On 3 July 2013 I was diagnosed with a cerebral aneurysm, which later turned out to be two. This blog is a journey into my brain as I deal to the aneurysms lurking there. Along the way I'm calling on the collective proverbial wisdom and sage advice of some recognised (and maybe a few not-so-recognised) writers for aphorisms which complement my journey.

This is not just a personal journey but also a journey of discovery for everyone who has, had, or knows someone with a cerebral aneurysm.

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Do not regret growing old; many are denied the privilege. ~ Ogden Nash

Diagnosis. Good thing or bad thing? How many people ever actually know they are living with a potentially loaded gun somewhere in their body? When you are told, what are you supposed to feel and how does it change your life? Because no matter how upbeat you are about what your future may be, it does change.

Aneurysms are an Acquired Brain Injury. According to the Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) website, “An acquired brain injury, or ABI, is damage to the brain that was not present at birth and is non-progressive.” ABIs are either non-traumatic, or may be the result of forceful contact to the head. For further information on Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) see the Brainline website and Brain Injury Australia.

Regardless of the reason for the rupture of an aneurysm, for many people – those who survive (see October 2013 post “Anatomy is Destiny”) – life may never be the same again. Author David Grant, a TBI survivor, notes that “Brain injury is … the last thing you ever think about until it’s the only thing you think about.”

So when you already know that the potential is there, life may have changed already.  For those diagnosed pre-rupture, the diagnosis is the life changer and thoughts of your aneurysm accompany everything you do. Many of the stories recounted on the Brainline website are from people whose TBI was the result of an accident or illness, or who may have had an aneurysm or tumour and not known about it until too late. But you don’t need to actually have a traumatic event happen to make changes, you just need to know that the potential is there and is very real.

When you do know about it in time, what do you do?  Is there anything you can do? Personally, I decided to live better.  I have set some goals into 2014:

  • started swimming again after many years – goal: swimming in the Vanuatu Open Water Swim in June 2014;
  • re-ignited my passion for writing – goal: making an income from it in the not-too-distant future – signed up for a "Gunnas Writing Masterclass" with Catherine Deveny  in March 2014 to boost my desire and confidence;
  • signed up as a volunteer with a number of organisations – goal: keep myself occupied and help organisations that appeal to my interests. My choices include What's Your Impact as a researcher to bring attention to how our personal actions and activities affect climate change, Eyeline Magazine as editorial assistant, and front of house at La Boite Theatre.

I will also continue the campaigns I am already involved in:

  • raising awareness of brain aneurysms in the face of a dearth of information on Australian websites and the lack of publicly available resources in medical centres and hospitals
  • fighting to eliminate violence against women through activities with V-Day, One Billion Rising and Say No
  • support for the campaign to save the Great Barrier Reef from destruction by mining interests
  • raising awareness of the destruction of the habitat of orang-utans and other endangered species for the production of palm oil

There are virtually no restrictions on my life – except that I should, of course, avoid undue stress (but shouldn’t we all if we can?). The neurosurgery registrar pointed out that they can’t restrict anything when too little is known about why and when an aneurysm might rupture to warrant restrictions. Perhaps that is why, for me, knowing about it is an advantage. I can plan to do things that I might otherwise have put off or not considered.  I can plan to make the very best of my time, regardless of any “what if”. And I can plan for the worst, even if the worst never happens.

Someone who doesn’t know about their aneurysm can’t do that.

I don’t regret getting old. I just regret that I didn’t have the incentive to live a better life long before now.  How strange that it took the diagnosis of a cerebral aneurysm to enable that.

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