Saturday, September 3, 2011


I've often wondered what a baby bird thinks that day when it's walking safely around in the nest and suddenly the nest is not there anymore. When that baby bird walks off the edge of it's safe nest does it think, "Finally! The day I've been waiting for my whole life! I get to fly!" Or is it thinking, "Wait. This is not what I expected. I'm falling."

I had an experience of the latter kind the fall after I turned 19. I had successfully finished my first year of college, recently returned from a trip to Europe, and was basically being paid to go to school. Life could not have been better.

One short sentence destroyed that perfect little bubble I lived in forever.

"You have a tumor in your brain."

When my doctor, who had been testing me for various maladies, announced this in the little examination room in his office I heard that little bird's voice echoing in my head, "Wait! This is not what I expected!"

The doctor went on to explain that the tumor he was referring to had grown inside my pituitary gland, messing up my hormones and my female functions for as many as 6 years of my life. The good news is that it is benign, not cancerous. He then pronounced that I was to have an MRI in one hour and that I would have to get my blood drawn every week.

I was terrified. MRI! It sounded so official and stiff and scary.

Plus I had this extreme fear of needles. I soon recovered from that fear. Don't get me wrong, I don't like it when a sharp metal object is stabbed into my arm to either extract or inject something in my body. No fun. I've just learned that the experience is much less painful if I simply relax, breathe and say, "OK, let's get this over with."

The MRI was worse than I had anticipated. I was laid on a sliding panel and pushed into a space where I couldn't move my arms away from my body without touching the sides, and I couldn't lift my head even two inches without bumping into the ceiling. Then the machine banged and pulsed and boomed until the nurse pulled me out to inject an IV of contrast into me, then the banging, pulsing and booming recommenced. Finally the dreaded ordeal was over. Yes! I did make it through alive!

The rest of that day is a blur to me. But the next few years have been a constant struggle. I take a medicine twice a week to shrink said tumor which has severe and troubling side effects. But every day I continue to push on. I am a 23 year old public school orchestra teacher who finished her degree in three and a half years and strives to make every day a happy one. Trust me that is not always feasible, but life could always be worse and there is always something to make you happy. Even if it's a lady bug landing on your shirt, or a double rainbow on a cloudy day, or a butterfly flying past on the breeze of a summer day. I have learned that the only way I can make it through the hard days is to look for these small miracles. This philosophy has helped me through the struggles of three and a half years.

With the tears comes laughter even when you're falling.

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