On March 18, 2018, I became a 20-year brain tumor survivor!I'm extremely grateful to be here for many years! Diagnosed with a brain tumor at age 24, my journey has been profound. Since then, I've had three awake brain surgeries, radiation, chemotherapy and participated in clinical trials, including one with immunotherapy with a dendritic cell-based vaccine.
I want to share five reasons why I'm still here. Then, there is a video about my brain tumor story, with critical insights that I discovered along the way.
1. Brain tumors and brain cancer are complicated. With the size, type, location, health challenges and other components, I benefited with treatments from the most renowned neurosurgeons and neuro-oncologists. Research was paramount in that process. I found experts for my condition by hearing multiple opinions, as well as exploring clinical trials, genomic testing, targeted therapies, immunotherapy and other strategies.
2. Over time, I learned that I could not only focus on the disease. Instead, I had to understand and address the whole person. I gained clarity that integrative cancer care for the whole person includes the physical body, mind-body connection, spiritual vitality, social support and a cleaner environment, which I believe improves quality of life, cancer survival and cancer prevention. The process involves creating a plan, team and self-care strategies.
3. I've benefited from ongoing education to address my needs and help other people. Some areas include standard of care, innovative treatments, cutting-edge approaches, new ways to embody the whole person and embracing the unexpected while living in the here and now.
4. Social support has been essential in my cancer journey. My family has supported me profoundly. Friends, colleagues and even strangers also provided help in my quest for optimal health and healing. Different types of giving have influenced my experience in receiving with thanks and ongoing gratitude.
5. My calling in life has been a mechanism for change in many dynamics. I've gone through working in the U.S. Congress in Washington to the cancer, health, and wellness roles, including non-profits, FDA, (National Cancer Institute) NCI, National Center for Complementary and Integrated Health and much more in my business. Now, I'm a Cancer Coach, consultant and speaker.
Even through the pain, I know this is my path in life with catalysts for transformation. Over time, that has created a foundation for hope and resilience.
As I reflected on some aspects of my journey, I created this video about my brain tumor story with insights that have helped me thrive. I hope it's meaningful to people with and without cancer.