On October 3, 1994 (when I was 17), I was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour. We were told at the time that there was, medically, no treatment available. A shunt was put in to relieve the pressure in brain that the tumour was causing, due to it blocking a ventricle.
In ’95 my mother and I traveled from new Zealand to Tijuana, Mexico to an alternative cancer clinic. And then from ’96 – 2000 I studied and lived and coped independently. In April 1996 my mother was found to have high grade kidney cancer and had the kidney removed – it has not recurred.
In may 2000 I had to have 6 lots of neurosurgery in a week that left me struggling to walk or see clearly, with no short-term memory, unclear vision and with a permanent chronic muscle pain condition. In August 2000 I had to move home to live with my parents for what I thought would be a few months, as I had no memory of how serious the surgery had been, or how close to death I came. I have now been here for 9 ½ years.
In the years since 2000 I have had to have radiotherapy (2002), and further neurosurgery (2004 and 2006) – both lots of surgery taking me right back to basics again with having to learn to walk, read and write again each time. After my surgery in ’04 I was put on to a high dose of steroids and put on 40kg in the 14months that I was on them.
Since 2006, relying on God to be my strength, I have lost 53kg and overcome a lifetime of size insecurities.
At the beginning of 2008 the pain condition moved to my hands to the point where I struggled to feed myself or hold a pen. Then at the beginning of 2009 the pain progressed to my legs, where I could not walk without severe pain.
In August 2003 my father was diagnosed with an acoustic neuroma (a non-cancerous brain tumor). He opted to not have surgery and ended up traveling to Hawaii to have a type of treatment that wasn’t available in New Zealand – gamma knife radiotherapy.
These last 16 years have been a journey that is so very different for how I had my life mapped out to be in 1994. The one thing that has remained a constant, however, is my faith. On the morning of my diagnosis two significant things happened that have kept me going during difficult times. Firstly I woke in the early hours of the morning after having had a dream. The dream was that I was up in front of people talking about having survived cancer, and then secondly I woke @ 5.30am and a clear but quiet voice in my head told me that I had a brain tumour but was going to be alright.
Even though, at times, I have forgotten about these messages and had to be reminded, they have kept my family going during very difficult times post-surgery where it looked as though I wasn’t going to make it, and has been something that I have gone back to many times.
In spite of this being not, by any means, how I would have planned my life, I would not change anything. Through being taken right back to basics I have come to know and depend on God’s strength to do everything. And have also come to have an extremely intimate relationship with Him.
These experiences have influenced my outlook on life tremendously and even though I haven’t had the breathtaking moments that many of my peers have had through international travel and the likes, I am now grateful that this is the path God chose for me.