Life is full of surprises. It is amazing that whenever we insist to staying in our comfort zone, something unexpected happens and changes everything around you. Almost 2.5 years ago, I was blessed with a discovery that forced me into a movement that is still going on and that I am truly thankful for.
Until now, I have kept it to myself, my boyfriend and a handful of people. I wanted to avoid the curiosity and the fake concerns it could bring, however, the time has arrived for me to get out of the closet and speak freely about the thing in my head…
In 2011, I applied for a job position and I was chosen for it. Even though it offered a great opportunity of career growth, the setback was having to continue performing my previous responsibilities in addition to the new ones for 6 months straight until my substitute was “ready”. Needless to say that despite my countless sleepless nights and working weekends, I could barely handle the basics. This was beyond words frustrating for me. I had worked hard to achieve that level in my career as a foreigner here and I was seeing it all escaping through my fingers in spite of all my best efforts. No matter how many hours I was working, I was still only one person.
At a certain point, tiredness and stress started to have the best of me. Not only the frequent migraines had returned, but they suddenly started to feel “different”. I have had it since the age of 9 and I learned to read its signs throughout the years and that is why I had a “feeling” it was something else from what I was accustomed to have. Whatever I was experiencing was really getting in the way of my routine. Lucky me that I had great people supporting me at home and in the office because there were countless days when I simply could not get out bed and get dressed to work without first taking some painkiller and waiting for its effect. I have always been very resistant to pain and it was not just anything that could get me to stay in bed away from work so frequently.
When I finally decided to go to the doctor, I had to convince him of prescribing me a MRI. He could not really understand my concern, but I was a 100% positive of its need. There was nothing wrong with my blood tests, my blood pressure had always been good, so why looking for something else?!? But the results have proven that I was right in my concern: a tiny brain tumor was found.
The news was brought to us by our MD who called my boyfriend late at night on the same day I had the MRI done. He was leaving on vacation the next day, but he wanted to inform us immediately. Suddenly, it seemed that time stopped. It was the two of us at home, looking at each other without knowing what to say, what to think or how to react. Even though I already had a feeling that there was something, I was not ready to face it just yet.
It took me some months to get an appointment with a neurosurgeon to investigate things further. My life was suddenly placed on hold. My dream of starting a course to get my Masters degree went down the drain and I was not sure of anything in my life for a while. I dropped Brazilian Jiu Jitsu then and even though I was in the middle of getting ready for my very first Bikini competition, there was no telling I would even be able to participate in it.
After a second MRI, this time with contrast, things became clearer. I already knew that it was benign tumor, but its real size and shape became clear. It seemed too small to go through an operation to remove it back then, so we agreed to follow it up on a yearly basis allowing myself some time to get accustomed to the idea of the surgery. Life continued business as usual.
It was not always like that at first, but recently I realized the “present” it has been to me. I had been living my life, day in-day out, so busy, without taking time to admire things and be thankful for the blessings I have. I may not be the best known chick in town, but I have friends for life. People I trusted my little secret and who kept it for themselves for all this time. I have a partner who has been there for me, supporting and assisting me in all ways possible. And above all, how many can say that they discovered a tumor before its worst symptoms started to show, such as vision loss or seizures? I know it does not happen every day and that is why I stopped focus on the “problem” and started looking at the opportunity to make things different.
In the past years, I forced myself into Lifestyle changes. Getting fit, which was something that started entirely for the esthetics and as a way to get me out of the office at a regular hour and help me get a good night sleep, became a way to improve my overall life quality. It was not only about the hours spent at the gym, but also the types of food that I was eating and how I could get the best in my body. I discovered things such as organic food, hormone free meat and reduced the ingestion of processed meals and sugars.
This year, I went a little further and started the course of Physical Coach and now, I am studying to acquire the NASM Personal Trainer certification. I want to assist others who are stuck with bad habits and out of shape to discover ways in which they also, no matter how little time they have to spare, can become healthy and fit. For the past weeks, I have been attending my Physical Coach internship at CrossFit Aalst which has been a fantastic experience. I am learning so much (there you do not find people performing exercises with horrible form) and it has given me the chance to become part of the fun. I will surely get enrolled once my training is done.
Maybe you are wondering why I decided to speak up about it after so many years. The truth is that the tumor has grown significantly in the past 12 months and a surgery has become inevitable. I still do not have a date set, but I am not going to postpone it endlessly anymore. And I wanted to get it out of my heart and share my story with others who might be in a similar situation or who know someone battling somehow. Each case is a different story, but knowing that you are not alone out there helps cope with the daily challenges and adversities. No matter the obstacle, you can still overcome it if you put your heart and soul into it and believe blindly in your success.
I am not going to make this page about my health condition. Debbie in Shape is not about the tumor. It is about a woman, who is turning 40 next year, who decided that she was going to get back on track of a healthy life and stay there, no matter what. I simply hope that my story and experience can help and inspire others fight against their own challenges and overcome them all.
Thank you for reading it!
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* NOTE: Even though my tumor was discovered at a stressful period of my professional life, it would be incorrect to associate them. Not all headaches are related to meningiomas. Still, if you have concerns, do not hesitate to discuss it with your MD to look for the best option in your case.