Tag Archives: Surgery

Brain Surgery – 1 year on

6 August 2013

Special occasions don’t start with fireworks or with an extraordinary sunrise and awakening. Today was a grey, rainy day in the Western Cape and Boland’s wine region. Anneén left yesterday for Namibia for work, so I had to get the girls ready for school, sort the dogs out and tick-off my mental checklist of lunchboxes, reading-bags, vitamins (for them), Epilim (for me), dog food (for the 4 legged ones), umbrellas and signing the form for the nurses’ visit to school. Quite ordinary for an anniversary.

The trip to school was filled with playing “I spy” and “asking daddy hard questions”. Today’s clincher: “Why can only mommies have babies in their tummies?” (Do boys ask similar questions?), while filling the traffic cues to the local primary and secondary schools. Several cars with University students shot past, making the most of the current free parking situation in Stellenbosch. Dropping the girls off as the school bell announces the start of another day of learning. Close, but in time. All quite rushed, but precious moments as they turn around to throw themselves into a goodbye hug and run into the crowd of blue uniforms and playfulness. Ordinary does not rule our being touched by these moments.

Driving 45 minutes to work is more or less the norm. As is the case on my Monday and Tuesday journeys, my iPod playing the latest Kermode and Mayo’s film review podcast from BBC Radio 5 live (something I can recommend to any lovers of movies or talk about movies if, as with us, it is difficult to actually get to the cinema!). Nothing out of the norm, but the routine providing a sense of familiarity and security. Stopping at the first clinic to complete a memory assessment. Then to the hospital for a psychotherapy session at the heart unit, before arriving at our practice for two more consultations. Awareness of my anniversary is left in the car, while my focus shifts to the clinical and therapeutic tasks at hand. I am appreciating the privilege to be able to work and to be productive.

Lunch time I am rushing back home to look after our girls given that mum is doing a bit of jet-setting. My iPod’s shuffle kick-start Alanis Morrison’s “Thank You”. I am thankful that it is a year on. Should I say thank you for the brain tumour that dropped into my life in 2012? Alanis’ words resonate with me:

Alanisthank you terror
thank you disillusionment
thank you frailty
thank you consequence
thank you thank you silence


But no, I am not thankful that I had a brain tumour. But I know that I don’t have to fight against it (for now anyway there is nothing to fight against). Anneén and I had all of the above and I can find ways to be thankful for having these daunting experiences and what it taught us. But I am not trapped by them. I don’t have to fight. I can just take responsibility. I can look after my immune system, I can stay healthy (without overdoing it), I can run and can live life. I can love my family and friends and look after my emotional well-being. I can set challenges and we can have celebrations. Bob Dylan steps on stage after Alanis – my iPod is the coolest DJ!

In between doing the dad’s taxi service I stop off at Martin’s office. I feel a bit embarrassed about the “Thank you” – card. The options at the SPAR were limited to “field of flowers” or “laughing baby”. Flowers it was to accompany the bottle of red Tamboerskloof Syrah (no embarrassment about that choice though!). I am pretty sure he won’t allow the enjoyment to interfere with his next craniotomy, but hope he will raise a glass of the peppery and berry crimson nectar to celebrate my extraordinary-ordinary anniversary of life a year post-operation.

the moment I let go of it was the moment
I got more than I could handle
the moment I jumped off of it
was the moment I touched down


Filed under My Brain Tumour and I, This thing called life

Going Back West

[Cue Music]

Going back west
Yes I know I’ll make out alright
Going back west
Where my music’s playing all night
Going back west (going back west)
I think I’ll do alright

I have always fallen back onto music. In times when words fail or when my fingers don’t find the keypad, the CD shelves are reassuring close-by. Glancing at of them now, there are obviously some embarrassing choices I have made (I blame the 80’s), but also some dear favourites that have been with me in times of uncertainty or heartache. Pulp, Eddie Vedder, Leonard Cohen, Alanis Morisette, Bob Dylan, Mumford and Sons, Bruce Springsteen, The Cure, INXS, The Cranberries, etc. etc. are all tuning their instruments and warming their vocals for that moment to intervene in our reality that are completely unfamiliar to them. And yes, there are (private) moments that even Boney M is called on stage for some kickass inspiration. Today is such a day. Going Back West is the song the doctor ordered.

It really is just not flowing. Words are somewhere else. Maybe it is just not a word day. It is probably because I am heading back to hospital later today. It is nothing overly serious, just not the type of thing that make you want to smell the flowers, write poetry or paint still lives. I would rather find a little sunny corner to hide away in. Someplace quiet and safe, where all is well and my good medical colleagues are playing with their children. The operation is nothing as major as the craniotomy I had before (when the tumour was removed). The issue at hand (head?) is that the swelling did not subside over the past 2 weeks. This indicates that the pressure monitor that was connected probably left a little “leak” that needs to be repaired. Unfortunately this can only be done through opening the wound again and getting underneath the bone structure of the skull. The good news (and yes, there is some) is that I would probably be home again tomorrow.

So the journey continues and the things we learn along the way mount up. For example, we met an oncologist yesterday to talk about radiotherapy and chemotherapy. This is the next process following the surgery to “blast” any cancerous cells that could not be removed. These cells are such small molecules that technology during surgery can’t pick them up and therefore it always require some follow up intervention(s) to deal with what is left. What we did not know is that radiotherapy would be 5 sessions per week for 6 weeks once I am physically well enough. Although these would be short sessions (each session lasts for about 10 to 15 minutes), it is thinking about all the practicalities and how to manage all of this. The word “time” comes to mind, as does the word “work” (given that I am still officially on “sick leave”). I know, I know, don’t rush ahead! Get well first! Priority is your health. It is just such a different and new place where we are that these words and ideas take some getting use to!

I need to go pack something. Will speak soon – promise. Hopefully words will be at hand to describe how things have developed. If not words, I will get some pictures, lyrics. Which reminds me of this one I took last weekend at Babylonstoren. I think these are the sunny places I would love to hide away at on days like today!


Going back west
Yes I know I’ll make out alright
Going back west
Where my music’s playing all night
Going back west (going back west)
I think I’ll do alright


Filed under This thing called life