In September 2000, Dee was about to undergo a craniotomy to remove a golf-ball-sized tumor behind her right eye. The neurosurgeon told her all the indications looked good — the tumor was benign and in a good location for removal. The major challenge, however, was that the tumor had calcified and broken into small pieces. That would necessitate the surgical team handling her brain during the procedure, which ultimately resulted in a brain injury.

At the time of her surgery, Dee was teaching High School Journalism, Creative Writing, and English. Since the courses were fluid in nature, depending on what articles the newspaper staff were writing and what fiction, poetry, and creative non-fiction pieces individuals were composing in Creative Writing, all the curricular details were stored in her brain! After surgery, neurofatigue and the inability to think of the words she wanted to use were significant challenges.

Dee’s family doctor encouraged her to return to teaching six weeks after her surgery, but when he stopped prescribing the steroids she was taking, she entered a period of deep depression. In December 2000, she returned a call from Lisa Masters and connected with the Capitol Chapter of BIAMI. Lisa also recommended that Dee contact Dr. Robert Fabiano of PAR Rehab, where she was subsequently tested and became one of his neuropsychology patients.

When she returned to teaching in January 2001, Dee realized the full impact of the brain injury on her life. Problems she encountered included the inability to concentrate, organize work, complete tasks, process sensory stimulation  (especially sound, movement, and large groups of people), and difficulty with short-term memory. These setbacks were exacerbated in 2002 when Dee was exposed to strobe lights as part of the fire alarm system in her classroom.

Realizing the personal importance of sharing both successes and struggles, Dee became heavily involved with her BIAMI Chapter, producing a newsletter that was four to eight pages long, and participating in and often organizing social activities such as Movie Days and Game Nights. She currently serves as Chapter Secretary, where she enjoys both sharing her experiences and learning valuable strategies from others’ experiences. Dee notes that she finds the quality of speakers at chapter meetings to be excellent and that her BIAMI chapter has kept her grounded and sane!

Today Dee is writing again and is a member of two writing groups. Her current projects include a novel, a chapbook of poetry, and two books of creative non-fiction stories: Not My Frog, You Don’t about pets and other animals in her life; and Now That I have Your Attention about her years as a substitute teacher. She continues to mentor young writers, and although still plagued with limitations, she maintains a positive attitude. Her favorite quote, author unknown, is “No two of us are alike, but we’re all in this together; see possibilities instead of problems!”

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