... in my brain actually. My very own brain tumour

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Reality after setback

If you have been reading my blog perceptively, you will have picked up the fact loud and clear that my sudden encounter with my brain tumour has brought me starkly into contact with reality. I have been trying to understand reality at a number of levels, and one of the things I have come to accept is that each of us has a different reality, defined by many things, including our beliefs systems.

I want to share an insight that dawned on me today. Believe it or not, my blog is occasionally being read be someone I know at the South African Astronomical Observatory in Sutherland in the Karoo. One of the facilities at the SAAO is called SALT - the Southern African Large Telescope. It is the biggest optical telescope in the Southern hemishere, with a primary mirror fully 10 metres across. This is a major international project and one of which we in South Africa can be proud. I have been privileged to have been sent photographic images taken by one of the professional people working there, Janus, Brink. These pictures illustrate clearly to me how we all see things differently. Just take a look at these stunning images of the sky.

Some people may look up at the sky at night and see nothing through the filthy haze of city fumes and light pollution. They give it no further thought. In their reality, the night sky does not even exist. Other people may see the full moon and briefly think, “That’s nice”, then go on with their lives. Still others may even look at the full Milky Way on a cold, dark night in the country and be moved briefly by its beauty. Then there are the Janus Brinks of this world who see something more, and meticulously work out a plan to capture what they see. The point I want to make is simply this. Each of us has our own unique sets of beliefs. It is these beliefs that motivate our behaviour and accomplishments. It is these beliefs that construct the unique reality in which each of us lives. I think that these pictures are a particularly striking example of the power of beliefs to yield unusual and special kinds of behaviour with correspondingly unusual and special results. Janus, you have inspired me to look at reality in a different way. Thank you for letting me have a glimpse of your reality. It has enriched me.


Anonymous said...

Dear John, I have appreciated reading your blog and thinking about the many and varied interesting points that you have made. I think I understand a little why you chose to keep a diarty; but let me also say that it has helped me in a somewhat indefinable way. My mother recently passed away from glioblastoma multiforme. She was diagnosed in late September and lived until 11/10/07. Much of what you described in the size, location and pressure in the brain occurred with her as well; however, she was 73, had been diagnosed with MS for 10 years and had lived with a lifetime of migraines which masked her brain tumor symptoms for a long time. By the time she was diagnosed, the prospects of surgery and followup chemo and radiation would have been too much for her even if she had survived the surgery. So we brought her home to enjoy her last weeks comfortably in her home. The largest difference with her situation is that she had lost her judgement abilities and even when told of her tumor, she did not seem to understand it and never discussed it afterwards. She and I were very close so I knew her very well - I think she just wasn't able to comprehend rather than her not wanting to deal with it. This was particularly difficult for me versus my brothers and father who didn't "want her to know so she wouldn't be scared". I felt completely the opposite - that she was not only being cheated out of some of the best years of her life but she was also being cheated out of chosing how and in what manner she wanted to deal with her death. This is what has impressed me so much with your blog and Ian's (in Switzerland)...that you are both able to understand and make choices now for the remainder of your lives, however long that may be...but its your life and your death. I have appreciated and admired the thoughtfulness, retrospection, life affirmation and grace with which both of you are dealing with your medical situations. She was very much like you - very bright, highly educated, very musical, loved new experiences, and, without prejudice I can say, she was a thoroughly "good" person - caring, thoughtful, generous in definition of the word. I guess what I wanted to tell you is that it helps to share with others (as you had observed)...your story somehow helps me to deal with my own loss in a more positive way. While I was caring for her, I kept a log and I'm so thankful that I did as busy as I was. Later on, I went back and created a diary of every day and everything I could remember and what I experienced. It was very important to me to have that memory as clear as I could possibly record it. I also took pictures of her during this time. The only thing I wish I had done but didn't do was record her voice - I have videos from earlier in the summer where I caught her singing (my daughters graduation from Cornell - my mom's and my alma mater too)and a little talking but I wish I had taken more videos where I had recorded her voice becuase there have been many many times where I just want to hear her voice again. Well, I guess I'm rambling...I just want to wish you specifically and your family in general - peace and happiness - and thank you for sharing your story. Karlee

John said...

Karlee, thanks for your comment. If my blog has helped you indirectly with the process of working through the death of your mother thst mak4es me happy. It is always difficult to know how much information to give to someone with a terminl disease, and I'm sure there is no absolutely right answer. All the best to you and family, and thanks for your good wishes. Isn't it comforting to know that one is being heard by a complete, caring stranger on the other side of the world?