May 8, 2012.

Ativan? Am I allowed to have that before surgery? Oh, not scheduled until afternoon? Then pour me a double, will you? Oxycontin? Heck, yeah. It was a rough night.

That morning, I discovered my monthly friend had arrived (sorry for the TMI, male readers, but such is life). Awesome. Thanks. This gets better and better. How am I supposed to deal with THIS after surgery? Oh well, hopefully the nurses will take care of it. Apparently, they did.

Someone from the surgical team came by. Glenna, maybe? In my mind it was Glenna, but maybe that’s just because I liked her so much. She told me that they were considering moving up my surgery because Dr. G’s morning patient was stuck in traffic. Stuck in traffic? Wait, you mean there are patients having brain surgery who can just drive in on the morning of surgery? And I just sucked down an Ativan and Oxycontin, am I allowed to have surgery after that?

Matt would have had to drop our eldest at school and then he had planned to be at the hospital anyway. I’m not sure who was in charge of the other two, my middle son would have had preschool that afternoon, I’m not sure if he went. Gosh, I hate saying that I had no idea where my kids were!

I got confirmation of the schedule change. I was going in soon. It was time to start an IV. Like any sane person, I am not fond of needles, but had become vaguely resigned to them over the past few days. Or maybe it’s just the Ativan talking? Whatever. Prod away. My family got there. I have a vague impressions of hugging my mom. She was crying. I remember shaking on the gurney. Not being able to stop. Hugging Matt, which was much harder with the IV in. Being assured I would see them all soon. Then nothing. Nothing.

Awake. Awake. Matt was there. He was talking to me. I was hysterical. Crying. Panicking. Did they have to postpone the surgery because I’m freaking out? Why am I freaking out?  Oh, the surgery is over. I’m alive. Then, why can’t I stop crying? Turns out Matt had been called in to see me much sooner than they normally would have allowed after the surgery because of the hysterics. There was nothing they could do to calm me down and they were worried about the pressure in my head. I have this vague impression of not being able to look at him properly. Was my head restrained? Was it just the pressure inside my head that made it feel that way? There were drains and monitors and unknown amounts of drugs in my system, maybe that’s why I couldn’t move my head. Despite his earlier avowal not to, Matt has been reading this. Every entry. He will fill in the blanks, but it doesn’t really matter anyway. I just remember I couldn’t move my head and even moving my eyes to look at Matt was almost impossible.

From a distance, I heard my own broken voice pleading with my husband, “but what if I’m not smart anymore?” Ah, the worry of a perfectionist only child with a PhD in Medieval Studies from an R1 school.

“Of course, you’re still smart. It’s all still up there. You know more than I do about medieval history. I’m sure I could ask you anything and you’d be able to answer me.”

Oh, please don’t ask me anything. It’s gone. All gone. Something’s not right and it’s ALL GONE.

“Tell me something,” he said.

“Tell you what?”

“Just tell me anything.” NO. Don’t you get it? IT’S GONE!  “Wasn’t there a boat?” he asked me.

“A boat?” We don’t have a boat. Why is he asking me about a boat?

“Yeah, a boat that sank. You always tell that story.” What is he talking about? Before brain tumors, before surgery, this would have been typical Matt & Katie banter. Matt makes a vague reference to something in our lives, in what we’ve studied or in pop culture, giving nowhere near enough information for me to figure out what he’s talking about. But I do. I pull it out of the air. Like magic. Like married.

But that won’t work now. Something is wrong. I’m broken. It’s all gone. “You know, in Wales or something like that,” he said. Wales. That sounds vaguely familiar. I studied Wales, didn’t I?

“I don’t think so.”

“Maybe it was somewhere else,” he said.

“There was one in England . . .” I ventured.

“Tell me about that one.”

“The Wreck of the White Ship?”

“That’s the one. Tell me.”

“They were drunk.” God, this is hard. Why is it so hard to think? “In 1121, King Henry I and all of the young nobles from England were in France. There was some sort of party and they were all really drunk when it was time to sail back. Henry was in a different boat, but his son and a bunch of other noble heirs were all on the White Ship. It sunk and they all died. He was the only son. That’s how they ended up with the whole Matilda and Stephen civil war thing. Is that what you mean?”

“That’s what I mean. See, I told you you’re still smart. It’s all up there.”

The panic was fading now. “Did they get the tumor?”

“Dr. G says he did, but it was a very difficult surgery.” I think I asked about cancer, but it was too soon to know. We would have to wait for the oncologist’s report.

“Did they shave my head?” I’m not sure if he answered. He didn’t need to. My hair was gone. I knew it.

I don’t remember anything else about that day. In fact, the next two weeks are a hallucinogenic blur, which should make for some interesting writing and reading.

Here’s more about The White Ship and, technically, it sank in 1120, not 1121, but I clearly remember saying 1121. My mistake. I had brain surgery, you know.

5 thoughts on “Shipwrecks

  1. Jennie

    Really? Really Kaite, off by a year in your post brain tumor surgery stupor?? How could you. I’m so disappointed….. Joking of course. Sarcasm isn’t futile in a comment.
    You know more in that brain of yours than I ever could. Funny what scares you most in those post surgery times.


  2. Pingback: Stroke | The Missing Month of May

  3. C. Lauren

    Katie, it’s astounding what good recall you have of this awful time, and in such vivid detail, two years after the fact. Oh my goodness: That night, pre-surgery. I can still feel the acute realization of what you were about to undergo the next day. So glad that it’s in the past now.


  4. Pingback: The Big Lump on my Head | The Missing Month of May

  5. Kathy Anderson

    Okay, so I read it. Geez, girl… you are an amazing writer. Isn’t it time to turn this into a book… your sense of humor is such a gift. You may not be checking this anymore. Just wanted to say: Wow. Too scared to read the next chapter though. Funny, since I remember how it turns out.



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