The Only Tip You Need to Prepare for Brain Surgery

A few weeks ago, my husband and I each awoke in the night feeling sick to our stomachs.  It wasn’t something we ate; we were stressed out…to the max! You see, in late May 2016, I was diagnosed with a brain tumour.  That night a few weeks later, the reality of the situation hit us like two Mack trucks steaming across the Rocky Mountains.  Before we went to sleep, we had talked about the surgery, my recovery, and the various bits and bobs we had read that told us what to expect once we came home from the hospital: a weeping incision, terrible pain, hair matted with blood and dried surgical jelly.  “I’m scared, hon”, I said, my voice quavering.  “I’m glad to hear you say that”, my husband whispered, “because I’m terrified”.

The title of this blog is The Crafty Academic: before starting my craft business, I completed a PhD in Irish Theatre and taught at the university level. As a researcher, I continue to seek answers: from my neurosurgeon, from service organisations (like Brain Tumour Ireland or the American Brain Tumour Association), from bloggers who have had brain surgery, from caregivers of those who have had brain surgery, from friends who are doctors, and the list goes on and on and on and on and on.  In July, our fears were put a bit at ease.  We had a lovely visit with Anne Buckley of Irish Brain Tumour Support, which has three locations across the Republic of Ireland: Cork, Dublin, and Galway. We met at Cancer Care West’s lovely space in Galway. As a result of such meetings and my research, I have gathered much information, but relatively few answers.

So here it is, the only tip you need to prepare for brain surgery: “You won’t know how it will go until after you’ve gone through it”.  Every tumour, like every patient, is different. Some of us are older, some of us are younger. Some of us heal quickly, some of us heal more slowly.  Some of us have a high pain threshold, some of us have a low one.  Some of us will hear clicking, clacking, and bubbly sounds in our heads as things settle down, some of us won’t.  There is no way to predict exactly how you will react to any of it.  (This, of course, is terrible news if you’re like me: a control freak who wants to figure out ways to relieve stress before it starts!)

I haven’t had surgery since I had my tonsils and adenoids removed when I was 6 or 7.  At that time, I thought I was going to camp! I had a great time and hallucinated that the night-duty nurse was my grandmother. In my present situation, I’ll keep you posted over the course of the next few months as I wander through this new, uncharted territory.  If you are in a similar situation as me (that is, waiting for brain surgery), just remember: there is no way our experiences will mirror each other.  We can only do our best.

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