My youngest daughter had called me in tears. She wanted me home. She couldn’t understand what was taking so long and why she couldn’t visit. I made the mistake of telling her I would be home the following day after surgery. I was now under pressure to make sure that this would definitely happen.
I had a visit from my eye surgeon to check things were going to plan. I happened to mention that eye surgery sounded disgusting, so I didn’t need an explanation of what she had done or what she was going to do. She replied that she thought midwifery was disgusting?! Now I obviously wasn’t going to get into a game of top trumps with her, but we all know the popular programmes on the telly happen to be ‘one born every minute’ or ‘call the midwife’ or ‘too posh to push’ etc. Nowhere in the telly listings do I see a ‘not to be missed’ eye surgery documentary, or a ‘day in the life of an ocular oncologist.’ I obviously didn’t say this to her, I didn’t need to make her feel bad and actually I was incredibly grateful that she didn’t find fiddling around with the blob of jelly in my head as repulsive as I did.
Surgery was to be on Thursday evening, so I would be home late, but home I would be. My bags were packed. Surgery was to only take about 20 minutes so my husband was told to get the cab on speed dial.
This is where things turned a little strange. While I was under the anaesthetic I felt as if I could feel a tugging on my eye. I picked up my arm to push whatever was there away and then went straight back to sleep. I felt no pain, or panic, just a tugging feeling. While in the recovery room I said to the nurses that I thought I’d woken up. I was reassured that that was highly unlikely. I returned to my room and retold the story to my husband. “I think I woke up?” We agreed it must have been my imagination. The cab was called, I was dressed and ready to go. My eye was covered with a patch and I had numerous drops that I was to put in my eye over the next couple of weeks. Before I left the anaesthetist popped in to check I was O.K. I explained that I was fine but I thought I had woken up. She confirmed that I had woken during the surgery, but this had been controlled and planned. She explained that on my arrival in the hospital on the Monday the ECG had shown abnormalities. They had to make a decision on what to treat first, the heart or the tumour. They decided on the tumour and felt it best for me not to know about this until my radiotherapy had finished. They gave me a light anaesthetic as they were concerned. They also gave me a light muscle relaxant so that if I started to wake I would move and let them know. She gave me the name of the heart condition she thought I had and told me to make an appointment with a cardiologist. She also told me not to google it. “Don’t frighten yourself Ruth. Go home and rest?!!!!”
Am I wrong in thinking everyone would be frightened? Two weeks previously I had been told I had cancer and now I was being told plus a juicy topping of heart defects. I was stunned, vulnerable, shocked and annoyed. I felt fine. My eye had felt fine until I was told about the tumour and my heart had felt fine up until that point. Have I not told anyone I RAN THE BLOODY MARATHON! Of course now to add to my fear of not being around to see my children grow up due to cancer, I was starting to think I going to keel over and die if I took the stairs too fast due to a heart complaint. I needed to get home and google it, but in the mean time my sister called to check I was fine and on my way home. She didn’t expect my raw response as I told her what had happened. I could hear her tell her husband “Ruth woke up during surgery, they think she has a heart problem!” We couldn’t speak anymore. We were all too shocked and utterly exhausted. There was nothing left to say. It was what it was. I had hit forty and my stupid body was crumbling at the seams. There was nothing any of us could say. We travelled home in shocked silence form Moorfields hospital to Hampton. I was numb and devoid of emotion. My husband was given the job of keeping everyone away. Fielding calls, putting off visitors. I had no energy, I just felt traumatised and when you feel like that you can’t verbalise what has happened. It makes you relive it. So I didn’t. I stayed in a cocoon at home, only emerging for all the hideous hospital appointments.
And I still hadn’t looked at my eye. I was going to need Valium.