Brain Tumor Survivor

“It’s just Brain Surgery,”…said no one ever…why I chose to WAIT the 3 Phases you need for “right for you” decision making.

My intention of sharing with you today is to communicate my {How To Deal with your “Bad News” phone call}, or as us growing in consciousness folk like to call it, aka the {How To DEAL with your “Wake UP” call} tools. You must receive it, absorb it and move to the place of  healthy decision-making.  Here is how:

My Personal Life Changing Wake up Calls:                                                                                 I will give you the quick back story of my experiences so that you are aware of where this wisdom comes from, the most significant being; the heartbreak of two miscarriages (2003 and 2004), the day I received a four page letter from my husband’s girlfriend (2009), and most recently, the Wake up Call of my LIFE, facing the news of a brain tumor diagnosis (2015).

Weather the cause of the call is family, love or health, on the other side of your pain journey will be the life lesson of it.

It has been my experience that the tools and mindset you use are similar no matter what the reason… what really matters is your ability to surrender and accept the pain and learn what it is here to teach you.

When I received this last “Bad News/Wake Up” phone call I was 41 years old.  A solo parent of 2 kids, divorced for 5 years.  I was happily making my living as a healthy and super fit personal trainer and life coach. I was 6 weeks out from racing a 70.3 Ironman triathlon, an achievement to me that symbolizes that I was making time in my life for what I loved and what was life-giving to me.  I felt great. I felt like I was on my soul’s path of who I chose to be in the world.  I felt like I had been tested, had my deep night of the soul and had come out the other side, better for it.  But unbeknownst to me, my soul’s journey wasn’t done. My confidence and health security all changed the morning I woke up feeling so terrible that I couldn’t walk or drive and before I knew it, a day later, I ended up in a hospital emergency room.

How did I, someone who had studied Health & Fitness my entire life?  end up in the emergency room?  Don’t we all ask ourselves this when we find ourselves in the deep dark scary painful places that we “never thought” we’d be?  The Why Me spin out phase as I affectionately like to call it.  Well, I didn’t know why me, all I knew was that I was there.  And I had to figure out a way to DEAL.

So you got your bad news. .  .  Forget the Why Me…, Now What?

  • You are in shock…Breathe.  Your only job now is to Absorb the news.
  • Sit with yourself and let the emotions come.  Emote, it’s okay to cry, let the tears come, heavy loud sobbing or even ugly cry, completely unleash here. (Hot soaking bath’s are best for this process)
  • Write in a journal.  Brain Dump. Emotion Dump.  In vulnerability.  In Anger. Allow your confusion and emotions to come up and out. Go deep. Go full spectrum. Don’t hold back. Allow the questions of why this, why me? to come up and out as well.
  • Receive and ask for help. Call your friends and family  (the supportive ones). Especially the ones who will bring you healthy and nourishing food to eat, take care of your kids and make you relax and take time to sleep.

Talk about receiving from the ones you love!  The day after I received my “bad news” brain tumor diagnosis phone call, my twin sister was in her car heading toward me.  She dropped her kids off at school and just… kept… driving!!! She drove 2.5 hrs to see me, hug me, cry with me and bring me my favorite foods even though I didn’t “feel” like eating.

I did all these things during the first Phase of my diagnosis.  Absorb, Emote, Write and Receive.

In the receiving and asking for help I called on my power of 5 (the 5 people in my life that I identify each month who are life-giving and supportive to me and my energy).  I did the Facebook post of sharing the news and received all kinds of love, nurturing support and helpful health resources and contacts.  I dove into this research full throttle. In between rests and naps of course.

Phase 1:  I gave myself 30 days at a slow pace.  I focused on the absorbing, allowing of my emotions, writing and receiving.  I cleared everything off my calendar.  Except doctor and pain relief treatment visits and cuddling with my kids.  I prioritized slowing down and seeking rest and comfort. I somehow managed to endure living with a full-blown Migraine for 30 days.   I would wake up in the morning and before I would even open my eyes I felt a jack hammer in my head wreaking havoc.  For four weeks, I went to several acupuncture treatments, Osteopath treatments and Doctor visits.  Finally my Neurologist prescribed me three days of steroids to kick the migraine out of my system so that my poor body would get a break and some much needed relief from all the pain.  Something finally took, and the 30 day migraine finally cleared.  Short relief! Unfortunately, the migraines kept coming back but that is another part of my story for a different day.

