It hurts again

Some months ago I read a book called A Journey Round My Skull, which chronicled the author’s experiences of having a brain tumor removed in Hungary in 1937. (*pedantry* He was Hungarian but he went to Sweden to have the tumor removed.) I quote today from pages 131-132:

My head ached. I was thinking of the pain, and wondering how it was possible for physical agony to be so intense. I had never imagined that such a torture could be endured. Yet here was I, both conscious and able to think clearly. And not only to think, but to observe the process and make calculations about it. The steel circle round my skull was closing in with faint cracking noises. How much farther could it shrink? I counted the cracking sounds. Since I took the triple dose of pain-killer, there had been two more. …I took out my watch and laid it on the table.

“Give me morphia,” I said in a calm, hostile, icy tone.

“You mustn’t take morphia! You know perfectly well. The very idea! And what are you doing with that watch?”

“You will give me morphia within three minutes.”

They looked me uneasily up and down. No one moved. Three minutes went by. Then ten more. I slipped the watch calmly into my pocket and rose unsteadily to my feet.

“Then take me to the Fiakker Bar. They say it’s a good show, and to-night I want to enjoy myself.”

The others jumped up with a feeling of relief.

I never confessed the secret to anyone, either then or afterwards. I had made up my mind at the end of those three minutes — for the first and last time in my life — that if my headache had not stopped within the next ten I should throw myself under the nearest tram.

It never came out whether I should have kept to my resolve, for the pain left with the suddenness of lighting.

I don’t feel QUITE that bad. But bad enough. It feels rather like my head is being squeezed by some giant’s hand and is liable to pop at any moment.

Going to see the doctor tomorrow — the regular doctor. Dash it all.

7 thoughts on “It hurts again

  1. Laura Brown October 18, 2010 / 5:56 pm

    I’ve had A Journey Round My Skull on my wish list for a while, after reading a review of it. It looks from that excerpt like it should be good.

    Going to the doctor is the right choice, definitely. Hope they can find and treat the cause quickly.

    • Meaghan October 18, 2010 / 6:40 pm

      It was very good. It took forever for Karinthy to get diagnosed, because he was convinced he had a tumor but none of the doctors would take his symptoms seriously. Finally he basically tricked them into diagnosing him: he went to an optometrist and asked to get fitted for glasses, because he was going blind (from the affects of the tumor). Karinthy knew the optometrist would look in his eyes as part of the exam. The doctor did so and was like “Holy crap!” because he saw the tumor behind his eyes. And Karinthy (knowing just what had happened) asked “What’s wrong” and the doctor was like, “Um, nothing, just take this piece of paper and go to the hospital, like, right now.”

      I can kind of understand the doctor’s position, cause hypochondriac patients come in all the time convinced they have some exotic disease. It’s probably even worse now than it was in 1937, since we have WebMD and things. But you’d think that if there was a man who thought he had a brain tumor, and he was going blind, and experiencing blackouts, and visual and auditory hallucinations, and having terrific headaches and seizures, you’d think they might at least want to check on that…

  2. Zoe October 19, 2010 / 4:09 am

    Wow, thats scary about the doctor seeing tumour behind his eyes! My brothers cancer went unnoticed by doctors for quite a while, he had a lump but they kept telling him it was fine although he was almost unable to breathe at times and ended up in hospital emergency room.

    Finally he nutted off (as I understand because he was totally stressed out) and wouldn’t leave the doctors until they ordered more tests he said he would pay for…finally (at his expense-which is very unusual but doctors refused to do them otherwise since they thought it was in his head) they confirmed he had cancer and needed emergency treatment to save his vocal cords…hmpft…

    So hopefully you are fine, but you go girl! Don’t take no for an answer when it is causing you that much pain.

    • Meaghan October 19, 2010 / 4:13 am

      I don’t think I have a tumor. I don’t think I “have” anything in particular. Just severe headaches, the family curse. Every female on my mother’s side of the family has had them to one degree or another. Mom’s are worst of all and she had an MRI once that showed nothing out of the ordinary.

      A brain tumor will quickly run out of room in the skull and will start pushing towards the path of least resistance — meaning the eye openings. Which is why, in the later stages of the tumor, you can diagnose simply by looking into the eyes with one of those little flashlight thingys.

  3. J.A. Scrambles-Ashmole, Bart. October 19, 2010 / 10:53 am

    Two excellent “edge” books, each available in trade paperback: Daniel Paul Schreiber’s “Memoirs of My Nervous Illness,” and “From a Dark Room: the Inman Diary,” Arthur Inman, edited by Daniel Aaron. The latter is abridged from the two-volume set. I found the Barker translation of the Karinthy book to be rather indifferent.

    • Meaghan October 19, 2010 / 7:17 pm

      I find it difficult to check on the quality of a translation, since I can’t read any other languages besides English. I mean, sometimes the translation is obviously terrible with grammatical errors and stuff everywhere, but most times I wouldn’t notice the difference. If a book in translation seems wooden or dry, is it the author’s fault or the translator’s?

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