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Stuart’s Schwannoma Story Part Two

08 February 2022

Part one of Stuart's story:

…So here I am Schwannoma free or at least I hope I am.  

On 15th November having completed pre-op tests and Covid test a few days prior to the operation, Tina my wife dropped me off at Leeds General Infirmary.  I had my wheelie cabin bag for a few nights stay and a nervous feeling as if I was going in to a job interview, it was 7am so fair to say I was still half asleep.  I wasn’t dreading the next few days because I knew I would be in capable hands but nevertheless it was a daunting prospect.  A long walk down several corridors in to the old Victorian part of the hospital and I arrived at the surgical reception ward. It is a long room with a high ceiling with beds either side stretching off into the distance, it reminded me of hospital wards in old black and white films.

A few more tests, change into a hospital gown, a ball point cross on the back of my neck and a couple of forms signed and I was ready to go.  I walked with one of the theater nurses back in to the newer part of the hospital where I was greeted by the anesthetist and her team.  They were all very jolly and cracking jokes and before I knew it I was counting backwards.

I awoke from the operation in the recovery suite and as I came round a nurse was there to greet me, she explained that everything had gone well and she was just waiting for a bed to become available.  In fact I was in the recovery suite for a couple of hours which was quite interesting in the bits where I was awake.

The ward was busy and I was well looked after although I didn’t sleep too well having been asleep for most of the day. But in the morning I had a visit from the registrar who confirmed that the operation had been successful. The tumour had managed to get in between a couple of vertebrae (Should have gone to the GP sooner) but they had managed to sort that out and he was confident that the tumour was all gone. To my surprise he said that I could go home later that day! So a couple of hours later, visits from two physio’s and several other nursing staff I was discharged with a box of paracetamol and found myself wheeling my suitcase back through the corridors of the Infirmary.  A very strange feeling 24 hours after I had undergone surgery.

Back at home it took a couple of weeks of rest and recuperation as well as regular paracetamol before I felt as though things were starting to improve.  It was hard to find a comfortable position to sleep in and to move around freely during the day. I didn’t realise how many day to day activities involve using the top of your neck and the bit where your head joins to it to the top of your spine.  I suppose until there is a problem we take these things for granted.  

Within 3 weeks I was at the GP surgery to have the clips removed, this was a big turning point because it freed up my movement and made me happier that the surgery site was healing well. By week 4 I was back to my desk and picking up where I left off, I could also use an exercise bike and could walk the dog so all these things, relatively soon after the operation helped my recovery.    

The biggest milestone was going for my first run on 18th December. It was a slow 5k but I made it in one piece.

It made me realise that I could slowly return to normal life and that the Manchester marathon in April is an achievable goal.

I am well in to training now and up to 12 miles, so a way to go but 8 weeks to do it in (at the time of writing).

I have recently had a follow up MRI scan to check that the tumour hasn’t returned.  There is no physical evidence to suggest it has in that my sense of touch has improved and whilst not completely healed all symptoms have subsided.  I am currently waiting to speak with the consultant. I haven’t spoken to him since the morning of the operation.  Although I had reported to a nurse who phoned that everything seemed to be okay and the wound was healing nicely, so I suppose there is no point having a discussion until they know that everything is back to how it should be.

So, it has been quite an experience from start to end and around 8 months since I initially went to the GP. It sounds like a long time but the actual operation to recovery was less than 8 weeks.  I am pleased that it is over now and I can get back to my activities. I hope I have a few more marathons ahead of me!