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Living with fears it’s like locking yourself in the house, with the burglar inside. It’s almost like we secretly chose to live with anxiety. Yet, we are all guilty of it.
The science side of this matter is that fears are rooted in limiting beliefs that we acquired through our experiences. It’s part of our “programming”. That fears aren’t real. They are just imagination, nothing but future scenarios based on past experiences.
Allowing our thoughts to “trip” up into the potential future, without having a grounded understanding of why we are choosing to validate that thought, we will cause ourselves feelings of anxiety and stress. Very true.
Spirituality says that fears are linked to our human nature and identification with our ego, the part of us that wants to live forever. Fears arise from not being present in the moment. Instead, we drift in and out of our past and future, stuffing ourselves with unpleasant emotions. Pretty much the same thing in a different light.
If we can learn to stay in the present moment, by participating fully in whatever is that we do at any given time, and also by connecting with our breath consistently especially when we feel stressed, then we can begin to save ourselves from all the anxiety and depression. All true again.
It’s all nice and clear when you read it on paper, but when it comes to practice, it gets a bit more complicated than that. I always speak from my own experience and I can give you many examples. But for now, allow me to share this particular one.
After the second brain surgery which happened as a result of an unexpected infection, just three weeks apart from the initial craniotomy, of course I was filled with fear. I had constant thoughts that something bad could happen again at any time and I may have to rush to the emergency and be admitted again.
I felt terrified at times with the emotions that were created by these thoughts. But that’s not all, it also made me act in weird ways.
This happened around that “time of the year”, around Christmas. I wanted so much to have a peaceful Christmas with my family after all the crazy journey we have all been trough. Not to mention the shock, physical pain, chemicals and needles.
The fear was keeping me feel anxious and uncertain, and that was one thing. As a result, I had an urge to act on my emotions, and that’s the other thing. I bought all my gifts on line way early in November, wrapped them up, tagged them and everything, and placed them under the tree on the second day of December 2019, the moment we put up our Christmas tree.
This may not sound like a big deal, but when I became aware of it, it was a turning point for me. I realised how my fears manipulated my actions, not to mention was making me feel scared all the time. And then I realised that it all started from a thought, that was a result of a past experience.
I used to work in the financial industry and have a pretty good idea about how you prepare projected future calculations. I’ve learnt first-hand that we can never control or predict everything in life, not in the same way for sure.
Nobody can “budget” themselves for a shocking diagnosis and undergoing urgent brain surgery. I had business plans, future plans, life plans. All of that puffed in the air in a second. It was all gone. So yes, we can never control the outcomes and events that will come along.
It made me realise that it was wrong for me to project the fear of the past into the future. Yes, something terrible indeed that has happened in my life but I decided to bury that.
Why? because it was stealing away all my joy. My mind would not let my heart at rest and as a result I wasn’t fully able to help my body heal in peace and harmony. I seemed pretty cool on the outside, but deep down I was afraid.
I remember one day saying to myself “The worst is behind me. If I made it through the belly of the dragon alive and I’m still standing here now, there had to be a huge amount of grace and miracles in my favour. I know I am safe now, there is nothing to wrong in this moment. I feel great. I am alive and well. I am so blessed and have so much to be grateful for” and started to count my blessings…
For me that was the moment when I found a way to work through my own fears and insecurities. Yes, I had a very good reason to feel scared as you would all agree I am sure.
Yet, I could not point the finger anywhere outside of me for what I was feeling. My feelings were always, and still are my responsibility. I can never control what other people say or do, nor what experiences life will lay before me. But one thing I can do, is be accountable for my own emotions and actions.
The moment I decided to take responsibility for my own feelings I became empowered to look at the root of my “pain”.
I realised that the root of this fear was in my mind. The mind has an incredible momentum and can take us from one thought to another, in the past and in the future like a mad river.
It can induce us to drag our bodies through mud and dirt with our own approval.
Now that I found the root of my fear, I pulled it out. I then decided to anchor myself into the ground and placed my feet into that soil. I decided not to respond to that thought anymore.
Fear still nudges in from time to time, but when I am grounded in this moment, where everything is perfect and all is well, I find peace. When I trust life, I know that whatever it brings before me can only make me better.
I don’t remember who said this, but it stuck with me and it was something along these lines:
“An pointless thinking process, is not a sign of intelligence”
A friend of mine asked me the other day “What does perfection mean to you Mari?”
I paused a bit as I didn’t really think about defining perfection before. Then something came to my mind. Something that happen in my life about fifteen years ago.
I was attending a job interview for a role in one of the big 4’s, by a panel of two partners of the firm.
About half hour in, during the interview, one of the partners asked me:
Imagine this: You deliver a report to your manager and after looking at it, he starts yelling at you. What do you do?
Without any reluctance I replied: If I handed over a piece of work to my manager, it means that I’ve done my best effort. Before I present that to him, I’d make sure that I am 100% happy with my work. To me that had to be perfect, otherwise I would have not handed it in.
Now, if he starts screaming, (which by the way to me, is not a good managerial skill) I would simply ask him to let me know what the problem is, so that I can rectify. That’s all.
