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The Boston Globe

South

Beverly Beckham

Illness fails to dampen blogger’s eloquence

She’s a writer, so she tells it best. About her life. About her diagnosis. About the surgery. And about right now, post-surgery.

Jenn Lane Dignan is 38. She grew up in Canton. She lives in Stoughton. She has two boys, Jack, 9, and Shawn, 8. She got divorced last April, and in June was diagnosed with a brain tumor.

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She taught school for 11 years, but she can’t teach now. Her vision is improving, but it’s not back to normal, and when she leaves her house, the world accosts her, her recovering brain unable to process the noises and busyness of everyday life.

Before her surgery, she processed everything. She wrote on her blog. “Dr. Matt puts a hand on mine and says this is a big surgery. He tells me that it’s normal to be nervous.

“But to prove it, to prove he’s right, to prove that it really is okay to be nervous, I feel the need to run down the risks again. I start with the general: death, stroke, right side facial paralysis. Then, I piece together tidbits from various conversations with various doctors over the last week:

 It’s in a difficult spot to get to;

 It’s wrapped around the part of your brain that controls breathing;

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 We might not be able to get it all;

 There’s a major artery right here.”

She had dismissed the tumor’s symptoms as eye strain. She’d been at her computer all weekend, writing. Eye strain made sense.

She left for work Monday morning convinced that a day away from the screen and she’d be fine. But Tuesday, she had double vision that was so constant that she had to hold her hand over one eye to drive home. She stopped at an eye doctor on the way.

But he wasn’t in, so she phoned her own physician and made an appointment for the next day.

Her physician sent her straight to the emergency room. A CAT scan showed she had a tumor on her brain. She called her ex-husband. “I need you to take the kids.”

She went to Brigham & Women’s by ambulance. It was 5:30 p.m. There was bumper-to-bumper traffic. She was alone and scared.

“I don’t want to cry in front of the EMT who is sitting next to me, monitoring my vitals,” she wrote. “I don’t want to cry, but I can’t help it, a few tears spill over and splash on my red shirt, part of an outfit I will throw away two days later because I never want to see it again.”

The operation was a week later. It lasted seven hours. The tumor was the size of a golf ball.

Now the tumor is controlled. “What’s left is a mass that will always show up on an MRI,” Jenn explains. “If it grows it will need to be addressed again. But so far, so good.”

There was only a 10 percent chance that the nerve damage to her right eye would heal on its own, but it is healing. And she is healing, too, though the recovery is slow.

“At times, it’s tough,” she admits. She gets no disability, so financially times are very tough. But that’s not what she is talking about. She’s frustrated that she can’t work.

“I feel unproductive. But generally I think I’m so so lucky that this happened to me and not my kids, that the tumor wasn’t cancerous, that my eye is healing and that so many friends have come together and helped me.”

Her friends are continuing to help. They’ve planned a spaghetti supper fund-raiser for next Saturday at the Sons of Italy in Stoughton. “Jenn Lane Dignan is a strong, amazing person,” they wrote in the flier that’s posted around Stoughton and Canton.

Jenn Lane Dignan is an excellent writer, too. To read more of her story, go to playinghouse-jenn.blogspot.com. For tickets or donations, e-mail jennstrong02072@
gmail.com.

Beverly Beckham can be reached at beverlybeckham@
me.com.

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