Strength in numbers

As Aristotle once said, we are social animals. The very existence of our being thrives on human communication, for without it, I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this blog, nor would you be reading it. We thrive on interaction. On lengthy conversations, family functions, a night out with friends. Being together and sharing experiences together is one of the ways bonds form between people to form lasting relationships.

Whether it be a memory filled with laughter, or a memory filled with pain, just being able to reminisce and relate over it is a comfort easily taken for granted. While I was in Los Angeles for my surgery, I experienced this instinct for interaction, and through it formed a friendship I suspect will last for many years.

Sitting in the waiting room of the Skull Base Institute, I met a remarkable woman. My parents and I were sitting on a plush couch waiting for one of Dr. Shahinian’s assistants to bring us the final paperwork we had to sign when a woman and what appeared to be her mother walked in and sat in the two chairs next to us. All of us knew why the others were there, and it being such a precarious situation, sympathetic looks were exchanged as well as polite hello’s and introductions.

Quite quickly we realized that the younger woman, Nicole, actually had the same type of cyst that I had, although she also had another one as well, and we began exchanging stories of symptoms and how we deal with daily life. I can’t tell you how quickly that bond I was speaking of earlier was formed. Being able to converse with someone who went through the same kind of horror story is similar to finding a needle in a haystack: nearly impossible and immensely rewarding when the needle is finally discovered. Needless to say, we instantly became close acquaintances.

After about 15 minutes or so of talking, my parents and I found that Nicole had actually been dealing with her symptoms for 10 years before contacting Dr. Shahinian. Although hers progressed at a much slower pace, the doctors that she did try to find help with denied her any surgery or remedies for her complaints, quite similar to my family and I, as many doctors we had been to could not decipher the cause of my symptoms or simply dismissed them altogether.

It’s a bit awful to say, but being to able to find someone who fully understands the trials that you have been though is incomparably reassuring. All of a sudden we weren’t alone in this. Albeit definitely not a normal condition, we had finally stumbled upon someone else who could relate and understand with everything we had been through. When they say there is strength in numbers, it really rings true.

As her surgery was conducted on the same day as my own, I did not get to see Nicole after we had undergone the operation (we were both a little worn out, you could say), but ever since I garnered the energy to get on my laptop we have been in communications. Although my mother had confirmed of the success of her surgery while still in L.A. through her mother, I can happily say she has continued to do exceptionally well.

We’ve both exchanged our challenges and our achievements, and while we both still are struggling with energy levels each of us has come a long way. Just this week I found out that she has began to drive and look for a job, both of which were nearly impossible to maintain prior to surgery. Together we have made astounding progress. Looking at myself only two months ago, compared to now, I am a completely renewed person, and we both know it can only go up from here.

While I probably will not be in physical contact with Nicole and her mother anytime soon, the two of them will hold a special place in both mine and my family’s heart forever, as together we all underwent quite an experience.

As Nicole’s mother said to my own, “I will keep your daughter and your family in my prayers for the rest of my life. It was such a blessing to meet you.”

I think it can prove that both with faith and with strength we can overcome anything in this life, and the people that accompany us in this process are people eternally cherished. Don’t forget to cherish your own.