I Survived Silicon Valley & Brain Surgery. Brain Surgery Was Easier.
My birthday is in exactly six weeks. I wake up every night thinking about telling this story.
So I am telling it now.
Six months ago, I was living in New York and flew back home (San Francisco Bay Area, Redwood City) for a board meeting and to be part of an entrepreneur video series profile of me.
Before the board meeting, I asked for an aspirin. I had a weird headache but I thought it was the travel. My board meetings are never stressful because I have great board members. So this headache was just weird.
Afterward, I had lunch with Ellen, drank a Topo Chico and went home. Next day, I went for a facial and a haircut. I still had a headache and felt lightheaded but continued with life. Dinner with my partner’s coworkers. Threw up everything when I got home. The headache was getting weirder.
When Sunday rolled around and I couldn’t go on my hike as planned, I thought I could sleep it off. Three hours later, I was at the Stanford ER.
They did a CT scan.
The handsome ER doctor approached me with a solemn face. I asked him “How big is it and is it malignant?”
It was over 2 inches. No one knew if it was malignant. I had to endure multiple MRIs and three days at the hospital. I googled Stanford’s neurology ranking. It was 14th in the nation. UCSF was ranked 3rd.
I CEO’d myself out of Stanford and into UCSF a day later thanks to an investor of mine.
I asked the vice-chair of the UCSF neurology department for two things: to allow me to go to Washington DC with my mother for the Frederick Douglass 200 gala where I was being honored. And to not shave my head. I didn’t want the stigma.
I also have great hair. 🙂
The three weeks leading up to the surgery were the worst weeks of my life. Had to tell my sister to pull the plug if I ended up brain dead. Had to say a lot of goodbyes. Had to write a will.
I am forever thankful for everyone who showed up for me during this time. You know who you are. I love you all more than the thousands of words I can type here.
About the cost? It is more than you can imagine. The insurance? Maybe I was smart — I chose it as a CEO — going for a PPO instead of an HMO. Or maybe health insurances see a two-inch brain tumor in the paperwork and just approve everything. Or maybe I was lucky.
I thought a lot about my legacy and purpose afterward. I work and live in a tough industry. I am a founder by choice and by dedication. I’ve been in tech since I was seventeen.
It was benign. A cyst. There are titanium plates in my head.
Now I have existential crises about being a Latinx female founder in this industry. Why do I still want to be here when this industry rejected me so much? It’s like I have imaginary titanium plates over every inch of my body from being here.
The answer is quite simple. It’s because I love it. I love this f*cked up place enough to want to change it.
And have you all met me? I got a term sheet for my life in less than a week. I can survive Silicon Valley.
Let me leave you with the highlight of all of this. My mama who’s a hot mess of a mama looked at my MRI and asked the nurse what that bright green thing was. The nurse said “Her tumor.”
My mama looks at her and back to me and back to her and says: “She used it too much. The brain. Since she was little. I told her to stop using it.”
I laughed for about an hour. “Mija, sabes que siempre andas pensando. Tienes que parar.”
I just used it too much, y’all.
Originally published here.