Wednesday, December 31, 2014


A while ago, it became apparent that we'd lost the charger for our good camera. Inertia kicked in and nothing happened for a while, but then Oliver bought a new one. Last night I went through the photos on the card and had a very timely overview of our 2014.

As a whole, it has been a great year. Alfred has grown from someone who could barely sit up to a fully functioning toddler, and it has been fascinating to watch. We've been away loads and had a brilliant time with friends - all captured on this card. 

But then there's a big black hole since September. No photos, on either camera. No positive memories at all. Just a whole elongated pain in the arse, which I am now going to list so that I have proof in years to come that it genuinely has been "a hard time".

  • Teeth
    Bloody teeth! Why aren't they just born with teeth? I used to roll my eyes and yawn when parents moaned about their kids getting teeth. "You chose to have a child, and it's a well known fact that children grow teeth. Deal with it". The reality is of course that I don't care about the actual teeth, I care about the sleep deprivation on top of a full time job. Two solid months of four hours sleep a night, simply isn't enough, when it's impossible to catch up during the day.
  • Burning bottom syndrome
    I don't know what this really is, but basically it seems that when our child is ill, his body rebels by expelling pure acid into his nappy every five minutes, which swiftly dissolves the skin on his bottom. Cue pain, upset, and more sleep deprivation.
  • Aeroplanes
    Put it this way: I am not stepping on another plane with Alfred until he is 16.
  • Broken electronics
    First it was Oliver's Macbook Pro, it proper just died. Then the iPad, with it's cracked screen. Then, of course, my Macbook Pro. The screen mysteriously cracked itself one day... I still haven't got it fixed due to the fear of having to remortgage to pay for it. But I probably should get it seen to.
  • Upstairs builders
    Our upstairs neighbour (who is lovely, you couldn't ask for a better neighbour) has unfortunately employed some cowboys to renovate her flat. They have taken ten weeks (so far) to do a three week job. They are incapable of speaking at normal volume and have taken up the floor, so I can pretty much hear them breathe - let alone drill and bang and thump around. Getting a child to sleep is tough enough at the best of times. Humph.
  • Leaks from upstairs builders
    We've had six leaks (and counting) of varying seriousness from the resulting chaos of the upstairs builders. Those are the ones we know about. The worst of these poured through the bedroom ceiling onto our bed, ruining our (incredibly expensive) mattress, the cover, topper, quilt, pillows and will to live, the week before Christmas.

    Insurance is a great thing, but they don't compensate for sleeping on the living room floor every night. And for the added sleep deprivation caused by both of us being up with the toddler during his 'refusal to sleep' period, as there isn't another room to use. And the fact that my dad couldn't come to stay for Christmas. This whole experience has made me very sad. I love our bed, it's my favourite place in the world and I hate that some idiot left a tap running and ruined it, just like that. 
  • Smoke alarms
    Another consequence of the leaky builders is that they short circuited the electrics running the smoke alarms in the whole building. There are four in total, and they all went off at different times during the same night, on various floors, in different flats. Oliver, (in my head dressed as a superhero, with earplugs) heroically located and smashed each of these as they went off, dodging buckets catching leaks, in pitch darkness, armed with a "big nail" apparently...
  • The crack head
    We were woken early one Sunday morning (one of the rare ones when Alfred was actually asleep) to a suicidal crack head on the door step in the throes of a panic attack, searching for Wesley. I added this in for comedy value, but it wasn't very funny at the time.
  • Hand foot and mouth
    In itself, not a very serious disease at all and nothing to do with cows. Alfred managed to get a secondary infection, a nasty rash all over his face and bottom and parts of his legs. He was uncomfortable, with a temperature, unable to eat and generally miserable - and awake - for about two weeks. Enough sleep deprivation already.
  • Ebola
    My mum is out in Guinea, helping with the Ebola efforts, which of course is very commendable - as long as she doesn't get Ebola. It hasn't helped my anxiety.
  • More teeth
    And then, out of the blue, I realised that we hadn't had any new teeth for a while. And so... yup here they come.
  • Broken car
    Poor faithful Fergus. He has something wrong with him. The day before Christmas, when we needed him most (the supermarket closed at 5pm and I'd of course left it until the last minute) he packed up. Just like that. What we really needed was an extra little something to make the logistics of Christmas less smooth.
  • Morning sickness
    Throughout all of this I felt like crap.

