We had returned from our travels and broadly I was feeling okay. My sister Catherine came to visit and it’s really her account I have to rely on for much of this chapter. Catherine had arrived first and our friends, Peter and Natalie were also due to visit that weekend. Catherine has told me that I was in bed when she arrived, I do have a vague memory of seeing Peter and Natalie a bit but I think David was left to be the entertainment while I slept.
Things worsened after Peter and Natalie left. Catherine says I started to have seizures which she found very shocking as she’d not witnessed them before. These would have been the awake seizures I was having though I thought these were more under control at this point as I was on Tegretol, an anti-epileptic drug to control them. I’d broadly been lucky in that the medication was effective for me, it isn’t for everyone. So at this stage the fits had been mostly under control. I certainly wasn’t having full fits with loss of consciousness. Usually the fits had settled to being a curious buzzing in my head, I could still move and my hands still worked fine. I could speak. I had learned to try and relax when they came on. Relax and breathe through them. Trying to fight would just prolong them. They were unpleasant but I’d got used to them and was having very few by this stage, but that weekend I had in the region of seven and that was alarming.
I think Catherine called a doctor out but it was a weekend and the on-call doctor who came was disinterested and useless. I think he told me to take more Valium and perhaps more steroid and that was the level of his help. By Sunday I was still in a bad state. Peter and Natalie had left but Catherine remained. Perhaps Catherine is a panicker, I don’t know but if she is I’m glad of it, she almost certainly saved my life. David was finding it hard to deal with, he was not really coming to terms with my illness and tried to pretend these incidents weren’t happening. He was also probably trying to focus on ensuring the kids were okay. I don’t remember seeing them in this state and I wouldn’t want them to have been frightened by it but it would have been strange for them being away from me as well.
Anyway, by Sunday evening, Catherine had had enough and called the on-call doctor again. This time we struck lucky as the lovely Dr. Duthie appeared. I remember being in a lot of pain and he said he was going to have to give me an injection in my arse (he won’t have put it like that!) did I mind? I cared about nothing by then and the shot went in – diamorphine I believe, it’s good stuff, knocked me right out – and I remember no more. Which is probably just as well as the ambulance arrived and I assume some poor sods had to lug me downstairs which won’t have been fun for them, and soon I was being sped off to Addenbrookes.
I have only very hazy memories of being there. At some point they must have given me a large dose of steroid because I did wake up and from my sister’s account, when she called me on Monday I was really quite chirpy again. Unfortunately for me, this was a bank holiday weekend so there was no sign of my consultant, instead I was under the care of a Fellow, a fairly inadequate chap with an inflated sense of his own ability. He decided he had things under control and that I could start my radiotherapy that week as planned. I had told my sister I was fine and there was no need to visit until Tuesday. That’s the last I remember, she tells me that when she arrived on Tuesday I was in a very bad way again. I was unable to coordinate getting my hand to my mouth to take the tablets I had been given by the nurses earlier. My sister was particularly cross about this as in my attempts I had spilt water all over my bed. No one had noticed. The Fellow, arrived to check me before I went for my first radiotherapy. He took no notice when Catherine tried to tell him the state I was in was not normal for me. I was still conscious at this point but barely. A porter then arrived to take me down for the treatment but questioned whether I seemed well enough. We went anyway, with me on a trolley and we waited in the corridor for two hours. I was again no longer conscious. At some point the radiologist came and said that they could not treat me in that state. My consultant, Sarah Jeffries then arrived, I assume summoned by the radiologist. I gather she took one look and organised a immediate CT scan which revealed a massive cyst had developed on my tumour. It was this that was causing all the problems, causing intercranial pressure leading to the headaches , sickness and now, essentially, coma.
An emergency operation was organised for that evening. I must have been briefly awake, as I remember asking the anaesthetist if he was single as I was here with my sister who is very attractive. I also asked the surgeon who was to do the operation if he was good at the op, he said he was, well he was hardly likely to say no unless he had a particularly dark sense of humour. Happily that is all I remember, I was clearly high as a kite, God knows what further nonsense I drivelled.
Apparently during that day, David, my Mum and my sister Min arrived. Suffice to say I came through the operation intact and with a shiny new device in my head called an Amoya Reservoir. This could be used to drain fluid out of the cyst when it filled and thus relieve the pressure build up. They would keep me in Addenbrookes for a week or two and then, all being well, the radiotherapy would start. I think it was a relief for everyone. I was now feeling absolutely fine and I think it was kept from me just how bad my situation had been . Min told me later that it had been touch and go whether I would make it through the night but she may have been dramatizing things to make me feel like a hero!