(Very) bad news… (Part 1)
I started to sit down in front of Dr. B and literally before my arse had made contact with the seat he said “I’m afraid I have some very bad news for you today”. No preamble, no “how are you feeling?”, no nothing. One one level I sort of felt sorry for him, it must be a hell of a thing to have to do and maybe the truth is that there just isn’t a way you have that conversation with somebody in a ‘good’ way. On another level though, I was put out at what felt like a lacking of tact and kindness in that single moment. Didn’t he understand what I was going through? Didn’t he know about the beautiful children I had at home, so perfect, so innocence? Didn’t he understand all the complex, subtle details and shades of my lovely precious life, all the joys, challenges and relationships, my family, my friends, my work-mates. I found myself momentarily hating him for daring to fuck everything up so seemingly casually. I actually glared at him defiantly like I was daring him to see what would happen if he continued and I had to check myself. This wasn’t his fault and I needed to understand this. I had so many questions and needed to find out what was happening. In fact, in the end, he didn’t really have a great deal of information for me and I realized very quickly that I wasn’t going to get the satisfaction I wanted (basically, ‘am I going to die?’) today. It was going to be more complicated than that. The information he did have wasn’t great though; it’s a tumour. It’s in the part of the brain that controls some aspects of speech and sensation on the right hand of my body. The ‘episodes’ I’m having are epileptic seizures being caused by pressure in my brain and I have to start taking anti-seizure medication immediately (like actually right now, here in the hospital) but I have to be ‘stepped up’ to the effective dose over a few weeks because the medication is too strong to take in one go. They don’t at this point know what it is yet, they will have to find out. He doesn’t think they will be able to operate but it’s not his area of expertise. My care will be passed over from him to another doctor (Dr. P) who is based in Oxford. They will be reviewing my case at a special multi-disciplinary team meeting on Tuesday next week and someone will be in touch to arrange my next appointment to talk through what is next. It took him about ten minutes to give me that information. I had made a list of questions before I arrived which in light of this information suddenly seemed so pitiful and irrelevant. I’d actually written “can I travel?” for example, such a impotent, useless notion now. I just couldn’t help myself in instead asking the obvious question “do you know anything about a prognosis at this stage?” His voice softened very slightly (in a way which didn’t make me feel any better at all actually) and he said “at this point it could be something could drastically decrease the length of your life through to something that you’ll still be alive with in sixty years” (I actually laughed to myself inside to this, as that would make me 102). I felt a need to push him on this so said “do you have any idea how long it might have been there?” and he said something which I’ve come to realise was (accidentally?) very profound since that conversation - he said “Was it there a week ago, a month ago or a year ago? I don’t know. What matters is that it’s there now.” One of the many things I’ve learned on this journey so far is that in the end, for so much of life, all that really matters is what is there right now. Go here to the start of the journey. Go here for next blog entry. Go here for previous blog entry.