DISSERTATION. DIAGNOSIS. DEVASTATION.
I played sport throughout my life and a consistent level of gym attendance since I turned 16. I considered myself as healthy as the next twenty-something and prided myself on my fitness. However, in my final year studying at Bournemouth University this all changed. In the final draft week for my dissertation. I was; stressed, tired and fighting off a cold. On the Wednesday night I finished my draft dissertation but was extremely tired and ill. I sat down like any normal night with my house mates to watch tv, in fact we decide to watch the 50 Cent Movie (god knows why). I was sat in the arm chair happily watching through tired eyes when something happened….
My eyes started flicking from side to side and I couldn't stop them. I can only describe it as, you know the lottery ball machines? How they bounce in any given direction off the sides of the walls? That was what my eyes felt like they were doing. My heart was going crazy. I knew something was wrong and I tried to sit up, I tried to talk and couldn’t. All my house mates were asleep and unaware of what was happening to me, so in a panic, I fought my vision and found the coffee table, there was only one thing I thought I could do stuck in this chair, kick the table over to make noise and wake them up. (All this probably happened in the space of 3/4 seconds but time slows down in moments like these). I kicked the table, heard the glasses knock over and then heard my roommate Bradley say; “Holy Shit!!!” before I blacked out. I'd had a seizure.
I came around to my friend Piero mopping drool off my face. The guys said I was out for around 2 minutes, they asked me if I wanted to go to the hospital but I just wanted to go to bed, I had to. My appointment with my dissertation rep was tomorrow at 11 am so I carried on as normal but with the seizure well and truly in the back of my mind. (Pun intended).
On the Friday I drove home as I just needed to be there. I felt terrible, I was ill and tired. I wanted my mum and I wanted to go home. I relayed the story to her, and she booked me in to see my GP , he explained that ‘perhaps’ it could be all the factors stated above; illness, stress, tiredness, essentially ”burning the candle at both ends”, but we would have to investigate it. The MRI was booked for the next week. I couldn't drive back to uni, they take precautions with seizures so it was my GP’s duty to ban me from driving for there next 6 months. 6 months?!
I had my scan and headed back to Bournemouth (via train). I needed to catch up on the time I’d lost and D-day (dissertation hand in) was getting close, 23rd of April. Plus my business plan! AND revision for finals. Oh god.
I successfully finished my dissertation before D-Day, got it bound, printed and ready for the hand in day. So naturally,we had to go out! All we needed to do is wake up and hand it in before 12pm, simple. So we hit Lava or as it is known now CAMEO. Plenty of shots and mixers everyone except me. I’d been told not to drink before the scan result came back but still plenty of and dancing. We went home at a reasonable time (3am) alarm set for 8am.
8am, rise and shine, ‘ring ring’ Henry, “its hand in time”. Henry turned up in his friends car, and we went to uni to hand it in, job done by 9am. FINISHED.
It was blue skies so we decided to have a BBQ back at mine and relax out in the sun, playing board games before a big house party Friday night. So we arrived home and started to play "The really nasty bankers game" (highly recommend it) in the sun. These kinds of moments are what Uni is all about. Celebrating hand-in and your newfound freedom with your friends. Dream!
Then around 2 o'clock my phone rang, I saw it came up as the doctor who dealing with my MRI results, Dr Wren. Very much wanting to ignore it, I answered and he explained how he had “found something” and asked me “when was the soonest I could get to him as he’d rather not explain it on the phone”.
My freedom and joy from handing on my dissertation was so short-lived. It was replaced with fear of the unknown. Looking back I almost resent the doctor ringing me on that day. I understand he was doing his job but he knew it was my hand in date, surely he could have given me one more day of freedom? I said I can come on Monday, as there was a party I wanted to go to before I returned home as I earned it. “OK, see you then but do not drink or smoke anything please” (he knew my ‘student habits’ haha). Not what I had planned for the end of my final year!
D-DAY 2: DIAGNOSIS
During the week of my appointment my mum was on holiday in Boston so I didn't ring her about the discovery to avoid spoiling her trip away, she was getting back on the Wednesday, 2 days later, I’ll find out the news and tell her when I know more.
So me and Dad went together. I’ll never forget seeing those photos from my scan, just seeing that peach-sized white blob on my brain. I was glued to the photo and completely zoned out in the room. It was like living a scene from a movie or TV show. I was just staring at the blob in disbelief. When I realised i hadn't been listening to what the doctor was actually saying, I gazed across at my dad who was listening intently.
I’d never seen fear in his face like this before and it started to hit me harder. The adrenaline was rushing through me and I was welling up. The doctor finished talking and I said “well… what you gunna do?” forcing out a broken smile to my dad. We walked out the hospital together, trying to absorb what we'd just been told. We got in the car and just broke down, crying so so much and I was shaking with fear. We had to go to a pharmacy to pick up anti-seizure drugs (Keppra). My dad went into the shop, I just sat there in silence just staring blankly at my feet, the radio was playing Fight Song - by Rachel Platten. This is the first thing I’d heard on my own, it has an emotional attachment to me (lame I know - but the lyrics are WEIRDLY appropriate). Look it up.
Progressively over the next few weeks, I was telling friends and family, trying to sound calm and confident that this was (still is, in my eyes) beatable and I was ‘ok’ with it. I had a date for my op. I stayed at home for the next month, just being with family. At this bad point it was important, I still had University work so I was revising and doing my business plan as best as I could. I decided that I wasn't going to quit uni right at the end, I’d worked too hard to just give up. I kept going to the gym as much as possible with my brothers. I wanted to get as physically and mentally strong/prepared for my operation as I could. I can’t emphasise enough how Adam and Callum helped through this part in my life and still do!
So far, I’d told my closest friends as well as family. I had to go back to uni to hand my final projects in and be there for the exams. I decided that I couldn't keep this burden a secret from the wider world, I wanted to change a bad thing into a good/motivational thing, and I thought it would be so much easier if everyone who knows me, knew about it! I wanted me and my group to be able to talk/ joke about it as openly and avoid any awkwardness. Just get it out there! I did a Facebook status explaining it all on the 14.05.2015.
The love and support I received was unfathomable! It was such a huge boost for me and I can’t thank the people I know enough. This really pushed me into fight-mode and let me know the amount of support I had to drawn on for whatever was coming next. The reality of my situation was starting to sink in and I was grappling with it constantly. I knew the potential outcomes of my Brain Surgery could be bad so I used Bournemouth's yearly Summer Ball and made an event to bring all my friends together before my op and have a good old party/send off before my the operation to remove 80% of the tumour. What better reason for a party, right!?
Click here for Part 2: It's brain surgery, you know!