Today is the day we meet the neurosurgeon. You know how people say “it’s not brain surgery” well this actually is. And we are going to the John Radcliffe – the very place that caused my crippling phobia of hospitals. As a result I can’t watch Casualty, Holby City or even Scrubs (despite the fact that there is very little hospital-ness in that). White coats make my blood pressure rise and that hospital smell makes me retch.
We leave in plenty of time to get to the hospital. Parking is always a nightmare and we go a bit wrong and end up in the flats where Iris’ Uncle Mac and Aunty Mary used to live but eventually we find the right place. I know it is the right place because I begin to shake and feel nauseous. When I was 12 I spent some time at the JR. It was the most horrific and upsetting time of my young life and something I rarely talk about in detail. After the initial stay there I then had to return every 6 months for 15 years until my consultant eventually retired and we both decided it was easier just to disappear off the radar than to try and brief a new specialist. And here I was at the door.
We found our way to the waiting room (as hospital waiting rooms go it was OK. Bright, clean, beige.) And waited. We passed the time by correcting the grammar and punctuation on the posters and avoiding eye contact with the other patients.
Eventually a man in scrubs walks up and says (in a Dutch accent) “Jushtine Berrett”. I can’t help thinking that he has arrived in scrubs to save me time:
Dutch Doc: “Hey Jushtine. sit down, relax. I was hoping you would bring me shomething intereshting, but inshtead its a bloody boring tumour. That’s just so routine (yawns). Hey Adrian, why not go for a shmoke and a pancake and you can pick her up in 10 minutesh when I have got rid of the bashtard.”
No such luck.
He ushers me into his room where Tarquin is playing a starring role on his computer monitor. He then checks me over in a frankly 18th century kind of a way. I have to walk in a straight line with my eyes closed, stretch out my arms and try to put each fingertip on my nose in turn. Am I seeing a brain surgeon or taking a sobriety test? After a few questions and some Dutch humming and hawing Mr G arrives. Tall, slim, AND FIFTEEN YEARS OLD. It comes to something when not only policemen but brain surgeons look young. He doesn’t look old enough to shave his own chin let alone my head. But I know he qualified in 1997 so by my reckoning he is around 40. Maybe he has access to good botox.
More questions, more chin rubbing and then he tells it how it is:
Tarquin is in THE most inaccessible part of my brain. If you drew a line between my ears and between my nose and the back of my head, he is in the crosshairs. Trust me to have an OCD brain tumour which feels the need to be symetrically aligned.
Not only that but the main artery to the brain runs through one part of him and he has wrapped himself around a group of blood vessels and nerves which control my mood, personality, eye movement and the feeling and sensations of my face. Nothing vital then.
Surgery will be long, complicated, risky and not wholly successful. Because Tarquin has entrenched himself right at the heart of my brain (mixed metaphor or what?) they will not be able to remove all of him. So after they have performed a craniotomy (don’t Google it unless you’re brave – basically I get a titanium sunroof in my skull) I will have to go to Sheffield to the National Centre for Steriotactic Surgery for another procedure called the Gamma Knife (which sounds like a Philip Pullman novel to me).
I am speechless.
Sheffield??? Yorkshire??? Oop North??? At least Leeds has a Harvey Nicks.
So not only do I have a brain tumour, I have an awkward bugger and now I have to have two operations. One of which takes place north of Watford.
I am now about to describe them, so those of you who are squeamish (like me) please look away now.
The craniotomy will involve shaving my head (!), cutting a ‘window’ in my skull, pulling apart the frontal and temporal lobe, resecting as much of Tarquin as they can, then getting the hell out of there before causing my brain to bleed too much, affixing a titanium plate and sewing me back up. This is followed by a couple of days in ICU, a week in hospital and 6 weeks recovery at home.
After I have recovered from that they will ship me to Sheffield for the Gamma Knife procedure.
A Gamma Knife is a device used to treat Tarquin and his ilk with a high dose of radiation therapy in one day. The device will aim gamma radiation through a drill hole in my brain. The treatment takes several hours during which time my skull is screwed into a head frame (more shaved bits of scalp), Tarquin will then slowly die over the next two years. Even after all this there is no guarantee I will get my sight back.
Sounds like a piece of cake. Don’t know what I’m worried about.
Mr G says that we can’t wait and that once he has spoken to Sheffield I should expect to come in for surgery within the next 2-3 weeks, but before that I will have to come to the JR for an angiogram. I should just await his call.
One thing I have become adept at is waiting. So we thank him and his Dutch cohort and beat a hasty retreat. Adrian wants a coffee (probably needs is a better description) but I just want to be gone from the place so we head home in shock.
It is all horribly real. I have a brain tumour and I am having brain surgery.
I really hope my modest nighties turn up from Marks & Spencer on time.