Phase 2: Face the question of Now What.                                                                                  So you have your bad news, now what?  Well it’s time to do the research and survey all your options.  With some found relief I could finally face the burning question of, “Now what?”  Let’s get back to the basics we all know and write that PRO/CON list.

Why did I have to write a list?  My bad news phone call meant that I had a Mega decision to make.  Was I going to elect to have Brain Surgery? or was I going to have radiation? or was I just going to decide to manage my symptoms and become a “wait and see” patient.

In my case my brain tumor is benign and slow growth so I had time for treatment options.

The moment my option for brain surgery became a WAIT                                              There I was in a meeting with my Neurosurgeon, 2 friends had driven me there.  I had a migraine so bad I could hardly see straight.  It was an hour into the exam and meeting, I could hardly focus my eyes on her, as she said these words, “Well, your migraines have nothing to do with your tumor, they ARE NOT a symptom of your tumor”…. everything inside me sat up straight and forward in my chair, “Wait !, what?, excuse me?… what did you say? I thought I was scheduling immediate brain surgery so I could have my head back.”…my hopeful heart counting on immediate relief sunk.

“Your migraine is not a symptom of your tumor” she repeated.

I froze.  The room was spinning. There was no way I was going to have brain surgery if it wasn’t going to hold the promise of clearing the migraines. Everything in me knew I needed to get to the root cause of the migraines that were causing me so much pain and disability….FIRST.

So then I entered my Phase 3: which I am still in today!  NO rush people!  Quality of LIFE is my goal!  My goal is to completely heal my brain, body and central nervous system and live to tell about it.  Through my tried and true life decision making process it wasn’t going to be to choose brain surgery that day. Nor is it a yes now, a year and a half later.  But I do revisit this question often.

Phase 3:  Set up your Strategy Plan and allow yourself to revisit in 30, 60 and 90 day increments. Identify your Big Picture End Result and work your way back.

As I say above my Big Picture End Result Goal is to completely heal my brain, body and central nervous system and live to tell about it.  For this goal I have to be patient and in no hurry.  Putting health, solutions and managing symptoms as my priority. I decided and committed to myself that I will take the long way, my declared healing journey, for that is what I have concluded to be my life lesson as to what my health crisis is here to teach me.

The lessons I’ve learned:                           My bad news/wake up call in the form of my brain tumor diagnosis has taught me to slow down.  I have learned to meditate and and practice yoga so my mind, body, heart and spirit have room to Absorb information.  I have learned to allow and experience my Emotions in life.  I am learning to open up my voice, speak up and write.  Lastly, I’ve learned to set aside the ego pride of having to do everything myself.  I’ve learned to stop the push push and sit back, lean back and ask, allow and receive help from the people who show up for me and are in my life.

As a life long athlete I will lastly tell you that while I grieve often that I can not push my body at the duration and intensity that I love, I am still using all those years of endurance Ironman training, using that tenacious mindset…or stubbornness…you can choose what you want to call it, to go after my perfect Health Blueprint.

Yes, of course the thought of brain surgery scares every part of me but I am determined to find out my root cause first.  PAIN is always your body trying to tell you something.  My greatest lesson this past year has been truly to set aside that Ironman attitude of “sucking it up” and “pushing past the pain” and allowing my body to speak.

My current Strategy Plan for my {Health Blueprint} consists of  monitoring myself daily.  Continuing adding and subtracting supplements, foods, routines, that nourish and heal my body, brain and central nervous system

Extreme Self Care routine they call it

  • Food as Medicine and Food for healing
  • Prioritize sleep
  • Manage my stress
  • Checking my tumor for growth status every 6 months
  • Continue researching and praying for a new less invasive surgery for the removal of my tumor…

So in closing.  I hope my strategy tools of absorbing, allowing your emotions, writing and receiving encourage you no matter what your bad news phone call has been.

Sending you Love, Faith and right decision in your healing journey,

Meredith

mkm

If you are facing a health diagnosis and you need support be sure to email me at meredith.mills.lifecoach@gmail.com.  I will send you my resource list.

