‘Do Something Amazing…’

My posts are pretty rare now that my rupture is nearly 2 years ago but it still continues to impact my life. My last MRA confirmed that the coils in my aneurysm are still where they should be and this year I wont need to make that trip to Cambridge that has felt so routine. We’ve used these trips to explore the city and we’ve visited some fantastic museums. I would quite like to visit Cambridge in the Summer though whether I get around to that before my final MRA in 3 years time is another matter.

Before the rupture ironically I had been feeling better than I had done in a long time. My daily headaches were being successfully treated and my energy levels were picking up, probably because my medication gave me an incredible nights sleep! I was beginning to think about donating blood again after having to stop due to health reasons.

I first gave blood during my lunch break when I was at sixth form. One of my friends said that she was so I decided to go too. It felt like the right thing to do and although I was only 17 I thought one day I would want children and that would involve a lot of blood tests so maybe it would be less scary if I voluntarily gave up my blood. The first time was the hardest and I did feel light-headed and weird so they kept an eye on me. I had the obligatory biscuit and I think I even got a sticker! I soon perked up and went back to college. The next few times were a lot easier as my body became used to it and I actually felt quite proud that I could do this and actively encouraged others to do it.

With my A Levels complete I had to make special trips to donate so I would take the bus into town and then one day I turned up and they tested my blood and I was borderline anemic so I couldn’t donate. I felt disappointed. I had made a special trip to do a good deed and my blood wasn’t good enough. It was a while before I dared try again as I didn’t want to waste anyones time including my own. I donated once or twice more before I had babies and I breezed all those blood tests but my iron levels plummeted post birth.

I always assumed it would be something I did again and recently when I heard that someone was disappointed that they couldn’t donate as their ‘blood wasn’t good enough’ I encouraged them not to be disheartened and try again. It’s fantastic that anyone would give up their time and blood in hope to help someone in need. I thought I really must get around to donating again.

The day before yesterday I found out that I am no longer able to give blood. Via Instagram I saw that someone who had suffered a brain hemorrhage was turned away and it hit me. I can’t give blood. I did a quick check on the website and there is was confirmed,

Brain Aneurysm: Aneurysm

We are very sorry but sadly you are not able to donate blood.

This is either for the safety of yourself in giving blood or for the safety of patients that receive your blood.


My heart sunk. I can’t help anymore.

The only thing I could think that I could do is take to my keyboard and ask others to go in my place.


Tea and Botox

I’ve spent the entire weekend feeling like I’ve been smacked against the right side of my face with a spade. But I’ve ploughed on, I’ve worked, I’ve mummed and I’m ready for the day job tomorrow.

The pain isn’t always as bad as it has been this weekend but these attacks are becoming more and more frequent as my current medication is failing. Last week I saw… lets call him Dr. Pain. For the second time. My best friend asked if Dr. Pain was gorgeous, only she could ask such a question but no he is not, he is a little scary if I’m honest. Dr. Pain does pain. His mission is find the cause and interrupt the pain signals. Last time he jabbed me in the head and neck with painful injections that didn’t work. He said he was disappointed but I can assure you no one was as disappointed as me. So this time he jabbed me with what felt like a million injections all over forehead and neck and back of my head and upper back. ‘How was that?’ He said, ‘because you seemed to deal with that pretty well, most girls say they can’t understand how anyone could have it cosmetically’. I replied that I have a high pain threshold. I have no idea how anyone could voluntarily have Botox. It was brutal.

I left feeling hopeful and a little self conscious that my face resembled a pin cushion. On closer inspection it did.

The Botox could take a week to work, I’m now on day 5 and in the middle of a particularly bad attack and feeling less hopeful than I was on day 1. Also I can’t move anything above my eyes. Imagine the tightness you get after sunburn and that is my forehead.

I don’t know life without pain anymore, where most people say to me, oh I never get headaches. I am more, oh I never don’t get headaches. And it’s really harsh of me but when people say, oh I’ve got such a bad headache today, I think you have no idea, I have had a headache for over a year. Sorry that really is not a dig at anyone in particular as I realise it’s highly irrational and not very kind but when you’re at your wits end, have tried various medications and methods it’s hard to remain rational at times.

