May is Brain Tumor Awareness Month, and I embrace it as both an advocate and a survivor. Fifteen years ago, while I was still college I was diagnosed with a benign pituitary adenoma, a non-cancerous mass, the least aggressive type of tumor (there are four; benign, malignant, primary, and metastatic). However, the tumor was causing me excruciatingly painful headaches, dizziness, and double vision, and by the time I was diagnosed, it had been growing for four years and was about to burst. All I could think of was that at twenty years old I had not yet been to France. Once the neurosurgeon explained that I needed to have surgery to remove the tumor and that the recovery process would be slow and a little painful, I had the operation scheduled. But first I hopped on a flight to see the Eiffel Tour, eat fondue, and speak French with Parisians. No, I’m not crazy (well, maybe a little), even though the tumor was benign, anything could happen on that operating table, and I needed to see France!
I had the surgery two days after I returned from what can only be described as a dream filled with melodious accents, an abundance of brie and baguettes, and the time of my life. After the surgery (while I was still sedated with anesthesia), my neurosurgeon told my mom that the procedure had been successful and I was sleeping in the recovery room. My mom says he told her, “There were some complications and I will need to insert a drainage tube into her spine, but your daughter is a fighter, she was able to beat this and she’ll get through everything else.” Hours later when I was awake and my mom visited my hospital room, I wrote down these words and have been living by them ever since.
While I have never hidden that I had a brain tumor, this is my first time officially addressing this through my professional platform. As a publicist I have access to certain tools and knowledge that can raise awareness about brain tumors, so I decided now would be the most appropriate moment to publicly share my journey. My main goal is to help people who have recently been diagnosed to not be scared and to fight this through; to be warriors. Science and medical research have accomplished so much since my surgery. There are many treatments and options now, that didn’t exist back then. However, I believe with all of my heart that the key to conquering brain tumors is a combination of fighting, having faith, being aware, and seeking the proper medical attention and treatment.
Having a brain tumor gave me a new outlook on life and fifteen years later, it hasn’t changed. I dive into all of my publicity projects with an enthusiasm of a child at summer camp for the very first time. It’s the reason why I have such an out-of-the-box style of doing publicity and my against-the-grain ideas stem out of understanding how everything can be taken away at any minute. Few of my methods are traditional because I’m going to find the most creative strategies that are effective and fun. I have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Below are some symptoms characteristic to brain tumors, if you are experiencing one or more of these, please see a neurologist and have an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) with contrast:
· Daily headaches that last over 3 hours and debilitate you
· Frequent dizziness and fainting spells
· Double and blurry vision
· Short-term memory loss
· Poor coordination
· Difficulty speaking or understand when other speak
For more information or if you would like to help raise awareness, please visit the National Brain Tumor Society: http://www.braintumor.org/