Friday, December 14, 2018

String Theory Nineteen Eighty Nine - A Schwannoma Diary (#4).

In his 2002 memoir, "Lucky Man", actor Michael J. Fox recounted an moment, the night before he underwent delicate brain surgery in 1998. Lying on his hospital bed, he recalled listening to the Pearl Jam song, "Given To Fly" over and over, drawing comfort and strength from the music and the lyrics as he prepared for the surgery that would alleviate the symptoms of his Parkinson's Disease.

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?


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