He took some notes while we continued with the rest of the interview. By the way, a few hours later that evening I received a call confirming that I’ve got the job.
I guess the reason that this story came to my mind, was to remind me that perfection is not a benchmark. What is perfect to me, may not be perfect to others. This is especially when it comes to human nature and laws. If there is such thing as being perfect, it’s certainly non-existent in this dimension. Striving for it, would be an exhausting and meaningless pursue.
Besides, if we’d ever reached a so-called level of perfection, wouldn’t that imply that we close ourselves in a box, with no room for improvement?
Our human nature is to grow and evolve. The moment we remove that from the picture, life becomes dull. There is no spark, no excitement, nothing to learn, nowhere to go. This is at least how I see it, through my own lenses of perception.
I was walking outside in nature one day, and I remember noticing the various leaves on the forest floor as well as the leaves on the trees. Different colours, different shapes. Some perfectly symmetrical and other asymmetrical. Some marked some intact. Some smaller, some bigger, but in no case less beautiful. The whole “assemble” of nature was simply perfect.
We humans are something like that. Resembling pieces of a big puzzle, each similar but different in their own unique way. The different size, shape and color has to be distinctive. Our uniqueness is essential in making this big puzzle a beautiful whole.
So, my own definition of perfection starts with the process of embracing our imperfections. When we are able fully accept them, then we will be able to move beyond this limitation. Because seeking perfection is a limitation, it’s a zoomed in, self-focused view.
Obsessing about being perfect via means of reaching a particular shape, form or man-made standard, is madness.
I’ve also noticed, (again this is from learning through my own experiences and from friends who entrusted me with their own sentiments), that when we obsess about being perfect in everything we do, everyone around us becomes a tool. An external tool for self-approval and self-validation.
Self-approval is our own job. Nobody has the right, nor should be handed over the power to approve or disapprove of us.
When I learnt to own my imperfections, I began to feel more empowered. Grounded in my core. I now know my plusses and my minuses, what I want and don’t want. Nobody can validate me other than myself. It comes from the inside.
When I know that, I’m ready to zoom out of my own little self, and look at the bigger picture. How can I contribute to make this look even better? Where does that piece of the puzzle can make a difference? And this can only happen when you accept yourself as a “piece of the bigger puzzle” in the exact shape, size and colour that you are.
I may still look to define perfection as I go through this life, but for now, I am sure that perfection is not a mould. It does not have a standard shape, size, colour or functionality. Perfection is not a measure for worthiness. Neither is a quality that makes you more lovable.
To me, perfection is more about feeling at peace with ourselves. About accepting, understanding and fully embracing our own human nature. Is about being willing to exercise our full capabilities, not to please others, but for our own self growth. Is about being and doing 100% of our best at any given moment. Because we can never do more than our best.
Today I feel perfect because I feel whole. Maybe I’ll stick to this one for a while.
Love and blessings x
“This is the book of the generations of Adam. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God.” – Genesis 5:1
The other day I posted a question on my IG stories around the subject of feeling good enough within ourselves.
62% of my friends answered A and 38% B.
The question was: Which of the two resonates more with you?
A – I know I’m not perfect but I’m good enough.
B – I must try my best to prove I’m good enough.
Because this is significant topic, as I’m sure we can all relate, I thought I’d “brag” a bit more about it here. I mean, if you’ve ever been rejected in your life, you probably felt you’re not good enough as a result. I always speak from my own experiences of life and love to share things I’ve learnt throughout my journey. And yes, I’ve felt rejected and not good enough as well.
It’s all rooted in our human conditioning as part life’s experiences. Many of us have been taught since very little, that we must prove ourselves worthy before receiving something. But let me expand on that.
For example, parents taught the little toddler that “you have to tidy up your toys if you want to have a cookie “, or as a teenager “if you want pocket money, you must do some house chores first or at least get some good grades at school.”
Now, there is nothing wrong with encouraging your kids to participate and help in the household and teaching them the importance of receiving monetary value in exchange for efforts. But, there is a time, place and most importantly a way, to teach those lessons.
I believe that none of these teachings can ever be connected with receiving love and acceptance as a result of performing a task. True love and acceptance is an unconditional thing. Yet, we’re all guilty of this one. Separating the right from wrong. Drawing lines on that blank canvas.
When we ask the little toddlers to put their toys away and they do it, we instantly gratify their action by clapping, affirming and telling them “what a good baby you are”. The more you validate that, the more they repeat it, to get that reaction out of you. If they don’t, we show the opposite reaction. Whatever way we chose to respond, we’re simply just reinforcing their behaviours. Validation reinforces behaviour.
That is how our need for external validation is being born and planted within us. It looks cute when we are little with all the clapping and smiling, but it gets ugly when we grow up.
This is the main reason why we all want to be so damn perfect all the time. We beat ourselves up because we are not flawless.
“Oh, I shouldn’t have said that, I should have worn that dress instead, or maybe loaded that better picture on the grid, or maybe if I bought that present instead they would have liked it better, If I had a better body”…and so on.
