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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The brain jam


6 AM Ah! that's OK. I've been ferried to the bathroom, returned and have a little time when no-one is likely to bother me much.

[That's how far I got with that. To return to what I was writing yesterday and the day before....]


I did a lot of fishing in my life BC, but this isn't about fishing. Good fisherfolk have a number of admirable qualities, two of which are calm and patience.

   My first fishing expeditions were with a hand-line on a coke-bottle. No fancy rod and reel, just 75 metres of fine line, swivel, sinker and my savvy.

   From time to time my line got tangled. Untangling a fishing line depends upon one vital principle - keeping the knot loose. Then examine it. That's where calm and patience come in. More haste, usually less speed. Lose your temper and strangle the knot, and you've probably wrecked a good hand-line.

   I've always felt that a lot of problems in life can be approached using the same principles.

   I'm not certain how this relates to what I'm going to say next but I'm not sure it matters. I don't care really and you can't keep a problem looser than that.

   As you may be aware, a new problem quite suddenly came to the fore as a consequence of the spread of this brain tumour down the neural pathways. New to me, anyway, but no doubt familiar to the neurologist and to most GPs.

   It’s called dysphasia. In my case the cognitive area of my brain – the part that does the thinking – is going along at a fairly reasonable pace right now. Other parts are really running on empty or there are traffic jams in information waiting to be processed. Some lanes are freed suddenly only to get blocked again.

   If I didn't have this condition I would never have understood it, except on a superficial level. You have to be inside it. I know, you can say that nearly anything, but this is dysphasia and it's sure stuffing things up for me.

   In my ability to communicate via keyboard, it’s crippling.
Imagine for a start that someone reconfigured the keys on your keyboard randomly every minute or two as you were typing.
...that some letters in words you were typing failed to come up on the screen when you were sure you typed them.
...that totally different letters appeared on the screen bearing no relation to what you typed.
...that the Backspace and the Return keys regularly changed function.
...that a particular letter never came up on the screen.
...that even though you knew it was the wrong letter, you typed it anyway.
...that characters and words come out scrambled although they left the thinking part of your brain intact.

   Suddenly, that's my world. Familiar territory for the dyslexic no doubt. For me that's just the half of it. Couple that with failing eyesight [through seizures] that makes full stops look like commas or semicolons or apostrophes. Memory quirks and fails that make me forget where I am in a word or sentence, let alone in a thought.

   Touch type? I've been reduced to typing with just one hand because of right side semi-paralysis. Forget those ancient skills. I never was a touch typist but I used to type almost as fast as one.

   Voice recognition? With throat and mouth seizures, my voice is slurred and variable. No.

   There is one partial let-out clause. If I spell everything out loud, one character at a time, slowly, then it translates tolerably well. That does nothing for creativity, but at least it is correctable with another editorial pass over the text and made readable. It may be rubbish, but it's readable rubbish.

   So getting back to my fishing line analogy, all I can do in my outlook is to keep the knots loose. Be patient. Sacrifice some goals for the sake of others. Accept the limitations caused by this new condition, work around them where possible and be content with smaller fish.


  1. Denis, I truly love your ability to take the time to untangle what must feel like a mobius strip of gorgons knots, to share your thoughts with us. :-) My day is always richer for it. Thinking of you mate.

  2. A post that took a long, long time. Clear as a bell. So much struggle. As you untangle the knot the page count tops 400,000.

    I will miss you.


  3. It feels very aboriginal to me, Den. My Goolarabooloo friends in the Kimberley, WA say: "Whatever happens....happens...".
    You demonstrate with sublime grace some kind of vital lesson in acceptance...making the best of a bad lot....going with the flow....patience...keeping the knot loose...and being contented with smaller fish.
    What in the hell are we going to do without you - and your clarity of thought? (Rhetorical question only).

  4. Denis, you continue to make more sense than most people I know. The objective insights you provide into your condition are profound, not only as clinical descriptions, but in showing the ultimate possibilities of the human spirit. Love to you and Tracey.

  5. Denis, I have read posts and typed and retyped comments more often than I care to recount. Nothing ever seems to do you justice. I will say no more except this; I would have liked to have known you better.

  6. I used to make my living unscrambling and deciphering the scratches and scrawls of my betters and presenting the text back to them in clean, crisp, typeface. Denis, if you want to email me some of your garbled text, I'd be delighted to try to work out what you are saying and email it back to you.

    I can't imagine how frustrating it must be for an intact mind to observe the loss of the functions so necessary for communication. If there is anything I can do to help, I'll do it.

  7. Denis, I am in awe of every post you publish. I have a very mild form of dyslexic and it drives me around the bend. So thank you for the fishing line analogy. I'll work hard on keeping those knots loose :)

  8. Denis, I read your blog for your wonderful thoughts and words. I don't mind typos and rogue apostrophes. Anne P

  9. Denis, your 'smaller fish' are exquisite and still as big as whales. xox.

  10. Denis, the affect of this horrid tumour on someone like you - someone with such rich communication skills - must be utterly frustrating. It's times like these that I wish we had developed artificial communication systems that we could control at our own will to help translate our thoughts into text and words.

    I remain in awe of your courage and willingness to share.

    Jane Curtain.

  11. so greatful to be able to continue reading this blog each day, to be able to learn a bit more about life, and so much more about a beautiful person.
    despite everything that has happened and will happen, some knots will remain forever strong.

  12. Denis, you teach me something every time I read your blogs. When my 'unwelcome Friend' catches up with me I will remember to keep the knots lose, have patience(that will be a hard one for me) and I just love little fish. Thank you Denis for your words of wisdom, I am in awe of you....xx

  13. Yes, well everyone else has responded so beautifully for once in my life I have nothing to say! Just wanted you to know that as long as you're still writing I'm still reading.

  14. I already said it elsewhere, but I so appreciate your effort to coninue to communicate your progress. I can begin to imagine how frustrating it is, but after the beginning, I know I wouldn't even come close to understanding; this is one of those "you had to be there" experiences.

    I hope you are still able to communicate in some form (for you own sake & needs!) so long as you have cognition; to be otherwise would *really* be unimaginable.

    Much love,

    Pegs. XXXOOO


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