Home > Uncategorized > Happy 7th Anniversary to me!

Happy 7th Anniversary to me!

(I took some of a 2009 note I posted in Facebook to craft this blog.  Had to get my full story out there to my runner friends.  It was such a life-changing event for me!)

April 1, 2004 was the day I learned something amiss was located in my brain.  After much alarm, including three separate opinions, being thisclose to scheduling brain surgery, seeing my Memaw’s neurologist, and multiple trips to MD Anderson in Houston over a 4-5 month period, we pronounced this thing (affectionately nicknamed “Blob” when we had no idea what it was) to just be a little angioma. I have regular check-ups to make sure everything is okay and my last one was in November 2010.  Everything looked fine.
When this happened to me, I quickly learned the medical community only knows so much. When you’re told something is in your brain that shouldn’t be there, you want to KNOW what is going on immediately, but it took months for everyone to get on the same page. I know it’s all just part of the process, but I definitely learned that getting 2nd and 3rd opinions when you’re dealing with a potentially life-theatening situation is extremely important. Like I said, I was thisclose to scheduling brain surgery. I was planning on calling to schedule it on a Thursday morning but when I was at lunch w/ friends the day before, I got a call from my Memaw’s neuro saying not to touch it. This angioma is extremely close to the motor strip on the left-side of my brain that controls movement in the right side of my body. If we did a stereotactic biopsy or tried to remove it and missed ever so slighty, I could have a stroke or somehow be compromised for the rest of my life.

My wonderful Uncle Charlie helped me get into MD Anderson for my 3rd opinion. What an amazing place! The way I was treated there was just phenomenal. I had 1st class service, time and time again. I never felt like a number there. I never felt lost.

I’m writing about this now because this April Fool’s Day will mark seven years since the original discovery. I had just moved desks at ACS and was sitting there trying to figure out where I was going to put everything when I got the call…”you have a bleeding brain tumor…” from my neurologist. She scheduled an appt for me with a neurosurgeon for later that day. It was so surreal. I couldn’t believe it. I had a 7-yr-old son and 2-yr-old daughter and all I could think about was leaving them without a mama. I didn’t think Katie would probably even be able to remember me, after how much I loved and reveled in being her mommy over the past 2.5 years. Talk about pain. And Dylan. He would totally remember me. He would know what it was like to have his mama around and he would truly feel the pain of not having me. The pain and fear of thinking about my kids not having me superceded any pain/fear I had about the tests I had to go through and the possibility that we were dealing with something that could be life-threatening.

Of course, when you’re told you have a bleeding brain tumor and your first MRI test interpretation states “this is most likely a metastatic lesion” and then lists the most common places where the original cancer is located, you freak out. Try working for the American Cancer Society where you already know WAY too much and what you don’t know, you can easily look up. Not good. Although I also knew that I would be able to find incredible support through ACS and my co-workers at the time were absolutely incredible. I proceeded to have many blood tests, a mammogram, colonoscopy, CT scans of my chest and pelvic region, and my very favorite, a lumbar puncture. Man, that last one really hurt. Really bad. Profusely cold sweating, using my lamaze breathing to not pass out b/c my neuro told me if I did, we’d have to start all over. Could be the worst few minutes of my life.

I walked around in a fog most of the first week but then, something changed in me. I decided I was not going down without a fight. I stopped feeling like a helpless victim and started to feel strong. My Memaw had passed away a few months earlier and I felt her with me. At times, I could hear her speaking to me. I could feel her spirit, her love, her strength. She would help pick me up when I was at my lowest. I also had a friend named Ivy who passed away when I was pregnant with Katie and I could feel her with me too. At night, when I was sitting in Katie’s bed saying prayers, sometimes I would just silently cry. I didn’t want her to know I was crying, but I was so heartbroken when I thought about leaving her and she not remembering me or having a mom to raise her. On about 4 occasions, when my heart was very, very low, Katie would start singing “You Are My Sunshine” with no prompts at all from me. Ivy’s middle name was “Sunshine” and this was a song we all sang at her funeral. Wow. I knew I had some guardian angels up in heaven and I also knew they would be with me the whole time, regardless of what happened.

I really came to peace with death too. I knew what would happen to me. I knew I would be with my loved ones who’d passed away before me. I found a certain comfort in the peace. The only thing that would take me back to grief was leaving the people I loved on this Earth. That was devastating.

Know what happens when you think you might possibly die? You start to really live. I did, at least. I could stand outside and just marvel in nature. I remember looking at a tree outside of one of my doctor’s offices and thinking how beautiful it was with all of the leaves, branches, and a strong trunk. I would hear the birds chirping when I was outside. I paid attention. I didn’t take people or my life for granted anymore. I never really stopped to appreciate those things before, but now I did.

For me, I also realized how little I cared about myself. My needs and wants came in last, always (sound familiar, moms?) My financial life was a mess. My social life was a mess. My physical life was a mess. I realized how much work I had to do to live the life I DESERVED to live. I didn’t deserve to always put myself last. I deserved so much more. I quickly forgave myself for my past transgressions and gave myself a break…finally! I didn’t beat myself up anymore about what I didn’t have, how I looked, etc… Instead, I gave myself a break and started doing things to put my life in order. I started exercising and eating right, and I lost weight. I broke off a tough relationship that had already run it’s course awhile back but I never had the strength to get out of completely. I started being smarter about my money. The more I did, the better I felt. By the time we realized maybe this wasn’t quite as bad as we originally thought, I was on track to have a much better quality of life.

This all comes back to two mantras I try to live my life by.

“You don’t eat the soup as hot as it’s cooked” – My Popo (grandfather) told me this when I called to check in with him that April 2004. He just lost his wife (my Memaw) a few months earlier, yet he gave me hope and peace to not worry about something until I knew what I was dealing with. He was calm and loving and practical and logical…just what I needed! I repeated this phrase over and over again while I waited for tests, opinions, and appointments.

My other mantra…“Something good can come out of any bad situation…you just have to look for it.” This is SO TRUE. Who would’ve known going through such a scary time of uncertainty would give me the strength I needed to live my best life? I could’ve easily focused on all of the bad stuff, but instead, I focused on the good. It was always my goal, to see the glass as half-full. I still try to live like this to this day.

So happy 7th anniversary to me!  This all makes me a stronger runner, for sure.  I know what I’m capable of enduring.  I’m mentally strong.  Glad to see my body is beginning to match. Both will serve me well as I begin training for my December marathon.

I’ve attached a couple of pics.  Fascinating. It might gross some of you out, but I think it’s pretty cool (although the pic on the right is pretty sci-fi!)

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. April 1, 2011 at 8:50 am

    Love this post – I can relate to the living to the fullest. Thank you for sharing, you have a great story and are so inspiring. 🙂

    This is my fave quote from your post: Know what happens when you think you might possibly die? You start to really live.

    • April 1, 2011 at 8:59 am

      You can relate and then some, Nancy! This is why I have so much love and respect for you, friend. We started with the same possibly scary diagnosis and had similar attitudes, but fortunately mine turned out benign while yours didn’t and you STILL kept that great attitude and a mental/physical toughness like I’ve never seen before. I have so much admiration for you. Words can’t express! Feel free to use my quote whenever/however you’d like =)

  2. Rudy Santos
    April 1, 2011 at 9:38 am

    Wow, I have been outta of the loop way too long. You are my hero, you show so much strength… I want to be you.

  3. April 1, 2013 at 10:47 am

    Hi Shelley, I didn’t know this about you. Congratulations on 7 years!!

  1. April 1, 2014 at 12:39 am

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