Happy birthday Gwen 2.1

22/03/2017: Another year to mark my good frenemy, Ralph. It’s been three years!! Three!! It’s nice to look back on this blog and see what life was like over the past three years; brains don’t like remembering bad stuff, so they blank it out. That’s why women are happy to go through pregnancy and labour again! But sometimes it’s nice to look back on when times were hard – that way you appreciate it when times are good so much more. The year has been a bit up and down, but thankfully I have only ended up in hospital for planned things – check up MRIs, follow ups with my neurosurgeon and neurologist and so on. I was reminded of how fortunate I am yesterday, on the eve of my “AVM-versary”. I was speaking to a patient on my ward and he was very obviously stiff and paralysed on one side. Without me asking, he explained that he had a brain haemorrage in the 90s, and he was now permanently in a wheelchair and disabled. Now as you can expect, I immediately have a heightened level of empathy for any patient that tells me they have had a brain haemorrhage. But this man particularly stuck with me, as a sad reminder of what my life might have and all that Ralph could still take away. Even if you haven’t had an earth shattering life event, it is so important to remember those little things in life you can be grateful for. In fact, if you are perfectly healthy it is even more important to be grateful. For the fact that you don’t have to think about how to socialise without being flooded by sensory stimuli. For the fact that you can talk to somebody in a noisy room and focus on what they’re saying. For the fact that you can still spontaneously decide to stay somewhere different without worrying about missing medication. For the fact that you can read something and listen to something at the same time. Quite frankly, for the fact that the biggest concern of your day might be how you’re out of milk and can’t have tea.

(To be fair, that last one is a pretty big concern of mine. I need to go shopping…)


As usual, life has been getting in the way with frequent blogging. So here is a round up of the events of the past 365 days. Further blog posts will be coming to expand on them!

  • I passed my 4th year exams (yay!) and went on an exciting elective doing neurosurgery in Vietnam and Australia, doing activities I never thought I could do (cliff diving – but don’t tell my neurosurgeon!)


    Here’s a picture of me pretending to be a neurosurgeon in Vietnam

  • I entered the final year of med school. Eek! Exams were taken and job applications were handed in. I am also on the committee for my university’s Neurosurgery Society. More on this later.
  • I got a place on Team England ParaCheer!! I’ve spoken before about my love for cheer; now I have an amazing opportunity to represent England at the cheerleading worlds on the world’s first integrated disabled and non-disabled cheer team. Watch this space!
  • Seizures started again after being quite well controlled, and epilepsy got worse. I was warned this might happen after gamma knife so this is what I thought. My neurologist agreed with me and increased my dose of anti-epileptic drugs. It’s working so far!
  • In December, I had a one year post-gamma knife MRI scan.
    • Then in February, my neurosurgeon updated me on the results (hence why I am Gwen 2.1, not Gwen 2.0. Still beta testing Gwen 2.1 though). Ralph is “slightly less obvious”. But definitely not worse!
  • Temporarily became paranoid that I was having another bleed. The paranoia about headaches and bleeds never truly goes away, especially when the headache was so bad it made me cry and a few days later I had similar symptoms to the last time I had a bleed – where everything tasted sweet. (Thankfully, this resolved after a few days).
  • Been allocated my deanery – now to rank the neurosurgery jobs as high as possible so I can get them, fingers crossed!
  • Accidentally (through no fault of my own… ish) went through sertraline withdrawal. This. Was. Awful. 10/10 do not recommend.
  • Last but not least… on the very day of my “AVM-versary”, with the Neurosurgery Society at uni I am helping to host one of our biggest events of the year – “Women in Neurosurgery”. I am finding this pleasantly fitting, considering how I am a woman who wants to be in neurosurgery (but not as a patient).

All in all, I’m happy to say that I’m gonna keep on keeping on. I only have a few months left of med school. Soon I’ll be closing this chapter of my life, and starting the next one with a new title, in a new city. To be continued….

Accurate picture of my reaction to having to take finals in a few months