I’m going to see Mr Titus Berei, my consultant neurosurgeon, who most likely won’t be doing the surgery but will hand me over to another surgeon who is away till next week.
I call Plum.
“My surgeon has a superhero name – Mr Titus Berei”
“Ask him if he wears a cape!”
I have a call from Tony Shute the neurology oncology nurse, who arranges to meet me next week, and asks me to come to see Titus at 3 on Friday as he wants to meet me before the weekend.
“Hello I’m Titus, consultant neurosurgeon.”
Neurosurgery is the place where god meets science. My meandering thoughts in the MRI come from that place, where the brain as a physical entity takes over and fires, while all the time metabolising to keep itself alive and controlling actions that keep the rest of the physical self working. The temptation is always to polarise concepts which are better left on a spectrum (as in the labelling of ‘normality’ in and various conditions in mental health – what is normal? It’s a spectrum, and there are extremes of course, and in simplistic terms they are not necessarily abnormal, they’re a part of the whole).
I prefer to think of constellations; rather than art and science, god and science, mind and body, body and soul, there’s a milky way out there in which the whole whirls, interacts, bypasses, attracts and repels. Imagine trying to work your way through the galaxy (and then between other galaxies and back the other way) in order to separate each part and work out what it does. I’m deliberately and uncharacteristically only vaguely following the EU debate by dint of having too much else ongoing, but it springs instantly to mind as a demonstration of everything that’s bad about this human compulsion to polarise and split, to constantly highlight difference and reinforce the ‘otherness’ of those who think or behave in different ways. (Do your tie up says Cameron to Corbyn; useful, Dave).
What am I trying so clumsily to say? That the point where these dualisms meet is the most fascinating? The nub of the matter? Neuroscience and neurosurgery is right there. So it’s interesting to me that the superhero neurosurgeon is so very human on a level where both Dad and I feel immediately glad that he’s talking with us, asking questions, answering ours, pondering, explaining the surgery and the possibilities for what this is and where it is. And soon he or his colleague will be removing a section of my cranium and excising a tumour from my brain, which has made itself known in a host of ways, many of which I/my mind has manged to explain away to itself, while all that’s the real me has a bit of an enforced nap. Yet he can only see my physical brain, not the thoughts, not the me-ness of it.
I ask him several questions, and I’m instantly overriding my decision to avoid researching too much into possibilities till we know what the tumour is. I ask him, of course, what he thinks it looks like. He thinks maybe a met (a secondary cancer that’s migrated from a cancer elsewhere in the body to my brain, hence the CT scan which was aiming to find it), although he won’t be committed. He thinks it’s malignant most likely, but again I know we won’t know till it’s out and the histology is done (the part where the tumour is examined microscopically to identify its makeup). He says that there is always a very, very, very, very small chance that it will turn out to be something like an abscess, but that it would be a big surprise were that to be the case.
Rather than do the biopsy first, he’s suggesting they remove the whole tumour since it’s superficial and also in an area of the brain where the functions are less vital; the right parietal area. I’m very happy with that plan, one lot of surgery rather than two has to be a bonus. And I want it out of my body.
Although Titus doesn’t think he’ll be able to do the surgery before he goes away on Tuesday since cancellations are extremely rare, he is going to speak to his colleague Mr Fewings who will be back on Monday evening.
It was Titus himself who called me the following Tuesday to tell me he’d spoken to Mr Fewings, and to check I was okay and happy with that, and he who insisted on seeing me on Friday because he didn’t want to leave me hanging over the weekend without first speaking to a neurosurgeon. Another subject I don’t have time for now, but which I will most certainly return to later; the so-called absence of compassion and vocation in front line NHS staff who’ve gone so far up their own bottoms with technology and medical advances and the junior doctor champagne lifestyle they’ve forgotten how to care. Back to Titus:
“Do you have any more questions for me?”
“I was wondering whether to get my hair cut short”
Where did that come from? I’m thinking about metastasised cancer while I continue to rapidly read the CT scan report displayed on the screen behind Titus’s head.
“Oh, don’t do anything drastic, there’s no need for that,” he says.
“Sorry, that’s a silly question”
You’re a consultant neurosurgeon and I’m asking for hairstyle tips?
“Not at all. The area we need to shave is here.”
He places bunched fingers on a spot towards the top of his head, forms a circle with thumb and index finger and demonstrates its eventual size.
“You can use the longer hair on top to cover the scar” Again his finger and thumb indicate the ideal length. He’s smiling at me, thinking what an idiot most likely. He lets me take iphone pics of the scan but don’t dare ask if I can take a selfie with it.
But Titus understands how minds work.
“What a lovely bloke” says Dad, who’s not normally given to superlatives.