On Thursday September 8th, 2016 at 10:15 in the morning, I was diagnosed with a non-malignant, slow growing, 3.2 cm brain tumor. I will never forget this day.
I will never forget how the doctor wouldn’t come right out and say it. As he sat across from me and placed the MRI report in front of him – I could see the written dimensions of the newly discovered mass. I will never forget how I looked over to my mom and nodded ‘yes’ to warn her of what he was about to say.
I will never forget how I tried to hold back tears – only to lose it as I approached the waiting room – the same waiting room I sat in several times over the past year. I will never forget how the receptionist reassured me that “this can be fixed, honey” as she passed me a copy of my MRI report.
I will never forget how I had to stop my partner mid-sentence when he asked me how the appointment went. And when I asked him to meet me at White Spot as soon as he can, I am sure he will never forget the feeling of wondering what I had to say. Or the fact that my friend told me that she will never forget where she was sitting when I called her on that day.
I’ll never forget October 20th – the day I counted down for weeks. The day I found out that my first surgery will be brain surgery. The first day I saw a picture of my tumor and how I was convinced that I was shown the wrong one. There’s no way that mine could be that big.
I’ll never forget November 3rd. The day that I weeped and weeped in front of the neurosurgeon. The day I was overwhelmed – not because of the surgery itself, but because I didn’t know when the surgery would be. The day it took me almost an hour to calm down in the parking lot before heading home.
I’ll never forget the weeks and months that followed. The desire to hide from everyone and everything. The lack of energy to get out of bed. The inability to stop myself from crying. The seesaw feeling of this could be worse, but it could be better – is it normal that I feel this way? The feeling of being lost – because who am I besides a nurse? And as February approaches, I will never forget the day that I am wheeled down the hall for a 9 hour surgery to remove this thing that has interfered with my life so much.
And although I’ve had some pretty rough days, I will never forget what they have taught me.
September 8th taught me that I am not invincible and that it is important to listen to your body. Seeking medical advice when something doesn’t feel right is absolutely essential.
October 20th taught me that I can put aside my pride and ask for support when I am anxious as ever. It taught me to be gentle with myself and to learn how to say no to others at the expense of my well-being.
November 3rd taught me that I need to learn how to be patient and how to advocate for my needs. And even though I didn’t know it at the time, I have learnt that it is a blessing to have some time to prepare before surgery.
Almost every day in between has taught me how to be humble and how to be brave. It taught me not to take the little things for granted – the sunshine, a beautiful view, time well spent with friends and family. It has taught me to embrace the healing powers of nature and capture it nicely. It has taught me that I have a great love for writing and blogging – and I have finally figured out two new hobbies that I really enjoy (I’m about to start writing a book!). It has taught me who I am, what I am made of – and for the first time in 30 years I can finally say that I know myself.
So on the days that I wake up feeling terrified, anxious, and / or depressed – I get up anyways. I remember that each of these dates have given me strength that I wouldn’t have discovered in any other way. It has given me purpose – I never thought I would see the day that I get to respond to emails from people with brain tumors who are seeking and offering support. And so now, when people tell me “there will be a silver lining” – I believe them – because I already see it. I have passion, I have purpose, I have authenticity, I have strength and I have hobbies that define me. But most importantly, I have courage to share the tough times with others in hopes that they will feel inspired, listen to their body, or know they can get through anything – and in return, it helps me get through anything as well.