Below is the blog post I wrote for the CNN Human Factor piece that aired this morning. You can find it here as well.
June 20, 2007 we began living a new life. In a brief moment, the world stopped spinning and a resounding smack signaled the closure of the life we knew. Nothing would ever be the same and we’d never be the same people again.
The glowing white lesion, a Grade II Astrocytoma, staring back at me from the MRI film hanging on the wall at the neurosurgeon’s office that day will always be a vivid memory. The flood of emotions, shock, tears and the entire aftermath are no less raw today than four years ago, but these emotions all exist with greater balance in my life now.
We’re now grateful for the gift that has humbled us.
Since that warm, sunny June afternoon, we’ve faced my mortality, questions about quality of life, acknowledged that a new definition of “normal” would need to be created and have settled into our new life with unexpected ease.
We’re happy and content having reached a point where we feel entitled to move on and away from a place where my brain tumor resides in the forefront and has an unbalanced weight in our decisions. With profound disdain for my tumor, I’ve come to terms and embraced life with a balanced respect for my tumor and diagnosis and refuse to allow it to get the best of me.
Death is a part of life which for us means the process of living is that much more meaningful. I was unprepared four years ago when I received my diagnosis and was forced to face my mortality. A likely timeline that significantly altered our previous expectations. However, I don’t fear dying. I’ve accepted that I may not see my children graduate college or get married. I may not travel to the extent I had expected later in life and I may not check everything off my bucket list. Yet, I have opened myself up to the freedom of accepting one of the most powerful gifts my tumor has afforded us: The ability to truly live and experience life on my own terms.
Everything from the beauty and joy to the dark and ugly make more sense and are processed with greater clarity now. We’ve come to terms that a full life is not defined by number of years, but the quality of the experiences. I don’t like my diagnosis and hate my tumor, but I’m at peace with it and would never change a thing. It is, what It is and It has been a gift.
Regret is an ugly word and Paul and I much prefer the beauty and potential that defines the word HOPE and welcome my stability as an opportunity to move forward living our lives as we had planned.
The journey to where we are today, nearly three years after surgery, could not have happened without my neurosurgeon, Costas Hadjipanayis, and our medical team.
We’ve all had honest, humbling discussions. While Paul and I acknowledge that no one has a crystal ball to predict when my brain tumor will return, Dr. Hadjipanayis has always encouraged us to forge ahead, pick up the pieces, live life and embrace my stability.
Costas provided the impetus for our forward motion post surgery and has been a constant figure encouraging us to keep moving ahead with our heads up and remain optimistic. When I didn’t think I could, he was a voice of support and reason, challenging me to embrace and celebrate my stability.
He delivered to us unfathomable news which has grown to be one of the greatest opportunities and experiences my life has afforded me. Bearing responsibility for maintaining my health, keeping me alive within the confines, definitions and beliefs we’ve all agreed upon, Costas will also be who my family will turn to one day for guidance.
When asked with trepidation, if we were irresponsible to attempt having another child, Costas responded with an emphatic NO. The first to know of my pregnancy after my husband, Costas encouraged us to live life and embrace it all. This is what stability is about.
Paul and I have no regrets, emphatically agree that we’d never change a thing and are taking on life with our heads held high.
What, in a brief moment four years ago, caused our world to stop spinning and signaled the end of the life we knew, has now grown to be our greatest gift.
My brain tumor diagnosis signifies not the end of a life we knew, but a turning point where we exposed, recognized and discovered our courage, strength, spirit, perspective, gratitude, appreciation, will-power and love of life. A life we now define, live and experience on our own terms.