Recently, I posted about the development of consciousness in our distant human ancestors, and the parallels between that development and how our modern children develop. I wasn’t expecting to be considering how there might be a parallel to be drawn from the gradual loss of access to consciousness as a consequence of the debilitating effects of brain cancer.
Over the past year and a half, I have been witness to the painfully relentless progress of a glioblastoma multiforme invading my brother’s brain. Utilizing every possible strategy one could employ in response to such an affliction, my brother has extended his original prognosis of a fourteen month survival duration to twenty-seven months. These last three months have seen his physical condition deteriorate more rapidly than ever before, and as I write, he is struggling just to breathe. The tumor in his brain is pressing against his left parietal lobe, severely affecting his ability to speak and it has virtually paralysed his entire body.
And yet, through all of this, whenever he has been able to be present, there have been clear signs that he was there, in the moment. Although he often struggles to find the words, at particular moments, he hits on the right combination, and the familiar resonance of the man I know bursts forth from within him. At other times, as we attempt to entertain him or distract him, his typically distant look turns into one of absolute recognition of the intended reference, and he breaks into a knowing smile.
My bedside vigil these past days have kept me from my writing here, but it has also caused me to reflect deeply on the nature of consciousness in ways I had not anticipated.
….more to come…