There are some who seem to think that my headaches have magically disappeared (I wish they had) What are you still getting those? Yes just because I don’t publish a headache related Minion meme every other minute to my Facebook or update my status, ‘I have such a bad headache today please send hugs’ doesn’t mean that it has all stopped Instead I thought I’d make a public announcement in the form of my not so frequent blog on living post brain trauma and I shall leave you with a helpful list of guidelines on how to deal with my headache grumpiness:

Q. Is it caffeine? You’re always drinking tea

A. Just make me a cup of tea.


Q. Do you drink enough water?

A. Yes I drink loads of water. Now make me some tea.


Q. Have you taken anything for it?

(This one varies as I avoid taking too many pain killers and only take them at very bad times)

A1. No it’s pointless, painkillers don’t work very well but a cup of tea would be nice

A2. Only 2 ibuprofen with codeine and a couple of paracetamol and that smell? That’s the magic balm one of the girls from work gave me. Yes a cup of tea would be very good.


Q. Is it stress?

A. Likely, my life over the past 8 years could be compared to that of a character from Neighbours. I’m British, everyone knows the best way to ease stress is a nice cup of tea.

Q. Is it related to your aneurysm?

A. The Drs don’t seem to think so but then they don’t make me tea so I’m not sure whether I trust them.

Day in day out

This originally started as a Facebook status but it was getting so long and detailed that I thought I would blog as I don’t keep up with this anymore.

Some people seem to be surprised that I still have headaches. I assume that they think I’m doing ok perhaps because I just tend to get on with things and do my best to ignore the pain. The pain is always there, day in day out. I live with the constant pain in m head. Usually its manageable although I do wish it wasn’t there and I can’t remember what it feels like to not have a headache.

This happens every now and then, which leads me to up my medication before it levels off and the pain becomes manageable again. When the pain subsides I will have a couple of ‘hangover’ days. It’s a strange feeling where you can feel where the headache was but the pain isn’t so bad. A bit like a healing bruise I suppose. It’s a physical sensation but unlike when you stub your toe you can’t reach the source of the pain as it’s buried deem inside my head.

When I get to this stage it drives me crazy and I become desperate to become pain-free. I try really hard for it to not get in the way of my life, to ‘power through’ as I like to say, but when you can’t make it through a days work it is apparent that my headaches are affecting my day-to-day living.


I had planned on getting a blog post up for my Aneurysm Anniversary but somehow an entire month has passed. Life has just gotten in the way and although my aneurysm rupture will have forever changed me it doesn’t define me any longer as it did a year ago.

I’ve had a lot people say to me, ‘I can’t believe it’s been year’ ‘where does time go?’ ‘Doesn’t time fly’. Time has indeed flown and if any thing that my rupture has taught me is that I am very lucky to have had that time. I’ve even dared imagine what life my children could have had over the last year if things didn’t work out.


How how do you feel about it being a year ago, does it feel weird?

Does it bring back bad memories? In all honesty it doesn’t really feel real. If I could compare it to anything it would be a bit like an episode of ‘Undercover Boss’. It was like I was dressed up in pyjamas and dropped into someone else’s life. I don’t know if it was the amount of painkillers I was taking or because I was surrounded by patients who were far worse off than me. I had my own little corner in rehab where I would Instagram my hospital meals, drink tea when it appeared and watch day time TV. The lady in the next bay wasn’t even conscious and her family would gather around her bedside and talk to her. Her partner would bring her nice things and hold her hand. The lady opposite had been there for several months. I felt like a bit of a fake, like I was in disguise. Did it really all happen?

No it didn’t feel weird or bring back bad memories but oddly enough brought back happy memories. Of course having a Dr. kneel down to your eye level and tell you that your migraine is actually a bleed on the brain and you’re being shipped off to another hospital was not all that happy, having a brain surgeon tell you could die wasn’t up there with Disneyland but the aftermath was something else. Meeting all the wonderful nurse’s, Daisy strutting around and making my bed so beautifully I had to take a photo, Fev and his stories of fishing with grenades and the young nurse who was so loud I could hear from the next room, I can’t remember her name but she was so vibrant. I have of course always valued our NHS but my ‘Undercover Boss’ moment truly opened my eyes to how amazing it can be.

