Making a Case for God

Apparently, God does not need me to do PR work on His behalf, by taking away my brain tumor so I can praise His name from the mountain tops. I’ve asked. I figured that if I could tell people that I prayed and God took away the brain tumor, restored my brain to perfect health simply because I had faith, then I’d make a pretty good case for His existence. God didn’t play along.

I had been reading the book, “The Sermon on the Mount,” by Emmett Fox, never having read the Sermon on the Mount that Jesus gave, documented in the Bible. I felt that I could grasp the concept, or at least my interpretation of Emmett Fox’s interpretation, that human beings are created perfect in God’s image, and that our own limiting beliefs and thoughts create how we see ourselves in the world. Our negative beliefs about ourselves manifests sickness and disease. It then follows that if we align our thoughts and beliefs with God’s truth about ourselves as perfect beings, as through prayer and gratitude as well as being mindful of our thoughts about others and ourselves, then we will manifest perfect health.

I began practicing prayer with the intent of manifesting, with God, my brain as completely healed. Believing that God has removed the offending tumor and restored me to perfect health. I became mindful of my thoughts of others, and corrected any criticism or judgment of others or myself as they came up. I asked God to relieve me of my judgemental thoughts and my muscle movement symptoms. I prayed with gratitude in my heart for the abundance and love of God.

A mere few days after I wholeheartedly began this practice, my involuntary muscle movements were completely gone!  It was a miracle! The twitching, spasms, clenching, and sometimes wild movements of the muscles in my neck, shoulders, arms, hands, and even in my face and jaw, that I had been afflicted with for at least four years, had suddenly ceased. Aches and pains caused by the semi-constant muscle contractions melted away. A new sense of calm and ease washed over and through me. I was euphoric, and devoted myself all the more to prayer, right thoughts, and gratitude.

This reprieve lasted for nearly a month. One day, as suddenly as they stopped, the torturous muscle clenching returned at a heightened level. I was crushed. My faith and trust had failed. God had abandoned me and I didn’t know why. The brain tumor must still be there, pressing on my brainstem, threatening to grow and wreak even more havoc.

I began sinking, retreating into my dark mind of fear and worry. Once again staring into the abyss of the unknown, again realizing that I have no control. I allowed myself a couple of days to wallow in disappointment and self-pity.

I woke up a few mornings later and decided to rise above the part of myself that wanted to rail against God for not doing MY will! For not answering my prayers, my bargains, for not rewarding me for my good thoughts and deeds. Instead, I prayed that I may have enduring faith, no matter the conditions I find myself in. I may not like what is happening to me, in me, but without faith and trust in whatever plan God has for me, life would not seem worth living at all. I would be mired in my self-pity and anger.

A large part of my adult life has been about surrendering to the reality that control over my life is an illusion. This required me to search for something bigger than my own will that I could trust surrendering control to. To find and build faith in God. I choose over and over to surrender my will to God, to have Faith without hard evidence. Quite simply put, having faith just feels better!

By the way, I have correlated the relief of my involuntary muscle movements to the side-effect of an increase in a medication which was prescribed to help me sleep. The contractures returned as I was weaning myself off the medication (as it was not effective in helping me get to sleep). When I increased the dosage again, the involuntary movements were again alleviated, though not completely.  When I discussed this with my psychiatrist, he confirmed what I had suspected from my own experience. Apparently, this medication is often prescribed to people with Huntington’s disease to ease their symptoms of involuntary muscle movements. It is an off-label use (not what the medication was formulated to do, but a fortunate side-effect). I am inexplicably grateful for this stumbled-upon treatment! It may not be divine intervention, but I’ll take what relief I can get!

More will be revealed. Thank you for joining me on my ride.

 

Harmonious Participation

I follow several brain tumor blogs and personally know a few people who are either themselves or have a loved one living with a brain tumor and what is apparent is that my case is unusual and I’m damn lucky! After two years of focusing inward, processing my anger, my fear, my self-pity, and finding my faith, gratitude, and courage, I find myself poised to look outward. I have often heard that “gratitude is an action” and that “faith without works is dead.” It is time for me to put my faith and gratitude into action in the larger community of those living with, dying from, and researching for cures of brain tumors.

