Part of this blog was published in the Andersonstown News this week.
I want to record my sincere gratitude to Anthony Neeson, Robin Livingstone, Máirtín O Muilleoir and all of the staff at the Belfast Media Group who have kept the faith with me
And to my colleagues in RFJ whose support has been overwhelming.
“Where’s your husband?”
“He’s out making a call, but he’s coming now.”
“OK, we’ll wait on him.”
I was lying on a hospital trolley being spoken to by a doctor on the last Saturday in September.
When my husband arrived she gently asked him to take a seat and began to speak to me.
“So, you took a seizure this morning, never having had one before, the ambulance brought you here, and we sent you for a CT. That scan is showing you have a lesion on your brain”.
The next day, following an MRI another doctor told us I had a “meningioma”. It was like that scene in Elf when Buddy hears the name Francisco and says it a load of times rolling around his mouth, except my version was more snots and tears. I had a brain tumour called “meningioma”. All the headaches I’d been having weren’t a stubborn head cold, they were from a tumour swelling up and pressing on my brain. The leg cramps I’d been having, which were waking me from my sleep, they weren’t the result of the cold or wearing heels, they were seizures. And I’m clumsy, but the things dropping out of my hand when it went dead, well that had an explanation too. Here was an answer to questions I hadn’t been asking.
I don’t remember that week in detail. I remember the highlights of course,but mainly I remember how I felt. Numb, confused, weepy, terrified, wanting to get Christmas organised just in case. I do remember texting my husband at 3 in the morning one of the long nights to say “I have a brain tumour”. More to try to believe it myself. It seemed like a dream. Like it wasn’t real.
That Thursday I was wheeled down to the neurosurgical operating theatre and over six hours the team of magicians removed most of it.
So, now I’ve another hairline on my skull and I still have some after affects. I’ve discovered a whole new meaning to brain freeze in the cold weather! I have felt fear, grief and gratitude for multiple blessings. Cognitively there is no change – so I’m as bright or as dim as I ever was! But I’m often still physically worn out and experience other non-cognitive symptoms. Feeling great one minute, banjaxed the next. The journey is far from over. I thought having five C sections was tough! But we cross the bridges we meet, not the ones we fear.
From the minute the ambulance came to the house we met scores of NHS staff who stuck needles into me, put me under machines and anaesthetics, relieved my pain and removed most of this hidden alien that might have killed me. Exceptional care at every single level. Even the food was good!
But there are evident difficulties in the health service. I will write about that again. But I would not be honest in my gratitude if I did not record the strain I witnessed and was informed of while there. That the service continues in spite of this is incredible – but that should in no way blind us to the problems that exist, as that would do great disservice to those delivering health care.
Our family and friends prayed for us, sent messages of support by text and by card. They put a safety net around us all, fed us, drove us, and most of all loved us. There have been those who send consistent messages to lift the spirits. My thanks will never be enough. There was a message one day when I was very low that said “Stay Strong” from someone I hold in the highest regard. I wasn’t strong – but I kept going. I have photos of every bunch of flowers and screenshots of all messages and a box filled with cards. Every single one helped me.
My private family has held me and kept me safe through all of this. I am grateful for every minute of every difficult day they have put in with me. It has been their trauma too. They have been the brave ones. The optimistic ones. The ones that are not asked after and who did not receive flowers or cards and yet were the ones that deserved it.
So, what words of wisdom might I have for this roller coaster?
First of all this is rare. If you have those symptoms don’t be lying awake. This is not the usual outcome 🙂 The chances of this type of tumour happening is .000125%
But more philosophically, as we face into a new year with known and unknown challenges, the only message I have is, I’m afraid, a well-rehearsed one – Carpe Diem, Seize the Day, Tapaigh an Déis. Tomorrow might be a very altered place. We have all said it when loved ones become seriously ill or pass suddenly. But it is well rehearsed for good reason. I went to bed tired on a Friday night and my whole world was transformed on a Saturday morning. So make today your best day possible friends x