Five years ago, on a day like any other, my life changed forever.
Out of the blue, I began experiencing odd physical symptoms. My vision felt strained and I was having trouble balancing. I thought it was vertigo and the walk-in clinic confirmed it, but when these symptoms persisted, I decided to pay a visit to the ER. Over a period of six months, I was referred to countless specialists and had a myriad of testing done.
Finally, after what felt like forever, I was given an answer.
It was confirmed that I had a brain tumour.
Thankfully, it was a non-cancerous form of meningioma; a tumour that develops on the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord. Though non-cancerous, this was still pretty scary. The tumour was resting against my optic nerve causing double vision in my left eye, imbalance, face numbness and nasty headaches. It continued to grow and began pushing on other key areas of my brain, causing the symptoms to worsen and more symptoms, like spontaneous fainting, and extreme fatigue, to develop.
I was refused typical surgery to remove the tumour because of its precarious location and the high risk of serious complications during surgery. After 15 months of dealing with these symptoms, I was offered another option for treatment and went for gamma-knife radio surgery (multiple tiny beams of radiation shot at the tumour). I was told that the procedure wouldn’t remove the tumour, but the surgeons hoped it would hinder its growth.
After a longer than normal recovery, the gamma-knife radio surgery was deemed successful.
Even though the tumour is still there in its original size (the end of my thumb), annual MRIs show that that it has not grown. This is great because it has allowed me to perfect how I cope with my symptoms instead of constantly having to adapt to changing and worsening symptoms associated with a growing tumour, as I had for so long.
This entire experience was a huge, life-changing hurdle for me, and I relied (and still do) on specific holistic strategies for getting through it.The following are my top 5 holistic strategies for surviving whatever life throws your way:
Your thoughts create your reality.
I figured I had two options:
1) I could allow what happened to me to consume me and take over my life
2) I could consume it and keep control of my life.
I opted for the latter.
Every day, I applied my “it could be worse” attitude.
Instead of focusing on the things I couldn’t do, I began to appreciate the things I could do–simple things like breathing in the fresh air and the ability to see my beautiful daughter.
We tend to hide those imperfect things in our lives from others, but this was a time when talking about what I was going through helped so much more than silence.
I have an ailment people can’t actually see, so I decided it would be helpful to explain things to others, such as why I was staggering around (no, I hadn’t been drinking), why I couldn’t drive, or why I may faint. It helped relieve the stress I felt and opened up a great support line for me.
Having a support team by your side, and the right network of people in your corner is so crucial to getting through the worst of the worst.
I have been very lucky to have the right people in my life. It goes without saying that the care from my entire family was extremely important; especially my husband and daughter, who experienced the full spectrum of symptoms at their worst.
My friend and fitness instructor, Heidi, has been a pillar of strength for me from day one. It’s important to surround yourself with the right people who aren’t going to shower you with pity and sympathy but who will encourage and still push and challenge you. What my group of fitness friends have done for me cannot be expressed in a few words. Their love and support keeps me going even to this day. When I started having to wear an eye patch to class they made me feel like it was natural. I stumble; they are ready to catch me. I have to go slow; they keep an eye on me. I miss a class; they all text me to check in. My first outing only eight days after my surgery was to Heidi’s Zumba class, and even though I was only able to sit in a chair and move my arms, they made me feel on top of the world.
Additionally, it’s important to have the right team of health and wellness professionals on your side. The entire team at The Centre for Healing and Peak Performance helped me managed the worst of my symptoms by teaching me natural ways to deal with them. I now have regular visits to my RMT for a cranial massage to help keep things aligned and in check.
To help deal with pain and keep my positive state of mind, I learned how to meditate.
My goal was to avoid prescription medications. I knew this would be for life and having to depend upon them was not the answer for me. I now make meditation a non-negotiable part of every day. Since are many ways to meditate, it is important to experiment to find whatever method feels best to you. In the morning, I enjoy meditation while going for a nice walk through my neighbourhood with no electronics…just me and Mother Nature. At night I enjoy the quiet stillness within my meditation room.
- Exercise & Nutrition
Before I found out about the tumour, I was already beginning to improve my diet and exercise regime, but this whole experience made me realize how important this aspect of life really is. Since there is no medical explanation for the development of meningioma, I could only attribute it to how we treat our bodies and I decided it was time to start treating my own body even better.
I decided to start growing my own food and once I realized how easy it truly is, have been expanding my gardens every year. It is such a rewarding process. I’ve also focused on simple things, like actually cooking my own food and not relying on massive companies to feed me. Non-processed, non-GMO, and local ingredients have now become the norm in my house. Furthermore, I increased my exercise regime and am now a certified fitness instructor mentoring under HeidiFit.ca. It was all a process, one step at a time.
Wellness is not made up of one element or strategy; rather, it is a combination of many, working synergistically.
I believe that my dedication to mindset, communication, community, meditation, and exercise + nutrition are what got me through the worst days, and I am positive they will help you, no matter what you’re going through.
Life is too short and precious to waste. My journey has not been easy (are journeys ever easy?!) but it is my own, and has made me braver, stronger, wiser, and shaped the woman I am today.
And for that my friends, I am grateful.