What was especially uplifting was the amount of support I received. The thoughtful gifts that lifted my spirits. I spent over an hour chatting to my little brother on the phone, something we would never usually do. It was a good job I had a window bay because I needed somewhere to display all my cards. Each day everyone would wait for my ‘selfie’ or hospital food picture and it was reading all the comments and well wishes that got me through each day. One friend even requested a ‘toilet selfie’ to mark the anniversary which of course I obliged.


Is an Aneurysm Anniversary or ‘Ani-versary’ something to be celebrated?

There’s only way to mark an anniversary in my book and that is with cake. My work colleagues were an incredible support from the start. We laugh about it now but I had a text from a friend asking if I could swap a day and I replied saying could I let him know later as I was currently in an ambulance. Apparently he then had some kind of meltdown. I may well have been on Oramorph at the time. When I brought my anniversary cake into work I had various reactions. One embraced the celebration and took me out for Prosecco after work (my kinda girl). Others looked at me sideways and thought it an odd thing to celebrate. Is it really odd to celebrate living?

Has it affected your life?

Around a third don’t survive a subarachnoid hemorrhage, a third are left with life changing conditions and a third go on like me. Don’t quote me on those figures, this is just information I’ve picked up a long the way. I returned to work after just two months, some survivors will never work again. It wasn’t easy returning to work and took 2 more months before I was working normal hours. Recovery was slow, working again was difficult I’d lost a lot of weight and a lot of strength. I pushed and pushed myself and it’s only recently that I’ve realised that no, my health is not the same. Someone could sneeze in the next room and I will get that cold. I am averaging a cold a month this year, my most recent one lasted over 2 weeks and I felt so so tired. Life a year on has more or less slipped back to its original self but without sugar in my tea.

Are your headaches anything to do with it?

I am told no. I was being treated for daily chronic headaches for 2 years before the rupture. I was taking Amitriptyline to treat those but due to having surgery and that particular medication is an epileptic. initially I wanted to go back on it but the side effects are brutal and I’ve never felt strong enough to deal with them. I have come to the understanding that most people can’t grasp that I always have a headache. I have had a headache every single day for a year. I am The Lady With The Headache! Fortunately I finally found a GP who decided to act and refer me to neurology, my last appointment involved being stabbed in the neck in head with needles, at first I thought it had worked but it hasn’t. A huge number of people living with unruptured aneurysms and treated anneurysms seem to experience a large number of headaches and migraines and yet many are told that they are unrelated. It is quite unnerving suffering headaches day in day out because there is always that scary thought that there’s something sinister lurking in your brain to cause them. Part of me thinks that perhaps if my headaches had been investigated sooner, then I may have had a scan which showed up my aneurysm and it may have been treated accordingly before it exploded. Treating an unruptured anneurysm is easier and less risky than one which has blown.

A year ago I needed this blog, it assisted my recovery and I hoped that it may reach people who were going through similar, I am pleased to report that I did reach people. I also wanted to spread a little awareness. I had heard of brain aneurysms before my rupture but I always thought that they were an instant killer. I didn’t realise that it was possible to survive one and I certainly didn’t consider myself at risk. I don’t wish it didn’t happen, it was a life experience that taught me a lot. I think it was more scary for my family and friends than me because I was living in my hospital bubble. The real struggle came when I left the bubble and the painkillers weren’t on tap.

I had a follow-up MRI in October and never got the results, I just have to assume that no news is good news. I should have another this October and a third 5 years after the rupture day. After that I just hope that my aneurysm behaves itself.

2016 – The year my brain exploded

It is quite commonplace for people to become reflective of the year gone by as they enter into a new one. Many are glad to see the back of it and are keen to move on in hope that the 12 months ahead will be brighter. Some gain a new sense of optimism. Some set themselves challenges and targets. Others remain sceptical and don’t see what the fuss is about.

Last year I set myself one new years resolution which was highly achievable. It was to wear earrings. I used to love earrings and still have a vast collection but when Jedi arrived it soon became a struggle to wear them as wandering baby hands would threaten to detach my ears from the side of my face (or at least rip my ear lobes open). I would not feel dressed unless I was wearing one or more of my many pairs of earrings.