Once this belief of not being good enough is formed, we carry it through our lives and it becomes the cause of our pain. We associate every painful event with it.
“I did not get the job, there is something wrong with me. I am not good enough.”
“My partner dumped me. There must be something terribly wrong about me. I’m not worthy enough to be loved.”
“My father left us. It’s all my fault. I’m not good and lovable enough.”
“This person is totally NOT into me. I must be terribly unattractive. I’m not good enough”
And so, it grows and we embody this belief and its behaviours at our core. Because every belief has some active behaviours, be it that we are not even aware of them most of the times. We find ourselves getting out of out of our ways to please others, just to get that external validation and approval. We seek for this in all kind of relationships. It’s all great when we receive it, everyone is happy. But, when it doesn’t work, we’re not good enough, we suffer, we cry and we beat ourselves up. We feel that we are not worthy to deserve their love and acceptance unless we become perfect. So, we wipe our tears and decide to chase perfection.
This is when it gets more complicated. The limiting belief of not being good enough grows into a new tree branch. The need of chasing perfection.
All our lives we want to touch perfection as if, the more perfect we are the worthier of love we become.
And here we are, aiming for the perfect picture. We believe that if we have the perfect body, perfect face, perfect relationships, job, and create flawless deliverables, we’re good enough. Accepted. Loved. Worthy.
Striving to be perfect is an endless pursue, as there is no such thing as being perfect in this world. The ones that tried to reach it and never found it, warned us about it.
I’d like to close this first part with this beautiful quote :
“When you accept yourself, the whole world accepts you.” by – Lao Tzu.
The other day, I was talking to a dear friend and she was telling me about this experience she had that morning. I want to share it, because I have a feeling that many of us will relate.
She said “I got dressed and looked in the mirror and I felt great. I then asked my husband to take a picture of me with my phone, but when I saw the picture, I looked terrible. It changed my whole mood instantly.”
I paused and then, I asked my friend “Can you remember seeing a really beautiful sky, or a part of nature that looked magical, like a sunset for example or a full moon? “Yes of course” she said. Did you ever manage to give it justice by taking a picture on your phone? Did you capture that exact beauty? “No, never to be honest” she said.
We are born with the most sophisticated system to experience the perfect beauty through our sight and yet, we chose to believe that a camera, is a better judge than our very own eyes. Why do we do that? Why do we give things outside ourselves so much power over us?
It’s not very clever, to allow things outside of ourselves to influence our mood so drastically, yet we’re all guilty of this to some extent.
The same way we see the beauty of nature and we never doubt it, even when the picture doesn’t do it justice, we should also never doubt our own beauty. Sometimes to see beauty, you need to feel beautiful inside and when you do, believe it.
I was getting better and better every day, and before I knew it I was due for appointment to see the cranioplasty surgeon on the 10th of January.
As I was being pre-examined by his assistant, who was asking me tons of typical questions, I noticed her computer screen. There was a scan of my skull and I could not help to notice how weird it looked with a big hole in it. I asked her if I could take a pic with my phone and she agreed without a second thought.
“You can take all the pictures you want she said. Going through your medical history and looking at you right now, it’s amazing. Your story is incredible she said. You look great.”
The surgeon was also pleased to see me well and looking forward to get this done. He described in very much detail what was going to happen and went through all the risks of surgery, which by the way included death. Yes death.
Despite of all the scary long list of risks that were included in that document, I signed it off without a second thought. I had no choice really.
The surgery was booked for the 14th of April 2020 and it was three months away at that time. It seemed like far away, but I was planning to take it easy and use this time to prepare my body and heart back in shape in time for the procedure.
Since that day in January, I was getting better and stronger every day. I was eating well, making sure I move every day. I realised how much my body went through and what a turmoil it must have put to order. I was marvelling at the fact that there was a time, not long before that moment, when I could not see the light at the end of the tunnel, while I was struggling to bathe and change my clothes.
Even though I am all about teaching people to listen and respect their bodies, this experience made me love and respect my body so much more than ever before.
I decided to use this waiting time and do some introspection, look at my life, the things and people that meant a lot to me. It got me contemplating of things that were deeply hidden and maybe avoided to look at before. I meditated more, I read all the books that were by my bedside for so long, and never had a chance to get half way through.
I was taking long walks outdoors and felt more appreciation and closeness to nature than ever before. At the same time, I was getting myself ready mentally for what was coming. Another surgery, more chemicals, more pain and more needles. Not an easy one to be completely honest.
I was just two weeks away from the big date, when they called me to cancel the surgery due to the pandemic. I was gutted. The harder part was that no one had any idea of how long will it be before I could actually have a chance for another date. Everything was in the air, while I was literally walking around with a big hole in my head.
On the other hand, I felt relieved as I did not want to be in a hospital during a pandemic and I knew it was better to wait it off. I just had to reset my mindset again and, just go with the flow day by day. I was familiar to this approach already.
THE WAIT & THE PANDEMIC
As you know, a lot has happened since March 2020. The worldwide pandemic, the lockdown, the fear, the empty isle of the supermarkets and the toilet paper jokes. One more time everything had to be put on hold. Not just my life, but the whole world was taking a break.
