Monthly Archives: November 2020

This time, at winter

I’m alive and gradually recovering after Brain Surgery, Round 2; I almost wrote this last week on the old laptop I brought with me into hospital, but somehow only now am I feeling inexhausted enough to write something vaguely intelligible… well, that and I’m using a keyboard that doesn’t keep ignoring me pressing the space bar, and which doesn’t have a touchpad right underneath it.  I’m able to write on my home PC because they let me out early, on Friday last week instead of Monday (i.e. today) this week, so clearly I got through the aftermath better than expected.

(Or, I was an awful guest and they just wanted me to hurry up and clear out?)

What happened this time in comparison to 2018?  Well, as hinted here ahead of time, they only kept me asleep at the very start and end of the operation itself — and this time, rather than a jump cut, I felt myself falling alseep and waking up gradually at each stage.  I was barely able to stay awake during the actual ordeal, as two nurses tested me on my English knowledge while my brain’s unwelcome visitor was hacked away by surgeons out of sight, though in the event I needed them to read out sentences to me (so I could say whether or not they made sense), as (a) the plastic covering kept getting in the way, and (b) I didn’t have my glasses on!

It took a long time, but fortunately I remember only bits and pieces, which is probably just as well to avoid feeling like I was spending eternity in the deepest pit of Hell (boredom being far worse than anything Satan could come up with).  Every time I asked, the time left had gone down significantly (several hours, a couple of hours, an hour, half an hour…).  This was probably the first time I’ve ever been able to lie in an active MRI scanner without needing to move, most likely because I was on my side instead of my back!

My mother told me the information she was given in the aftermath: the surgeons took out 99% of the “space invader” (new and old), and then, presumably when I was back asleep, went back in again for the lingering 1%, so now — for the first time in, almost certainly, decades, and hopefully for a long time in the future — I’m rid of the cursed cerebral corruption, and just have to suffer through the same post-op symptoms as in 2018… except this time in winter, and with my family having more than just me to look after.

At least my mum’s managed to secure help looking after my grandmother, who thus has a little longer in the world — but I wish I could get over these symptoms quickly, and help her (even if it’s just keeping the dog distracted at important times).  My head aches, naturally, and I get throbbing from standing up and walking, but I also sometimes “see” things more distantly through my left eye, my right-side hearing may be crackling again (unless it’s just my TV developing bad sound quality?), coughs and sneezes (allergic rather than viral) cause instantaneous headaches, and after one good night’s sleep on Fri-Sat, I’m back to lying awake in the small hours…

(On the plus side, issues with both intake and output of the digestive variety seem to have been resolved over time, even if my diet has made no actual improvement!)

Hopefully I won’t jinx anything, but I’m pleased to announce that the right side of my body seems to be in full working order: I can mouse around in FPS games (Halo 4 seems to be working fine), and… er… well, I can use it in things where I also use my left hand, e.g. typing this out on a keyboard two-handed instead of one-handed.  The important thing is that I seem to have finally overcome the mini-strokes I was getting before!

Walking around isn’t pleasant — along the street, downstairs and upstairs in this house — thanks to the head throbs, but I don’t want to just sit here in front of my computer… wait, did I actually write that?  Of course I’d love to sit here playing games and surfing that newfangled Inter-thingy, but I have to stretch my legs and pop down to the shop occasionally for supplies (though I should have enough now for a couple of days) — and walking aside, I need to lie down occasionally and rest in here, rather than stare at screens all the time and risk hurting my eyes.

(Staring at my Kindle’s screen doesn’t matter, as it’s not luminous — and in any case, it’s Stephen King!)

Due to the nature of my left-side head suture this time around, I can’t just wait for temporary stitches to come out of their own accord, and 14 days after the operation (suddenly extended from eight days), I’ll need some quack to do it for me, using a blade like the one they gave me at the hospital.  My own “GP” here in Finchley won’t even consider helping, and so I’d have to arrange something with a nearby hospital for next Monday… though my mum may have worked a miracle by getting her non-scare-quoted GP down in Ferring to let me be a temporary patient there!

That’s a good sign: I’ll be allowed to travel down next weekend to convalesce, like in 2018, in the town I’d so longed to escape from, and someone will take care of that particular stage for me, which will mean that — at last! — I can get the rest of my hair cut short, and start washing it again, the last time having been the morning before my operation (and using a lousy red fluid that didn’t exactly bring out the shine).

It was great being able to relax in the warm summer back in 2018, but this time around, it’s in an increasingly-cold winter, with the house only slightly easier to heat now than it was six years ago, when I felt a lot less optimistic than now — but once again, it’s only until I can visit my “support bubble” on the south coast, and start Christmas even earlier than I did in 2014, and with more optimism.  I won’t be cold living with my mother, grandmother and dog, and I’ll be in no hurry to come back here…

— — —

Apart from my mother, I’m sure you can guess that there are two other valuable people whose support has helped me keep going through what would otherwise have been a terrifying experience: “best mate” drove me to and from the hospital, not to mention fetching stuff from shops for me, and I owe him big (letting him borrow my printer for a big project is the least I can do); and there’s someone… precious to me, still living eight hours in the future, who makes me want to find the strength to travel abroad again (which I’ll be more confident doing once symptoms and medication are under control) to meet her face-to-face.

(Would I have to face two weeks’ quarantine, like she did when she went home earlier this year?!)

I’m grateful to my medical assistants, supportive Facebook friends, work colleagues (I have to keep texting three at once just to satiate them) and, of course, my personal trainer (he’ll have to wait a couple of months before he can even risk torturing me again!), but the above three are the most important in my life in this situation, and that’s all that matters to me right now.

