Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Hurricanes, Brain Tumors and Recovery

Last week I attend UMCOR’s[1] Disaster Response Academy.  The key reason for attending was to take another step towards being certified as a trainer of Early Response Team (“ERT”) members.  In case you’re interested, ERTs are the second wave into a natural disaster (e.g. a hurricane) area, i.e. the wave after first responders have made the area safe and secure, but before the general public is allowed into the area. 

In general, ERTs work on individual homes, after permission is given, and take steps to help prevent further damage to a family’s personal property.  Said differently, ERTs stabilize the homeowner’s situation but do not “fix” anything given the insurance ramifications.  This may include tarping a damaged roof to prevent further water damage, clearing debris so folks can get in and out of a house, and cleaning out (also called “mucking out”) flooded homes.

One of the classes I attended was basically “Disaster 101” although they called it something different.  In the class they described the emotional roller coaster ride that survivors go through following a natural disaster: some initial warning, an emotional dip when the disaster hits, an emotional bounce upwards when relief teams come and starts to help the survivors, a rapid and tumultuous dive into the dank, deep waters of real emotional pain and grief when reality sets in, and, hopefully, some upward recovery to acceptance and their “new normal.”

This is also a pretty good description of my emotions before, during and after my brain surgeries. In many ways, brain tumors are a disaster – physically, psychologically and spiritually. Emotionally, I didn’t hit bottom until after I got home and fell into a seemingly bottomless and unforgiving emotional hole. I wish I knew that I would hit bottom. I wish I knew that hitting bottom was natural. And that I wish I knew that, someday, I would be able to put my handicaps into perspective.

I think that knowledge, and some idea of where I was along the cycle, would have been of great comfort and use.

So if you know somebody who’s starting to be sucked into their own swirling brain tumor disaster, and are seemingly overwhelmed by gale force emotions, you might want to mention this to them.

[1] United Methodist Committee on Relief

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