I've not been feeling the most positive about 2014, if I'm honest. Although lack of sleep seems to make everything just worse, so I put a lot of it down to that. Anything we own, of any value has been damaged. And I'm tired.

So it was really quite an eye opener to see months and months of fun on this memory card and realise that we've in fact had a great year overall, just a tough couple of months. It's almost the end of the year, and although it's an arbitrary line in the sand I'm looking forward to a new one and a chance to start afresh. 

Happy new year everyone, I hope 2015 treats us all kindly xx

Friday, October 10, 2014

Scan day.

Meh. Seems like five minutes since my last MRI, but I'm back in for one today.

For the last two, due to pregnancy and then breastfeeding, I've had a convenient reason to avoid having contrast injected into my veins. No such luck today. That means a much longer scan and a cannula in my arm. Sigh. 

This scan is in the mobile unit parked at the entrance to the hospital. That feels weird. I've realised I take comfort in the familiar. I thought I knew the ward, where to sign in, the layout of the floor and both machines. I'm not quite sure how it could work in a wee little bus. So that's something new for me to fixate on.

Along with working out what to wear with no metal in it. No hair clips, no underwired bras, no jeans, no trainers with metal eyelets. Maybe pyjamas is the right way to go. 

That bloody toe ring as well.

Anyway. Wish me luck. 

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

October 2014

It's been two years now, since the surreal experience of being told I had a brain tumour. Last year I really succumbed to the memory of it. I spent ages explaining in detail to anyone that would listen, what happened when. I enjoyed prodding the scab of my still bruised psyche and in the process, pushed the patience of my closest ones to the limit.

I thought that it was a one year thing, and that I would then move on.

But here I am. Two years have passed and I'm still banging on. I can't stop thinking about it. I know exactly what I was doing at this time on this day two years ago. It's taking all my will power to not keep reminding people as each hour moves on. (Right now, we were in A&E and I was just about to go for the first scan. We didn't know yet. We didn't know.)

Today and tomorrow were dramatic. Although my day today is fairly mundane, in the background, I still feel low level adrenaline and anxiety. Poor naive us, sitting in A&E, oblivious.

I wonder if I'll ever move on.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Hi ho, hi ho. Sob.

I'm going back to work tomorrow, after almost a year on maternity leave. Before that I was pregnant whilst recovering from brain surgery. And before that I was off sick for multiple months. It's been an odd few years and work has not really been a priority.

I've been in denial for ages about it. It's not that I don't want to work it's just that I don't want to not be with Alfred. I will miss him, and I will miss out on him. I won't be the one that sees him develop and knows what he likes. It's selfish, but I like being that person. The one who knows him best.

I know he will be fine. Of course he will be fine. But I worry that he will think I have abandoned him, and I worry that he won't notice I'm not around any more. And I worry that nobody will care as much as me and I worry that I won't be in control anymore. And mostly I worry that I will hardly ever see him.

But my bag is packed,  my office appropriate clothes are washed and my lunch is ready in the fridge. There's no denying it now.

I don't want to go to bed as that means morning will come quicker.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

A question of identity.

I've been thinking about this for ages, but without any real conclusions or a spare minute during the day, I haven't quite got to writing it down. I'm going to start now and see where it goes. Bear with me!

Before tumourgate, it's tempting to think that I used to be this set person, just waiting for my life to be turned upside down. And now that it's happened I'm somebody else. Someone who has been through it and changed and now I'm me. But in reality it wasn't like that. It wasn't as if my life was uneventful up until that moment. The things that happened in the previous life were just as massive to me then, because I didn't know that in comparison to what was coming, they were pretty insignificant.

Identity - by which I mean how I feel about myself - has always been a bit fluid. For a long time I felt as if nobody knew the real me, the one I kept hidden because surely if anyone did know they wouldn't like me. The worst insult growing up was always "nobody likes you". So simple. 

I suppose that how I identify myself is dependent on others around me. My sister is a brainbox, always has been (she's not so hot on remembering punchlines, though) and so I always felt quite stupid. Being the youngest probably didn't help with that. My handwriting was always messier. I couldn't run, draw, read as well as her. My hair was shorter, straighter, she had better clothes and more friends. I felt like the little sister who can never catch up - she'd always moved on whenever I got there.

