by HANNAH BLACKISTON
I am about to go through brain surgery, it’s a fairly simple 3 hour procedure to fix a serious nerve disorder I have. I mainly kept the whole disorder, which I have been suffering from for over a year, under wraps.
It’s quite a rare disorder and I find it’s hard to explain it with people without several diagrams and a medical dictionary. However I am about to disappear for 4 week and word has gotten out, which has in turn has led to some interesting questions.
I need to get one thing straight, I am not dying. There is a tiny chance that I might die during this operation. That’s not to say I’m not scared, I challenge anyone who is having their skull opened up to not hold some reservations but I don’t see the point in worrying. I don’t really have an option here, so why go in to it scared? What scares me more than the operation itself is telling people about it.
When a person is suffering from a terminal illness generally people don’t mention the fact they are dying. There is no reason to remind someone of that fact when they are probably very aware of it. You ask them how they are feeling, how the treatment is going; you stay away from subjects such as fear and dying. This is why it amazes me so how brazen people can be when it comes to asking me about my fears.
One of my partner’s friends found out about my surgery from another friend of ours the other day. To begin with, the friend that told her doesn’t have the strongest grip on understanding my condition (she constantly asks me if it’s gone away yet, despite my telling her every time it’s like an adopted puppy – not just for Christmas) so I shudder to imagine the conversation.
The next time I saw friend #2 she ran up to me and said - “I heard about your surgery! Are you scared? Because it’s … brain surgery. You could die.”
Oh, sorry. I forgot all about your background in neurosurgery. I also forgot that as soon as my brain is the thing being operated on that automatically gave me a one way ticket to dying. After I had assured her it was very unlikely I was going to die, and I told her that the surgeon who would be doing the surgery does them pretty much daily, she grabbed my hands gravely and said - “You’re being so brave. I just really hope you don’t die.”
Statements like that are the reason I have been holding back from telling anyone. I completely understand that she was only trying to be sympathetic. But if someone had told me this was happening to them, I like to think I would have been able to hold my tongue.
It’s not just friends who have made these comments either, co-workers have slipped into judging my condition as “terribly sad”, and even my GP gave their condolences. I am usually the first to suck up the sympathy. I have been known to be rather over dramatic. But this forced mortality is beginning to grate on me. The more people that seem sure I’m going to end up a vegetable; the more I am beginning to wonder if they know something I don’t. Perhaps I missed the memo.
All this was until I met my surgeon. God bless surgeons. Everyone told me leading up to meeting him that surgeons are arrogant and generally over-entitled wankers. I was apprehensive; I wanted to like the man who was going to spend some time inside my skull. Then I met him. My surgeon is a god; I am completely willing to say that. He was calm, he was collected and he offered to be there every day I was in hospital.
He took my questions (even the ridiculous such as “are you sure I will be asleep during the operation”) in his stride, covered the possible issues (death, paralysed face muscles, loss of hearing) quickly and calmly and assured me nothing has ever gone wrong in an operation he’s done. I felt calm, I felt under control and I felt like I was going to make it through this just fine.
So now when people come up to me and ask me if I’m going to die, I can calmly say “no, I will be just fine”. Or sometimes I fake bursting into tears. Just to teach them a lesson.
Hannah Blackiston is a fashion copywriter and finds herself hilarious. You can read her amusing life stories/opinionated rants at www.vivalafancy.com.
How do you respond when a friend or family members tells you that they’re unwell?