Well I failed that new years resolution within a few days and plodded on with the rest of my year but just four and half months in my year was turned upside down, no I didn’t start wearing earrings but I do wish I had set my new years resolution to quit taking sugar in my tea!

Some people take pity, I hear, ‘with all you’ve been through’, ‘what a terrible year’ etc. Do you know what though? It’s been the most incredible year! Because there is nothing quite like waking up after life saving surgery to make you realise actually how lucky you are.


What I went through was ‘an emotional rollercoaster’ (I do so hate that term) I went from being on my knees to being hauled up again, falling into pain to being made better only to be told my brain was bleeding but it might not be that bad before being told I will die if I don’t have surgery and that surgery could save me but it might not but it did and I lived in my hospital bubble only to face the reality of home and not having oramorph on tap and ending up back in and then I came home and things levelled out.

Several rupture survivors I have spoken to do not regret what they have been through, even those who now live with life altering conditions. More seem to have been quite accepting of their ‘journey’ (hate that term too) with very few saying that they wish it never happened.

This is how I see it:

It is highly likely that when I was born, a smidge over 33 years ago, that fault was already wired. I lived with it unknowingly for a little over 32 years. It just sat there and then for some reason the fault exploded, a bit like one of those dodgy smart phone batteries. Many people are born with brain faults also known as Brain aneurysms but for most it doesn’t pose a risk, they live to an old age and it never explodes. There are a few risk factors, smoking, excessive drinking, obesity, being female and your chances increase over the age of 45 but my aneurysm decided to explode over 10 years too soon after a cup of tea on a spring morning. I was told, ‘it’s just one of those things’. It was just one of those things that was destined to happen in my life time and it was predetermined, there was literally nothing I could do to have stopped it from happening.

Now, as already outlined in my blog there was a sequence of events that happened that should have happened to prevent me from receiving the amazing, life saving and life changing treatment from our incredible genius surgeons over at Addenbrooke’s hospital. But for every incident that should have stood in the way, something counteracted it. Many people have said, ‘it wasn’t your time’.

Firstly, the aneurysm decided to explode on a day that I was supposed to be at work but I had taken holiday meaning that I was home a lone. BUT thankfully an Annie Lennox song played on the radio and my sister-in-law next door can’t abide her music so switched it off meaning she heard my yelling and screaming.

Secondly, the paramedics decided I had a migraine BUT the GP they spoke to on the phone said I needed hospital treatment and should be taken in. They said she was fobbing them off.

The staff at A&E department at the NNUH branded me, ‘The lady with the headache’ and the Dr. there got the discharge papers ready BUT another Dr. popped his head around the curtain and said he wasn’t happy and within the space of 1 hour he had me in a CT scan, examined it, leaned at my bedside to tell me that there was blood on my brain, arranged a bed at Addenbrooke’s and an ambulance to get me there. My Knight in shining armour.

Like everyone says, ‘it wasn’t my time’.

Two months after I was back at work and my life started to return to normal and that is why 2016 has been the most incredible year. What an amazing honour to be able to return to my normal life and if anyone asks, the only lasting effect from my rupture was that my taste buds were severely screwed up whilst my brain was healing and I developed a dislike for sweet things meaning I no longer have sugar in my tea. I lived a fraction of my life chronically ill, I first hand experienced the amazing things our NHS does for people, the care and attention the nurses in neuroscience keep giving. I do hope that Daisy enjoyed her baby’s first Christmas. I asked my surgeons stupid question even though they’re a real life version of Dr. Strange. I watched the cleaner who only seemed to be responsible for metal things, he dusted the bed mechanisms and curtain rails. I met people whose lives were changed forever and I feel grateful that mine has changed only for the better. One of the biggest eye openers was the brief experience that I lived my life alongside those with an invisible illness. I had eye-opening conversations with those who live out their entire lives looking ‘normal’ and I encouraged one lady at the Travis gig I went to, to request a chair and to next time skip the queue like I had arranged. Of course next time I will have the absolute privilege to queue.

So what did I achieve in 2016?

I survived brain surgery and quit sugar from my tea.


