In 1989, the night before I was to undergo my original operation to remove a spinal cord tumor, I remember sitting on my own hospital bed at the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne. I remember looking out through a big window, across the park lands - the city's twinkling lights beyond. I had Vince Jones', "But Beautiful" playing on my Walkman. It was kind of accidental that it became a poetic moment. Jones' soothing, smoky jazz vocals, accompanied by Paul Gabrowsky's languid piano. I (thought I) was a deep kid.
As a callow 15 year old from the country, I had little comprehension of what was about to happen to me. I was scared - but I was scared of the unknown. I didn't appreciate the task facing the surgical team, nor could I foresee what would come after the surgeon removed the tumor. For a brief moment, I just thought it was cool to be listening to jazz while looking out across the Melbourne skyline.
All these years later, reflecting on that 15 year old version of myself - it's like looking at a stranger.
That earnest youth has been subsumed by a terminal, world weary cynic. I'm no longer given to moments of musical romanticism, which might seem hard to believe, given that I've pursued a career outside of nursing as a romance novelist.
Personally, I don't think I draw inspiration from music the way I once did. I don't connect with it on an emotional level. Like, I still love music and I enjoy my favorite genres whenever I hear them. But they're not all consuming the way they used to be. They don't get me in the zone. I'd just as soon listen to a podcast conversation between two people tackling a philosophical conundrum.
Maybe I've lost something that I should try to recover - a sense of the power of music to calm and encourage reflection.
(image credit: Noah Sillman).
I know too much - both as a man who has the burden of lived experience of this kind of thing and as a Nurse, with over twenty years of accumulated knowledge of medicine and clinical experiences. I know what to expect surgically. The stakes are high. I know the recovery will likely follow a similar path as it did back in 1989. I'm aware of the psychology of trauma. The slow grind to get my muscles and limbs working again. The *joys* of incontinence. There are questions too. Fears.
What comes after?
Can I overcome this?
Will I be whole once more?
Will I make love again...?
I'm scared. I'm scared of the known this time.
Maybe I'll listen to Vince Jones once more. On cassette - the way I did before. Do they even make Walkmans anymore?