You know what's really annoying? When people tell you that everything happens for a reason. That's like saying, Oh, you fell and smashed your face against the hard concrete? Yeah well, that happened for a reason. Oh, a bird had explosive diarrhea on your shoulder right before your meeting? Yep, there's a reason.
A few months ago, I was doing what I normally do, stressing out because I didn't book another commercial and wondering whether I should create a dating profile or finish a can of Pringles. I skimmed through the latest comedy publication that just released the 999,000 best comedians in America and my name was nowhere to be seen. I read a few emails that said, Thanks Katrinka, but no. Another wedding invitation came in the mail and not only didn't I have anyone to bring, but unless they were definitely serving pigs-in-a-blanket, I wasn't even sure I wanted to go.
I was feeling tired, just not myself. My head felt foggy, I was nauseous and I had crazy pressure on my face. My ears were clogged and I would get intense headaches every morning. It was allergy season, so my television blared with commercials for treating them. Do you have Sinus Pressure? Headaches? Are you tired all the time? Take this pill and you will feel so much better. I'm not sure if that's exactly what the commercial said because I was too busy shouting, "I auditioned for that!" to notice.
My GP thought it was migraines; an ear, nose and throat doctor thought it was sleep apnea; and an allergist wasn't sure, but did mention that he also does stand up comedy. Kill me now. I went to see a neurologist who, along with my aunt who is a nurse, told me to get an MRI.
After the 20-minute procedure, My Mom and I prepared for a fun weekend away from the city. My sister was meeting us and we were excited. The three of us can make anything fun as long as we're together. We especially love car rides, preparing good meals and gardening, a special treat for people who only have a fire escape with a sad-looking geranium on it. That afternoon there was a message from my neurologist. All I heard was, "Get yourself to an emergency room, I'm afraid you're going to fall asleep and not wake up."
An emergency room in the suburbs is nothing like ones in a city. There's elevator music, Martha Stuart magazines, and people bring water to your shaken mother to calm her nerves. Soon, we were joined by some of our friends and Mary, the amazing mother of my childhood boyfriend. They all remained strong for us when the doctor told us the news... there was a mass on my brain that had to be removed. Mary quickly made some phone calls and within minutes, had the name of one of the top neurosurgeons in the area.
One minute you're planning a weekend and the next, a team of doctors surround your bed. One of them knelt down, held my hand and explained that they were going to remove the mass. A mass? Is that a tumor? Yes, a tumor and a cyst were the two things causing me all that pain. I was scared. Was I going to die? It wasn't really a strange question considering in the past couple of years I had lost several close friends, a young cousin and my dear Dad. We knew what we knew and wouldn't find out anything else until they took more tests and completed the surgery.
The CAT scan of my abdomen (something I didn't even think about having them do) was clear. Next was another MRI. "Are you claustrophobic?," asked a nurse. "I am now," I said. However, thanks to a little thing called Ativan, I could have been hanging out with the cast of Three's Company at the Regal Beagle instead of being inside a clanking tube and I wouldn't have known the difference.
The next few days I spent wondering if any of the doctors were single, canceling shows and passing on a new writing job. I crossed out all the fun things I had planned in my calendar and wrote 'Brain Surgery' in its place.
My room began to fill up with flowers, balloons and stuffed animals. The kindest emails and texts came from grade school, high school and college friends. Some of the loveliest people I know, my comedian friends in New York and Los Angeles, organized a prayer chain. My close family and friends stayed by my side. I never felt more loved in my life.
As they wheeled me down to the operating room, I began to cry. I prayed that my Dad would watch over me. He and my Mom had always been there for me before anything scary and the loss of his presence was palpable. I imagined him standing there next to me giving me the thumbs up. I woke up in the ICU and the very first thing I saw was my smiling Mom at the foot of my bed. "It's all going to be OK," she said. Turns out, it was a rare tumor of the central nervous system, but the tumor was benign. Never in my life had I heard more glorious words.
The weeks of recovery that followed were filled with family, friends, laughter, generous gifts and an enormous amount of gratitude. I was reminded in a very short time how much love I have in my life. Essentially, I found my strength in love. (Cue Whitney Houston.)
This experience has changed me for the better. I consciously appreciate my beating heart and fully accept whatever comes my way. Instead of stressing about all the things I don't have, I appreciate all the things that are in my life at this moment. I can almost watch the commercials I didn't book without wincing. (I SAID ALMOST!)
Maybe I needed a jolt, a reset button or a fresh new start to continue my journey through life. Maybe I needed a few weeks to just sit and think. Or, maybe my experience will encourage someone to get an MRI. I may not ever know the real reason for all of this but I do know one thing for sure. As annoying as it sounds, I now believe everything does happen for a reason.