Brain Tumor Survivor Stats…1 year out

DEC. 3, 2016

So my 1 year update MRI is in….
12mm x 10mm x 6mm – Nov. ’15
12mm x 10mm x 6 mm – Nov. ‘16
This means…. {NO GROWTH}

Now, the question on the table, the question I have been sitting with all week…

DO YOU NEED TO KNOW THAT THE BRAIN TUMOR IS REMOVED? OR WOULD YOU BE SATISFIED KNOWING THE GROWTH IS ARRESTED?…

Well….no growth for a year does mean my tumor is arrested…is that enough?…

This was a tough one with me this week. The problem solver. The goal oriented achiever.
Yes, absolutely with out a doubt I am so so thankful there has been no growth!!
Yet, I did want to see progress!…I had to keep myself from spinning out…another year of this…ugh !!

Am I SATISFIED…well what do you think?
That was a clear… NO!
(I didn’t even have to muscle test that one.)

I spent time this week regrouping and realigning with the BIG Picture.
I traveled thru the lessons, learnings, healing and growth the last 12 months have been about and I get the bigger picture…Just because I “get it” though doesn’t mean it is not hard to face.

My goals now:
– Continue to seek and find answers and the right treatments for my tumor symptoms and pain management.
– Continuing to take good care of myself (adequate exercise and sleep) so I don’t get Physically depleted.
– Continue to increase my ability to FACE this HEAD on. Which means continuing to take action & not give up.
– Continue to nourish my brain and central nervous system with the best supplements and nutrition
– Continue to surround myself with the people who are loving me and supporting me thru this and that with me hold that hope and Vision of a clean MRI and the most optimal health I can achieve with the cards I have been dealt.

Please continue sending your prayers, love and light. Please continue to pray for more healthy painfree days and less migraine days, less hours and even less minutes.

Love and health to ALL of YOU!!
Meredith Mills

mkm

How do you tell your child that you have a brain tumor? and not let your own FEAR scare them to death?

I just had a conversation on the way to school this morning with my 10 year old son, Ryder, about Brain Tumor Awareness Week. Yes! It’s this week!
I asked him what he remembered about that day, the day I told him that his Mom had a brain tumor…(he was 8 yo at the time).
“I was surprised, Mom, I wasn’t scared… I was just surprised”…
Ahh…I breathed a deep sigh of relief and thought …“Well done Mama”….
In those first few days of being diagnosed, I confess that I was as emotionally stable “as a piece of furniture from Ikea”…. however, I didn’t want my kids to experience that with me !!! I myself was uncomfortable and having a hard time processing all these emotions.
I wanted them to experience me as they always had; strong, stable, steady, solid. (Of course also happy, healthy, vibrant, playful & fun but those were temporarily on the back burner.)
As their loving Mama, I had always made a point of telling them that I could be counted on no matter what, that I had their backs, and that I would always love them unconditionally, no matter what. Those values were now in question.
There I was swimming in the whirlwind of emotion. Emotion that I needed to experience to figure out my treatment plan and accept, come to terms with and allow what was happening for me. I was feeling it all:
– fear
– grief
– anger
– sadness
– frustration
– pain
I knew I was feeling all these feelings that were triggered by having to face and “deal with” being diagnosed with a life threatening illness or disease. However, I knew I needed a strategy of how to deal with my own personal journey but also be strong for my kids. I wanted to be that good teacher to them, I wanted to weave the vulnerability of honesty and truth, but also faith and strength into the tapestry of our family experience. These small ones in my life were, and always are, like sponges, they absorb everything. I didn’t want them to take on too much nor too little.
On my own, I diligently faced my own perceived loss of health, loss of control, loss of confidence, loss of life as I knew it. I faced being frozen in my tracks. But with them I showed up with borrowed faith, for their benefit and then in turn my benefit as well.
What I remember about that day is I sat down with my kids to intentionally share with them to the level in which they “needed to know”, at the level that would inform them but not overwhelm them. Face to face.  Looking them both into their eyes. I led with “Mom is going to be okay…..Mom is healthy and strong….but…right now I have to see a lot of Doctor’s and get a lot of treatment…I am going to need a lot of rest. No matter what, I love you and I am going to face this thing head on. You have my promise! Nothing is more important in my life than being there for you! It might take a few weeks…it might take a few years before I am back to 100% but know that I will be here for you!!!”
So with Ryder’s words this morning,
“I was surprised, Mom, I wasn’t scared… I was just surprised”…
I am thankful and full of gratitude that all my intentions were honored. Ryder was, and to this day, informed but not overwhelmed. Aware of what I am going thru, along side me in my journey but not scared.
So in my book, choosing to live in Love over FEAR will always be the right answer. I gotta be here for these Kids!! For me! For my life-purpose…after all I more than know that I am just getting started, just getting my feet wet, on this life of service, life purpose path.
In health, In healing and more importantly in great Love,
Meredith
mkm

Even Health Coaches get Sick…What 5 things I did when I got a brain tumor diagnosis

MiamiBeachrun

It’s January 2016.

