This post is about my recovery from brain surgery. I had my first brain tumour removed in 2012 and you can read about it here.
The thing about recovery, it’s just not about the physical recovery. That’s the relatively easier part. Don’t get me wrong, it’s incredibly hard. But I hadn’t considered the mental and emotional recovery. Ridiculous as it sounds, it just didn’t cross my mind.
First and foremost, my mind was on surviving surgery. The physical part. You know the waking up after surgery and still being here bit. I figured if I survived that, then I would survive the rest.
Prior to going under the knife, I didn’t have the chance to get to grips with what was happening to me or what was to follow. This was mainly due to outside distractions. After my initial diagnosis, a series of comedy errors occurred. I call it this because what followed was so surreal that it didn’t seem real. I also call this period the crap years. The short version involves a fire at the family home, living in hotels and rented accommodation with a plastic bag of clothes brought during a late night supermarket shop, being burgled and dealing with an incompetent insurance company that nearly broke me mentally and emotionally. This is only pre-operation, there was more to follow but I’ll get to that later.
So I did survive surgery, twice. I don’t remember the pain mainly because of the painkillers. Once this was reduced to paracetamol and ibuprofen, the pain kicked in…Like a sledgehammer. My head did not feel like it belonged to me. I couldn’t concentrate, I couldn’t think straight. It was like my thoughts were drifting in and out of a daytime dream within a constant fuzzy and foggy cage that I couldn’t escape. Yep, I was out of it. The feeling of sickness and nauseous killed my appetite. Whilst the dizziness made me unable to turn my head to the left without my head spinning and wanting to fall over even when laying down. I just felt tired and weak, my body felt broken and all I wanted to do was crawl into a ball and stay there.
Then there’s the help you need. Until you’re in the situation, you realise how lucky you are to be loved. Loved enough to be taken care of. I know it sounds stupid, but surgery made me feel small and aware of my mortality. Before I felt larger than life, invincible. After I felt vulnerable and fragile. People that love me are now more protective. I sometimes wonder if they think I might break and I don’t blame them.
It didn’t help that I needed help. I needed help to get dressed, comb my hair, wash myself and get around. I couldn’t walk much without some help from someone else.
I hated loud sounds and preferred the quiet, the stillness. Even now I’m the same. I am quite happy being alone in the quiet. Background noise irritates me and I don’t like even having the radio on in the background. Ironically the mother migraines only arrived after the surgeries. They come and go unpredictably and those feelings of sickness, nausea and heavy headiness return. If it’s not those, it’s the dull aching pains the float around your head in various places, not like a migraine and not fully forming into a headache.
Emotionally and mentally, I was up and down. Emotionally, it is difficult to explain the emotions I felt because they were inconsistent. How do you sum up the variety of emotions you feel especially when your feelings change from day to day? Mentally, I still don’t understand why or how so it is hard for me to say. Maybe it would be different if I didn’t have a second brain tumour to deal with. I can say that some days I forget I have a brain tumour. Other days I remember and I think about it and what this means.
Life is short. It’s a cliché I know, but it is true. I knew mental, emotion and physical health were important but I didn’t really understand how important until I had to go through the process myself. Even though I have had friends and family go through traumatic experiences, you can’t relate until you go through it yourself. It doesn’t matter how much you want to relate, and I am not being horrible here but you just can’t. I know when I have been in the same situation, I can’t either not fully. I can empathise, I can love, I can support but I can’t truly understand because I haven’t been there myself. It’s just different. Even though I have family and friends that love me and support me, when I am alone with my thoughts or laying in that MRI machine by myself…I’m reminded it’s just me.
On the bright side, I love life more than I did before and I do things that make me happy. Things that make me feel alive. I laugh more and I laugh at myself more. I don’t care what people say about me and I embrace my inner bad dance (purposely dancing badly always makes me smile, try it). I try not to sweat the small stuff although this one is still work in progress. I walk away from things and people that make me feel bad because it’s just not worth it. I’ve learnt to let go. And when in doubt I remember what Mama Saini tells me…“Fuck It”.