I went in for a brain scan today. Hopped into a very noisy MRI.
You see, in 1998, after a number of decades listening to music really loud at home, at concerts, raves, moves and such, my ear drums burst, leaving a big puddle of blood all over my pillow in a Godfather-like moment, and the start of raging tinnitus.
Over the past few years, the tinnitus has become worse, and for a few months now, it has become indescribable. But let me try to describe it. Imagine there are three cicadas inside your ears, all rubbing at different pitches. One’s melody is low, say Eddie Vedder, the other two are high pitches, say Minnie Ripperton singing this:
The third, however, is just some random, singing in the shower.
Now, each of these things, ear-splitting cicadas included, are not at all offensive. I love Eddie, and Minnie is just sublime, and, frankly, I love cicadas. But imagine they, along with the random shower singer are all off key, singing different songs all at once. Oh and a tea kettle. 24/7. Inside your ears.
I haven’t looked into it since the ear drum incident of ’98, but decided it was time, so off I went to my GP to get the lowdown.
“Good news”, she says. “We’ll get an MRI of your brain and ears. If there’s nothing wrong, then you will just get used to the sound, like someone who lives behind a train track.”
You see, tinnitus doesn’t go away, you just stop caring about it.
Then she goes on to say, “but if it’s something serious, like a brain tumour, then we’ll know the reason for the tinnitus, and we can go from there.”
I think that was the good news. News of a potential brain tumour will be the start of the solution for my tinnitus. Except then, I would have a brain tumour.
“Want me to come with you?” Jeff asks me this morning.
“What for?” I say.
I don’t want people at my medical appointments, or even when I’m in hospital, except when I was suffering from a bout of psychosis and schizophrenia (I don’t use those terms lightly. These are not TikTok diagnoses.) At those times, I would ask Jeff to come with me to see the psychiatrist, so he could add to my story because, at those times, I couldn’t trust myself to tell the difference between real fact and mania fact. So he comes with me.
It all comes from my inability to wait in queues. Waiting to buy tickets or to enter a venue, I can’t have a conversation. The journey isn’t for me. It’s a problem. But that’s for another day.
I also don’t like doctors much. You see, back when I was 16, I had serious pain in my guts. Like a hot knife twisting my insides. When I went to the family doctor, Spangaro was his name, he announced to me (I went on my own, obviously), that I was either 16 weeks pregnant or I had a massive ovarian cyst. I tell him that I had a big ball of gunk attached to my ovaries. On telling my GP that the former was impossible, he said:
“That’s what they all say”.
I swore at that moment that I would find my own family GP, and I have been with her for around 35 years. So if the woman tells me that my tinnitus issue could be solved with a brain tumour diagnosis, then I guess I’ll believe her.
Except I don’t. I’ve been blessed with pretty decent genes when it comes to health. Sure there was the giant cyst (“the little football” is what the nurses called it when I went in for emergency surgery a few days after seeing the shonky doctor), gall bladder removal at 19, a lump removed from my breast when I was 21, countless polyps, biopsies, manic depression, severe periods, addictions, infertility, but the big stuff like cancer, diabetes, leprosy, are largely absent in the medical histories of my immediate family. We’re clumsy, my dad and I fall a lot, but that’s just us.
So when the good doctor tells me I need an MRI to confirm I don’t have a brain tumour, I’m not too worried. I mean, that’s pretty serious, you know, and that sort of shit just doesn’t happen to my people.
So when Jeff asks me if I want company at the clinic, I go: “What for?”
On TV, when people have biopsies and scans, they worry. They literally worry. And then they celebrate in relief when there’s nothing. But I’ve never experienced that. Even the little football cyst. When the surgeon told me it wasn’t cancerous, I just thought, “huh, was there a chance it was?” Or the neck biopsy. I just thought it was normal procedure because there was a lump, but nothing actually serious. And even this time, with the brain scan, I’m hoping I remember to make the appointment to get my results.
I’ve never been the TV worrier.
But should I be worried?