This coming Wednesday (the 3rd of October) is the 18th anniversary of my being diagnosed with a brain tumour. It is difficult for me to put into words how incredibly blessed I feel being able to write this blog 18 years on.
In my posts that have been written on this blog and my original blog (www.kiwibraintumoursurvivor.blogspot.com) I have talked about my life with a brain tumour and what I have experieinced. I have also talked about my reality living with continual pain and how it influences my outlook on life. However, I feel as though I haven’t talked enough about the fact that I am so incredibly fortunate to even be here.
The unfortunate truth about brain tumours is that there are very few people who are as lucky as I am. Very few who are so blessed as to be able to be talking about their experiences 18 years after they were diagnosed. Very few who would survive 10 lots of invasive neurosurgery. Very few that, if they did come out of the surgery, would be able to think clearly enough to be writing about it. I am just so blessed.
The reality is that you can be the strongest personality there is, have the greatest spirit and the most fervent faith, and yet you still have so very little control over what your outcome will be with cancer.
I am so incredibly blessed that my brain tumour is the lowest grade of the best type of ‘juvenile’ cancer. The grade of my tumour is the slowest growing, and the type is the least likely to spread. A doctor explained to me once “You have the best possible type of brain tumour, in the worst possible place" (the brain stem).
Unfortunately my tumour did start to grow in early 2002, but I am so extremely fortunate that it responded well to the radiotherapy I had in December that year. The cancer component of the tumour is now minimal. I am so very blessed as it is unpredictable whether or not any tumour will respond to radiotherapy (or chemotherapy, which was rarely used on my brain tumours when I was diagnosed 18 years ago and I have never had). How incredibly fortunate I am to have had the cancer cells of my tumour greatly reduce in response to my having radiation.
I am aware that I have repeatedly used the words blessed and fortunate in this blog but it is for lack of there being better words to use.
I have also discussed in previous blogs how my living with continual pain is actually a blessing in that it is a stark reminder to me each day that I am alive, but I want to stress that point again.
As my back pain shoots up my spine, I try to remind myself of those who have not made it with their battle with bone cancer. When the burning heat of my headaches flares I try to remember the many people who would do anything just to be alive and experience that pain once again. When my hands are too painful to write with, I try to remember the many other people who also have to live with this kind of pain but who can’t use their hands for anything.
If I looked for them I am pretty sure I could find reasons to groan and grumble about my condition. However, I think with anything in life, what we focus on is what our reality becomes. I don’t want a life focused on pain, rather I want one focused on gratitude, and so I choose to consciously reflect on that.
So each day as I walk in my good fortune I try to reflect on how incredibly blessed I am, and what God could perhaps want to use me for in light of this blessing.
And though it may sound strange, I am also grateful for having had to face death many times. I believe that those of us who have looked death in the face and yet have lived have an indelible sense of security and destiny. I know that I will not die until God ordains it and I feel that there is a purpose for my life.
To me this is one of the greatest treasures of my journey with a brain tumour – not feeling as though my life is meaningless and without a purpose. There are so many people around who sink into despair with feelings of worthlessness and that their life is meaningless. I just so dearly wish that normal, healthy people could realize the same things I now understand without having to go through the struggle that many of these past 18 years have been.
What a treasure it is having a true appreciation that every day of life is a God-given gift.