First, a preamble.It will make sense later.
S had been having strange symptoms for two years or so, and had been to the GP a good few times trying to get some answers. He’d started sweating profusely, and feeling dizzy. Once, he fainted on a quiet country pavement and had no idea how long he was out for. Apart from slightly raised infection markers, there was nothing wrong with his blood samples. It was explained as a mystery bug, or some unidentified virus or other. There are a lot of them about after all. He had migraines as well. They became more frequent, in the end having two or three a week. They were of the type where he saw stars and flashes and had to lie down in a darkened room. When he wrote me notes in this state, it looked like a four-year-old had scrawled them. As an interesting side-effect, he could easily tell when the weather was about to change, even before the birds did, as changes in pressure would bring them on. He also had something wrong with his eye. It was since he came off his mountain bike in his early teens, with the aid of a tree in his face. One eye had a slight wobble when he was tired. This slowly got worse, the wobble becoming uncontrollable, but so imperceptibly that neither of us gave it much thought – it was just some damage that had taken time to show itself. The optician even found that he had a large blind spot in that eye, but as the brain naturally compensates for this, S hadn’t noticed it. We were concerned, but thought that was it. The doctors he’d seen hadn’t made any connections between all these separate elements. We were under a suffuse cloud of worry but as it wasn’t being followed up, we reassured ourselves that it would all resolve, some way or another.
And so to a dramatic bit.
S was mugged on the high street of our town in October 2006. He was walking back home from a friend’s house at 8pm on a Friday night, and was challenged by two men. When he wouldn’t hand anything over, he was headbutted in the face and he lost consciousness. When he came round, he staggered on to a fast food shop as he knew they had CCTV and the men would be loath to enter. While a staff member phoned the police for him, S realised his nose had been broken and reset it on the spot. When the police van turned up, the men were long gone. Fortunately on a brief tour of town, S recognised and identified them. [For those who like closure, the men went to court and were convicted, and for a wee while one of them paid damages to him from his Jobseeker’s Allowance. Not quite a happy ending but it will do.]
S had problems with his vision after the mugging. He described it as being like black snow, or cinders falling from the sky. It took my mum (on the phone) and I two days to convince him to go up to A+E at the nearby hospital and get it checked out. By this time, the cinders were slowing and the doctors didn’t seem too concerned. But after a few scans, it appeared that S may have fluid on the brain, and this was assumed to be due to the mugging. The scans were forwarded to the neurological hospital in Liverpool, Fazakerley, to be checked. S got a phonecall while I was at work a few days after his initial appointment.
Here, I’m going to ask S to write this in his own words.
I got a suprise call from a Mr Lawson at the Walton neurology centre. It went something like this:
“Hello, Mr E. I’m Mr Lawson at the Walton Centre. We have reviewed your scans, do you have a seat to hand? This may take a while.”
“Er, OK.” *sits down* “So…um, what’s going on then?”
” Well, we reviewed your scans and have discovered what appears to be an anomalous mass on them. We would like you to come over for more tests, if that’s OK?”
“Anomalous mass? What is that then? Like a tumour or something?”
“Yes, I’m afraid to say it DOES look like you might have a tumour.”
*Goes cold* “Oh shit, so, I have a brain tumour? Shit. So, er how long have I got?”
“Oh, it’s OK really. It looks like a pituitary anomaly, and they are normally non-cancerous, so we will run some tests, and probably have to do some sort of procedure to remove it.”
” So, I need brain surgery?”
” Probably, but we do this sort of thing a lot, so please try not to worry too much.”
We then proceeded to make arrangements for a battery of tests. This sort of went on in a blurry fuzzy haze, and I spent the rest of the afternoon sitting staring at a wall and blinking occasionally.
That is how I found him when I came back from work that afternoon.
The next six months were rather high on the stress front. Parents were told, and we all tried to come to terms with the news. Most of this time was spent waiting. Waiting. Agonisingly waiting for news and a date for the surgery. S kept himself busy looking at Youtube clips of the operations he was likely to have. He has a curious mind and likes to know exactly the kind of things he is up against. We were fascinated and horrified by the position of the pituitary – it is so far in! So much to move out of the way!
Waiting is a curious thing. Looking forward to something, like, I don’t know, a trip to the zoo is brilliant. You want to get away, do something different. It will be hectic and you need to be organised with the tickets, the packed lunch, the directions. You will have your family with you. And it will all be worthwhile. Waiting for an operation is bizarrely similar in many respects, especially one so far away. But you don’t want to get away…you need to get away. It will still be hectic, and worthwhile, and with your family, and all those other things. But knowing that your loved one’s sight depends on it, and the quicker it comes the better it will be…Stress and anxiety became a part of our everyday lives, with the tumour, jokingly named “Junior,” and the operation being everpresent. Sometimes there were those few moments of bliss after waking, when I didn’t remember, and then the lead weight was back again, sitting on my heart. S of course had quite another experience of the same time, which I will not even pretend to describe. Months passed and we heard nothing. But it was all still there, every single lucid moment.
We finally got a date through for the operation. My first reaction was indignance. It was the day before my birthday! How the hell could we have a good time with S in hospital? The mind is a fascinating thing and it deals with horrible facts in its own special way. Somehow, thinking about how my birthday was ruined meant that I didn’t have to think about my love’s head being cut open.
A few days before, after the trip was organised, somewhere to stay the night before, bags mentally packed, that date was cancelled. It left us feeling bereft and even more anxious than before. Even more time to wait. We had been told that the operation would happen inside six months or significant, permanent and irreversible damage would be done. Those next six weeks were like being peeled raw with my nerves exposed. And then the new date came. And this time, it wasn’t cancelled, and this time it had to be real.
I’ll stop here for now. There will be a part 3.