During lockdown, it was very hard not to be able to go outdoors, and get the much-needed fresh air for my healing process. After a week indoors, my body was aching and needed to move. So, I decided to wake up very early in the mornings before the sun was up, just to make sure that I don’t come in close proximity to anyone.
It wasn’t easy but I made it work. I was falling in the high-risk category and I just did not want to give it any chance. I’m not going to lie, at some point I was really scared to go out, but I was taking every precautionary measure I possibly could.
Early mornings worked like magic for me and I was connecting with nature, moving my body and getting as much oxygen as I could through my system.
Days and weeks went by, that turned into months after months and before you know it was already July, and I had no word from the hospital.
The trauma of the surgery and the memory of the pain and needles was fading and I was beginning to feel like myself again. But the fact that I had a hole in my head was keeping me from feeling absolutely free. Whatever I was doing, I always felt the “caution light blinking” in the back of my head. At times I was even getting anxious especially, not knowing how long will this situation continue.
After ten months of waiting, I finally got the call with a date for the surgery, 29 September 2020. It was just two weeks from that day. Even though I was praying daily and waiting for so long for that moment, I could not help myself from having mixed feelings. I was so excited when I heard, but then shortly after, I began to feel anxious because I realised what was coming for me again.
A few days before the surgery, I remember one night, an avalanche of feelings came over me and could not stop myself from bursting into tears. It hit me, that I was really close to the day when I would have to put my body through all the needles, the pain and the chemicals. And not only that, but the whole recovery process, plus the risks of something going wrong again.
It was a low moment. I guess we all feel the same under pressure. The biggest part of me was happy and grateful that despite the restrictions, I still had a chance to have the procedure.
In the morning of 28th of September 2020, my bag was packed and I was ready to take this journey one more time. There was a whole process due to the pandemic restrictions. My sister drove me to the hospital and she dropped me at the entrance, where I was expected by a male nurse. They informed us beforehand that no visitors were allowed during this time. I knew I was going to go through it all alone this time.
I could not sleep at all that night, I tried but it was hopeless. I was tossing and turning. The bed seemed small and my head was swirling with thoughts. In the morning I felt like a zombie. The two surgeons that were going to operate on me, came around to let me know that we were all set for the surgery. I asked them to give my family a call as soon as they were to finish the procedure. He reassured me that they would.
After the surgeons left, another team member came around to show me the metal plate that was soon going to be placed inside my head. When I held that piece of titanium in my hands, I was astounded and I was trying to process what was about to happen.
I realised that 15 years ago, something like this could not have been possible. It’s incredible what modern medicine can do when it comes to emergency situations, like in my case.
I remember thirty years ago, there was no treatment for something like this. My dear uncle had a similar thing. He was diagnosed with brain tumour when he was just 20 years’ old. He had brain surgery at 22 but they could not help him and we lost him when he was just 23. It was a tragic and painful chapter of my adolescent life. I was very close to him. We all were, and it was hard for all of us to go through that loss.
My point, nowadays we are so blessed to live in a society where people have access to this kind of medical care. It really saves lives.
HERE WE GO AGAIN
One more time, my bed was rolling on the corridors of the hospital while they were taking me to the theatre. I was excited but also very scared. I said my prayers again and again silently in my head and was ready to go in. It was 8.30 am.
When I woke up, 6 hours later, I was in the recovery room, and a nurse was calling my name. I responded with a weak voice. I was feeling so tired, I just could not keep my eyes open. I just wanted to sleep. It was most probably from all the drugs but also from the fact that I did not sleep at all the night before. The previous times, I was a bit more alert after I was out from the anaesthetics even for a short time before I went to sleep again. This time around, I was just very sleepy and in a lot of pain.
The surgery went very well the experts said, and they were happy. They took me back to my room where I was being monitored every 15 minutes. I was sleeping most of the time. I remember waking up late in the evening and having an apple for dinner. That was a good sign. I struggled to eat it, but I knew my body needed it.
I was keeping my family in the loop via messaging, but I was not strong enough to talk on the phone. The doctors were in contact with them already, and they were informed of everything.
The next day when I woke up and realised that my head was wrapped up in a very tight bandage. It was so tight, it felt like my head was in a cast. They warned me about this before the surgery. I also had two drain tubes that were draining any excessive blood from my brain. They were also checking how much blood was dripping in those bags daily.
The pain was unbearable this time around. It was so much more than before. The other times, my body felt very weak, but I did not experience that much pain. This time even though my body was stronger, the pain was ruling over. I was taking painkillers, but that wasn’t really working for me. I could not rest at all.
Two days after the surgery in the morning, they removed the tubes from my head. That was the most painful thing I’ve experienced. I literally cried when they pulled it out, despite their efforts to be gentle. It was so painful, the whole thing, I just could not keep up with it anymore. When they left, I pulled all the curtains around my bed and cried it all out like a little baby, sighing through my tears.
It was almost like the universe felt sorry for me and soon after that, the pain just got better and more bearable. So much so, that the next day I got up and was walking down the corridors. I also had a video call with my family that afternoon. I felt so blessed, my pain was lifted.