Perhaps this is why my closing questionnaire at hospital led to me being found non-depressed — I’ve got too many reasons to live — and only anxious regarding possibly-required medical treatment in future, not human interaction at present.  We’ll have to see what returns of its own accord inside my brain, won’t we?

Matters coming to a head

(Phew, I found the classic editor again, so I can actually see the box where I’m editing text — I really should have used a different blog site in 2012, shouldn’t I?

Surgery will be like this, except lying down and having my mouth moistened so I can answer the questions they yell at me — and if I’m lucky, an even short back and sides

It’s all happening to me at once right now: at the same time I’ve finally got surgery organised and prepared (I’m checking into hospital next Sunday, for an ordeal that will take place on Doctor Who‘s 57th anniversary), I’m almost certainly going to lose a precious relative, someone who’s been part of my life literally as long as I can remember — and in a far more inevitable, unstoppable way than when I lost other close relatives in 1984 and 1999, as this time it’s a long decline instead of an unexpected event.

Knowing what lies ahead of me doesn’t help: I’ve been through some preliminary checks and discussions (I was worried the main event wasn’t going to be scheduled until 2021!), but I’ve got to be tested for coronavirus on Wednesday, to make sure I don’t bring it into the hospital.  It’d be bad enough doing this as a carrier, but since my operation will involve me being held in place with the left side of my head upwards while they cut stuff out, having an uncontrollable cough would be rather detrimental to proceedings!

If I pass, and the operation goes ahead as planned, I’ll have to self-isolate for the intervening four days (I’ve already begun stocking the fridge) before check-in, and use a special concoction for washing (including my head on alternate days), to ensure I’m fully disinfected.  I’ll also need to bring my latest batch of anti-epilepsy medication (I feel damn lucky that I was able to get my quack and the chemist to work together when I’d ordered the repeat prescription a week earlier).

Assuming all goes well (and yes, this is the least negative outcome), I’ll then spend at least a week in hospital recovering and being psychologically evaluated, to make sure I’m not getting anxious and depressed due to (a) the anti-inflammatory drugs they’ll have me on or (b) losing the ability to remember my extensive vocabulary and take in new information.  By chance, I should be able to leave hospital around the time that Lockdown 2.0 ends, and can spend a little time here before returning to Worthing to stay with my folks…

Or, as is sadly becoming possible, folk: my grandmother’s needed 24/7 care for several years now, but her condition has exponentially increased over the past months.  I found it worrying that she couldn’t remember my 40-year nickname for her when she wrote a birthday card for me in October — especially since my earliest clear memory is her trying to get me to call her “Nanny” but me only being able to say “Tatty” — but now she can’t sleep, eat or control her body, and has needed medical treatment in the middle of the night, asking when her husband would be coming home from work.

I really hate this situation: not only will I face losing her, but so will my mother — and at precisely the same time that her son will need care.  Whereas during my post-op period in 2018 my grandmother needed less observation and could still cook (including for “best mate” when he came to drive me back to London), this time my mother will have two people to worry about at once.  This makes me feel like a burden, much like my workmates trying to make it clear that I’m doing fine and they’ll keep things going in my absence, even after all we’ve been through since the end of July — it’s like I’m just creating more work for others, and can’t help them in return.

(The saddest thing: if my Wednesday COVID test shows I’m a carrier, my operation will get put back a month — but even then, I won’t be able to visit Worthing in the interim and help my family, and would have to stay here anyway, feeling helpless!)

If all goes well, she’ll have weeks to jump on my bed at 8am every morning

It doesn’t help that the darling dog we’ve had for only a year is seriously confused by what’s happening to one of her loved ones (I even heard her barking in the background of a phone call, because my grandmother had fallen over), but me staying down there for a month or two may mitigate this somewhat: apart from anything else, my need to take exercise as part of my recovery will mean taking her walkies.  She’s the newest member of the family, and I’d hate to lose her as well — and she makes my mother happy, which is the most important thing.

Like I said seven years ago, losing a home relative feels so bad because it’s like the place is emptier than before, and somehow you expect them to turn up again, it all having been a prank or a misunderstanding.  However, I’d rather face this pain and misery all over again, than disappear into oblivion and not think anything ever again — apart from the fear of ceasing to exist at all (hence I can never embrace atheism), I don’t want my own mother to suffer even more than she already is, and to do so alone.

However, I’m determined to get through all this once again (and hopefully improving a lot more than last time), as I want my mother, my friends, my workplace, and everyone else I know and love/like/tolerate/endure to be relieved.  They’ve supported me, but I want to resume giving to them, even if (for now) it’s exclusively online, and thus I can’t climb with “best mate”, box with my personal trainer, help the meetup guy hand out supplies to the homeless, or give a big hug to a certain special lady in the Far East.

(On the other hand, I don’t miss being in a noisy, crowded office, and I certainly don’t miss being lucky even to get a seat on the Northern Line — I’m definitely happier homeworking!)

A few coincidences concerning this situation: not only will my operation be, as above, on a certain anniversary (albeit not a nice round number of years like in 2013), but next Sunday will end the 43rd week of unbroken Wii Fit Plus sessions I’ve done since early this year (when I forgot to bring the save file home with me to Worthing).  I think it’s also, by coincidence, the final day of my most recent promise of weight loss in that same software…

Sometimes I wish it was happening on the 19th instead, but hey, there’ll be a successful operation if ka wills it!