That has been my intention for a couple of months, but as with most action, the question has been how to take the first meaningful step. Fortunately, a fundraiser for the American Brain Tumor Association popped up on my FaceBook news feed, giving me a simple and practical first step (literally…), right in my own back yard. The following is their mission statement, taken from their website, http://www.abta.org

The mission of the American Brain Tumor Association is to advance the understanding and treatment of brain tumors with the goals of improving, extending and, ultimately, saving the lives of those impacted by a brain tumor diagnosis.

We do this through interactions and engagements with brain tumor patients and their families, collaborations with allied groups and organizations, and the funding of brain tumor research.

Founded in 1973, the American Brain Tumor Association (ABTA) was the first and is the only national advocacy organization committed to funding brain tumor research and providing information and education on all tumor types and all age groups. For over 40 years, the ABTA has been providing comprehensive resources that support the complex needs of brain tumor patients and caregivers, as well as the critical funding of research in the pursuit of breakthroughs in brain tumor diagnosis, treatment and care.

The Breakthrough for Brain Tumors 5K is put on by the ABTA in 9 cities in the U.S. to raise funds to research for cures of 120 types (!!) of brain tumors. I am joining the walk (there’s also a run for those WAY more fit than I) in Denver on May 6th as a small part of a large community of those affected by brain tumors. In addition to the obvious goal of raising funds, I look forward to connecting with a local community of people who have their own Bob stories; as well as finding other ways to participate in the community.

This is the part where I unabashedly ask for your money!  Please participate in helping all of us who rely on further research for effective treatments for brain tumors. You can join my team, BT Warriors, even as a “virtual walker” or donate (tax deductible, yay!) by clicking on this link:

http://hope.abta.org/site/TR/BT5K/BT5K-2015?team_id=37438&pg=team&fr_id=3531#.WPP1-dIrLIU

Thank you thank you thank you…. You’re friggin’ awesome!

Dawn (& my beloved Bob)

Two Years, Better Than Ever!

Hello! Can you believe it’s been two whole years to the day since I read that MRI report and looked at that image of Bob on my brainstem? I’m a bit amazed myself. Wow! What a trip, what a life. The way my diagnosing neurologist put it, I should have been dead a year ago. HA! That’ll teach him to say something that terrible to a patient.

I was mad at that doctor for such a long time for saying that to me, then it occurred to me yesterday that if he hadn’t told me that I’d be lucky to make it to a year, I may not feel so much gratitude for still being alive! I would more likely be wallowing in self-pity for having a brain tumor. I love how a matter of perspective can change thoughts and feelings about a situation.

The absolute truth remains the same, there is a tumor on my brainstem. The way I feel about and experience that truth has changed dramatically in the course of two years.

It took a while for the shock to wear off enough to feel anything at all. I existed for months outside of my body, watching from a distance in disbelief at the turn my life had taken. I tried to figure out what I was supposed to be feeling. I found myself alternately laughing and crying, as if I were watching a tragic comedy. I could not admit to my friends or family that along with fear, I sometimes felt a sense of relief that I could die soon. I had struggled with such terrible bouts of depression in my life that I welcomed a way out in which I could not be to blame. Later on, I began to blame myself for getting the tumor. As though all those times that I had felt like dying had manifested it.

I never imagined then that I would someday be grateful for the astounding ways that the knowledge of this tumor would change my life. I wake up each day with a joy for life and a deep sense of peace (most mornings it takes a cup of coffee first!). I feel deeply loved and supported by my family as well as by friends, in a way that I could not previously let into my heart. I have gone from such anger at God, to completely losing any faith I had, to saying prayers of thanks and trusting God completely with my life now. By all outside appearances, I’ll concede that my life does not look so great in terms of what is valued in our society. The life inside of me however, is truly beyond my wildest dreams!

