Angus moved in on the tenth of January 2010. He was a land engineer and like many before him he had moved to Australia for a new beginning. Like most of us have experienced at some stage in our lives, he’d had a challenging couple of years both personally and professionally and had recently embarked upon a bit of a soul searching journey. He was starting a new job the following day for an engineering firm in the city. He had opted to take a more junior role than he was previously used to, in order to get his foot in the door and discover how the Aussies did it. On his first night living with me he busied himself sorting out his clothes for his first day at work, paying particular attention to the detail of his ironing.
“Can you tell I went to boarding school?” he laughed.
Over the coming weeks we continued to get along really well. We spent hours discussing the problems of the world, about our personal journeys in life and what we had learned, about our dreams and aspirations for our futures, about our families and what they meant to us and generally learning from each other. Angus was just what I was looking for in a housemate, he was also pretty good around the house; doing the dishes and other odd jobs without having to be prompted.
Despite all of this, it didn’t take long for me to start noticing a few inconsistencies which raised some red flags. The first and most noticeable thing was his near inability to recall people’s names. I had been quite active in introducing him to my friends to help him increase his social circle, and I found it quite bizarre how he had to ask me their names time and time again, he would also forget little things like where he put something or what he was doing at different times.
There were also several occasions with not only myself but also with some of my friends where he had the same conversation with us several times, it was as though the thought had never occurred to him before. At different times in those first few weeks I confided in some of my close friends and family members and told them my concerns, half joking that I thought he might’ve had a brain tumour.
“You know Janie, I did this job at work today and it took me 8 hours to do it. In my old job it would have only taken me two hours,” Angus spoke with bewilderment. “It’s like I know the information in my head but I just can’t seem to access it.”
This was just one of many strange comments Angus made to me recently regarding not being able to grasp simple concepts that he knew he knew and that he’d had no trouble with in the past. Not having any long term knowledge of what Angus was really like I could only take his word for it, however the confusion and disappointment that he obviously felt in himself was enough to tell me that this was indeed out of character.
After three weeks of working in his new role I received a call; “That’s it Janie, I can’t do this anymore. I’ve handed in my resignation and finish up today,” his defiant voice echoed down the phone. Angus had been complaining about his new job and the frustrations he was feeling, however despite this I was still a little shocked by his decision.
The finality of his sudden announcement weighed on my mind all afternoon and when I tied this in with his recent memory loss and other peculiarities I’d noticed I was really quite anxious about it all. When he arrived home I asked him to join me on my afternoon walk where I planned to address my concerns with him. I had put a lot of thought into what I was going to say and what tone I wanted to use, after all it’s not every day you tell someone “I think you have a brain tumour?”
Angus was pleased for the fresh air and someone to talk through his day with; I encouraged him to tell me everything and asked lots of probing questions to make sure I had all the facts before discussing my fears for his health. After he finished telling me his story and asking for my thoughts, I realised this was my cue and decided to bite the bullet, I rattled off the long list of all the things that were concerning me. I was relieved at how receptive he was to what I had to say, I can’t imagine it would have been particularly easy to hear.
Angus shared some of my concern and was open to listening to my ideas as I didn’t want to just suggest this was the only cause of his recent decline. We also spoke about other possibilities and he opened up to me about some of his concerns and thoughts on it all as well. We talked about a few ideas he could try and improve his memory including memory games, meditation and several other little techniques but more importantly I urged him to see a doctor and eliminate the possibility of a tumour. He said he would but he really wanted to try the memory games first. Although my instincts told me this wasn’t the right path I had to accept and support his choice; after all it was his life wansn’t it?…
Until next time happy days!