Muddling on

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.



  1. You have more strength in your little finger than I have in my entire body. I admire you tremendously.

  2. I used to faint when I went into hospitals – the mere whiff of antiseptic as I walked through the doors used to send me into a spin. I had a terrible needle phobia.
    Things change.
    Practically straight away.
    Vince needed me, so instead of putting all that energy into fear, I re-focussed it on him.
    And suddenly that terror associated with hospitals and needles and poking and prodding disappeared.
    I learnt to treat the fear with disdain.
    (Of course, at the time, I didn’t realize that was what I was doing – it’s only in hindsight).
    Maybe it would help if you thought of the needle thing, like that.
    You need every single bit of your energy to get well.
    You’re just wasting precious drops if you let it go into fear.

    I look at it this way.
    There is your mind and there is you.
    They are two different things.
    You are the boss but your mind can be a bully.
    You are the one in charge.
    You can choose how your mind behaves.

  3. Ann, thank you, that’s a lovely thing to say. i do have ups and downs, as you’ll know from reading. But I don’t want to put on a brave front. I am just doing my best, which is all you can ever ask of yourself.

  4. Freefalling, I like that. I keep trying to visualise and read about needles to toughen myself up. Two of the nurses suggested perhaps they should insert a picc line because I will have blood tests most days after the surgery. I can only read a few sentences about picc lines before the nausea overwhelms me and I think I will throw up. But you are right. I need to focus on getting better and not on the fear. I did manage to have morphine injections after my oophorectomy and an epidural during Alannah’s birth. Maybe I just man up under pressure. I do so very much hope so.

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