Happy Anniversary, Bob! Thanks for being a quiet guest and for helping me know that life is worth getting out of bed for!

I’m so grateful for each and every one of you for your care, love, and support.

As always, more will be revealed…

xo Dawn

A year with Bob

Hello!

I have not been active with blogging in quite awhile and wanted to reach out to those of you who don’t know me personally or on Facebook.

I have read so many incredible stories of perseverance, courage, and survival by connecting with other brain tumor bloggers. I have enduring admiration and hope for all of us.

I count myself extremely fortunate to have not required surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation thus far, and have great optimism that the tumor on my brain stem will not grow.

On April 1st, 2015, I read my second MRI report (with contrast this time) and discovered that I had a primary neoplasm on my brain stem. This was confirmed later in the week by the neurologist whom I had to argue with to get a script for an MRI in the first place.  This consult scared the crap out of me, as I have shared many times that he told me that I was in for a hard fight and probably would not be here in a year. Thank God, he was wrong.

My life was thrust into an alternate reality. I vacillated between wanting to just die and get it over with, and wanting to live like never before. After seeing many specialists, I met the neurosurgeon who gave me hope and explained my MRIs with compassion and in a way that I could begin to grasp. Dr. Levy convince me to not get a biopsy, explaining the great risks involved in going that deep into my brain, but to get an MRI in 3 months to see if this tumor was growing. That was the longest and most anxious 3 months of my life. I had and have amazing support and love that carried me through and buoyed me to earth. Expressing my emotions on this blog and reading others was immensely therapeutic.

A year later, having had MRI’s every 3 months, the tumor has not grown! My next MRI is in June, then another 6 months after that. As long as there is no growth, the tumor will not impact my functioning or health. If it ever does grow, I will cross that bridge with Dr. Levy and my incredible family and friends.

I try to remember every day that being here is a gift, to have compassion for everyone I meet, to remain grateful and express gratitude, and to seek joy and love. I am far from perfect in this effort, but I continue to challenge myself on this journey.

Thank you for reading and being a part of this journey with me, and as always…

More will be revealed.

Dawn

 

Creating Something New

starting something new post

As it turns out, life does not stop when one is diagnosed with a brain tumor (or any other illness/injury for that matter). Utility bills, car payments, rent or mortgage, medical expenses, these all continue needing to be paid.  Groceries, prescriptions, and gas for the car all still need to be bought. There is no “free ride” as they say. Even if you qualify for Medicaid, food assistance, and/or disability, I dare anyone out there to survive, let alone thrive, on that alone. I have tried, and it is a pitiful existence full of anxiety, struggle, and low self-esteem. It was certainly better than nothing, but surviving is NOT thriving.

The world is full of advice such as “Live each day to the fullest” and “Do what makes you happiest” without any real means of achieving those ideals aside from being independently wealthy or “visualizing/manifesting”, um, back to reality please.  I assume that those who say money can’t buy happiness have enough money to pay their bills and eat well. While I agree that happiness can’t be bought, it sure does alleviate the stress and anxiety of just trying to get by.

So, while I did quit my job and move to Florida to be with my family as a matter of changing my priorities (as well as a matter of getting away from freezing temperatures!), and I am so fortunate to have my mom and step-dad to live with, alleviating much of my financial burden, there leaves getting a JOB and earning an income.

As many times as I have moved, I still forget how stressful it is to find a job when I get where it is that I’m going. I don’t know about you, but the job searching, resume updating, cover letter writing, and job interviewing kinda sucks.  I’ve mostly applied for part time retail/customer service positions, just to earn enough while I am completing an online program in Medical Coding/Billing. Perhaps when my resume is reviewed, the impression is that I am over-qualified? It’s not like there’s a spot to write in, “No, no, I really do want to stand at the register and ring people out for just above minimum wage despite my qualifications to do so much more. You see, I’m still recovering from the shock and anxiety of having a brain tumor, plus I’m taking online classes, and I don’t want a high-pressure full-time office job right now.” Basically, I’m not what they are looking for.