What I know for sure, is that all the prayers, loving energy and thoughts that I have received from my family, friends and all the wonderful souls that followed my journey through this, is what made this miracle happen. I know that whenever they thought of me or said a prayer, that loving energy touched me and I was immersed in it. I say this, because I felt it and it was very real.
Four days after the surgery, on Friday the 2nd of October, I was released home, with oral antibiotics and a follow up appointment to remove the bandage and stitches, ten days later.
It was wonderful to be back home with my family and to sleep in my own bed again. My sister was looking after me, cooking and juicing for me every morning.
The first few days were tough, not so much for the surgery pain, as I could manage that with mild painkillers, but my head was hurting from the bandage. It was so uncomfortable to lay my head on the pillow. It felt like it was resting on a brick the whole time.
My right ear, the one that was squeezed inside the bandage was in so much pain and was almost numb at times. I had to keep that tight until the doctor advised otherwise, to ensure that it will all seal nicely.
I was managing well and at times could not believe that I had that procedure and was already home and getting better.
Time went by fast and before you know it, ten days later, stitches and bandage was out. I was so happy to feel my head free again. I slept so much better after that.
There was some swelling the day after and the inflammation was so visible under the skin. It was incredible to see that every day that went by, the swelling was getting less and less and my body was healing very well. A week after the removal of the stitches and the bandage, the whole swelling was completely gone. I was so happy to see that. I remembered that the last time, I had the swelling for over a month.
Now it’s been 8 weeks after the surgery and I feel incredibly well. I still can’t believe that over the past year, my body has been through all these stages and is still standing. The recovery was so much faster this time around, it’s truly remarkable. I did not expect it to go so well to be honest.
I was worried about things that could go wrong at times, but my body was just getting better and better every day showing me there’s nothing to worry about. I am in awe of its ability to heal itself. It’s a marvel to me to see this, after everything that I have been through.
I still have a long way to go before I get myself “back on track”, but for now I can only tell you that I feel blessed beyond measure.
If someone would have told me that, I would have three brain surgeries all in one year and would make it out alive, I would have called them crazy. But I guess you never know until life shows you what you are truly capable of.
We are made to endure anything and our heart and will to go on can take us anywhere we wish to go.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read these three long posts of my recent rollercoaster journey. I know its hard to believe but I’ve tried to reflect the essence without going into much detail.
There is another version of my story, which goes into more detail starting from my childhood going through all the decisions that I have made in my life that brought me to this perfect moment in time for everything to unfold the way it did. I wrote during this year, while I was recovering. Hopefully one day I get to share that will you as well.
I came across this poem a few years ago and I loved it. There’s a lifetime of wisdom in these words he wrote in his 70’s. A few days ago I was reminded of it again and this time, I thought I’d share it in this space. Hope you like it as much as I did.
As I Began To Love Myself
by Charlie Chaplin
As I began to love myself I found that anguish and emotional suffering are only warning signs that I was living against my own truth. Today, I know, this is “AUTHENTICITY”.
As I began to love myself I understood how much it can offend somebody if I try to force my desires on this person, even though I knew the time was not right and the person was not ready for it, and even though this person was me. Today I call it “RESPECT”.
As I began to love myself I stopped craving for a different life, and I could see that everything that surrounded me was inviting me to grow. Today I call it “MATURITY”.
As I began to love myself I understood that at any circumstance, I am in the right place at the right time, and everything happens at the exactly right moment. So I could be calm. Today I call it “SELF-CONFIDENCE”.
As I began to love myself I quit stealing my own time, and I stopped designing huge projects for the future. Today, I only do what brings me joy and happiness, things I love to do and that make my heart cheer, and I do them in my own way and in my own rhythm. Today I call it “SIMPLICITY”.
As I began to love myself I freed myself of anything that is no good for my health – food, people, things, situations, and everything that drew me down and away from myself. At first I called this attitude a healthy egoism. Today I know it is “LOVE OF ONESELF”.
As I began to love myself I quit trying to always be right, and ever since I was wrong less of the time. Today I discovered that is “MODESTY”.
As I began to love myself I refused to go on living in the past and worrying about the future. Now, I only live for the moment, where everything is happening. Today I live each day, day by day, and I call it “FULFILLMENT”.
As I began to love myself I recognized that my mind can disturb me and it can make me sick. But as I connected it to my heart, my mind became a valuable ally. Today I call this connection “WISDOM OF THE HEART”.
We no longer need to fear arguments, confrontations or any kind of problems with ourselves or others. Even stars collide, and out of their crashing new worlds are born. Today I know “THAT IS LIFE”!
Infection is one of the risks you are exposed to when you have surgery. It’s a small risk, but unfortunately it happened to me.
Three weeks after the surgery, I was running to the hospital with an oozing wound. It was surreal. It was the worst fear coming to reality. It’s so scary even to think about it now, which makes it even harder to describe all the details.