I am running a new path today.  A path of healing.  After 2 month’s “off” of coaching and working out I am so grateful and happy to be moving my body again.  And when I say grateful I mean the deep down happy, soul level, happy to be back at life… grateful.

It all started in late October 2015, I woke up with flu symptoms that turned into days and days then weeks and weeks of life stopping migraines.  Worse yet, occipital migraines which means my eyes couldn’t focus long enough for me to drive, let alone work, run or bike.  Even reading or watching a movie was a stretch. I resolved myself to “listen” to movies.   From the minute I woke up to the minute I went to bed I had what felt like a jack hammer echoing in my head.  Overnight, this busy go-go-go Health and Life Coach, triathlete and solo parenting Mom of 2 was couch bound for weeks and life as I knew it was put on “hold”, complete standstill  for 2 months.

WHAT did I do?……Right away I did 5 things when I got my diagnosis.  First things first, I immediately went inward for healing.  I increased my long time morning practice of journaling time and added meditation time.  I came away from the ambulance ride, the ER visit, the pain killer medications and MRI results and turned to my holistic healers (acupuncture, osteopathic physician, essential oils, and energy chakra and sound therapy healers).  I was determined not to be medicated and use nutrition to heal me.  Please know that I didn’t find all the help I needed overnight it was a day by day, even hour by hour process.  If you are facing a life threatening illness you must be patient.

I had a SIMPLE GOAL.  Each day I just set out with a strong desire to live without massive pain radiating from my head to the rest of my body.  I had a strong manta in my heart of, “I will change and do anything and everything to heal.”  To heal, I started with baby steps. I wanted to reduce 24 hrs of migraine pain, to less 2 hours here and less 2 hours there…each day.  “I just want to be migraine free” I kept saying.   I also had family, friends, colleagues, clients and acquaintances pray for me when I got discouraged or overwhelmed with the questions of why me? and why now?  I also took my family and friend’s up on their offers to help with my kids, groceries and meals.  Both were hard.  Sitting still was a task I had no developed muscle all on its own.  And asking for help?!?! that was foraging new territory.

I have a good track record.  You know the one where I tell you I’ve been here before and I’ve squeezed the lemons into lemonade.  This season was different.  It took me. It knocked the wind out of me.  I had to be still.  I had to suffer pain and discomfort on the physical level, not just the emotional.  I couldn’t think.  I couldn’t use my head.  I couldn’t use my body.  I couldn’t “brain override” the challenge in front of me.  All the buzz about meditation and why we need to do it…is true!  I had to just empty my thoughts, all of them, as if my head was a 3 story house with overstuffed rooms and all the rooms had to be moved out.  My body was out of balance and demanding attention.  I had to sit still and do the work to empty out each room.  Item by item.  Discard. Purge. Clear.  And look again. 

I was determined to get my brain quieted, migraines to cease, back to working out, back to driving and back to real life.  I wanted to be off pain killers and off anxiety medicine.  I wanted to be “back to normal”.

I understand this is a great undertaking.  This is a journey.  My 2016 healing journey.  This brain tumor diagnosis, is here to teach me more than what I know right now.  For this  I am and will be grateful.

My question for you today is,  “How do you handle yourself when life stops you in your tracks? “ How do you move when you get stuck?

My key learning in all this, or reminder, was a coach who reminded me that I am the “Keeper of my own flame”.   By going inward I found my flame for life. From there I am daily led to find the help I need.  What have you done lately to keep your own flame alive?  The soul flame inside you?  This health challenge season will be rich in lessons for me, if I allow it….will you let what you are struggling with expand, open and teach you?

Sending you Love and Health in your healing journey,

Meredith 

mKm