Today’s post is a personal piece that I wrote as part of my coursework (which we call folio) for English National 5, which I sat last year. I’m both nervous and excited to share it, so I hope you enjoy.
Imagine for a moment that you are seven. You`re too tall, and you`ve started puberty around five years too early. No one knows what`s wrong with you, and the doctors you go to see brush you off and say you`re being silly. But your mum is terrified so they send you for an MRI scan to get your case off their desks. I don`t have to imagine it; that seven-year-old was me.
The appointment letter arrived, and the date was set. The 30th September 2009 at 6 o`clock. My mum prepared me in the weeks before, told me how I had to be brave for the scan so we could make sure I was okay.
I was going to be okay.
The day arrived. At hometime that day, my mum and dad picked me up instead of the bus. We arrived at Yorkhill at half past three. “You`ll have to wait,” the nurse told us.
Cancellations are as rare as happy endings in the MRI unit, I`ve found out since. But by some twist of fate, there was a cancellation at 4 o`clock. I was ready, and then they strapped me in.
I had a meltdown. I couldn`t do it.
“You can come back,” the nurses said. “There`s no rush.”
Tempting as their offer was, I couldn`t accept, not after I looked into my mum`s eyes and she begged me to do it for her. I gripped her hand so hard she wouldn`t be able to feel it for days, but she didn`t care. I`d done the hard bit, and now I was going to be okay.
After we`d been waiting for over three hours, my parents knew I was not okay at all.
A doctor finally appeared. His face was so white he could have been dead. I still remember the first thing he said to me: “I think you`ll have to take a few days off school to process this”
He went on to tell us that I had a tumour the size of an orange, with a rat tail pressing on my pituitary gland, growing in my brain, along with several in my ears and on my spine. I needed surgery urgently. I think my family and I knew in that moment that I was never going to be okay again.
My mum took me into the corridor before he started explaining the various ways my surgery could go wrong. “Am I going to die?” I sobbed, falling to the floor.
“If you do I`ll kill you again” my mum said, helping me up. In more ways than one, she`s kept me standing ever since.
I don`t remember the two weeks before I had surgery, apart from playing ridiculous amounts of Wii Sports. I didn`t go to school apart from the day before the October week began, to say goodbye (possibly forever) to my classmates. I didn`t speak to a single person all day.
Instead of the full week, we spent a few days in Eyemouth before my operation. Neither my mum or dad stopped crying the full weekend.
I don`t know very much about the aftermath, apart from what I`ve been told. I was more helpless than a new-born baby; I couldn`t walk, talk, eat, drink or see. I had to learn everything from scratch, and I spent almost a month in hospital, but no amount of effort would bring my sight back. My surgeon Miss Brown, hands down the cleverest person I know, thought it was the price we`d paid for my life.
Somehow, after six weeks, I gradually began seeing blurry colour, then fuzzy shapes and eventually some sight returned. My mum didn`t leave my side the whole time. I can say with some certainty I don`t think I`d have survived without my mum, encouraging me every day I spent in hospital.
My health still isn`t amazing. I`m no longer walking about with a ticking time bomb inside my head, but the tumours in my ears have grown, and I`m facing some sort of treatment in the next year due to tinnitus. And due to where the brain tumour was located, I have frequent headaches and nausea, and if I go a day without falling it`s a miracle. Because my `major` tumour was in my brain, they can`t be sure, but doctors think I have neurofibromatosis type 2, a condition which produces tumours on your nerves.
Things are never going to be truly okay again, and I`ve come to terms with that, just about. I`ll always spend quite a lot of time in hospital waiting rooms; I`ll always have headaches and feel sick most days; always have to be careful when I walk in case I lose my balance and fall. I`m terrified about the idea of having another surgery, or radiation therapy in the near future.
Looking to the future, the chances of me being able to drive are slim, and perhaps the thing that upsets me most of all, if I was to have children, something I would like to do at some point, I risk giving them this. I risk putting my child through numerous operations and treatments and day to day illness. I risk killing my child. It`s a long way off, but I think about it almost every day. That`s the thing that scares me most about my condition; the idea that I`ll have to make a decision one day about playing Russian Roulette with a baby`s life.
If I could go back and tell my seven-year-old self something, I`d tell her that even though what she`s about to do isn`t easy, she`ll get through it. She is braver and stronger than she knows and she`ll overcome the odds. I`m not okay, but after a while I got used to it, and I`ve found a new version of okay.
And maybe that`s all anyone with an illness like mine can do.
Thank you for reading ❤