteen weeks after brain surgery--right frontal lobe craniotomy, my gait and balance have not returned. I had hoped it would return closer to normal. Hearing from others who’ve had a similar surgery, craniotomy of some kind, one never really returns to normal “anything” that they’ve experienced. Not the declarations I wanted to hear. My husband James reminded me that they’re speaking of their experience and each person is unique. I asked my surgeon when I saw him for a scheduled follow-up this past Wednesday, June 26th. The answer was hopeful, but complicated. I hope to address this topic in another essay at a later time.

The incision on my head appears to have healed. I dreaded to look at it. But now it is covered with stubbly hair growth. The area underneath the incision in my skull is another matter. This could be the portion that ultimately takes one year to recover. In the meantime, I am eager to return to water aerobics to engage in physical activity. Slowly but surely, thanks to hubby, I have returned to connecting with friends at community events. Even though it is still hard on me physically, the social contacts have been invigorating for the spirit. 

What I am not loving about this recovery period? The inactivity has led to weight gain. The physical limitations have hampered light cooking,  house cleaning, and other routines. Writing has taken a backseat. The throbbing pain, some numbness and itchiness in my head have played havoc to my creative juices. A different feeling from experiencing a writer’s block. However, today, the will of the spirit wins out. Words are jumping off the pages. Unclear where they will lead me. My wish is to finish writing the last installment to my essay on my health journey: WORLD IN MOTION.

Physical Therapy at Pine Street. ©Adrian Sobredo
Determined to reclaim my normal, I work with Dr. Kirstie Strelo, my physical therapist, in pushing my physical threshold with routine as well as ambitious exercise movements; careful not to incite more pain. Once I have control over the simple act of walking and the complication in balancing one’s gait, I should be ready for water aerobics. Water aerobics saved my sanity and sense of independence when at the height of my Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) six years ago. That’s why I am raring to return, return to the pool.

A couple of days after seeing my neurosurgeon and one day after a recent physical therapy session, I dipped in the pool for aqua aerobics. Hallelujah! I took it easy of course. It was the best gift, gift of movement I could give myself. My dear instructor Lynne welcomed me with a hug and a warm  smile, and so did my water friends—Sharon, Evelyn, Pam, Barbara, Joann, Carolyn, Dottie, Phil, Steve Dave and others at the gym. 

Pool For Aqua Aerobics. ©Lu Sobredo Photo Collection 2016

Enthused about seeing friends at social settings, I join my husband and son whenever I can. Three weeks ago, activities included a birthday jazz gathering at Whirlow’s restaurant, Project Hmong gala at Sacramento State University, and Diner En Blanc at Miracle Mile in town. These social gatherings take a lot out of me physically. I’ve accepted that. Ice packs are ready at home. Lots of water to drink lined up in the kitchen compliments of my beloved family. My RA-stricken hands are not able to twist open those darn water bottles. I dutifully do body stretches designed by several physical therapists I have encountered over the course of my chronic illness. The motivation is to live life while I can. The reward is sheer delight. So I am living it up despite limitations. Despite discomfort. Despite the inconvenience.

Diner En Blanc With My Friend Sharon Jarvis. ©James Sobredo 

A Hug from Phoua Vang, RN. Hmong Gala at SacState University. ©James Sobredo

Birthday Jazz Party with Ms. Jazz Herself: Wendi Maxwell. ©James Sobredo

RA is still a constant companion. Now it competes with post-craniotomy recovery for attention. Both medical conditions can be very demanding. I do my best to take things in stride. Both medical challenges give a new twist to “getting ready” for summer. I wish to don my stretchy bathing suit and reconnect with my friends in our Aqua Aerobics class regularly. After five weeks of intense physical therapy, I was released to the pool as long as people are around to help if needed. I was tempted to write: released into the wild. The goal is to be released to the pool and go wild in water aerobics. Eager for increased physical independence. It is the key to freeing the mind and stirring creativity.

What are you doing to get ready for summer? 

Essay: @Lu Sobredo

Watch for the sequel to my Essay--World In Motion: Part III, Navigating the Healthcare System.

About the Author 
Lu Sobredo is writer/publisher at Lu Travels Abroad, a blog dedicated to folks whose limitations do not hamper them from traveling. A year into early retirement her world collapsed from the diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). Her total life changed, but she did not let RA define her. With love from family, friends and an awesome doctor, she regained some functionality--her new normal. She will have RA all her life. And she now writes about life and travel with RA. During the pandemic of 2020, she stays put and writes poetry and a first novel, a travel of sorts but in the heart and mind.


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