As July 11th approached, I got increasingly nervous. I did not wish to be back in the same situation as after surgery the year before, when the surgeon left some tumour and we learned, with each scan, that it had continued to grow and that we had to consider options I found unpalatable. If this next scan confirmed complete resection, it would give Abi a chance to break free her illness, once and for all.
Scan day duly arrived. I woke up early worrying. I’d slept restlessly, and my stomach felt tight with nerves. I desperately wanted the four years of Abi’s illness to come to an end. It wasn’t so long ago that I had begun to think that we were losing the battle for Abi’s health (though I wasn’t going to give up easily). Here we were, just a year later, and there was a chance that we could be winning the fight, after all. Realising that, to cope with the day ahead, I needed to gather my composure, I got up and did a little yoga, then sat quietly for 20 minutes, meditating. That helped enormously because I was not anxious at all by the time the children awoke.
Abi and I took Kara to school before we returned home to pack for our train journey to the hospital. Abi found a few games and colouring books that she wanted to play with on the train, and I threw some fruit and drinks in a bag so we could have a snack. To garner some support I posted on Facebook about our ‘scan day’. It worked because I received some lovely messages back.
We were soon on the train. Abi was playing with a drawing game on her Nintendo DS while I read a book about grammar. I was trying to brush up my English, but in hindsight, studying personal pronouns, split infinitives and past participles weren’t quite the fun choices for that journey. A bit of light-hearted humour might have distracted me better. It would have given me less space to consider how I might react should the results of the scan not be as I hoped. So I was a nervous wreck by the time we arrived at our destination station. But before I could get too wrapped up in my worries, I had to drop into ‘parent mode’ so that Abi and I could successfully negotiate the busy route to the hospital. We were soon walking up to the ward to warn them that Abi was going to have a scan and that her programmable shunt would need resetting afterwards. We then went down for lunch in the canteen where, as a treat, I let Abi have chips.
Rather than going immediately to the MRI suite after lunch, Abi and I first visited the beautiful chapel. I spent a few quiet moments wishing health and happiness for all the children in the world, and Abi in particular. It helped remind me how fragile such precious lives are and that I should not wallow in self-pity. It helped ground me. I believe it helped Abi too. With our new-found strength, and a belly full of chips, we headed to the MRI unit.
In the waiting room, a nurse came to see me and asked me the usual set of medical questions. I find these annoying. We get asked the same questions every time, so you’d think that they’d know by then that Abi didn’t have a pacemaker or a prosthetic leg. With the bureaucracy finished, the nurse nursed instead and applied numbing gel to Abi’s hands and arms. That helps with the pain of injecting contrast, which is needed for the imaging procedure. Abi’s previous hospital always inserted a cannula for this injection, which they left in throughout the scan. They did things differently here. Because Abi only needed the contrast for the second half of the procedure, they stopped the scan halfway and injected contrast through butterfly needles, which they removed straight away afterwards. Even so, when it was done, Abi wasn’t pleased and sobbed gently. Actually, this was the only time I saw her bothered by anything throughout the day. Indeed, she displayed her usual Buddha-like qualities and laid perfectly still for the forty-five minutes of the scan. As usual, I found that remarkable. I enjoy going into the scans with my daughter. That’s not just because the machine pumps out some rhythms that remind me of the hardcore techno raves I used to love in my wilder youth. It’s also because I adore sharing the experience with her and using the time to meditate on her good health. I’m certain she also finds my presence reassuring. However, I was aware that, on this occasion, I was not responsible for Abi’s calmness. Instead, it was due to the file she was watching; Hong Kong Phooey, the “Number One Super Guy”. She watches that at home too. I couldn’t see it, but I could hear it, and it gave me an “aha!” moment because Abi was often heard exclaiming: “Call the Police!” from Hong Kong Phooey. Soon the scan was over and the Radiologist had rewarded the superstar Abi by giving her two stickers, which she proudly displayed on her jacket.
We then went back up to the ward to get Abi’s shunt reset. There was some confusion over the type of shunt she had fitted. The team on the ward said they needed to know which so they could find the correct equipment to reset it – but I’d never been asked that before. Thankfully, Abi’s notes contained the necessary information. The method for resetting the shunt involves a neurosurgeon placing a set of magnets on Abi’s head, right above where the shunt is inserted into her skull, which he turns until he finds the correct setting. The whole procedure seems a bit haphazard and very primitive. But I loved that shunt (because it had worked perfectly so far), so I didn’t let it bother me.
We were soon on the train home, where I got the opportunity to click on ‘like’ on a few more of the lovely messages that people had posted on Facebook. Once back, Abi and I went to the house where Kara was having a play date with one of her school friends. Abi spent a couple of hours playing happily there too, which helped bring a pleasant end to a busy day.