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Foreword by neurosurgeon Mr Arul Bala

I met Barbara on the neurology ward in June 2011 at the time of her stroke. I was impressed with how quickly she adjusted to her situation. One of the first questions she asked me was, “Will I be able to read again?”

What followed was a journey of discovery as Barbara examined, assessed, and discovered what she did and didn’t have. The human being in time can conquer and compensate for lost ability and indeed, this is what she has taught me.

A sudden impairment of brain function can be incapacitating, especially if it affects your communication skills. It is especially traumatic if you depend on those skills for your living.
To have a deep-seated brain tumour, discovered incidentally at the time of a stroke, is a lot for any person to digest.

On June 10, 2011, Barbara underwent a complex operation to remove her brain tumour, and through motivation and perseverance, she made a speedy recovery. Looking after Barbara in hospital, I noticed how she cared and involved herself with those around her. No doubt, this was a small reflection of her lifetime spent caring for others.

I am sure her life experience (as told in this book) will inspire those who read it. There are lessons learned for those of us in health care on perspectives through the eyes of the patient.

There are lessons for all of us on how we can successfully meet significant challenges in life.
Congratulations, Barbara on achieving this publication within barely a year of such major life events. I am sure you will charge on with life!

Mr. Arul Bala, MBBS (Hons.), FRACS (N.Surg.)


Excerpt From the Book

Thursday, May 19, 2011, started out like any other day. Little did I know that life as I knew it would never be the same. Pete and I had decided to do a small amount of grocery shopping. We did not like to shop during a weekday, as we both worked from home supporting the home-based business operators and put in many long hours. We did not easily find time for such things as shopping.

On the way home, we noticed our neighbours had a car parked outside. As they both did shift work, we never quite knew when they would be home or if they would be sleeping or not. The car at the front of the house suggested that someone was home and not sleeping.

They had a new dog, which they had acquired when she was about five months of age, and she was difficult to walk. In fact, she had pulled my neighbour over and damaged her knee on a walk a few weeks before. The dog was now nearly a year old. As a dog judge, breeder, and trainer, I knew that the breed (border collie) was the most intelligent of all breeds, and I wanted to meet her and see if I could help the family with her training.

I knocked on the door and my neighbour invited us in to meet his dog. I did ten minutes of training and was sure the border collie would learn quickly with a bit of consistent training. We chatted a while and then left to go home for lunch.

I cook a hot meal at lunchtime as it best suits my mum. She is nearly blind from macular degeneration, has had cancer twice, has had her hip replaced twice, and uses a walking frame to help her get around the house. I am her official caregiver, or “carer,” as I call it, and Pete and Mark, my son, help me to look after her.

I dished up the hot lunch for the others, but as I did not feel 100 percent, I only had a small bowl of soup. We decided to eat in the TV room and watch a show. My crab chowder soup smelled delicious, but I thought that it did not taste exactly as it should. I wondered why I had lost my sense of taste. I had just finished my soup and placed the empty bowl on the coffee table when an unbelievably agonising pain engulfed me.

The pain in my head was like a sudden and unbearable explosion. It felt like a knife searing its way through my skull, twisting and stabbing at the same time. It grabbed me with so much ferocity that I could do nothing but hold my head and gasp for breath. I was drowning in pain. I could not speak. I could hardly think. I am sure I moaned as the all-consuming pain persisted.

As the pain took over, I seemed to lose all sense of colour; everything was in black and white, with more black than white. I felt as though I were sinking into a massive black abyss. I desperately wanted to reach the light again.

“Are you okay?” Pete asked.

I thought, What a silly question! Of course, I’m not okay!

I could tell by the sound of Pete’s voice that he was concerned and wanted to do something for me, but I just couldn’t answer him. It took all my energy to tolerate the pain. I couldn’t say a word. I couldn’t even see his face; it was simply a blur.

After around ten minutes of the ghastly, agonising pain, Pete said, “I’m calling an ambulance.”

I managed to mumble, “No!” I thought that the pain would subside and I would be okay in a few minutes. I didn’t want to spend hours in a hospital, only to be told to take an analgesic and to rest.

Pete then asked me, “Do you think you have tic douloureux?” This is a facial neuralgia that I had had once before (many years ago), and the pain for that was also severe. Pete later told me that he thought that the intensity of the pain was very similar.

“What?” I gasped.

Again, Pete said, “Do you think you have tic douloureux?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I muttered.

The pain had slightly eased and I was managing to relax a little. I was now more aware of what was going on around me. Pete again said, “I think I will call the ambulance.”

“Do what you bloody like,” I mumbled in utter desperation.

Find empathy and inspiration in this book