Well, I made it here intact, although my luggage isn’t here yet.
It has been a long day. I flew from Toronto to Washington Dulles after a slightly disturbing wait on the plane still at the gate while some dudes in reflective jackets tried switching the plane off and on again a few times all the while on the phone, presumably to tech support. Eventually the plane started working again, and we left. No aircon, but plenty of enthusiasm. It might have been cooler without the enthusiasm though, so fuck enthusiasm.
Made my connection at Dulles, where there were lots and lots of humans, all of them apparently pissed in one way or another. Didn’t stick around and ask questions though. The plane to London was newish and fast, but no power, USB or otherwise. So I slept most of the way.
United didn’t manage to get my bag onto my flight, despite having an almost 3 hour connection even given the inital delay. Oh well, they’re only subhuman. But I packed my blood pressure meds in there, and my tooth brush, and my less stinky clothes, so I’m living without for now. They assure me my bag will arrive in the morning at my sister’s house. I have no confidence at all.
Met up with Haroon in London and hung out with him until my train left at 12:35pm. He took me to drink coffee, eat pastries and buy mifi for my stay here. Now my phone and laptop are plumbed into my personal area network, and no more shall roaming data charges plague me.
Haroon is a good friend, I am lucky to know him. He is sweet and sincere, and cares for those he likes and respects. A man with a big heart and a flexible schedule. In this way he is a Renaissance man, and a member of my tribe.
Got to Leeds and met Liz at the station. We went straight to the hospital to see mum. Mum was in better shape than Liz was expecting, but the situation is the same and we have no new information. Here is what we do know.
Mum had been complaining of growing befuddlement, troubled vision and more recently a vicious headache. On Christmas Day, Liz brought her to the hospital worrying about a possible new stroke (she had two strokes 15 years or so ago, I don’t remember exactly how long, and never recovered full mobility or control of her right side subsequently). She had her meds changed, was looked over, felt better, and was discharged after a handful of days. Late last week she was in bad shape again, so Liz took her back to the emergency room at St. James’ here in Leeds.
This time she had a CT scan of her head, which revealed a 5cm bleed at the back of her brain. It also revealed a number of tumours distributed throughout her brain. The working hypothesis is that these are secondary cancers. Work to find the primary, should it exist, is incomplete. A further CT scan is planned for “ASAP”, but not yet scheduled. She will see a consultant physician tomorrow morning, and we hope to have more information in the afternoon. We have been told that the brain cancer is not operable.
This is basically the extent of the actual knowledge we have. She is being treated with steroids of some kind for the bleed, in the hope that this is not active, and may be reabsorbed. Only one CT scan has been done so far though, so we have no temporal data and therefore no definitive information about its progress, positive or negative.
We’ve discussed this (and many other aspects of the situation), and have concluded (without professional advice) that the best possible case is this: that the confusion, befuddlement, troubled vision and headaches are the result of the bleed, and this is fixable; that the brain cancer is not aggressive and may be survivable for some longish period of time without devastation (our neighbour’s father has lived with brain cancer for more than 4 years to our certain knowledge, probably longer, and is now dying of unrelated cardiac problems); that the primary either does not exist or is otherwise not aggressive, dormant, or treatable. These are extremely large “ifs”, and we have no viable way of quantifying the relevant probabilities.
Most conceivable scenarios at this point are unpleasant and chronically traumatic. The situation is complicated by the fact that the befuddlement and confusion means that mum is not retaining information which has been given to her. Liz had decided early to keep the information about the cancer from her for the time being, at least until we had a more complete picture. A wandering consultant inadvertently shared the analysis, but mum had no recollection of it and still doesn’t. This raises an ethical dilemma. Should a decision need to be made about treatment, things may become a lot more complex.
We’ve talked about it, and given her improving cogence (at least in the last couple of days) we will probably need to have that conversation, if the question arises. However, if she doesn’t retain the memory of the conversation for very long afterward, we could find ourselves in the terrible predicament of having to make a choice between repeatedly giving her bad news and forcing upon her a decision no-one should ever have to take even once, or keeping information from her which no-one would doubt she has a right to know. This is going to take judgement, conviction and stamina on our part, and will I think damage us all.
And all the while there she is, frightened and alone at night, dreading being left in that place with people she doesn’t know, confused, incoherent and unable to sleep. It doesn’t take much thinking about that to bring me to the edge of my own sanity, so I can only begin to grasp what it must be doing to her.
Finally I’m ready to sleep. Here at last, I’m sitting at an unfamiliar dresser in a terribly familiar room, my own bedroom with it’s cack-handed dormer windows which don’t fit properly. I don’t know how long I’ll be here, but it feels like the best place for me to be.