I’ve always been the kind of person who likes plans and lists. What had frustrated me so much during this experience was that there were so many ‘unknowns’ I couldn’t make any realistic plans.
My life was effectively on hold. But in spite of this, before my surgery I had written a list of goals. I needed to have some focus.
1. Complete the Race for Life 5k in July.
2. National 3 Peaks (probably not consecutively) within a year.
3. Mont Blanc or Kilimanjaro before the end of 2025. I would absolutely love to climb Kili, but not sure how I could afford it financially. Logistically, Mont Blanc is probably a better and certainly a more affordable option!
When I told them of this, one of the guys in the Navy gave me some advice. Scrap them all and make my priority recovery from surgery, and then taking up some exercise within 2 months…
As I’m sure they would tell you if they could, I am never one to take their advice without making a big fuss over it! We frequently chatted at great length about my recovery, each conversation ending with a reminder that I’d undergone major brain surgery. In their line of work, they have sadly come to know of others who’d suffered head, or other life changing injuries, and so I guess they knew just what lay ahead for me in terms of recovery, and perhaps a little more so than my family who were still of the opinion that now the tumour was out I was all fixed.
I don’t always welcome well-intended advice, in fact I despise being told what to do. I hated people saying that with time I’d get used to the ‘new normal’. I liked the old normal and I was going to do everything I could to hang on to it.
I did come to realise though, that my goals would have to be flexible, and now I’m beginning to understand that that’s ok.
So, I also had a couple of smaller, short-term goals.
The first was to be home 3 days after surgery. As for the second one, a former colleague, Lesley, was retiring that month. I had been invited to her surprise retirement assembly at school, just12 days after my surgery. She had been so helpful to me, particularly in my early days there, so I was determined that I was going to be there whatever.
Unfortunately, I soon came to the realisation that I couldn’t control everything when 3 days after surgery (and only just out of HDU) I was still throwing up and couldn’t walk. My first goal had to be adjusted. So, I made getting out of hospital within a week my new focus.
I pushed myself to walk around my room whenever I could. It really wasn’t easy; The easy option would be to stay in bed. I was still struggling to balance and I was so tired. It also wasn’t helped by the issues I still had with my vision and ability to focus. Visitors would comment on how well I looked, and just how well I was doing. If only they really knew just how much effort it really took to appear “well”. In actual fact, it was all a big facade. I felt so guilty for the upset I’d caused everyone for being ill, I just wanted to put an end to it by being well. Deep down though, I wondered just how long I could keep it up.
On the Thursday evening, I was moved from my room onto a ward with three other ladies. I missed my privacy and hated the noise that went with being on a busier ward, so I kept myself occupied with packing up my belongings in anticipation that I would be able to go home sooner rather than later.
I showered myself and got myself dressed rather than sitting around in my pyjamas. In some misjudged attempt at being positive about my surgery and recovery, I had packed a ‘Wonder Woman’ running vest. At that point though, I felt far from being a super hero and so that remained in my case.
On Friday morning, I was visited by Scott my neurosurgeon. He was a little surprised to see just how well I looked. He did all the usual observations and was pleased to see a very slight improvement in my facial palsy.
I held my breath (as if it would make a difference!) as he once again checked the swelling behind my ear. Although still a little concerned about it, he was satisfied that it wasn’t a CSF leak, and with that, made the recommendation that once all my meds were ready I could be discharged. The act paid off.
I really don’t think I’ve ever been happier, and I called Neil to tell him the good news and beg him to come over as soon as he could.
The housekeeping lady came over to take my dinner order. I found great pleasure in telling her that I wouldn’t be around for dinner, but she wanted me to order something just in case… I hope the spaghetti bolognese I’d ordered was more appealing than the fish and chips for whoever had my bed next!
Sue came down from Radiology on her break to see me that day. She was surprised I wasn’t in my room – the person now in there was hooked up to all sorts of machinery and for a moment she thought I’d had some major setback until she realised it wasn’t me!
I sat around waiting what seemed like an eternity to be told I could go. I hassled every nurse who came near my bed, to ask when my meds would be ready because I was waiting to go home. I sat in my chair and told the nurses they could change the bedding because I wouldn’t be getting back in it.
Lunch arrived. Now the food had been ok during the rest of my stay, but this was like the final test.
It was Fish Friday… The fish was a rectangle, and the chips didn’t really resemble chips. I ate as much as I could stomach, so as to not raise any concern, and thankfully, a short time later my package of painkillers, anti-sickness tablets and patches, and laxatives were brought over. Hallelujah!
As soon as Neil arrived, having thanking them and leaving them with a supply of cake, I was off! That walk from the my ward to the car was one I won’t forget. It was a slow, wobbly and somewhat emotional one.
I was so pleased I was still here and going home. But deep down, a part of me was terrified; I still had a stitched up hole in my head, eyesight that was dodgy to say the least, and I despite my outward appearance, I was still struggling to walk properly. I also had a whole list of signs and symptoms to look out for, any one of which could have meant readmission with one of the long list of potential risks from surgery.
That aside, strolling slowly out through the car park in the warmth of the late afternoon sunshine was bliss; I had discovered a new sense of gratitude and appreciation for little things such as this.
Despite the minor adjustment, I had managed to achieve my first goal and was out of hospital just 6 days after having my brain surgery, and walking on my own, without a walking frame! Sometimes in life, you need to change the plan, but never change the goal!
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