Monday, January 13, 2014

The Rupture vs The Rapture vs The Raptor?

This blog wasn't started to be my medical drama diary and I promise, it won't be. But for now, I guess, that is what occupies most of my mind (well, at least, a 9-10mm bubble of it), hence what finds its way to this sad corner of the internet. Bear with me. :)

So my asymptomatic aneurysm is no longer asymptomatic. I now have splitting, nauseating, and mind clouding headaches every day, out of the blue. They come in waves, leaving me dazed, irritable and unable speak very well. Thankfully, a few Panadol gets rid of them eventually. But man do they up the stress ante.

The thing about having an unruptured aneurysm is that it could rupture at any time. I've been told to avoid things like heavy lifting, strenuous activities, and blows to the head. But really, anything could do it. The weakened blood vessel that has bubbled out in my brain is now probably 4 times bigger than it should be, and was never meant to be stretched so thin. Just plain old wear and tear could be enough.

That's why every time my brain starts to twinge, I feel like old Sanford and The Big One (clip below, in case you didn't grow up watching rerun sitcoms from the 1970s).
Then I end up sitting there, very still, waiting for the "worst headache of your life" hallmarks the doctors warned me about in case of rupture, running through the list of what I have to do if it is (1. Call 999. 2. Call husband. 3. Stop driving if driving.). When I find myself still there, alive and just irritated by the tight pain in my head, I then sit there wondering: "What set off the headache? Does this mean the aneurysm is getting bigger? Does that mean I'm going to have to have open-brain surgery?" Fun times.

Was just on the phone with my sister Abez, who'd called to talk me out of my funk and fatigue, and at one point my mumbled complaint about 'waiting for the rupture' sounded like 'waiting for The Rapture.' (Yeah, sorry, having an uber Christian mother gives you all kinds of weird mental triggers) Now THAT is something to be scared of - you know, the biblically foretold end of days where the righteous are called up to heaven and the rest are left behind with James Franco and Jonah Hill. I saw the movie. I do NOT want to be there. I can't STAND James Franco.

You know what else sounds like rupture and rapture? Raptor. COINCIDENCE? I THINK NOT.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Zombies aren't real, so it doesn't count

One question I keep getting is:
“Are you scared?”

I wouldn’t say I’m scared. But that may just be because, word nerd that I am, I feel that ‘scared’ is not quite the right word. ‘Apprehensive’ is a better fit.

I am definitely not looking forward to the brain surgery that I’ll be having to fix my aneurysm – surgery is pretty much a miserable experience every time, and I’m not ignorant of the risk of ruptures, tears, strokes etc. during the procedure itself. Nor am I looking forward to another diagnostic cerebral angiogram ahead of the surgery – the last one was so painful it pulled me out of anesthesia. And most of all, perhaps surprisingly, I am not looking forward to being in a hospital for 3 weeks. I can’t lie down for longer than 10 hours without being in a world of ache and boredom drives me insane.  

But am I scared? No, not really. Since I was teenager, my standard line has been “I’m not scared of anything but Allah.” And that’s the truth – flying cockroaches and recurrent zombie nightmares nothwithstanding. Yes, a zombie could hurt my body, and cockroach could give me awful heebeejeebees, but nothing and no one can hurt me where it matters – which is in my soul – unless I let them. The failures and pains of this life have no bearing on the real life – the afterlife – unless you let them by allowing them to tarnish your faith and practice. In fact, illness and unpleasant surgery could actually get me closer to some good in my next life, by washing sins away and bringing me closer to God.

So I am not scared, because even if the worst case scenarios happen – the surgery goes wrong and I’m disabled or the surgery fails and I die – then if anything, I will hopefully be in a better place, afterlife wise, than before. Inshallah then it is all a win-win. I’ve just got to live up to my claim to be a Muslim and actually happily submit myself, my fears, my health, my hopes and my will – to Allah. Whatever He has planned, it will be for my betterment, Inshallah.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Tis but a scratch! I've had worse! Have at you! I'M INVINCIBLE!

I got to work from home for the first time today, which was awesome. Previously, my office had a policy that either you were IN the office - and 'working' - or you were absent, regardless of whether you worked while out of the office or not. When I returned from the US, I brought a note from my neurologist there requesting that I be given flexible hours to work around my symptoms, and also reduce the strain on my health from driving to my distant office. At the time, my company didn't have a policy previously to allow it, so I had to wait a month. But now they've given me the go ahead, so here I am, in jeans and a hoodie, working out of the recliner in my living room.

I guess this is me taking things a bit more seriously. I'll probably get beaten for admitting this, but two days after I was told I had a brain aneurysm, I participated in a crazy massive scavenger hunt. At time time, I didn't realize I was signing on for something that involved two hours of running up and down escalators, sprinting through malls, and fighting to get the last spot on the metro, but that's what it entailed. When we finished the race, I remember turning to my husband and panting "I probably should NOT have done that." And we laughed and forgot about it.

In my defense, the doctors have been a bit confusing with their recommendations/limitations. The doc who diagnosed the aneurysm said I was basically a ticking time bomb that could go off at any minute, which would kill me if I didn't get to the hospital right away. Yeah, that was a bit of a downer. Then the next other doc I saw said I should be fine to wait a month or two to arrange my treatment abroad and not to worry too much about the risk of rupture. Then the doc in the US said I could be active, as long as I didn't do any heavy lifting or take any blows to the head.

So, me, being me, I kind of tried living life as I would normally. I've not taken time off work - except on days when my head was really hurting. I still do my usual chores and cooking. I'd kept going to the gym and playing squash, pain levels permitting. But after last week, when a brief jog a the gym resulting in an intense eye twitch, to the beat of my pulse no less, I realized that maybe I was being an idiot. If my aneurysm has even just got bigger, that will be a bad enough thing and could mean I have a far more serious surgery. Plus, I've had lots of poking and reminding from my medical student niece that I should be more careful. So I decided to stop playing fast and loose and be a bit more cautious with my health.

It's weird. When I was a kid, I was such an attention-starved little urchin that I used to wish I had some terrible illness that would get me special treatment and all the love and care of everyone around me. But now that I have that, I want nothing more than to just live as I did before and be left alone. There's something deeply uncomfortable about that strained, compassionate verging on pitying look that coworkers and acquaintances give you when you're unwell. And I'd rather family and friends didn't worry about me - it doesn't accomplish anything and just makes me feel guilty for upsetting them. And then, I guess, part of me hasn't really come to terms with all of this either. I don't like having limitations. I was one of those 'anything you can do I can do better' kids, and have always pushed myself to do as much as I can. Now, I find myself aching for days if I just make a batch of cookies and can't walk in the mall for more than half an hour before my hip, back, feet and head hurt. Hence why I guess I'd been in denial about my health and its risks.

But hey, I've stopped pushing myself in the gym, playing squash and am even reducing my driving hours by working from home. So maybe I'm finally evolving beyond being the Black Knight. Though he still is pretty cool.