Good pants

images-1If you’re anything like me, you’ll have a set of trusty but raggedy old pants where the elastic has gone and there are holes where there oughtn’t be holes.

And then you’ll have Good Pants.

Pants that hug and cling in all the right places. Pants that look good when you wear them. David Beckham pants. Good Pants.

There was a time earlier in my life when the wearing of Good Pants by me could mean only one thing. But at the grand age of 36, the wearing of Good Pants means something entirely different. It means I’m envisaging getting undressed in front of an adult who isn’t my wife.

As per my recent posts, lately I’ve been having a huge increase in the number of seizures. An average of seven or eight every day for the last week or so, then 14 on Monday, and yesterday I stopped counting at 20.

After six seizures in one hour yesterday afternoon, my wife gave my neurologist a call.

“That’s not normal,” said he, as if I hadn’t been telling him repeatedly since New Year that my seizure activity was getting worse and worse and worse.

“He needs to come into hospital, tonight if possible.”

Now I know hospitals. I know that even if I set off from Colchester to London at 7pm, I wouldn’t get there until 9pm, add another hour to be admitted, and by 10pm, what was the likelihood of a neurological consultant knocking around to come and see me?

So, instead my neurologist upped my dose of drugs (this is becoming such a repetitive theme it’s become boring), and arranged for me to come into hospital this morning instead.

Hence a packed rucksack with a toothbrush, a pair of pyjamas and my wearing today of a pair of Good Pants. I dropped my kids off at school without any fuss, then headed into London with my wife.

There then began a farcical hospital too-ing and fro-ing, a moving in and out of waiting rooms, a waiting in corridors, and a squeezing into offices without any chairs.

I arrived at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery this morning at 11.30am, without a clue about why I had been called in, though hoping for at least some indication of how to bring my seizures under control.

I was then passed around the hospital, from neurology to surgery and back again, for the next six hours.

The biggest surprise had come about lunch time. I received a phone call from the surgery department about the biopsy I’d be having tomorrow.

“Biopsy?,” I asked. “No-one said anything about a biopsy.”

I mean, I know I am due to have one. But I also was told I’d get the opportunity to talk about it with someone who knows about biopsies. You know, things like: what is a brain biopsy anyway? What’s involved? What are the risks? Will I come out able to speak or move? What are the chances of not coming out alive?

So when I was eventually sent up to the ward at 5pm, and the surgical registrar tried to book me in for the night and my biopsy the next morning, I shook my head and simply said: no.

I explained that no-one had even described what the biopsy would entail, let alone given me a chance to talk to my family about its implications. I wasn’t prepared to get caught up in some tsunami of frantic action that would see me going under anaesthetic and the surgeon’s knife within hours, without my properly understanding what was going on and why.

She then explained the procedure, the difficulties of taking a sample of my particular tumour, and the fact that I would likely come out of it with temporary (meaning months) loss of some motor and speech functions. That in up to 3% of cases, they don’t ever come back. There could of course be other complications, and there’s a 1% chance that I’ll die.

So, I did get the consultation I was looking for. But I refused to be bumped straight into the operation the next morning. That would be take the phrase ‘sleep on it’ a little too literally.

You may think I’m stupid or short sighted to reject an opportunity so easily. After all, I was there. In a hospital bed. With a surgeon’s needle primed and ready to go.

But all I could think about were my children.

I’d not said anything to them. Just dropped them off as if it was a normal day. I’d not shared a moment with them. Not taken a last look in their eyes, or kissed their soft foreheads just in case.

At best, the next time they would see me I’d be in a pretty bad state, bandaged up and possibly unable to speak or hold things with my right hand. It would be cruel. Unexpected.

Unacceptable.

So I said no. Instead, she booked me in to stay the night for monitoring. They’d take some blood, count my seizures (about 14 today so far), and revisit my drugs doses. I could also talk further with my surgeon in the morning. They’d then book me in for the biopsy the following week, if I wanted to go ahead.

So I took off my shoes, got onto the bed and fifteen minutes later – before they’d even had chance to put one of those plastic white bracelets onto my wrist – my neurologist turned up.

He was full of profuse apologies. He hadn’t made it clear that by ‘get you into hospital’ he actually meant ‘give you a biopsy’. He did still advise I stay and have the operation tomorrow (you might as well now you’re here, was the general gist). But no, it wasn’t urgent. No it wouldn’t stop the seizures. And yes, of course, it was my choice whether to have it or not.

He then told me what we all have known for the last few weeks: he strongly suspected my tumour had turned malignant. But if I was sure, then there was no need to stay in the hospital tonight.

He almost made me feel foolish for refusing the biopsy tomorrow. Almost.

But then I remembered my children and thought: I’m not the fool here. For you, a biopsy might be routine. But for those on the other end of the knife, we need time to digest, to understand, to decide, to… well, to do what people about to undergo a potentially permanently life changing operation need to do. Like hug our kids, and talk to our partners, throw thoughts around with our families. (To maybe take a final bike ride.)

So instead of staying in hospital this evening, I got to see my children’s bright faces and listened to their chatter about what toys they’d brought with them to their grandparents’ house. I kissed them and hugged them, and listened to what they’d done at school that day.

And I knew, without a single doubt, I’d done the right thing.

Tomorrow I’ll call the hospital again. We’ll arrange for my biopsy in a week or two’s time. When I’m ready. When I’ve slept on it. When my Good Pants are ready for another outing.

7 Comments

  1. you are a friend of a friend. I read your blogs frequently…your writing is ace (even though I appreciate you would prefer to be writing about something else!!). Right call. Well done for taking control. Easy to be brow beaten but everything has its time and its place. The kids have to be priority…Hope the biopsy goes ok.

  2. The right call by you without a doubt!
    By the way you helped me get up a hill today … Thanks …I didn’t give in … I kept on keeping on! 🙂
    Cheers
    Jacquie from Oz

  3. Brilliantly written. Congratulations on not being bamboozled into biopsy before you & your family were ready. Sending heartfelt support (I have a bt too).

  4. Hi Gideon, I read your letter in The Comic the other week. Your courage and dignity in handling this is inspirational and Good Pants had us laughing out loud. I just wanted to say that I’m thinking about you and wishing you and yours the very best of luck. Chapeau Gideon. (TdeF ’06 & mallorca ’09)

  5. Good on you for not giving in. Very impressed, I think most of us might have. It’s so easy to get railroaded into these things (‘while you’re here..’). But because the short, medium and long-term have become closer I suppose you have to give them different weighting.

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