As I sat in my private hospital room awaiting back surgery last October, my anaesthetist commented on my right eye not blinking. It had been a little irritated for a week or two but I’d not paid it much attention. After all, my back hurt like hell, I was being tested for myeloma (a “nicer” form of cancer than I was eventually diagnosed with) and a bit of dust in my eye didn’t seem that important.
Alas, the anaesthetist didn’t act on her observation and I thought nothing more of it. Even after the right side of my lip went wobbly as I tried to drink a cup of tea post-operation.
A couple of weeks later, after my lung cancer had been diagnosed, I visited my step daughter and her wife Emma. Louise commented that the whole of the right side of my face seemed to have slipped. She was quite shocked.
I made an appointment with my GP (an achievement in itself!) who suggested that while I probably had Bell’s palsy it could be that my lung cancer, which had already run amok through half the bones in my body, could potentially spread to the brain. She arranged for me to have a same day scan at the local hospital. She also told me I couldn’t drive, but these words didn’t sink in. And I drove to the scan appointment.
This is perhaps the only time I can get critical of the treatment I’ve received from the NHS. I spent an afternoon sat in a ward with three desperately ill and sedated elderly people waiting for my turn to have my ears blasted by the sounds of the MRI. It didn’t happen. A doctor came along to tell me that I’d have to come back the next day (even though my GP had rung through for me to be seen the same day). His final words of “it won’t make any difference to your treatment” were probably just ill-thought but felt rather callous.
The scan did eventually take place and I got the results seconds before being sedated for my lung biopsy a few days later. Inconclusive – but here’s a prescription for some steroids in the assumption it is Bell’s palsy. Two further scans were needed before I got the all clear for brain cancer. Three weeks of being unable to drive. Three weeks of real disillusionment – but I’ll post about how people came through for me elsewhere on the blog.
So my latest condition was confirmed as Bell’s palsy. Not only am I riddled with terminal cancer I have a face that resembles a Halloween mask. Three months on I can sometimes muster a smile, but sometimes the right lips droop leaving me no control. A toothy grin is impossible. My nostril has changed shape, leading to an inability to sneeze as it felt like if I did the eye would come flying out of the socket. And the eye itself remains irritated because the eyelid won’t close.
Six weeks after diagnosis I was told I should be taping down the eyelid at night. Have you ever tried taping down an eyelid when the other eye automatically closes so you can’t tell if you’re about to tape an exposed eyeball or not?
Apprently Bell’s palsy usually goes away on its own after three to four months. I’m in that time frame now and hoping it goes. The internet does talk about physio to treat it but I can’t see any evidence that it accelerates correction of the condition.
Basically I’m stuck with it until it chooses to go away. Hopefully Maltese passport control will still be able to match my photo to the grim reality!