I always wondered how I would react when faced with really devastating news. I mean, I remember being dumped by boyfriends when I was younger and that was pretty hideous. Days and nights crying into my pillow, listening to Mariah Carey songs, thinking my life was over. I would never meet anyone ever again and would end up alone with a hundred cats! But truly heartbreaking traumatic news was something that I had fortunately never experienced first hand in my life.
I thought I would sit there absorbing words before it actually hit me, numb, staring at the person talking to me. That, was far from how it happened when that day came to meet me.
On the 8th January 2015 we arrived at St George’s Hospital in Tooting for Eleanor’s MRI scan. I had been upbeat that morning, still convincing myself that Eleanor was short sighted and this was all precautionary, they were just ruling out the worst case scenario. Tim was beside himself, telling me he didn’t deal with his general anaesthetic well when he had one in the past, the thought of someone putting his daughter to sleep was just too much for him. After a consultation with the anaesthetist we waited a little while for the general anaesthetic MRI team to be ready.
After a short wait we were called and taken through to a room where Eleanor would be given her anaesthetic. I sat with her on my lap while they placed a mask over her nose and mouth. We had explained that this would happen and she knew what it was for but that didn’t make an ounce of difference. Now, anyone who has seen my daughter will know, she is a waif of a thing, not an ounce of fat on her body but my goodness that girl can fight! It took four fully grown adults to hold her down to keep that mask on her face long enough for it to take effect. It was like the eye drop fiasco all over again. I was holding my child down while she screamed my name and stared in wide eyed panic at me. Why was I letting this happen to her? at 3 years old she couldn’t possibly begin to understand what on earth was going on and as her mother I should be helping her not holding her down! When the gas finally made her body go limp, she was still crying and semi-hyperventilating, I stood and placed her on the bed, standing over her I looked in stunned silence, did that really just happen? The anaesthetist turned to us as told us we could leave her now and that they would come and find us once the scan was complete. Sorry? did you just say “you can leave”!? I stared back at her, how could I leave her, she was still crying in her sleep, I couldn’t bare the thought of her waking up after being in such a state. Tim took my hand and we prepared ourselves to leave the room, I turned one last time to see Eleanor lying on that bed and as we walked away I remember the anaesthetist saying “Don’t worry, we will take good care of her”
We sat mostly in silence in a children’s waiting room while the minutes ticked by, 20 minutes passed… 30 minutes… 40 minutes… 45 minutes. I was starting to feel the panic rise and I sat on Tim’s lap watching the clock hands slowly move. After almost a whole hour the door opened and the anaesthetist who had spoken to us returned, slowly closing the door behind her. Now I am not very good at reading people, I am terrible in fact and more often than not I get it completely wrong, but I could tell, I could tell by the perturbed look on her face that she had something to tell us which she knew we would not like. I felt Tim grip me around my waist as she took a seat in front of us and said words that I never ever thought I would have to hear…
“OK, so we have found something”
I immediately bent forward, my head in my hands sobbing as I heard her talking to Tim. I couldn’t tell you what she was saying just certain words; ‘tumour’ ‘neurosurgeon’ ‘surgery’ ‘admission’ ‘steroids’. I felt like everything was rushing at me, I couldn’t breathe, I got up and walked into a little room which had a bed in it and sat on it crying while Tim took the reigns and asked the important questions. We were told that Eleanor would need to be admitted immediately to begin a short course of steroids, bringing down any potential swelling around her tumour.
The anaesthetist told us that Eleanor had not come around yet and that she would leave us alone for a few minutes and come back to get us as soon as she stirred. Tim just held me tight, both of us trying to be strong for each other. The next thing I had to do was call my Mum. I don’t know how I did that. I couldn’t tell you what I said to her. I didn’t want to break her heart the way mine had just been broken.
When Eleanor started to stir we were walked around to see her in recovery, she woke with a smile on her face and sat eating olives while I stroked her head and Tim made some calls. I kept looking at her imagining that thing in her head. She looked so perfect and beautiful sitting there in front of me munching on olives, she didn’t look unwell. I almost wanted to grab her out of the bed and run away, like that was going to solve the problem. I felt like I was on a bouncy cloud, like I had been drinking wine on an empty stomach and my head was a bit cloudy and everything was moving in slow motion around me. This sort of thing happens to other people, doesn’t it. Apparently not.