Yesterday, Graham spoke to one of the specialist nurses who works with Mr H. Between us, Graham and I had a few follow-up questions that we had not thought to ask on Friday after Mr H confirmed that the Immigrant’s permanent residence visa could not be revoked. Paradoxically, given the ultimate prognosis, the nurse confirmed that the lower-grade ranking of the Squatter means it is classified as “benign” rather than cancerous.
I had hoped that today’s title (I promise that Google will not let you down) might have been the biopsy result headline to herald some good news. Although it turns out that I could have used it truthfully, even I’m not dark enough to have misled you by breaking the news like that.
Rock of H’s
As I think about my “Awake” surgery next week, I draw comfort by building on the foundations of the words of two H’s (no Steps involved). Mr H told us that he does an Awake surgery every other week, so I’m convinced he’s “got some game”. Further, he’s been working with the specialist anaesthetists for years on these procedures and they’ve apparently got it down pat.
Mr H explained that, although I won’t be under general anaesthetic at any time, I’ll be in La-La Land for the initial “prep” work due to a heady combination of strong sedatives and analgesics. I’m hoping for some more of the Shiny Happy Woozy Drug I first mentioned in Much Ado About Something. I’ll then be brought back to the surface when they are ready for me to “help” with my own brain surgery. Music to the ears of a control freak.
Speaking of ears, Graham had asked yesterday (at my request) what I should expect to hear during the surgery. As the reason for keeping me awake is to allow me to give Mr H real-time feedback about any changes in the mobility or feeling on my right-hand side, I surmised (rightly as it turns out) that I wouldn’t be wearing headphones and listening to Smooth Radio. However, I also thought it would be unlikely that they’d allow me to hear things like “this doesn’t look good” or “I’m not quite sure what to do here”. We have been assured that I won’t be able hear any such intra-surgical chat (maybe they’ve got their own surgical sign-language for such occasions?).
In addition to Mr H’s, the reassuring words of Dr Hannibal Lecter also come to mind, appropriately from That Scene if I remember correctly. “The brain itself feels no pain if that concerns you…”.
The Seven Z’s Awry
You might recall that the one appointment that has to go ahead before my surgery is the neurological function test MRI scan. Hot off the presses, we just had a call to confirm that this will be on Monday at 7.25am (nice!). Just as I’m sleeping better, I would have preferred a later start. I couldn’t turn it down, though, not least because they can’t fit me in at any other time before my surgery. They will be opening up the neuro MRI scanning unit early on Monday especially for me and have summoned the Consultant MRI Scanner Tester Person to test my brain function (poor Consultant having to start the week with that!).
Back to the surgery for a paragraph or two, there are a couple of further details I have. Instead of the borehole drilling of the biopsy, this one will be a craniotomy. This is a bigger procedure overall because hopefully Mr H will be taking a lot more of the Squatter away. Consequently, I will: have a bigger area of my hair shaved; have a bigger bandage (although it wouldn’t be difficult compared to the tiny band-aid that so disappointed Jennifer and everyone else); potentially have bruising and swelling on my face; and, probably take longer to recover.
There are two main risks with this surgery:
- Seizure. All brain surgery carries the risk of seizures occurring during the procedure. Given my recent penchant for re-enacting Dr Strangelove, Mr H flagged that a seizure five minutes in (or any other time) could cut short our attempts to re-enact Hannibal. This would significantly reduce what Mr H is able to achieve in terms of tumour removal. They have anti-seizure drugs on hand. They also have what I took from his description as the equivalent of the post-marathon ice-baths taken by elite runners. In fact, I think Mr H actually used the term “ice pack” by analogy, but, in any event, it’s a liquid with which they will bathe my brain and try to cool/calm it down if there are any signs of seizure activity.
- Mobility. Given that the Squatter has taken up residence in the motor function part of the left-hand side of my brain, there’s an increased chance of the surgery affecting my mobility. Mr H said that there is an equal chance (i.e., one-in-three) that I will have better/unchanged/worse movement after the surgery. As I had already decided that I would be willing to sacrifice some mobility to give myself the best chance in terms of Brexit, this didn’t change my resolve to go ahead with the surgery.
Sweet Child O’ Mine
In the race between Leo and me to see who can learn/re-learn to walk first (as applicable), I instinctively judge that it’s currently a tie. Leo can walk eight steps unaided. I can comfortably walk more steps but only when wearing the splint (Graham likes to point out to Jennifer: “Mammy’s just putting her leg on”). My fatigue means that, overall, I currently walk fewer steps than Leo throughout the day. Plus, he’s definitely able to climb the stairs quicker than me, so maybe, on reflection, he’s actually winning. In the words of a famous Boxer: “I will work harder”!
If you think competing with my 10-month son is inappropriate, then I implore you not to read the segregated section “How Low Can You Go?” below.
My Right Foot
There’s slow but steady progress on the mobility front. From where I was even a week ago, I have pretty good movement and strength in my ankle. My toe movement has improved every day but is still pretty weak and inconsistent: my toes tire easily and, after the Herculean effort of a few toe crunches, the ladies are not for turning.
