Every Day is a Gift: a story of illness and gratitude.

Today I want to share with you a personal story, perhaps one of the most intense experiences that I had in my life. There are countless stories from other people that made me feel somehow inspired and motivated, or for instance take a moment to reflect about something that I hadn’t thought before. Maybe there is something here for you to feel or think about or perhaps it is just an opportunity for us to get to know a bit more about each other.  Let’s grab a cup of tea and go back in time 20 years, when I was only 18 years old and went through a life threatening situation.

I was a full of energy teenager, passionate about health and fitness. I used to feel such a joy when riding my bike or exercising at the gym … ahhh I loved the atmosphere in those 90’s aerobic classes! 1994 was my last high school year and I was so immersed into the fitness world that I put aside my childhood dream of becoming a veterinarian to dream on studying sports science. I was counting the days to go to college and at the same time wondering about my first triathlon, when suddenly all my plans changed dramatically.

I had a lump growing in my forehead and unfortunately no, I was not becoming a rainbow unicorn, I actually had a tumor of a size of a lime in my forehead, growing both ways out and inward my skull, and had to go under surgery as soon as possible. The word tumor would give me chills by itself, and listening to the doctor explaining the procedure was overwhelming. He said that all my hair (it was dark, shiny and very long) was going to be shaved off and then they would cut my skin over my head from ear to ear to be able to remove the top of my skull, exposing my brain, in this manner they could remove the bone tumor from my forehead and shape the prosthetic replacement, because the tumor had destroyed almost all my forehead bone. Well, needless to say, I was panicking in tears when soothing words comforted me and gained my trust in such a good doctor, he said: “look, I have two sons about your age; I will take care of you as if you were the daughter I never had”.

I was scheduled to go under surgery on August 1st 1994 at 7am. I couldn’t sleep the night before, already in the hospital. The nurse came 5am to shave my head, I felt apprehensive. The only thing I could see in the mirror was not my bald head but that big growing mass, and I wondered “why me?” The staff came to take me down to the operation theater and I remember looking at my mom, who was trying her best to be optimistic and hold everything together, wishing me good luck while I was just wondering:”Am I going to open my eyes again? Am I going to live?” I went down silent, staring at the hospital ceiling and listening at the back of my mind the song “Linger” by The Cranberries.

Luckily I made it though and after 7 hours of surgery I opened my eyes already in my hospital room, and saw my mom and my two best friends smiling. “I made it!!” I thought, but I was still too groggy from all the drugs and fell asleep for quite a few more hours.

My head was all wrapped up in turban like bandages and after two days when I had the drain removed the doctor asked if I would like to look in the mirror before putting on the new bandage. I had mixed feelings, my heart did beat fast and I felt a knot on my throat at the same time, I felt so good and grateful for my new perfect prosthetic forehead and at the same time I was scared looking at the bruises around my eyes and head, and a big Frankensteinish stitched swollen scar from ear to ear on the top of my shaved head. Soon my doctor also said that I should rethink about the sports science training because it could be too risky for me. I was so confused, grateful and angry all together, hopeful and faithless at the same time. Why me? Why should I have learned with such a dramatic experience? I used to take such a good care of my health, I was super fit, I was also passionate about what I want to study while I had so many friends that did not care about their health and had no clue of what to do in college and they were fine, wouldn’t barely catch a cold, so why me? Yes, I was grateful but angry, lost in my confused feelings and thoughts. Few years later, in 1999, I was sick again, this time with a grade II cancer on my right leg. Facing this kind of fear for the second time was scarier than the first, but after two surgeries performed and a big chunk of my leg removed, I survived again.

The years passed by, my hair grew back beautifully; I became the veterinarian I dreamed to be as a child, and I optimistically kept the hope that one day I would do my triathlon and once again enjoy physical activities as I used to enjoy, since I was blessed with a chance to live, perfectly. During the college years I had no time or money to train, and once I graduated I had even less time to dedicate to anything, working an average of 15 hours a day plus weekends.  Later on I became also a Homeopath and have been also studying nutrition for years. Then life and its ceaseless way to surprise us lead me to immigrate to England, then motherhood, moving again and settling most recently in Columbus, Indiana.

The anger was diluted through these years, although I never had my questions answered. 20 years have passed and over time I had so many other joyful experiences, especially motherhood, but there was one thing that the time could not fade away: the enthusiasm to do a triathlon.

I have registered myself for our local triathlon challenge last summer and started my training 3 months before the challenge as a way to accomplish a dream which was in stand by for 20 years, and also as a way to celebrate my life and regain my best physical and emotional wellbeing. The journey of training brought new blessings and challenges, which I will leave for another part of the story.

Gratefully I crossed the finish line and burst in euphoria for completing my first triathlon, feeling really blessed with all support from my family and dear friends.

There is quote that says “The law of life is change”. One thing I have learned through this journey: change is inevitable but joy and happiness is always an inner choice, and it is never too late.

I see this opportunity as a journey of gratitude, celebration and health. Perhaps sharing my story can get you inspired to dust off some of your dreams that are just awaiting a first step to become true, it is never too late. Or perhaps it can inspire you to just do something different, realizing that joy is just there, not around the corner, but in your heart. Let’s celebrate, because every day is a gift.

 

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