When I got to A Levels I realised maybe I wasn't stupid as such - just not a natural academic. That was the first time I remember my actual self identity changing. But it's happened a lot of times since, when I think about it. 

Being older is way better. I'm one of those "everything gets better in your thirties" people, definitely not one of those "school is the best years of your life" people. Since being 30 I have enjoyed life much more and I believe that is in no small part down to being happier with myself and confident enough to let people really know me. I'm happier with my identity.

Telling people I've had a brain tumour is really strange. It has this kind of fizzly silence just after you've said it that people just stare at. A tumour is bad enough, but the brain element is what makes it mysterious. The black box of humanity. I read a great quote once: If our brains were simple enough to be understood, we wouldn't be smart enough to understand them. (Incognito by David Eagleman, it's brilliant). Brains are scary. A friend of my dad had a brain tumour when we were little and I was astounded that he was still alive. I thought it was definitely something you died from. 

It still doesn't really feel like I had that. I've never really identified as someone with a brain tumour. Maybe because it was over really fast, and maybe because as soon as it was over, the impending Alfred took all my focus. Or maybe it's just a reaction to extreme stress, my brain has rejected it. 

What is strange is that other people identify me by it. I'm the one that had the brain tumour. Any new people I meet now, it's a big thing to explain - when do I mention it...? And when I meet people who I already knew, I get the question. How are you? They're not asking how I am, they want to know about the brain tumour. Really though, how are you? 

And in that instant, I finally do identify as a brain tumourer. 

I am, technically, a mother. I have a baby, that I grew! And have fed and clothed and washed and carried around for nearly 11 months. He is my baby and I am his mother. But I don't really feel like one. I'm not old enough for starters. When we're together it's obvious that I'm a mother, but what about when he isn't there? Do people know I have had a baby? Do I even remember I've had a baby. Erm...

The question of identity had been brought more into my thoughts through motherhood than brain tumouring, but really the same principles apply. At first, when in the throes of shock, there are clear physical signs. When the signs have gone and you can choose which version of yourself you want to show the world, it is all about how you want to be judged.

I'm about to start work again after a long time off and some huge life changes. I don't know my new boss or anyone on my team. How are they going to see me? Who will they think I am based on what they know about me? And will that change my identity, and how I see myself? 

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

All clear.

Having completely worked myself up, it's a huge relief to report that yesterday I got the all clear again. Phew.

A couple of weeks ago I saw a migraine specialist and he was looking at my scan when I entered the room. He wouldn't say much about it other than it "looked ok". If my life were a film (it should be) then I thought this would be an ideal plot to make me think that everything was ok, only to BOOM reveal the return of a brain tumour after all. Surprise!

I was already feeling a bit nervous in the waiting room yesterday, when I was called in by Mr Bhangoo himself. Now, I don't think I can adequately explain how I feel about Mr Bhangoo. The last time I saw him I was still mostly under anaesthetic and couldn't move for terror at the feeling in my head. I don't remember what he said, or what I said, but I remember the shape of his turban silhouetted against the bright hospital ceiling lights. I couldn't really focus my eyes to notice anything else about him.

Since that day, I have thought about him often. This man has seen inside my head, my actual brain, and he has saved my life. He led a team that performed an incredible task, just for me.

In the waiting room yesterday, he called the patient before me and I heard him introduce himself. My mouth dropped open and I just stared. Completely lost self awareness - here he was! After all this time! Last year's scan results were delivered by someone, I don't know who, in Mr Bhangoo's team. It was a quick meeting as everything was fine. So yesterday I just wasn't expecting to see the man himself.

I watched him come out of his room and get the medical notes of his next patient. I was mesmerised. It was all I could do to not run across the corridor and throw my arms around him. But when he called my name (ME!) I was suddenly paralysed. Starstruck. And terrified. If the main man himself, the one who is in charge, the big boss, was seeing me, then there must be a problem. This is not good news.

I tried to convey all of this thought process to Olly through the power of my eyes. Not very successfully. As we entered the room I was steeling myself for what he was going to say. I was ready to hear it - how big? Where abouts? Operable? How long until surgery?

But my life isn't a film, and it was just Mr Bhangoo's day to do clinic. And my scan was fine. I don't have a brain tumour and I got to meet the man that saved my life, again. I have since thought of lots of things I would like to have said to him. Various ways of thank you I suppose. And maybe just a little hug.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

It's that time again.

