Turning to radical acceptance when post-surgery expectations are unmet

The definition of radical acceptance is letting go of the illusion of control

Jessica Bracy avatar

by Jessica Bracy |

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Six months have passed since I had transsphenoidal pituitary surgery to remove a 3 mm tumor on my pituitary gland. Since then, I have taken time to reflect on things I’ve learned.

Before surgery, I had many expectations about how my Cushing’s disease symptoms might improve afterward. These expectations were influenced by the success stories I learned about in my support group, research I did about what to expect, and my own hopes for what symptom improvement might look like.

I am an impatient person. After I was discharged from the hospital, I joked, “Darn, I haven’t lost 30 pounds yet!”

I desperately wanted my symptoms to disappear overnight. Having dealt with them for three years, I wanted surgery to fix everything quickly.

I wanted my buffalo hump to go away and weight loss to happen easily. I had high hopes that my striae would fade and my moon face would return to its normal shape. It took a long time for me to figure out what was wrong and to find doctors who would treat me. After all of my efforts, I just wanted to feel better.

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It’s funny how expectations don’t always come to fruition. Although many of my symptoms have improved, it hasn’t been to the extent I had anticipated. As a result, I started to panic and worry about the possibility of a recurrence. One of the biggest things I learned after surgery is that a recurrence is always a possibility with Cushing’s disease, but worrying about it won’t make it less likely to happen.

World-renowned psychologist Marsha Linehan coined the term radical acceptance, which is based on Buddhist teachings. As Linehan noted, “Radical acceptance rests on letting go of the illusion of control and a willingness to notice and accept things as they are right now, without judging.”

Although practicing radical acceptance can be quite difficult, I found it absolutely necessary in order for me to process Cushing’s disease after surgery. By practicing radical acceptance, I have realized that there are so many things that are outside of my control. Right now, I can focus only on what is within my control and how I can work to modify them to improve my overall quality of life.

Do you practice radical acceptance? Please share your thoughts in the comments below. 

Note: Cushing’s Disease News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Cushing’s Disease News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Cushing’s.


Lenka Novackova avatar

Lenka Novackova

Hi Jessica, I'm 10 months post-op and my experience is that some symptoms disappeared straight away (high blood pressure, high cholesterol), some in the course of a couple of months (excess weight, buffalo hump, sleep apnea), some symptoms are still improving (hair growth) but some brand new symptoms occured during recovery - anorexia, exhaustion or depression. But I'm sure, if your cortisol level keeps low after the surgery and you manage to tapper off replacement steroids, your symptoms will disappear one by one and you will become a new person:-) Patience is the best motto!

Jessica Bracy avatar

Jessica Bracy

Thanks so much for the encouragement!! Its hard to not have high hopes, while also trying to manage expectations! Everyone recovers differently!

M Quick avatar

M Quick

You don't want weight loss too fast as that can cause hair loss. I had the pituitary tumor for 40 years and was turned down for MRI by multiple MDs on the basis that it is too expensive but that was exactly what I needed for diagnosis and not nearly as expensive as they insinuated. One symptom went away overnight after the surgery but maximum symptom improvement was after 14-15 months. Reversal of symptoms also calls for lifestyle changes I did not expect. I recommend waiting two years before considering other procedures. Because of how many decades I had the pituitary tumor, some damage was too deep rooted to be resolved by removal of the pituitary tumor. Removing pituitary tumors is unprofitable for the surgeon in the U.S. so I had to get it done out of country.


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