Whilst the rest of the country was watching Harry and Megan’s royal wedding, I was sat in the treatment room of our local hospital having my stitches and staples removed.
I thought that it might have been painful, but actually having a head that was half numb on this occasion had its benefits.
Having the staples removed from my stomach wasn’t quite as painless, but I could now safely say I’ve been through far worse and survived.
This was the first time I’d seen the wound from where the fat was harvested for my head. I’m not really sure what I was expecting to be honest, but I was upset by the visible dint and scarring that seemed far worse than that from where I’d had a c-section some 19 years ago. The nurse told me that both wounds were very ‘neat’. As far as my stomach went I disagreed, and hoped that it was just the swelling that made it look so awful.
My hands and arms were also badly bruised from the numerous cannulas that had been drip feeding me over the previous week. Now I was home I felt physically and mentally battered by recent events.
Those first few days at home consisted of mostly sleeping. My single sided deafness had its benefits in that I could sleep soundly without being disturbed. My US friends had trained me well in the art of looking for the ‘silver linings’ and this was one of them.
I tried as much as possible to keep moving. My brain had to learn to compensate for my lack of balance, and the only way to speed this process of neuroplasticity was to repeatedly do those things which I found difficult.
I very quickly discovered my limitations though and it was frustrating. Prior to my surgery, up until the point at which I couldn’t get out of bed without being sick, I had tried to remain active. I had worked on yoga poses that challenged my balance, so mountain pose, tree pose etc. These were now impossible.
In my mind I wanted to keep myself busy, but my body just couldn’t do it. Even a conversation was exhausting.
Each morning, my mum would help with chores around the house and then go home and cook for us. Each afternoon my children would go and collect it from her house. I should be doing these things but I couldn’t. I didn’t have the energy too, and I’d been told to do absolutely nothing, for 6 weeks. This was going to drive me insane.
I reached my second goal of going back to school for Les’s retirement assembly. Neil drove me to school, and as he parked up outside the gates I sat in the car and cried. This was my first ‘public engagement’ and I really didn’t think I could do it. I felt so overwhelmed, anxious and scared. I really didn’t think that I could bring myself to walk through the doors I had walked through hundreds, if not thousands of times before. I was scared of seeing people again, what they’d think of me, and I was terrified of the overwhelming noise that is part and parcel of a primary school
Just then Helen, who had recently left but had also been invited back for this event, arrived. I seized the opportunity to try and override the battle that was going on in my head and got out of the car to walk in with her.
There were a few hugs from Irene the assistant head, and Darryl, the headteacher, and a few more tears from me. Irene took my arm and led me into the hall allowing me to sit where I felt comfortable. I’m not sure that I would have felt comfortable anywhere that day. It was the one place I had really wanted to get to, and yet at that moment in time it was the place I least wanted to be.
Despite really struggling with the noise, and having my finger stuck in my good ear to shut it out, the afternoon went well; it was lovely to see everyone. Those who had completely ignored me on the previous occasion I had visited, continued to ignore me for reasons that I still don’t understand to this day. At the end of the day Di drove me home, via a the local pub where we sat outside in the sunshine, having a catch up.
By the end of that week I was starting to go a bit crazy, but I just didn’t have the energy to do anything much at all. I thought I could perhaps get on my bike which was on a static trainer in the conservatory, but Neil said I shouldn’t as the rise blood pressure might put pressure on my wound and cause a leak. And besides, my balance was so bad I could barely get on it without help.
So instead I decided to work on the yoga poses again. Neil put my yoga mat out with a chair for support, and I focussed all my frustrations on trying to improve my yoga, choosing poses that wouldn’t involve lowering my head in any way.
It was incredibly difficult. But, with perseverance I was able to find and hold the position for just a few, wobbly seconds. And those few seconds before I had to grab hold of the chair again gave me just a little glimmer of hope that the old me was still there somewhere.
My face too had also shown a big improvement. It sounds stupid writing this now, but since the day of my surgery I had been willing the muscles in my face to remember what to do. Each time I looked in the mirror I willed them to move, and would get excited with each little twitch.
By the second week, my mouth looked more normal, although that half of my head, face and mouth was still completely numb. There was absolutely no sensation. My eye still wouldn’t close properly and needed drops regualarly to keep it moist, and my ear was still sticking out of the side of my head. Once again I found myself contemplating hairstyles that would cover up this side of my face.
I was on a rollercoaster of finding myself celebrating the tiniest of improvements and achievements one moment, then crying about just how much I couldn’t do the next and worrying that I would never be able to do anything I used to. Then I would be angry that I couldn’t even cry properly.
With my energy at a premium though, I realised I couldn’t keep this up. Getting upset was a complete and utter waste of time and energy that could be better spent.
I focussed on setting my next goal. That weekend I was going to walk 1km. So, that sunny Saturday morning, we got up, I put on my Garmin (which had been put away in a drawer due to the utter frustration each time I’d looked at it as it was a reminder I’d not been able to do anything!), and drove the short distance to a quiet track.
With our dog Hugo in tow, we walked slowly. It was tiring and I was wobbly, but we clocked up 1 kilometre. I felt good though, and so we carried on. We walked another 2 before we returned to the car and drove home, where I slept.
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