My next MRI is tomorrow. I distinctly remember the anticlimax of last year, I even wrote about it. It was no big deal. So why am I so worried?

I've been doing a lot of running recently, and one of the best things about it is time to think. I've not had much time to myself since the baby was born and so it feels like a real luxury to just think for a while. Inevitably at this time of year I've been thinking a lot about head scans, brains and tumours.

I'm not sure if I ever asked, or if I've just forgotten, but I don't know how a tumour starts. Like, why does it begin?

When I was 12 I skied off a cliff. It wasn't intentional; I was trying to avoid a tree. Obviously with a bit of hindsight it wouldn't have been so bad crashing into a tree - no helicopters, splints or head scans would have been involved. On the plus side, I actually own copies of my 12 year old head scans which is pretty cool. And there is no tumour.

So where did it come from? When did it start? Why did it start? Why has this not occurred to me before?

Last week I managed to think my way through a 40 minute run, comparing my tumour to the entire universe (the world does revolve around me, doesn't it?). Either, I thought, it was created by God one day, or... there was an almighty big bang in my head (the cliff THE CLIFF), and then the tumour existed. (I admit, there are some failings to this comparison).

Oliver thinks it was a cell mutation, which makes sense. But even if that's the case, it doesn't really answer my question. Why? Why did it mutate? And why that one, and right then, in that way?

The thing is, I could have all the information in the world about how and why and what to expect, but until anything shows up on a scan it is all theoretical. None of it is worth wondering about even, it's such a waste of energy and worry - until there is a scan to look at. And tomorrow, there will be.

What is also not helping is the fact that I've had three migraines in the last five days. Not really recovering from one when the next hits. The last time this happened I was shovelled into an ambulance and ended up having my head sawn open. Bodes well.

Another thing I've been thinking about is the person doing the scan. They can see the results as it happens right, so they know, like straight away, if there's a whopping great lump of something in your head that isn't supposed to be there. What a weird job to know that about someone and send them merrily off home again to wait for a few weeks until they called in. I don't think I'm going to be able to stop myself staring at them on the way out, to see if they have pity in their eyes.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Em arrrrrgh eye.

Yup. It's that time again. Next month is April, and it isn't April's fault but it has been linked in my brain to all things, well, brain. Poor old brain.

I have had a sudden flurry of NHS appointment letters through the door, scans, consultations and a meeting with the "headache clinic". That one was a coincidence but somehow adds to the pressure. When I say scans, I mean scan. And consultations, consultation. I don't know why I feel like exaggerating things. Maybe because I know it's no big deal really and I'm trying to justify the panic.

I don't really need to write this post, I could just look up the one I did last year and copy and paste.

As I get further from the actual experience of brain surgery it gets more surreal and quite frankly, unlikely. It feels like something I made up once to tell strangers at a party in a bid to sound more interesting. Plus, loads of stuff has happened since then, like Alfred and... yeh just Alfred. But he's a big thing.

I'm rambling. As it feels so unreal, that doesn't quite align with physically going for scans and meeting with brain people. I really really really REALLY hope everything's ok.

PS. Pleased with that title. Just made myself chuckle. Yep, still got it.


This is a ridiculous post. You'd almost think I was a proper girl, if you hadn't met me. Anyway, I am super chuffed that I can now french plait the front of my hair. It is long enough to actually french plait.

A hair milestone! It certainly makes it clear that I am not a 12 year old boy, although it saddens me that 12 year old boys don't generally have the pleasure of a french plait in their hair. Poor Alfred doesn't know what's ahead of him, I originally wanted to be a hairdresser (that was before I discovered space men) and always planned on using my children to fulfil that missed dream :)

Grow hair, grow! I would be grateful if everyone could do an encouraging hair growing dance for my head. Thanks.

Such a ridiculous post, yesterday tea, today hair. Possibly trying to put off thinking about the post I should really write...

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A nice cup o'tea.

Well. Something enlightening has happened. I am enlightened. 

Despite working in dubious bistros, restaurants, caf├ęs and pizza huts for many years in a previous life, serving all variations of hot drinks to the Great British public, I never fully thought about the meaning of "decaf". I know, I'm an idiot. 

