Choosing My Recovery (part 1/3)

Melanie Sio

Melanie Sio

For over a year, I had been ignoring a headache. I put it down to hormone changes or tiredness, I did have three kids under 5 years of age. My son was 16 months old. I had been in a new full-time job for only 6 months, leaving the kids at home with my husband in his daddy day-care role. Like many busy and tired mums, I took Panadol thinking it would go away. In my mind, I thought it was something insignificant. Something that would pass. 

One night I woke up, my left foot was doing this funny little twitching thing. When I tried to grab my lower leg, I realised my left arm wouldn’t move. It felt numb.  It was then that I realised the left side of my face felt weird. I just sat there thinking, what to do? My husband couldn’t hear me from the lounge. I couldn’t  stand up or move out of bed, so I lay back down, exhausted and fell asleep. 

At work, the next day I was regaling this strange experience to my workmate, who googled it and said: “I think you have had a stroke.” I laughed it off but really I was thinking, there could be some truth in that, so I made a doctor’s appointment. “I think we should do an MRI,” is what the doctor said, but the cost was over $500. There was no way we could afford that kind of money. We were a single income family with three little kids and no savings. So I was referred to an outpatient specialist clinic. The specialist listened to my story and said, “I’m sending you for an MRI and what I am looking for is a brain tumour because I think that was a seizure.” At this point, I laughed out loud. “Ok, whatever.”

I went back to the office and told my workmate the potential prognosis, but I told her not to worry. The MRI scan was the first time I had ever experienced wearing an over sized sack shaped nightshirt - naked – and lying in a noisy, clonking machine. The doctor said he would be in touch to discuss my results in a few days but “not to worry.” However this time, I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong.

Monday morning, I got a phone call. I was in my office at work when the doctor told me I had a very large brain tumour (the size of an orange). I would be having surgery to remove it in seven days’ time. She apologised for the blunt delivery but felt I needed to get myself prepared. She said not to worry too much because it wasn’t cancerous, but it needed to come out immediately. I was stunned and burst into tears. A brain tumour. Shit, that’s bad right. I took the rest of the day off. My husband met me at the door. “I have an actual brain tumour,” was what I said, tears falling down my face.

I spent Sunday night at the hospital, all alone with my thoughts. It was hard to sleep. In the morning, I got up and put on the gown they had laid out for me. I put clean undies on and an aah bra for comfort because I was never a commando type of chick. I remember laying there on the hospital bed, the nurses busy but kind. As they wheeled me away, I held my husband’s hand, and it was at that moment the panic started to set in. This might be the last time I see him. Tears streamed down my face, my body was drenched with a cold-sweat. They wheeled me down the hall.

The next part was all a blur. When you come around after anesthetic, you feel strange. I could hear everything, but couldn’t open my eyes. I started choking on the feeling of tubes down my throat. The nurses pulled them out. I opened my eyes. My husband was there. I’m ok. It’s done.

It was then that I realised I couldn’t move the entire left side of my body. My heart raced and my throat went dry.  The nurses assured me it would be temporary. The swelling in my brain just needed to go down. My face was wet with tears. How am I going to hold my baby boy if I can’t move my left side?