In 2006, at age 22, I had two craniotomies to remove a cavernous angioma from my brainstem. A cavernous angioma is a mass of malformed blood vessels, and mine was round and red. It looked like a raspberry. The surgeries (there were two because the first was unsuccessful) removed the possibility of the angioma’s further bleeding, but also changed me as I knew myself. Because of the damage the surgeries caused to various cranial nerves, my left eye turned permanently towards my nose, causing double vision, and the left side of my face was paralyzed, making it difficult to speak and eat. The right side of my body lost enough feeling and coordination that normal activities such as walking and bathing—really, any physical activity—became difficult. I had to learn a new way of living . While several subsequent surgeries on my face and eye have alleviated some circumstances a bit—implanting a gold weight in my left eyelid means I can close it; splicing together some facial nerves means that if I press the tip of my tongue to the roof of my mouth, the left side of my face can form a simulation of a smile— I am still learning.
The procedures altered everything. Instead of soaking up Southern California sun, dating a Frenchman, and pursuing a career in tabloid journalism, I moved back to Kansas, went to graduate school, married a Missouri guy, and had two children. I didn’t “get better” so much as I adjusted. This book is less about the cure and more about the adjustment.
Most of the pieces in this book take place over a period of five years, from around 2009 to 2014. As a writer, I’m interested not merely in telling stories about my experiences but in reflecting on the ways in which I told stories to myself in order to make sense of the experience. Just as the procedures left me with a kind of doubleness, so, too, is there a doubleness of narrative and experience—the narratives we weave in real time during the experience itself and the ones we revisit later that comprise a book. […] My life now is tilted: changed from what it had been, a bit skewed, but still mine. I see, say, two cups of coffee where in reality there is only one, and they seem to bounce up and down (the nystagmus, a vision disorder caused by the surgeries). But I have learned to only reach for only one of the cups, and I understand that it is sitting still on the table . By now, I know things are not what they look like. They are more.
This selection comes from Louise Krug’s book Tilted: The Post-Brain Surgery Journals, coming soon from 99: The Press.
Louise Krug is also the author of Louise: Amended (2012), which was named one of the Top 20 Nonfiction Books of the Year by Publishers Weekly. She is an Assistant Professor of Nonfiction Writing at Washburn University, in Topeka, Kansas. Some of her recent work has appeared in River Teeth, Word Riot, Parcel and Huffington Post. She lives in Lawrence, Kansas with her husband and children.
NohAnothai was a researcher with the Thailand-United States Education Foundation (Fulbright Thailand) between 2011-12, during which he hosted cultural events for Thailand’s Ministry of Culture and College of Dramatic Arts. Winner of Lunch Ticket‘s inaugural Gabo Prize for Translation and Multilingual Texts (2014) and OUTspoken’s poetry prize in 2015, Anothai’s original poems and translations of Thai poetry have appeared both online and in-print, most recently in Ecotone and The Berkeley Poetry Review. A reader for River Styx’s annual poetry contest, Anothai teaches for the online MFA program at Lindenwood University.