I remember madly rushing to a taxi with my mum, heading for the emergency room at the hospital, while the wound was dripping all the time. I was pressing a piece of bandage against it to prevent it from leaking. It was coming out from a spot right next to my right ear, exactly where you could see the end of the cut mark was.
Crazy thing, I haven’t developed any serious symptoms of infection like fever for example. I was feeling well overall.
It was so disheartening when we finally arrived at the hospital. Finding myself back there again was like sticking a sharp knife in my chest. I can still remember watching my mother crying as she was talking to my son in the distance, while I was waiting for my turn to be seen by the doctor in the emergency department.
I could not bear the pain I was inflicting on them. I was trying to make believe that I am strong and fearless so they don’t worry about me as I was being admitted in the hospital again. But…
When I found myself alone, laying in that bed again, all my pain and fears started to flood in tears down my face. This time I was really afraid that something could go wrong.
I cannot forget the feeling I had when the doctor came and explained everything that was going to happen in the following hours.
He described that they will perform another surgery called a wound wash. He then added that if they find that the flap bone (the skull) was permeated (infected) by the puss, they would not risk putting that back in, and they’ll live it out.
I was shocked and asked, what do you mean? I will have no skull around that part? It is quite a big incision? Yes, he said, you would have to perform another surgery at some point in the future, to place a metal plate instead of the skull if that will be the case.
In that moment I felt like my heart was shattered into pieces and my wings were chopped off. I felt like bricks were falling from the top of the roof and I did not know where to hide. I felt defeated.
I was hitting rock bottom and found myself in the darkest place I’ve ever been in my entire life. After everyone left and was alone in that dark hospital room, a shower of hot and heavy tears of sorrow started to wash my face and neck again.
My mind was wondering, “What is happening, why am I going through this again, am I being punished or something? What did I do wrong? Haven’t we been through enough already? Can I even survive two, not to mention three potential surgeries? It’s impossible! What kind of life am I going to have after this? Or worse, what if something goes wrong? I need more time with my family. I need to tell them how much I love them one more time. Oh my heart! My son’s wedding next year.. I have to make it, I have to walk him down the isle.. ” I was devastated and broken.
It felt like I was swimming in a sea of pain. It was dark and cold and I could not find something to hang on to catch my breath for a second. I almost felt like giving up, but then I saw a small light flickering in the distance. Something in me shifted.
I realised that I was blessed beyond measures again. The wound was completely sealed all around. I had no symptoms of infection. Yet, somehow it found a tiny dot to slip out, and to let me know of what was going on inside. If that did not happen the way it did, I would have probably found out when it was going to be too late and nothing left to be done.
I saw the blessing in disguise again. That moment I knew that the same force that kept me safe and sound all this time, will keep me safe from now on as well.
And just like that in the middle of the hurricane, while I was overwhelmed and terrified of what could happen, the light somehow shown itself to me. I realised that I saw the light in the darkest place. I suddenly felt hope, faith, trust out of nowhere. I watched my fears getting smaller and smaller in the distance, and decided to surrender and take this on day by day. I fell asleep as there were no more tears left.
A voice woke me up at 5 am, in the morning of 6 November 2019. It was Ana, the same surgeon that performed the first procedure. I felt safe that she was the one who was going to operate on me. So, there I was, having the second brain surgery, just weeks away from the first one.
When I woke up, I was in a lot of pain and it was even more painful to realise that indeed the bone flap was left out. I knew in that instant that I would have to go through all of this, one more time in the future. I was feeling very weak but blessed and happy to be alive.
The next two weeks in the hospital were tough. My head was swollen out of proportions. It literally looked like and alien. It was a challenge to go to the toilet. It was hard to stand up and walk around. Just by speaking for 5 minutes, my heart would race up very quickly.
I was taking intravenous antibiotics for six weeks in total. The first week they were giving me strongest antibiotics available, so much so that my veins were on fire every time it would flow through. The weakness in my body was like nothing I have felt before and the pain of the antibiotics rushing through my veins became almost unbearable at some point.
By the end of the two weeks in the hospital my veins closed off because of the chemicals and my flesh became hard just like a piece of wood and I’m not even exaggerating. It was incredibly painful. This time my body felt it in every way.
I went home with a piccline insertion and I continued a lighter version of intravenous antibiotics until the 16th of December 2019. My mum was by my side for two months helping me to bathe and dress myself. There were moments where I could not believe what a turn my life took. Not long ago my playground was the weights room at the gym, and now I needed help with basic stuff.
There were moments when thoughts of fear would stick their head above the water and it wasn’t easy to cast them away. But I stayed focused in faith, I gave my gratitude to the universe every day, I meditated, vocalised my best healing affirmations, and took care of myself both mentally and physically the best way I knew and was able to so.
I remember repeating this one affirmation many time with my eyes closed and feeling in my heart, as I was about to fall asleep:
“I am free of all diseases, all illnesses, all infections or inflammations. I am in perfect health and all is well.“
A positive mindset and an attitude of trust and faith needs practice, just the same as a fit body needs consistent training. It does not happen over night.
Weeks went by and I got better and better. Swelling was completely gone. It was weird to feel the softness of my head and to think that my brain is just covered by skin tissue and hair.
