I remember it distinctly. The morning after my original tumour diagnosis. Tuesday 10 May.
Ally and I had finished our quiet time in her darkened room. A book, a song, two or three, before she and her bunny had their morning sleep. The dark, the quiet, the cuddles, her soft breathing, soothes me and often I too would find myself heavy lidded. Sometimes I would fall asleep in the armchair in her room.
I crawled back into bed and buried myself under the covers. Safe and hidden. Hiding. I contemplated my options. There was no shame in sleeping it off. I could face it tomorrow.
What if this is the moment? What if this moment determines how I face this? What if this is a turning point?
A quick pep talk later and I hauled myself out of bed and dragged myself off to the zoo to see my mothers group. If I just started, I thought, the lethargy and the weight and the fog would wear off. Not immediately, but slowly. I would not let them settle in.
A few short weeks later and I’m here again. Will this be another turning point?
I will know the biopsy results in the coming days, perhaps the coming week. The wait stretches on. But it has given me time to mull it all over. To mull over the possibilities. To mull over the only thing I can control: how I will be.
I have pulled up much better from the second biopsy than from the first. I am thankful to have this quality of care. Even still, I have been oh so tired. The lingering effects of the general anaesthetic perhaps, certainly the panadeine forte, but perhaps also the mountain I can see before me. I crawl into bed exhausted each afternoon.
Back on Sunday morning, before I was discharged from the hospital, I spoke to Mr J. Or rather, I introduced myself and listened while he held court about how he decided he would be and how he would face what lay ahead.
Mr J has malignant ameloblastoma. Only three weeks earlier he’d undergone the same resection and reconstruction surgery that awaits me. He is in his 60s. At 35, he’d given up drinking. Only six weeks before the surgery, he’d given up smoking.
He cared deeply for his independence, he said. He’d woken in intensive care intubated to within an inch of his life. He could not speak. When he tried to write, his lovely wife tried to spare him by guessing the end of his half-sentences. He grew increasingly frustrated. He felt caged, isolated.
His challenge, he decided, was to stay calm. Each indignity or frustration, he would meet with calm. He would control the only thing he could. He would control how he faced it, how he reacted.
And he would celebrate each step, however little, to regaining control. Each tube they removed. Each small daily task he could do for himself. He would regain control, slowly, surely, calmly. Each day he showers and dresses just to make the point. To himself.
Today, I asked for help when I needed it. One small step. Alannah and I started to look for things I would need for the recovery. We were interrupted by phone calls about scans and medical appointments. But it’s one more small step.
So much of what is before me is confronting. Especially for someone for whom the mere mention of needles or blood tests brings on unspeakable nausea. But I want to confront it, not crumble before it. And the more I can plan for it, the more I can visualise it, the more I can admit it, if only to myself, the more I can take that next step calmly, assuredly.