A rather important side note is that stress has been proven to encourage cancer cell growth, something I am REALLY trying to avoid!

Fortunately, a dear friend of mine has hired me for two days a week to complete a short term bookkeeping project for her business. That got me to thinking… with my 15 or so years of small-business bookkeeping experience, coupled with online account access, I could do remote bookkeeping for clients anywhere.  After further research, I found that there is a growing profession of people called Daily Money Managers, who, at the least pay bills and balance checkbooks for their clients, which can also be done remotely.

Instead of drafting cover letters and updating my resume for advertised job openings, I am drafting engagement letters and updating my services and fees for potential new clients. Without needing to commute to a job (currently living 20-30 min from anywhere), buy clothes for interviews or workplace, and possibly working longer hours for less pay, I have the potential to work fewer hours with no commute and much less stress, allowing more time to study, to spend with family and friends, and to write.

my view for blog
view from my outdoor office

A friend recently asked if I have a passion for bookkeeping as I usually end up working in that field. I would have previously said no.  I mean really, bookkeeping?! Does that SOUND like something to pursue with a passion?  The fact is, I am good at it, it comes naturally to me, and I find a great deal of satisfaction in balancing all the accounts.  It’s also a great service to others who have either no interest in or actually despise keeping up with their business or personal bookkeeping. So while I may not describe it as my passion, I certainly enjoy the heck out of it.

Sometimes, it really helps to look at something from a different perspective for inspiration! I am creating a career for myself that I can do from home or take with me anywhere. I was trying to figure out how to earn some income writing, but the truth is that I enjoy writing when I feel inspired and not pressured to do so, and that would change if I felt that I needed to earn income by it.

Are you looking for fresh inspiration? Are you pursuing an alternative income-earning solution? Let me know in your comments, we can always use more inspiration from one another!

Thank you for reading my story. More will be revealed…

Dawn

Recovering from life (a pre-Bob post)

sunset for blog

That Tuesday morning, around 10 years ago, I convinced the staff psychiatrist of something that I was not so sure was true: that I was not going to harm myself. I just wanted to go home to my condo, my bed, and my dog who I had called my ex-boyfriend to take care of, in a desperate attempt to win his sympathy, plus my dog liked him and would be happy with him should they end up keeping me for a while. Most of all, I wanted to sleep. I couldn’t sleep there, because I was afraid of the woman who I shared a bedroom with. The first night, I woke to her standing over my bed mumbling something. I didn’t close my eyes again around her for the next three days.

Going to the emergency room on the previous Friday night was not in my plans and now I wasn’t quite sure I belonged in that house. In the light of day I seemed pretty damn well adjusted in comparison to my new temporary house-mates. This will seem insensitive, but I thought, “These people really ARE crazy, I’m just depressed.” They had all been sleeping when I was admitted (with the exception of my mumbling-to-someone-no-one-else-could-see roommate), and Saturday morning, several of the residents asked if I was a new staff member.

My depression had returned with a force months earlier, but I thought I could overcome it on my own and not go back on medication. The usual symptoms snuck up on me and gradually became worse: the feeling of being totally disconnected from everyone around me, crawling out of bed as though it were a pit of quicksand, not bothering to eat or shower regularly. Checking my mail and answering my phone became almost impossible feats. Somehow, I was still able to fake it enough to get through a day’s work and to talk to my family on the phone while not letting on about my depression, but my will to make the effort began to dwindle. The hopeless thoughts were gaining on me and beginning to convince me that I would never feel well, let alone happy, again. My brain was telling me that I shouldn’t even bother trying anymore, that my depression is a vicious cycle that will never go away, that I will never feel good enough, and that it would be much easier to just be dead. The depression convinced me so completely that those were facts that I found myself looking under my sink cabinets for something fatal to ingest.

Until then, I had only fleetingly and vaguely considered suicide, so the fact that I felt like someone else actually inhibited my body and was looking under my sink for poison, scared me into calling a friend. When she answered, I could only sob, and in less than ten minutes, she was pounding on my front door. I told her that I didn’t trust myself to be alone and that I needed help. She drove me directly to the ER, where again I could only cry as they asked me a series of stupid questions. Next thing you know, I was walking across the street with a social worker to check in to a lock-down house that I guess was for mentally unstable folks. I never got around to asking.

