It's good to have a plan in place, it's good to finally lean into the inevitable and take a peek at the other side, into a time and space where you are not denying the obvious and have taken charge of a piece of destiny.
You know how you can have a slight inkling that something is wrong but when you are confronted with the full extent of the matter, it can be somewhat bowel shattering?
Like when you are aware you may have a blister on your foot and then you look at it, and it is the size of a saucer? Or when you think you are maybe a tad behind in IRD payments, and then find yourself staring down the barrel of bankruptcy?
This is Round 4 of Jonny's disintegrating neck saga.
So, this time around I finally had a conclusive MRI. They put me right under, with a general anaesthetic. Goodnight nurse! I had no choice but to keep still, which means that the imagery of the MRI was unmistakable.
This week I went down to Auckland to see a neurospinal surgeon who has had actual experience of operating on people with cerebral palsy.
For those who don't remember Round 3 of the saga, last July a surgeon wanted to fuse the vertebrae on my neck and bolt a brace called a halo into my skull. My reaction was horror, imagining toppling over with our Sydney silky terriers licking brain matter off my face in an unhelpful fashion.
As I said, this MRI was unequivocal.
"You neck is shot!" the surgeon said as he pointed at the screen. "Look at these vertebrae, they're all over the place.
"See this, your spinal column, it's very bruised.
"Yes, that is bruising all the way down here, bruising "
Then he started snickering, which strangely enough made me feel at ease. You see my brother Tim who is a GP in Auckland has a similarly sadistic sense of humour. He and I both used to snicker over people's most outrageous fortune when we were young, and he still does to this day.
I remember when he was trying to prise a piece of glass out of my wife Sally's foot, saying, "It's nearly there" when he knew it was nowhere near nearly there.
When he told us his rationale — "if she knew how bad it was going to be she wouldn't have let me do it" — he could not help but snicker, in a sound remarkably reminiscent of Mutley, the dog from that 70s classic cartoon TV show, Wacky Races.
"There is no way someone as young as you (53, that raised my eyebrows!) should have a neck like this," he chuckled.
"It's all the involuntary movements of your head that have caused the wear and tear. Your spinal column is getting squeezed.
"No wonder you have got tingling in your hands and arms. Has your mobility worsened over the last five years?
"No," I said. I caught my wife's look of disbelief and scorn in my periphery.
"AAAAHHH, YES IT HAS, QUITE SIGNIFICANTLY," she countered.
Really, I thought, seriously? Well apparently yes.
As I stared at the MRI on the screen, my neck looked increasingly like something out of a Jurassic excavation, like Crocodile Dundee's grandfather's false teeth.
"What we'll do," the surgeon said, "is that we will go in the front and the back. If there is one thing I know about people with cerebral palsy, it is that they tend to pull things apart.
"So, what I'm going to do is bolster your neck with extra plates and screws. We won't do a halo, we will do a hard brace."
Exiting Auckland Central Hospital, I felt like I had just taken a placebo in reverse. Suddenly my neck felt bloody sore and feeble. Like a doctor shouting don't swallow that just after you have swallowed it.
However, it's good to have a plan in place, it's good to finally lean into the inevitable and take a peek at the other side, into a time and space where you are not denying the obvious and have taken charge of a piece of destiny.
However grim, I'm sure there will be something for someone to snicker at — probably me!
■ Jonny Wilkinson is the CEO of Tiaho Trust — Disability A Matter of Perception, a Whangārei-based advocacy organisation.