Sit Back, Relax, and Try Not To Think About the Hole We’re Making In Your Skull

Image by Hey Paul Studios via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Mary South’s New Yorker short story on rape trauma and recovery, “You Will Never Be Forgotten,” is being rightly praised, but her “Frequently Asked Questions About Your Craniotomy,” published in at The White Review, is equally gripping — a different kind of pain, a different kind of recovery, but the same clarity of voice and unsparing candor and dark wit. It starts with a bang and takes you along for the ride from there.

If you’re reading this page, chances are you’ve recently heard that you need to have a craniotomy. Try not to worry. Although, yes, this is brain surgery, you’re more likely to die from the underlying condition itself, such as a malignant tumour or subdural hematoma. Think of it this way: insomuch as being alive is safe, which it is not, having a craniotomy is safe. We fill our days with doing laundry, replacing our brake pads at the auto shop, or making a teeth-cleaning appointment with the dentist, in the expectation that everything will be fine. But it won’t. There will be a day that kills you or someone you love. Such a perspective is actually quite comforting. Taken in that light, a craniotomy can be a relaxing experience, rather than one of abject terror.

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