A bit about me
I’m now 50 years old. I’m a registered nurse and also a health coach. And I help people who have kind of gone through some traumatic experience. I help them to find a way to heal and grow. And I’m a brain tumor survivor, and that’s my story. I’m an RN from the United States.
Early signs and diagnosis
My brain tumor was diagnosed about a year ago. There were not a lot of symptoms. It was almost an incidental finding. I was working with a patient, and I had some visual issues for five minutes. So I called my eye doctor, and the eye doctor said it was probably an ocular migraine. But I never had headaches before. So I went to see my doctor, and he did some tests to rule out any kind of carotid thing. He asked me to go to the emergency room if I had any symptoms. I was in my house, and suddenly I had a weird feeling in my hands. So, I decided to go to the ER. They said that I had a marble-sized tumor in my head. So it’s a polycystic astrocytoma. It was benign and grade one but it can change and it can grow back. Then I had brain surgery two weeks after the diagnosis.
I was overwhelmed for sure. It was like somebody kicked me in the gut. So that was my first reaction for sure. I reached out to the chief of neurosurgery at a large facility here in my area. There was some swelling around it. So they put me on steroids and then prepared for surgery. When I went through surgery, he still didn’t know that cells were not inflammatory cells. And so it took a little while for pathology to detect that it was a very rare tumour, and he got 99% of it out. So, I have to get scans frequently. There was no chemo. The surgery was over, so I made a decision. There are a few things that I’ve done, for instance, eating very specifically. So I believe that the first base is nutrition for sure. So I do eat a kind of keto, like diet ketogenic.
My girlfriend, my family, and my friends were my support system. There are really some kind people. The neurosurgeon that I had was an amazing guy. We spent time together because when I first met him I said it was hard. I have to say about friends. I have started to join some Facebook groups. I’m in a couple groups that are just really amazing, and I try to help out as much as I can.
I was very active before the surgery. I moved a lot. One of the biggest pieces that I had to change from a lifestyle was not to work.
Overcoming the fears of treatment and side effects
I had to face surgery. So, I told myself a story that if the troops could go and fight in a war and get shot and all this stuff out in the dirty areas. Speaking of side effects, the hardest thing I had was I had to take steroids for my brain swelling, and it was challenging. The physician thought I had steroid-induced mania because I was not able to spell words. I really had to face some challenges, and I thought it was my brain, but it wasn’t. And I just felt really weird. So, I just breathed through it and I got off the medication. And then as soon as I was healing, I made a decision that I would do the right thing from a nutrition perspective. I thought the food was the foundation. I’m glad I listened to my doctor, but I also augmented it in a good way in terms of health and lifestyle.
The journey is here to teach me to be connected to people, help others, and live every moment on purpose with my life, not be busy. And realise what matters most. And one of those things is not money. It was about our relationships with people and our experience with them.
Life after cancer
They assigned me resources through the health system and I took advantage of them. I’m blessed that I don’t have any residual stuff. It’s easy to go back to the way it was. It’s a habit.
Community: helping people
I think that I help people to cope emotionally. At first, they’re overwhelmed, just like I was. Through my own experience, I used to look at my life. And when I talk to other people who are survivors, the biggest piece they walk away with is what is your life supposed to look like and what matters most. And one of the things was it wasn’t about money or anything like that. It was about our relationships with people and creating our experience. I try to be with people and whatever spiritual beliefs they have. I think people need to look at some of the pieces that may be missing. And I think oftentimes people think that they are healthy, but they are not.
Stigma about cancer
I haven’t really experienced much stigma personally. What I do think that people don’t know until they’re in it. Unless you’re faced with it, it’s hard. And people who have a terminal or a scary diagnosis. It’s life-changing, but if you’re not in it, it’s hard. And I found that some of the people around me, there are a few that really could be empathetic and understanding.