The Elf on The Shelf

A Christmas Tradition A Seasonal Battle


image from Amazon



It was around September that ’25 new and different Elf on the Shelf ideas’ started filtering into my Pinterest feed. The same ‘new and different’ ideas I have seen circulating for the last few years usually involving throwing flour on the floor and chucking your undies into the Christmas tree. Three years ago I thought this was a great fun idea to entertain my small children and get into the Christmas spirit but there were many aspects that never sat comfortably with me.

The Elf on the Shelf – A Christmas Tradition was written and self published by in 2004 by Carol Aebersold and daughter Chanda Bell (Wikipedia) and it comes as no surprise that it never really took off until 4 years later when the book won an award as this ‘tradition’ relies on parents engaging in some kind of social media competition, a bit like an ice bucket challenge or no make-up selfie. To market this book as ‘A Christmas Tradition’ intrigued me. I instantly thought thst there must be an American tradition whereby a decorative elf sits on his or her shelf keeping a watchful eye on the goings on. I can’t find any information on this ‘tradition’ (please correct me if I’m wrong). A tradition implies that something has been done before. My family always said something only had to be repeated for it to become tradition. ie. If we had a curry banquet for Christmas dinner 2 years in a row the following year it would be our traditional Christmas dinner although a tradition is usually considered a custom or belief that is passed from generation to generation (Oxford Dictionaries). If we go by the latter definition then ‘The Elf on the Shelf’ can’t be a Christmas tradition can it?

The first thing that doesn’t sit easy with me is the idea of the use of a self righteous inanimate object watching children be children and winging their way back to the North Pole to report back on good or bad behaviour. I dislike the empty threats upon children that if they don’t tidy their Lego/put their coat on/stop hitting their brother then Father Christmas will not be visiting this year. Has anyone in the history of Christmas threats ever actually carried out the punishment? I doubt it as it would be a punishment on the entire family not just the child who won’t eat his or her dinner or slides on their knees down the supermarket aisle. I can’t think of anything worse than Jedi waking up Christmas morning with nothing whilst his little brother tucks into his chocolate coins (I say Jedi as he’s more trouble than Meow-Cat). In any case should we not be encouraging good behaviour all year-long and I am progressively finding this time of year harder to control them. Kicks in the face, rough and tumble play gone wrong, arguments on whether they watch DanTDM or Hobby Kids TV on YouTube have become more frequent as the weather restricts pavement play, the pressure of school as we reach the end of term and the Christmas hype is driving them up the wall.

A few weeks ago I posted on Facebook, ‘Is it just me who is dreading the return of their Elf on the Shelf?’ Turns out I wasn’t alone and I was replied to with many comments of elf trauma. I wasn’t the only one who had found themselves settled into bed, turned out the light, was snug as a bug only to sit bolt up right with the impending sense of doom, I FOROT TO MOVE THE ELVES! Or worse wake up in the morning to the sound of the boys excitedly running down the stairs, ‘I wonder what the elves have done today?!’ Only to hear a disappointed ‘oh’. Mummy fail. If there’s anything I have learned over the last few years is that I am rubbish at this game. Which brings me to my second thing that doesn’t sit easy. I don’t like bad behaviour. Introducing a badly behaved mythological creature into the house just seems insane. Do I have time to clean up a mess that I created? I share my home with three boys, two who leave their shoes in the middle of the kitchen, drop their dinner on the floor and tread mud through the living room just after I’ve vacuumed. The third should know better, better known as The Husband and the one who treads sock fluff into the bedroom carpet and uses door corners as coat hangers. I do NOT need to sweep up flour that I purposely scattered, replace miniature boxer shorts into the drawer, I can’t create zip wires out of dental floss and smearing toothpaste on the mirror is so wasteful. Don’t get me started on chocolate drop poo and fishing in the toilet, that can’t be hygienic.

I’ve always tried to centre our Elf on the Shelf antics around good deeds and family time creating good behaviour with good behaviour. In November the elves wrote to the boys with instructions on how to complete the reverse advent calendar which has been trending on social media, they wrote again to congratulate them on their good work and sent tickets to see the Christmas lights at Thursford Christmas Spectacular. They were excited to see the letters and I felt excited for them even though I was secretly dreading the return of our elves.