The slow walks in nature by the river, holding my mum’s arm were filling me with fresh vibrant energy. The home made food, cooked with love and care, nourished and helped to heal my body from all the turmoil that it went through.
I felt so happy when I finished the antibiotic course and was all ready for my follow up appointment on the 16th of December 2019. I arrived at the hospital where I did blood tests and the head scan. During the scan guess what I was repeating again and again silently, while the sound of the machine was bleeping loud? Yes, you’re right! My favourite affirmation that I have just shared above.
The head scan was clean and beautiful, in the words of the doctors. The infection was completely gone, everything was looking great. That meant that I could finally get rid of that wire in my hand, the piccline insertion, which kept me from sleeping on my left side or the pleasure of enjoying a proper bath all this time.
When I left there I felt so free and happy, my soul was smiling inside my body. If I had a tail, it would probably swirl around at that time.
I was blessed to have a wonderful Christmas and new year with my family, without medication or wires coming out of my veins, just like I wished for. My gratitude for everything in my life was growing every day. For all the things big or small.
When you get close to losing your life, you realise that nothing is for granted so you look at everything with new eyes, better said, through the lense of your heart. You realise that life is too short for anything else, than spending it around people you love and letting them know how you feel every day.
I’ve spent New Year’s Eve cooking and eating pasta with my family and chatting about what a year 2019 has been for all of us. We were all looking forward to the New Year with many hopes and dreams for a better future.
But who new what 2020 was about to bring along for all of us. I still had one more surgery to go at that time, and was doing my best to keep it all together and keep the same attitude going forward. Was it easy ? No, but I did my best.
I will share all of the details in part three of this long post.
As I am writing down these details of my recent journey, I realise that it’s been exactly one month since the last surgery on the 29th of September this year.
Before I begin the story, I want to thank you for all your support during this time. It’s such a powerful thing to share and support each other during difficulties, because no one should go through anything alone. Especially through pain and suffering.
I was humbled and touched deeply by people that I have never met before, yet we connected through social media. It’s incredible to see what the power of the heart can accomplish.
What defines us as human beings is the ability to care about each other. If you see someone hurting or in need for help, you will instinctively have a response. You cannot be indifferent or say “It’s not my responsibility.”
Because just like one of my favourite gurus said
“You can’t be partially human. You are either human or you’re not”.
If you happen to see someone fighting outside on your street for example, you can’t just push a button and become indifferent. The least you can do, is to call for help, if you are afraid of getting in the middle of it.
Therefore, if you know someone is going through a hard time, you can give them a hug if you happen to be close to them. If you are miles away, you can message them or call them to say a good word of encouragement. If it’s someone you never met but you happen to see their hardship, you may be shy to message them, but you can always pray for them. There is always some action you can take if you want to, regardless of how far or close you are to someone.
To all the wonderful humans out there, I thank you for all your love and prayers and for making my journey so much easier.
Now, let me begin with sharing this story and what have unfolded over the last year.
If you haven’t read the post where I describe in detail the nine months of terrible migraines and struggles leading to the moment when I was properly diagnosed, click on the button below and it will take you to the website where I have posted the whole story. I felt I had to share it all mostly to built awareness.
Prior to these events, my life was about coaching people. I was passionate about fitness and wellness, so much so that I made a career out of it.
My daily schedule was busy, packed with classes, one to one session, seminars, studying, research, plus all the things that one does to live their dream and build a fitness business from the ground.
I started from zero when I moved from sunny Cyprus to great London six years ago, to turn my passion into reality. Everything was coming together beautifully. I was getting more clients and more ideas for future projects. I was happy living my passion and making an impact in people’s lives.
All seemed to be going so well, until one day, the 9th of October 2019 to be precise, when everything turned into a nightmare.
Yes, I have been suffering with migraines for nine months before this happened and I’ve been seeing doctors, went to the emergency twice, but I have never imagined the magnitude of what was really underneath it all. Not until I had a head scan and out of nowhere, I was diagnosed with brain tumour.
What a shock that was! The tumour was incredibly big (10 cm) they never seen anything like it, without any symptoms like seizures or paralysis. Looking back, I know that I was extremely blessed. They said I must have had it growing over 10 years. Imagine that, I could have dropped somewhere at any time. Yet I didn’t.
The scary part was that during all this time, I have travelled alone back and forth by plane and had no idea of the consequences that could unfold. Again, looking back, I realise that was very lucky the whole time.
Needless to say, that during the nine months leading to that day, whenever I was experiencing the migraines, I wasn’t able to work, move or do anything other than just lying in bed. Anything else would aggravate the pain and symptoms. I was cancelling everything on my diary for at least three days at the time.
That day in October when I was urgently admitted to the hospital, I was living a nightmare. All my dreams, my life, my work felt like sand slipping through my fingers. I felt like I was losing everything. All that, on top of the shocking diagnose. I felt like my life pulled the emergency brakes on me.
It was all so much to handle and my mind was extremely foggy, since I was experiencing memory loss and disorientation due to the brain swelling and bleeding inside my head at that time.
