About Me

Monday, 6 February 2012

Almost One Year Anniversary!

It was February 22nd last year, a Tuesday. A day that started out as ‘just another day’ and ended up unlike any other day.

Two days earlier, Dave (my partner) and I went to visit his cousin in hospital, after she had spinal surgery. I was having neck and arm pain at that time and when I told her about it she said to me, almost begging: ‘Go and have an MRI Lee, please, even if you have to pay for it privately, just do it’. I didn’t know back then how difficult it was to get an MRI through a GP, how long you normally have to wait, unless you’re hospitalised. In fact, it didn’t even occur to me to have an MRI but that night I was in a lot of pain and I decided to take her advice on board.

A couple of weeks prior, I saw my GP and told him about my recent neck and left arm pain. He sent me to have an Ultrasound, which showed an inflammation in the left tendon. I was given a cortisone injection and some anti inflammatory tablets but even when the inflammation was reduced, I still had this nagging pain. More than that, I had this nagging feeling that something was wrong, a feeling I couldn’t ignore.

So there I was on that Tuesday, having my first (of many) MRI. A few hours and $300 later, I was given the report and was on my way home. Sitting on the tram on the way back, I took out the MRI report and tried to figure it out. It was full of medical and technical terms that I had no idea what they meant but 2 words stood out: Lesion and Astrocytoma. What the?!

As soon as I got home, I jumped on Google and looked up Astrocytoma. Now, just a quick word on the internet- Thank god for it, the amount of information that is available and so accessible to us is a blessing a lot of the time. But in a situation like this, it can also be a curse.
Everything that came up was about brain tumours, cancer and survival rates. I tried to composure myself and remain calm, but then I got the phone call from my GP -the phone call that you never want to get! He was already notified by the MRI clinic about the findings.  He said I have a lesion inside my spinal cord and wanted to see me the next morning to discuss a course of action. And that was when it really hit home- There was something wrong with me and it had a very scary name- an Astrocytoma. Panicking, I rang Dave who was working away from Melbourne that week. We were both in shock.

That first night was a long sleepless night.  There was this sense of urgency to write and write and write... the words that define me, the words that are close to my heart and the words that will speak to my loved ones when I am no longer here on this earth. I also felt a sense of a `mission` and purpose .A sense that NOW was the time to put words into actions, to let the spiritual insights I have encountered over the years manifest in a practical way. I wanted to be able to look fear/death in the eye and know that death in nothing to be afraid of.

The next week was a blur of medical appointments and consultation, during which we learned about the severity of this type of tumour in its location in the spinal cord. We were given the scary news about a very high risk surgery and a more high risk chance of paralysis without surgery. After one very gloomy consultation with a Neurosurgeon, we needed a reminder about a more spiritual aspect of our being, something not related to medical or scientific outlook on how the body works. So we headed to our favourite book shop and Dave randomly picked 3 books from the ‘self help’ section. Turned out 2 of these books were written by a man called Ian Gawler, who back in the 70’s was diagnosed with an incurable bone cancer, yet managed to heal himself using meditation, nutrition and a life style based approach. That night, I read his book ‘You Can Conquer Cancer’ and everything about it resonated with me –I totally agreed to his holistic integrative approach to dealing with an illness, meditation as a crucial tool in recovery, a vegan plant based diet, reducing stress in life and generally enabling the body to use its innate healing capacity to the maximum.
That night was another powerful night full of tears, fears and love. I felt this amazing connectedness to Dave. I knew he was with me the whole way through and there was a real sense of oneness in this new and difficult challenge life had ‘thrown’ at us.

The next morning I rang the Gawler Foundation and found out they run a 10 day residential retreat for people newly diagnosed with cancer and that one of these retreat had started the previous day. I really wanted to go! They were reluctant because I missed the first day and had no preparation for the retreat but after explaining my situation and my background, they agreed!
2 hours later we were at the retreat in Yarra Junction. Saying goodbye to Dave at this highly sensitive time was difficult but we both knew that this was where I needed to be and that I was in good hands.
And indeed I was! Every day was jam packed with learning this holistic approach.
 We learned about food and nutrition, the importance of juicing, mindfulness meditation, forgiveness, dealing with loss and grief and much more. It was such a safe and supportive environment to deal with this life changing situation and it was very comforting to be with people in the same boat. I shared a room with an amazing bunch of women and lifelong friendships were formed.

One thing that really stood out for me during that time after I was diagnosed was how grateful you become for every little thing in life. Almost in a surreal way. I remember walking in the forest at the retreat and really paying attention to every tree, every smell and every creature along the way. Truly stopping to smell the roses! Confronting your own mortality is a very powerful time and allowing yourself to face and accept the possibility of dying- makes you committed to life. At least in my experience.

Following the retreat, I went and had surgery in Brussels, from all places, and on that in my next post... :-)

1 comment:

  1. hi Leelush,
    thanks for sharing, i've put your link on my blog also...you can do the same if you like....I'm so glad you have such a good outlook and that you are doing well.. http://whiteangel0.blogspot.com.au/p/my-story_06.html