I wrote my sister from the hospital to ask if there was a history of high blood pressure in our family. I didn’t tell her that I was in the hospital, or that I was awaiting a scan. There was no point in worrying her, since everything was fine.
She wrote me back; yes, our aunt, now 72, took blood pressure medication. Hers, on the other hand, was completely normal. Except when she had a kidney stone. Then it went through the roof.
“Let’s hope it’s not that,” joked the young doctor who came during rounds that morning. I laughed. Kidney stones hurt. We both knew that. So did spinal taps, which they might have to do if the scans were inconclusive.
I had been sent to A&E by my eye doctor. I will never his words: “I don’t like this,” he said. “I don’t like the swelling of the tissue around your optical nerve. Can you go to A&E this afternoon?”
I was moved from A&E to Ward 5, General Medical, because they had yet to nail down what was wrong with me. I had failed my eye test. Also, I had extremely high blood pressure.
I remember this: I was watching an episode of Gordon Ramsay trying to rescue a US diner when the porter came and that I never found out the ending; an elderly lady was waiting to be collected after her scan and reassured me that there was nothing to it and it would be over in seconds; as I was waiting to be collected, I saw some physicians in their thirties and I wondered if they would be the ones to do the spinal tap when the scan was inconclusive which, obviously, it would be. Then, the porter came and took me back.
Less than an hour went by before the doctor visited. She was so young, dressed in a papery looking uniform. Did you get used to it, I wondered?
She took a seat by a window. “You know why you were referred for a CT Scan?” she asked quietly. So kind. And so young. Neither of us really belonged in this scene, not really.
“The results of the scan show a large tumour on your right cerebellum, the lower part of the brain next to the neck. We’ve sent the results over to the Neurological Institute and they can tell us more when they’ve done their analysis. I’m so sorry I don’t have better news.”
Later, as I was being taken to the NI, she would also say “You take care of yourself, okay?”
In between, she broke the news to my husband. We had just celebrated twenty-five years together; our children were eleven and seven.
None of us knew what would happen next.