After a couple of days and many chemicals and needles at Kings College hospital in London, my mind began to be less foggy and I was feeling a bit stronger. Their plan was to get the brain swelling in control, before they would go ahead with the brain surgery.
I was lucky to have my family and friends constantly by my side all the time. I don’t know what would have happened if I did not have their support.
When I was alone at night in that hospital bed, still in shock of what was happening and with a broken heart, my mind was flooded with so many questions, asking for answers and someone or something to blame.
“How come they did not pick it up earlier. I can’t believe they did not see this and my life was endangered all this time. How could this be possible? I should sue them!
I thought I was healthy, doing everything right? What did I do wrong? Omg what about my clients and my friends? What about the promise I made to help them? I can’t stand to see my family suffering with me… Can I even have a normal life after this? Everything I’ve worked for is gone. It’s all over, my life is over.”
My heart was shattered into pieces and it didn’t take me long to realise that any answer or finding someone to blame, would not have changed the fact that I had this tumour and that things were the way they were at that moment in my life. There was no one to blame, there was no answer that made any sense. It was what it was.
When the tears dried out, I took a few breaths and realised that there was nowhere to hide. I had to face this situation and find the strength to accept it. I realised that the only way out of it, was going through it, and having the strength to face it.
When something unexpected happens to us, we react and become defensive, because we believe that life is there to punish us or wants to pull us back from reaching our dreams. And so, we tend to push harder and harder against the flow, only to realise that it leaves us breathless. We can’t fight nature, we can only learn to ride the waves as they come along.
The next morning, I panicked as I was looking at my phone. It was packed with hundreds of messages and miscalls.
The thought of getting back to all these people, was making me feel so anxious and sad. Most of them did not know what happened. Some of them were briefed by my sister via social media, but the majority wanted to know how I was feeling and what happened. I had to sit down and update all my clients, associates and friends of what was happening. It was one of the toughest things I had to do at that time because I was reinforcing and confirming that this was very real and it wasn’t just a nightmare.
I mean, where do you begin? Where do you find the strength to tell everyone the shocking news? How can you explain that your life has hit the pause button and you have no idea how, when or even if you will resume?
I replied to most of them, but I got exhausted at some point and my sister took over the rest. I literally handed my phone to her and she took care of it. So grateful for her strong and beautiful soul.
After 9 days in the hospital, ingesting chemicals, steroids and anti-seizure drugs plus needles piercing my veins, blood tests and scans, I was finally ready for the surgery on the 18th of October 2019.
I remember my heart beating fast as they were rolling my bed on the hospital corridors. I can also remember the surgery room, they call that theatre, it was so cold in there. I felt like I walked into a fridge. For some reason I was not afraid of dying. I looked around but there was not much to see but a TV screen with a humanoid head. I was out before they shaved a third of my hair and got me ready for the surgery.
Six or seven hours later, the whole tumour was removed completely. All went well. I woke up in the recovery room. I was in a lot of pain, had oxygen tubes down my nose, but I could speak, move and I was conscious of everything. Very weak but aware. That was a good sign. It was great to see the faces of my loved ones again, when they took me back to my room. As I found out later, they were thrilled to see me conscious, because they did not know what to expect. In some cases, brain functions can be affected.
More great news came the next day, the tumour wasn’t cancerous either. Another blessing. All motor functions, speech, and reasoning were intact. I got up and walking after three days and was ready to go home the fourth day after the surgery. It was just like magic.
I had great care from the nurses while I was there, but I could not sleep. There was always so much noise from people screaming in pain, phones ringing, nurses chatting on the corridors, plus I was woken up for the regular monitoring all the time. I could not wait to go home.
And yes, when the day arrived and my family picked me up, I felt like I was going outside for the first time. I felt so strange and beautiful. I can still remember when the sun-ray’s kissed my face after so long, I realised how much I missed nature, life and everything that comes with it.
It was great to be back home, use my own bathroom and sit on my own toilet. It’s funny to realise how we take for granted the little things like these. The first night it felt like I slept on a cloud. I will never forget it. The best sleep I ever had.
During the day in the first week, I was napping every 20 minutes. Almost like my mind could not stay awake for more than that. After the short nap, I would wake up and continue to be around the house with my family. I was not in pain anymore. I was seeing improvement and felt great considering that I had brain surgery. I felt very lucky to have my family and could see how they were happy to see me getting better and better day by day. I was still taking steroids and antiseizure medication for about a week.
Walking around the house, I noticed that it was hard to see my face in the mirror. I could not recognise myself. A part of me felt like it was having an identity crisis, and did not know who I was anymore.
But the bigger part could not believe the miracle that was happening in my life. I made it through the belly of the dragon. I was so grateful to be alive. I was so grateful that the universe speared my family from the pain that could have taken space if things would have gone wrong.
I thought I was getting better. I was so excited when the day came to remove the stitches. That was the first time I’ve actually realised how big the cut was. It was massive. The nurse removed more than 40 stitches that day. I felt happy to have passed that stage, but my excitement did not last for long. A few days after, I was facing another nightmare.
I will share all of that with you in part two of this long post.