It was just over twenty four hours after the initial diagnosis and we had “achieved” a lot. It was Friday night. We had been to see a brain surgeon and had arranged surgery for the following Monday. I found myself playing hostess to a take away dinner at our house with my in-laws, my parents and a few families – close friends of Mick’s from Uni. It was a relatively jovial affair and a beautiful summers evening. I could hear many evening gatherings taking place in gardens up and down our street. We had take-away food delivered, children played, beer bottles clinked. I almost had to pinch myself that Mick’s health was in dire straits. A strong dose of anti-swelling drugs had had an impact and reduced swelling in Mick’s brain and therefore reduced Mick’s symptoms. They were also mood enhancing drugs. He was much more like his real self. It was as if he had re-appeared. It was great to hear him laugh again, see him animated and be with friends.
Due to Mick’s illness and work commitments we had not really socialised for some time. I had missed that part of our lives. Now we were socialising again, but this time I felt myself projecting a new persona as I adapted to my new role as a carer. There were so many more layers and dynamics at play. If you were peering over the fence you would have thought that our gathering was a light hearted affair. As I watched Mick chat with his mates, I wondered if they were assessing him as they chatted and if they were thinking “He does not look so bad – What has all the fuss been about”? Mick and his parents were quite upbeat as they seized on to the positives and hope. They focused on the fact that Mick felt a lot better now that the swelling had reduced. Their heartfelt logic was perhaps if we just remove the cancer then Mick’s symptoms will completely disappear and everything will be ok.
Outwardly I presented as positive, collected and calm. Internally, I was screaming out, wanting to rail against the situation and yell “You should have seen and spoken with Mick two days ago. This is SO scary!” I could feel a mini me beating fists against the walls of my heart and chest. I was reflecting on our appointment with the brain surgeon during the day. He had taken one look at the scan results and offered to clear his schedule the next working day – Monday – so that he could operate on Mick’s brain. His measured demeanour and impartial manner had confirmed to me that although he could help with surgery, the prognosis was not good. He clearly high-lighted that the risks of surgery and brain cancer to Mick’s thoughts, personality, logical ability and physical movement were high – but we had no other options – this was only the beginning of the end.
I felt like I had been pushed off the edge of a cliff and was about to go into free fall – that I was holding on with one hand dangling … and I was doing my darnedest not to fall. My parents could see that I was just holding on and so I averted my eyes when they looked at me. I felt it would not “help” my husband, his parents or my son if I dissolved into tears and started to wail. Or worse still if when they were all discussing and focusing on the positives if I bluntly said “you should have seen the Surgeon’s face – Mick’s days are numbered!!!! – My husband may die before give I birth to this baby that I can feel kicking my tummy!” So I pushed the despair and anger deep into a compartment somewhere in my stomach and locked it away. (I locked it into my Parking lot of Emotions – No time for Emotions … Put them on hold in the Parking Lot)
I chose to take on a pragmatic but optimistic tone. When asked I was measured and honest with the facts and the outlook. Mick and his parents and our dear friends understandably needed to focus on some hope. If I put myself “in their shoes” and particularly in Mick’s position, then I could see that there was too much information to take in and too many overwhelming emotions to process. They needed to “celebrate” that Mick felt a bit better and focus on one step at a time. The first step was to remove the cancer and this could be done.