Both ankle and toe movement is stronger pushing down than coming back up. In 2008, on the final climb, it took us eight hours to ascend to Kilimanjaro’s summit and just a couple of hours to come back down. That ratio seems about right for my ankle and toes too. There is still no lateral movement with either. My knee continues to outshine the toes and ankle on that front, and is almost beginning to feel normal (if still a little wobbly from time to time).
I can walk a few steps without the splint. Being the good patient that I am, I’m keeping such adventures to a minimum as the whole point of the splint is to keep my foot, ankle and leg in line to minimise the risk that I inadvertently sprain my ankle or worse.
A hyperbolic sub-title, perhaps, but I am excited to have further extended my sleep position repertoire. It now includes longer periods on my sides as well as short periods on my front. They paved paradise, indeed.
Mr H thinks the Squatter moved in at least three years ago. Even raking over the Coles with the benefit of hindsight, the earliest signs of me being a head-case remain those I wrote about in An Introduction, namely the onset of migraines and a slight weakness in my right foot earlier this year. I asked Mr H if uncovering the Squatter’s residence four or five months ago would have made any difference and he immediately and unequivocally said no because it wouldn’t have grown much in that period.
Mrs Rent noted that I ask some very strange questions and rightly questioned what good knowing that would do me now. It was a risky strategy, perhaps, but I probably wouldn’t have asked if Mr H hadn’t already given me reason to believe that the answer would be negative. In any event, like observant press secretaries, I only ask questions on a “need-to-know” basis. It’s just that I probably feel the need to know more than most.
Choose Your Own Adventure
Even those of my friends who regularly reside on the Dark Side seem to be struggling with tumour humour at the moment (what is the matter with them?). Therefore, to cater for differing sensitivities for a limited time only, I’m offering a retro twist today (I am a child of the 80’s after all, with photographic evidence of psychedelic shell suits to prove it).
To protect readers from some tumour humour that they might find upsetting, there is a final section below that has been segregated from the rest of the blog. You’ll find it beneath an old photo of me and my big bro’ and has been so-placed to be easily avoidable for those wanting to quit while they’re ahead.
The section is called “How Low Can You Go?” with some thoughts that won’t be to everyone’s (anyone’s?) taste. Don’t say that I didn’t warn you and don’t expect this kind of kid gloves treatment every time. I might well go so far past a normal person’s bad taste line regularly without warning that I can’t even see the line (the line is a dot to me!). I might well have already upset you with bad taste in the non-segregated sections of this blog that I didn’t deem worthy of a warning.
I must be feeling generous to have thought twice about including the section at all. Or maybe I’m the one feeling sensitive at the moment. Or maybe there’s something gone wrong in my brain (I should get that checked). Or maybe it is really the worst taste tumour humour to date. It’s hard for me to judge when the thoughts just come to me naturally, I’m not trying to dream up ways to shock you or push you over the edge!
Anyway, “good luck” to those who keep reading and “farewell” to those who choose to look away now. For what it’s worth, my beta-reader doesn’t think the segregated section is anywhere near as bad as he was expecting given how I’ve built it up (but there’s clearly something of the night about him to have married me).
“How Low Can You Go?”
Quite low (using the American definition of “quite”).
My brother and I got on famously. We very rarely had fights, even as children, and I idolised him from an early age, following him around and holding on to his little finger. Nevertheless, we were both competitive and pushed each other to do better. I think it came from our Grandad Jim, who was an incredibly kind and gentle man. Except for the fact that, as a former footballer with a reputation as a “hard” player, he showed no mercy on the football pitch. Even to his grandchildren when nurturing their footballing skills in the back garden. Even when they were four- and seven-years old. I kid you not.
Graeme and I were definitely competitive with each other but it (mostly) manifested in each of us wanting to push ourselves and do our best rather than wishing the other any harm, particularly as we got older. In that context, I think Graeme (and possibly no one else) would understand that I’ve been keeping “score” on the brain tumour front. Competing with one’s deceased brother is perhaps not in the best of tastes but there you go.
Grades of Tumours
I said to the Rents last week that I think it’s the only time I’ll ever be pleased to get a lower grade than my brother. Without meaning to sound arrogant, it might genuinely be the only time it’s ever happened, not just the only time that I’m happy with it, but I can’t be certain on that front.
Number and Duration of Surgeries
Graeme had one brain surgery that lasted about eight or nine hours. This dwarfs my in-and-out biopsy of about 90 minutes. Mr H said my next surgery will last no more than a few hours. So, while I will be able to claim a win on “number of surgeries” after next week, Graeme will still be way ahead of me in flying hours.
Mine is better than his was. I hope to join him in smashing our respective bell-curves.
Late Addition: Carpe Diem
Graeme had four or five one-off seizures after his surgery over the course of several months. I had my kick-off seizure that led to the discovery of the Squatter, followed by the onslaught just a couple of weeks later post-surgery. Numerically speaking, I’ve already left him way behind.
However, Graeme deserves a bonus point or two for having two of his seizures in places other than the house. He had one in the Metro Centre and one in an All Saints store in London, both of which meant he had trips to hospitals that weren’t his local. The Metro Centre seizure took him to the QE, which is where I was taken the first time, so we have that in common.