24th Feb. It’s my Gamma-versary 🧠
4 years ago today I had stereotactic radiosurgery, a unique and crazy clever type of radiotherapy designed to blast your brain tumour without frying the rest of your grey matter.
I’d been diagnosed with a pretty rare brain tumour 7 months earlier, in the same week that my beloved Nan died and my boyfriend moved out. When you have a run of luck like that, you can only assume that the universe has some message that you’ve managed to miss thus far.
I was already teetering off the path I’d so carefully built – and was mentally wondering how to extract myself from my hard-earned career and business, instead teaching yoga, exploring sound, shamanism, and meditation, investigating any way I could find to get out of my head and away from the life I’d created for myself but increasingly was coming to realise that I hated. I knew I was on the wrong path, but kept barrelling ahead anyway, ignoring every stop sign and every opportunity to escape. The diagnosis and subsequent treatment brought the importance of TUNING IN and listening to my inner voice into the clearest focus.
The irony was, I was losing my hearing. My tumour is an ACOUSTIC neuroma, and it was never lost on me that sound became an important part of my life sometime around 2010, at the very time my consultant thinks the tumour birthed itself, and was growing, undetected, from the back of my ear into my brain. Sound was becoming my solace, my sanctuary, and yet it was the sense I was most at risk of losing, before I’d really begun to understand it at all.
On Feb 24th 2016, in recovery at Barts with @mushey_pea (thank you as always) I made a pact with myself that things were going to change – they had to. Because I was getting another chance to HEAR THE CALL. I was incredibly lucky to be diagnosed and be able to receive pioneering treatment on the NHS. I was lucky that I lived a short 15 minute cab ride from one of only three sites in the UK that can deliver Gamma Knife. I was lucky to be supported by friends and family and a wonderful medical team. I was lucky in a way that 30 years ago people weren’t – because without the scanning and treatment options we have now, these tumours killed people without ever being diagnosed.
Although things were going to get a LOT worse before they got better, this treatment meant at least I had the chance to start listening in to those relentless inner voices, to screw up and start again, to tear up everything I’d worked for, leave London and embark upon life 2.0. My story wasn’t going to end prematurely after all. And for that, I’m eternally grateful.
A few facts:
🐘 ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS
My tumour was (and still IS) benign. “Is it benign” is the first question people tend to ask, but it’s not the most important. Don’t be fooled into thinking benign is safe. An alien mass growing in the body doesn’t have to be multiplying to be dangerous. It can press on organs, nerves, veins, arteries and cause blockages to blood flow. One of the biggest risks presented by AN is a brain haemorrhage. LEARNING: The thing you’re most afraid of may not be the one you need to watch out for. Don’t be afraid to ask the difficult questions.
📞 TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOURSELF
AN was pretty rare when I was diagnosed – already the numbers are rising, primarily due to increased availability of MRI scans. It may be a big statement but it seems fairly conclusive that abnormal growths in the brain are in some way related to the increasing incidences of electromagnetic pollution. Think 5G, wireless radiation etc. I never, ever hold a phone near my ear any more. In fact, I try not to use the phone at all. I try to stay out of heavily built up areas and 5G zones. I am conscious that just because we can’t SEE waves – sound, radiation, light – doesn’t mean they aren’t affecting us. Just look at the power of radiotherapy, infrared, of SOUND.
🩺 AN EAST-WEST BALANCE
I delayed my radiosurgery because I wanted to work only with alternative medicine. I managed my health ayurvedically, ate a purely alkaline diet, gave up drinking, went into yogi overdrive, and meditated constantly. However, I realise that this approach did no service to the fact that we have immense tools, derived from nature (radiosurgery is LIGHT therapy after all) and that to refuse treatment was bloody selfish and upsetting my mum. I prefer not not take chemicals or use western medicines unless I have to. But sometimes you do have to, and there is a happy medium, and like everything, a BALANCE to be had.
🗣 SPEAK YOUR TRUTH
I was turned away from two GPs, an ENT department and Neurosurgery at another hospital, because my age and lifestyle made it more likely I was suffering stress or alcohol related migraines. I KNEW something wasn’t right. I knew, because I had cultivated bodily awareness through my yoga practice, and I had just enough trust in my intuition. I kept fighting and fighting to be seen and scanned, and it took a year from first presenting at my GP with unilateral. Hearing loss to being diagnosed and recommended for immediate SRT. If something feels wrong, it probably is. Listen up, and tune in.