Last night our elves descended from the North Pole (which is situated in the top of our wardrobe) and I lovingly set them up with the new Lego Star Wars advent calendar which I had bought weeks in advance as they tend to sell out so quickly and was carefully stashed away under our bed. I heard Meow-Cat ask Jedi, ‘Have you seen our other advent calendar?’ followed by a gruff ‘yeah…’ in reply from Jedi. And this response has made me want to pack those elves up and send them straight back to the North Pole or the wardrobe or maybe even better get Boba Fett to banish them to the loft.

The first gift inside the Lego Star Wars advent calendar was a mini Slave I


Buddy Box

Ever since my GP told me that it’s likely that I will be on medication forever to treat my headaches it made me think.

  1. Do I want to be on medication forever, forever is a very long time!

  2. Is he really trying to help me?

  3. This isn’t right.

I don’t know whether my hemorrhage gave me a new super power of confidence but it suddenly occurred to me that this isn’t right. I shouldn’t be feeling this way. I have been on medication for so long and I don’t want to be. For some it may be the right course and I respect this but I have reached a point where I don’t want this. I have seen a couple of different GPs since. One was open to alternative therapies, suggesting Indian Head Massage which I have tried and it was wonderful. The second said, you’re only 32, it’s a long time to be on medication for and referred me to Neurology. After two and a half years it felt like a relief to be told that this isn’t right.

Since the eye-opening moment I have been looking at ways to ease my headaches. There doesn’t seem to be a cause that I can pinpoint. No triggers. I say that I’ve been suffering for two and half years but that only counts the moment that they started occurring every single day. I remember getting them at high school a lot and at college. I remember getting a migraine in the middle of the night when I was at uni and not being able to move. I remember getting a migraine at work and my manager not believing me and in between customers I would curl up into ball on the floor behind the counter. A photo appeared in my Mum’s Facebook memories and I said I remember that day, I had a bad headache and felt ill.

I truly am the lady with the headache.

Some remedies are easier to try out than others. I’ve heard of that ear-piercing that’s supposed to help but that seems quite extreme although my sister said she’d come too! apparently showering in a certain baby wash is also supposed to be good. Both I’ve yet to try.

I’ve mentioned before that I hate the change of season from Summer to Autumn. It makes me feel physically sick as Summer ends. I don’t hate Autumn itself I hate what comes next and that Spring feels so far away. I find myself filling the season with things to look forward to. We booked to go to Legoland, we visited BeWILDerwood for Halloween, we have had a January family holiday booked at Center Parcs since we came home earlier this year. All these things distract my attention and help me look forward.

In September a post by the Blurt Foundation appeared in my Facebook newsfeed and it caught my eye outlining their ‘Buddy Box’ scheme. A package of self-care surprises. The Blurt Foundation is a support network for those suffering mental illness. Fortunately the dark days of depression are behind me but the thought of going back there scares the hell out of me. As we were approaching October, my least favourite month of the year I thought I’d treat myself to one of these ‘Buddy Boxes’ because I LOVE surprises. As a child the Christmas presents I looked forward to the most were those from Father Christmas. We would get a pillow case filled with practical and fun small gifts. Some were predictable, every year we would get bubble bath and I loved this. There would be chocolates, underwear, small toys and as I got older a Smirnoff Ice! Father Christmas visited me until I was about 20, I must have been very very good. October’s ‘Buddy Box’ promised to be something cozy. With the drop in temperature promised and the days darkening this sounded perfect so I pre-ordered one. When it arrived I was surprised because I didn’t know when to expect it and I couldn’t wait to open the present to myself. I went on to order November’s too and I have a confession to make, I love the way they are wrapped in their pretty little box that I have kept them that way and now have 2 hot chocolate sticks to enjoy.

October and November’s Buddy Box goodies


Being more self-care aware has opened my eyes further. I realised that being a mum of 2 boys, a wife, both employed and self-employed there are very few moments to look after number one and when I do I come under scrutiny. What’s with the essential oils? What’s the hippy tea all about? When I was in hospital for two weeks it was the first time in many years that I was being looked after. As an adult I don’t expect to be looked after but isn’t it lovely when someone does, no one else is going to surprise me so I may as well surprise myself.