It was actually quite a nice cozy little house, if you overlooked the locked doors and 24 hour supervision, plus we had our own cook who came in three times a day to prepare family style meals. If you ever have a mental health meltdown, I highly recommend doing so in Boulder, CO.

The staff psychiatrists were only there Mondays through Fridays, so I didn’t even talk to a doctor until after the weekend. On Saturday morning, I thought to myself, “Well Dawn, this is a great little break from life, a chance to let down your walls, get professional help, and really dig in to getting better.” After talking with a staff counselor and psychiatrist on Monday, it seemed that their agenda was to stabilize me so that they could release me, no time for digging in. After all, I was there as a guest of the state as I had no health insurance and barely any income. My goal then changed to getting out, going home, and finding a psychiatrist who actually wanted to help.

I was sprung that Tuesday, after spending just 3 short days and 4 long nights. I celebrated my freedom by walking across the street for a cup of strong, delicious coffee, then getting my dog back and going home.

Shortly after that, I was introduced to a wonderful woman who was also in recovery from life, who convinced me through sharing her own experience, as well as flat out telling me so, that I didn’t only feel hopeless, but that I actually was hopeless. That really pissed me off. I wanted her to tell me to have hope and that everything will get better.

Instead, she told me that of myself I am hopeless, and that being hopeless is the only place to start to begin to heal. In my hopelessness, I could finally surrender. By accepting my hopelessness, I could ask for and accept help, and I could ask for grace. I’ve received a lot of both.

 

PS – I also did find that psychiatrist, the one who wanted to help me, who prescribed me the correct medication that my brain needed, steered me back to counseling, and to whom I am eternally grateful!

Happy New Year… every day!

Raise your hand if you are looking forward to 2016 being better than 2015. You know my hand’s raised way up high, and I can guess that many of yours are as well. 2015 seemed to be a year of spiritual growth opportunities, getting WAY out of my comfort zone, and learning to have the humility to ask for help. Thank you, 2015, and kiss my ass. Here’s to surviving it and moving forward!

New Year’s Eve is generally a time of reflection of the past year, as well as making resolutions for the coming year. January 1st is a symbolic fresh start. It is a moment in time to hit the reset button. People collectively resolve to eat healthier, eat less, work out more, be better parents/children/friends, give up booze/sex/smoking/anger, be less selfish, be more selfish, etc., etc. By January 15th, the resolutions have faded from consciousness and we settle back into our old, comfortable routines and habits. Ah, but there is always next year, another fresh start.

Why do we limit ourselves to one day a year to set intentions and reflect on where we are on our life’s journey? I used to actively and consciously reflect three times a year: New Year’s Eve, my birthday, and the date that I got sober from a terrible addiction. I also performed intermittent “spot-checks.”

Well, I heard something today that altered my thinking about this: we can choose to celebrate a New Year every day.  Not the whole stay up til midnight and set off fireworks celebration, hell I can’t even stay up that late on the actual New Year’s Eve. What I can do, should I choose to make time for it, is reflect on my day every night before I go to sleep, and set intentions and goals for the day every morning. In fact, that is exactly what I’ve been mentored to do as part of maintaining my life of sobriety, but I have frankly become lazy about it. Perhaps seeing this as the opportunity to celebrate life as opposed to another chore to tag on to the beginning and end of my day, will energize me anew.

I have celebrated life a little each and every day since being diagnosed with Bob, and why not? That is his gift to me. Bob has taught me that very day is a gift, if I choose to see it that way, even the really sucky ones. Each day will string together into perhaps another year. Working on small goals every day and reviewing every evening as opposed to making big resolutions one day of the year will surely be more attainable and enjoyable.

Happy New Year, my friends, today and every day!

More will be revealed…

Dawn

Mary Oliver quote