Monthly Archives: May 2017

A bit of a headache – the sequel

Sequels are never as good as the originals: Jaws 2 (that beach resort was pretty unlucky); The Jewel of the Nile (spoiler: there was no actual jewel); Basic Instinct 2 (yep, there was a sequel); Speed 2 (admit it, you’ve seen it); Dirty Dancing 2 (we do not talk about Dirty Dancing 2) … The list goes on. Countless hours of our lives that we will never get back. And they don’t even make good party talk.

Fortunately (for this blog post) there are exceptions to the rule, and there have been some great sequels. The favourite to the Star Wars trilogy is The Empire Strikes Back (I confess, Return of the Jedi is still my favourite from the original trilogy). Aliens kicked ass. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was wonderfully great. Grease 2 was way more of a cool rider than the first.

There is some hope.

Last October I had a little operation on my sinuses. A small ‘balloon’ was pushed up one of my nasal passageways and then expanded. The hope was to enlarge the passageway in my nostril, allowing the snot to flow freely down and out and to release the pressure in my head. For 16 months prior to this operation I had chronic sinusitis. 16 months of a headache. 16 months of pain, pressure, tiredness, and aching eyeballs. 16 months.

The snot didn’t flow freely. The release never came.

That small gloop was thought to be the cause of tremendous pressure in my head for the last 16 months. A balloon was inserted and expanded. The blob went. The pain stayed.


It’s an odd thing trying to describe something to someone who has never experienced it. Sinusitis is painful. For some people it is like an intense pressure headache for a week. Others feel pressure and pain just below their eyes. It can be caused by blockages: mucus getting stuck in cavities. My experience was a little more dramatic. Every day I had a headache. Not a normal headache. A headache where I would be more than happy if you got an electric drill and drilled just above my left eye to release the pressure.

Now it was 23 months. 23 months of a headache.

23 months.

As with all invisible illnesses, on the outside you can appear fine. But inside, every day, every minute, there is pain. The pain from the pressure is there everyday: it doesn’t go away. Sometimes it thumps. Sometimes it stabs. But it is always there. And there is nothing you can do. Sprays didn’t work. Drops were useless. Antibiotics didn’t touch it.

After the first balloon operation didn’t work, my surgeon (the expert on Jack the Ripper) booked me in for another, more ‘aggressive’ one. I am strangely proud how much he was fascinated with my sinus anatomy: “these nasal passages are the worst I have ever seen” he once told excitedly. At one point he tried to put a camera up my nostril, and after pushing it just half a centimetre up, he admitted defeat by saying “Nope. That’s not going up there.” My surgeon wanted to scoop out some of my bone in my sinuses to make my passageways bigger so they wouldn’t get blocked.

And so on Thursday last week, I went in and had my second surgery on my sinuses. I don’t know if other people get this, but I wake up from the general aesthetic feeling a little bit tipsy. The first person I saw when I woke up was a recovery nurse looking after me, and she looked like a Julie, so I insisted on calling her Julie (she was called Mel). I remember telling someone that “I look after dead things” – probably not the wisest of things to say in a hospital. Despite my silly behaviour, all the doctors, nurses and other hospital staff were fantastic and treated me with such good care. The NHS is a fantastic service and we are incredibly lucky to still have it.

The only thing left is the head to heal. It feels like an expert on Jack the Ripper has been up there. And I guess this will take time to heal. It really hurts across my entire forehead. One thing that I am still waiting for is the absorbent pack to come out. After the surgery was finished, they shoved some absorbent gel up my nose to help clot the blood. After 48 hours I was told to blow my nose and it should come out. Nothing has come out apart from a few tiny square jelly cubes covered in blood. It should come out soon. Otherwise I will have to go in see my surgeon again….

Well, let’s hope I don’t have to go through this to get that pack out from up my nose. (Clip from Total Recall, 1990).


Now I am at home, and have been in bed for the last four days, writing this blog post in short bursts – too long out of bed and I feel dizzy. Why am I writing this? Growing up I always knew that there were so many more people worse of than me, so I dealt with things by myself. I am now extremely crap with sympathy (and compliments) – I blush, my eye starts to twitch and water, and I can see my shirt rise from the ridiculous pumping of my heart. I am not writing this for sympathy or compliments (please – I hate it when my eye twitches).

(Incidentally, my eyes start to water because of kindness. They do it all the time. If I see some kindness in a shop, my eyes water. Watching the kindness of Jamie Lannister and Brienne of Tarth in Game of Thrones gets me every time. There is often ‘something in my eye’ if I am watching a film. Kindness will set the tears flowing.)

In my writing I normally like to include how much more we can appreciate the world by looking at the wildlife around us. I guess this post is more about noticing the people around us. We spend a massive amount of our day with work colleagues or alongside random people to and from work. We are all often so busy with our own worries or job pressures that we barely even notice someone behind the counter or next to us on the train. Take that second to say thank you to the person at the checkout, to stand up for the person on the train, to acknowledge if a colleague looks a little tiered. Life is short, yet you can make someone’s whole day so much better by just noticing.

To steal (and slightly change) a quote from one of my favourite (and most tear-jerking) films About Time, “live each day as if you’ve deliberately come back to this one day, to enjoy it, as if it was the full final day of your extraordinary, ordinary life.”

And thank goodness they haven’t made a sequel to About Time. That would be unforgiveable.


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