memoirs, art and fragments by Thomas Milner

Posts tagged ‘brain tumour’

Life is a roller-coaster

After being struck down for the first time with one of these cerebral tumors, for a while my life slipped through a series of dramatic cracks in time.

I was on a roller-coaster.

Stomach-churning plunges into the broiling abyss were followed by heart-soaring rushes, like a lark I soared into the great blue yonder. I was the pebbly sandy tide surging forward and then being dragged back at the mercy of the moon.

Hospitals and care-homes witnessed my triumphs and then my falls from grace. I was convulsed, my limbs twitching in spasms before being medicated back onto the dreary plane.

In short, I was not my usual self.

I went back to work after the first time – you’re cured, mate, the doctors said, and indeed I believed that I was. The habit of control was still strong in me and I itched to take up the reigns again. We agreed Lisbon and I, that I would not have a regular teaching schedule but that I would do the odd private student and ease myself back in gently.

No such luck, no sooner had I allocated all the intensive courses (it was September, the last the three summer-course months) than I got a call from Lisbon: could I possibly give an hour a day in-company to the three young probationers who worked in the Chambers of the Company Lawyer, which happened to be located in the Rua dos Clerigos?

So next day after lunch I went round to the office which was housed on an entire restored floor of an old 18th century stone building in the old historic part of Porto. The offices were extremely tastefully restored, laying bare the original granite where possible, white walls and gleaming polished wooden floor with minimal furniture; one waited on a low chunky sofa and leafed through glossy art catalogues from Sotheby’s and Christie’s; the collection of paintings displayed discreetly around the reception was dominated by a large sea-battle-scape featuring the blowing up of the French flag-ship L’Orient at the battle of the Nile, one of Nelson´s decisive fleet engagements leading up to Trafalgar. It was a glorious painting in a rich carved gold frame signed by an artist at the top of his game – Sir William Beechey R.A

(I could have committed murder for that painting).

So I started going there every day after lunch to increase the language skills of the three charming young lawyers. I found that, decrepit as I felt myself to be, at least I had not lost the ability to make women laugh – that particular chip in my brain had remained intact. From time to time I chatted with their boss, a tall, burly urbane gentleman, whom I already knew slightly (he was our company lawyer) and expressed my admiration for his Beechey. I mentioned diffidently that the same painter had executed a full-length portrait of a member of my family, an earlier and much simpler work painted in 1794 at the beginning of Beechey’s career before he got his knighthood and became a member of the Royal Academy.

MAJOR GAMALIEL MILNER of BURTON GRANGE attr William Beechey

As for the language course, it turned out one might say satisfactory and my life settled back onto an even keel.

Invisible Paintings

AN INVISIBLE EXHIBITION - by THOMAS MILNER

Since last Thursday there has been a little show of my paintings up in the entrance hall.

So far, not only has no one commented on them, but I don’t believe that anyone has even noticed them, which certainly puts me in my place, doesn’t it?

I do believe that I’ve discovered the formula for producing an invisible painting.

What you do is the following:

First you contrive your life in such a way as to end up in an Old People’s Home full of nice, but culturally innocent, inmates.

Then you take a sheet specially treated A4-size gummed paper and with a pencil in your right hand (because you’re experiencing slight tremors/twitches/tremblings/spasms/shakes etc.on the right side of your body because your tumor was on the left side of your brain) and sketch vague lines and shapes in the hope that eventually they get to resemble something or other (anything will do) so that you can later impute an intention or purpose.

Next, with your paint-brush in your right hand, you apply various coloured tinctures, water colours (acrilics only to be deployed in an emergency) onto the prepared surface to see how it turns out and with any luck you’ll produce a painting.

Repeat this periodically over several months and then, and this is the tricky part, get someone to group them together and display them on a large stand in the entrance hall.

Et voilá, there you have it – invisible paintings (painted by The Incredible Shrinking Man).

ANOTHER INVISIBLE EXHIBITION - by THOMAS MILNER

A star is born

MY BRAIN - PAINTING by THOMAS MILNER

Meningiomas are a diverse set of brain tumors arising from the meninges, the membranous layers surrounding the central nervous system.

Monday June 28th 2010

I’m feeling a bit nervous today about my consultation at the hospital when I will receive the results of the MRI brain-scan that I had last month, despite various assurances from people claiming to have some inside knowledge of the workings of God’s mind (Deus é Grande).

I sit in the doctor’s office while he intently studies the images on the screen (while I intently study his face). He is taking longer than usual: no, he concludes, the brain is clean …

(whew! what a relief!)

… but you do have a new one forming, its tiny, nothing to worry about for now.

He points out, on the contrast-imaging, a white speck of light on the black perimeter of my brain.

I am crestfallen and struggle to maintain my equilibrium.

Great, I think bitterly, that’s all I needed – another bleeding little star is born.

ANOTHER STAR IS BORN

 

Please allow me to introduce myself

Please allow me to introduce myself, I’m a man of wealth and taste … thus the opening words of a famous song from my youth – Sympathy for the Devil by the Rolling Stones.

Not particularly wealthy and of uncertain taste, I am an Englishman in late middle-age who, over the last eight years, has endured three brain operations to remove benign but aggressive brain tumours. For reasons, which will in time become clear, I have somehow managed to end up in an Old People’s Home in the north of Portugal overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.

I didn’t survive unscathed however; after the second procedure (six years ago) I was left with what the surgeons rather euphemistically described as a slight deficit in my right side.

I couldn’t even sign my own name! Part of my rehabilitation therapy was to draw and paint for about an hour each day.

I also had lapses of memory and after a long while in a very dark place I pulled myself together – It’s sauve qui peut in this place (pardon my French), I thought – and began to tap out with one finger my memories in order to fix them in my mind.

So here, in this slightly strange and surreal place, I produced and (self)published my book THE WAITING ROOM.

What therapy! What catharsis! I can’t recommend it enough for fellow victims – your memories will lead you into rich meadows in which you may graze at will …

COURAGE

(Pardon my French)

S.JORGE - PAINTING by THOMAS MILNER

Don’t Give Up!

Ancient Chinese wisdom has it that a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.

This could a mantra for all rehabilitation therapists treating the victims of strokes, partial paralysis or indeed any form of physical trauma.

So, my fellow victims, we all have good days and bad days (and at the beginning they’re mostly bad) but my message to you is simple – don’t give up!

The Invisible Exhibition

picture of paintings by Thomas Milner

Photo of exhibition

Since Thursday there has been a little show of my paintings up in the entrance hall. So far, not only has no one commented on them, but I don’t believe that anyone has even noticed them. I do believe that I’ve discovered the formula for producing an invisible painting. What you do is the following: first you contrive your life in such a way as to end up in an Old People’s Home full of nice, but culturally innocent, inmates. Then you take your brush in your right hand and apply various coloured tinctures on a prepared surface (usually paper) to form a design – a series of lines, shades and shapes, which might result in a «painting». Repeat this periodically over several months and then, and this is the tricky part, get someone to group them together and display them on a large stand in the entrance hall. And there you have it – invisible paintings (painted by an invisible man).

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