Decaf tea! I love tea! At age four, my grandad gave me some heavily sweetened tea, much to my mum's disgust, and I've loved it ever since. 

Trouble is, I've always associated it with migraines. In the desperate search for a trigger it seemed obvious, the only caffeine I consume. There was never any evidence, but a growing 'just in case' mentality which left me scared stupid to even LOOK at a cup of tea. 

Until now WOOHOO, decaf tea! It tastes... just like tea. My sugar intake is just about to go through the roof, I'll just put the kettle on. 

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Migraine terrors.

Aaaand back to reality. As predicted, today the migraine has mostly gone, and so has my imaginary tumour. Two days of a migrainous gunge-filled head has left me emotionally as well as physically reeling. The lingering sickness and fogginess, and the impulse to move my head the absolute minimum is so familiar to me. It's been a while, but my body remembers it well. The emotional repercussions are something else.

It has been one year, 13 weeks and a day since I had this kind of migraine. I can date it so well as that was the day they found my tumour. That day marked a big pin in my lifeline, a clean split creating a before and an after. And it turns out I had thought I could count migraines in the 'before' part.

Although I have had migraines since surgery, they have been totally manageable. I took two paracetamol and went to bed for a couple of hours. Felt rubbish for the rest of the day but was able to function as normal within 24 hours. I always knew this could have been pregnancy hormones, but there was just a tiny chance that surgery had improved them, for good.

I hadn't put much conscious thought into it but after yesterday I realise that, subconsciously, I believed I'd been cured. I haven't had a migraine for nearly ten months. Unheard of. And that was well easy to deal with. It has been a real blow coming to the realisation that I haven't been cured.

Before all this kicked off I lived in permanent fear of migraines. Not least because I can't work through them, and I feel like such a fraud taking time off work with no visible symptoms. Does anyone believe me? Does anyone know what this is like? It's isolating in the way that I can't even describe how wrong it feels. I used to get them regularly, about every two months. They would last three days and there was nothing I could do about it. No way of working and no way of escaping the horror.

I was walking paranoia. I avoided caffeine like the plague, ran away from camera flashes, didn't drive at night because of car headlights, and if out at night at all, would stare at my own toes just in case. Waiting for trains was a nightmare, they always have their lights on and catch one by accident entering a station? Blind panic for half an hour. I lived in fear. Don't even say the word in case it brings one on. Don't even!

But now they're back.

I'd been enjoying my migraine-free life, I've been drinking tea, not getting enough sleep or drinking enough water. I've been downright frivolous with camera flashes. It has been great fun, not living under the paranoia of a looming migraine. Now that I know I'm not cured, I don't see how I can avoid that paranoia again. It's been a depressing realisation to come to.

Work was one thing, I would have to call in sick no matter how much I didn't want to. There was no way I could work. The terrifying thing is, you can't call in sick to a five month old baby.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Stupid brain.

And so it begins. I have become incredibly skilled at compartmentalising worry. I used to be a right worrier, always planning and worrying. Worrying and planning. What if I'm late? What if I've got the wrong present? What if it rains? What if my brain tumour grows back?

I have learnt to let go of the worry by either working through the logic (take an umbrella, nobody will die) or by accepting there is nothing I can do about it (I might die, how will worrying help?). 

But sometimes I just worry. Before I've remembered that I don't worry anymore. 

Yesterday I got a migraine. Not like the ones I had during pregnancy, when a few paracetamols and a bit of sleep would sort it out. One like I used to get, back when I had a brain tumour. 

In the depths of a migraine it's difficult to act normally. The all encompassing pain, disorientating loss of vision, the full body sickness and something else indescribable makes me not quite function properly. I can't make decisions, I forget which drugs to take, I fumble and mumble and worry. This canNOT be normal. 

And so it begins. 

With the darkness surrounding the episode I am hardly at my most rational. I'll be fine tomorrow but I wanted to capture it. It's back, I can tell. I'm going to walk over the road and ask nicely for an MRI. Then I'll know. I'll be able to see a big white blob. A reason, an answer, everything fitting neatly into boxes with answers and solutions. (Although let's not think too much about solutions.)

I know it's ridiculous. But The Feeling is back, the gnawing, dawning, whining worry I must ignore to carry on. 

Roll on tomorrow, and normality. 

Ah yes, and HNY everyone, may 2014 treat you kindly xx