“I survived brain surgery” was my first thought when I woke up in the post-op recovery room. The decision to have a brain surgery biopsy came with major mental anguish and a long 19 month medical scare turned into a nightmare. Strong mental mindset was critical to walking into the hospital the morning of my brain surgery. The risks of this procedure were very scary. This blog is longer than usual because I share my story and all of the Tidbits that helped me survive it all so that you too can manage any stress and chaos in your life.
Brain Surgery and Mental Health
- May 13-19 is mental health week for 2019 and too many people are suffering, many in silence.
- My mental health was significantly affected by this journey and therapy was a huge outlet.
- You are not alone and we need to talk more about this.
BEFORE Brain Surgery Selfie
AFTER “I survived Brain Surgery“
Brain Surgery “How I got here”
My full time job is Fitness, Health and Wellness Coaching. I help heal people from the inside out. I exercise regularly, my diet is healthy and looking from the outside, you could not tell I was “dealing with a disease or illness”. My life is fitness, nutrition, health and a strong mindset. I won #1 Fitness Instructor Specialist in Canada for 2016. Um… I can’t get sick.
Emotional trauma, grief and stress play a role in your health. You can’t see the damage of emotional stress on the outside but inside is a completely different story.
Stress Triggers & Mindset
- Bury the feelings deep down causing serious damage
- Insert tons of “distractions” and never deal with emotions properly
Why do we do this?
It’s much easier than dealing with issues “head on”. We keep pushing forward and that’s what the thousands of clients I have coached since 1999 do. I’ve done the same – “survival mode is my go to”. Your life can change in an instant. Mine changed October 2017, overnight.
“Life Changes Overnight”
- A stressful event occurred October 2017 and new medical symptoms happened “overnight”.
- I was healthy and then I wasn’t.
- The details of the event are not important but the emotions that surfaced are.
- You have to deal with your stress head on or it manifests in other ways.
- How did you cope?
- Did you reach for a distraction instead of dealing?
- Walking away from your problems will only bring them to the next situation.
“Pushing forward works for a while and then it doesn’t”
19 month medical scare
- Lots of physical symptoms, one in particular has been awful
- Constant appointments sometimes 4 to 5 a week
- Many medical tests
- Too many CT & MRI scans and dye injections resulting in an allergic reaction to the gadolinium dye because I was exposed to it so much
- Mammograms, ultrasounds, x-rays, heart & lung tests and more
- A lot of blood work and needles – my poor veins got so sore
- Referrals to new Doctors, the Juravinski Cancer Centre JCC, Oncology Hematology, Neurology, Opthomalogy, Rheumatology, doctors around the world and every natural doctor that I could find
- Several invasive tests including three lumbar punctures *giant needles in your back aka spinal tap
All tests came back with a partial “clue” and maybe “this or that disease”, possible cancer, lymphoma, CNS lymphoma, tumours, multiple sclerosis, sarcoidosis, etc. They could not confirm a diagnosis. I am so grateful for my health care but it took a major toll on my mental health and body. Not having a diagnosis and waiting constantly for results feels awful and adds major stress to the body and mind.
What were we left with
The best Team of Doctors trying to confirm a diagnosis and agreeing that I “needed treatment asap because my quality of life was significantly being affected“.
A disease taking over my body.
Despite being super invasive and scary, the brain surgery biopsy was our last resort.
Brain Surgery Biopsy Decision
Brain Surgery Biopsy Risks:
- Minor or major brain bleed
- Potential of speech affected because it’s in the temporal lobe
- Possibly needing “open brain surgery” to fix the bleed
- All the risks of any surgery
It felt impossible to process, my body was screaming but I consented anyway.
Brain Surgery Biopsy possible outcomes:
- We could get a diagnosis
- A “partial diagnosis” could rule out a few things
- No diagnosis at all *this one was the highest probability in their opinions
“I couldn’t take it anymore”
Things that helped my difficult decision
It’s easier to avoid and not deal with things head on. Changing your thoughts is the most important thing in any difficult decision. Practice the “what if positive outcome” instead of our natural negative go to:
- Avoiding is not an option: Deal with it head on. Getting treatment without a diagnosis wasn’t possible.
- Diagnosis needed: It was our last attempt at a diagnosis for a disease that was progressing aggressively.
- Acceptance: Fully accepting that I had a rare disease. Surrender and accept where you are.
- Positive “what if”: Thinking what if “positive thought” instead of what if “negative thought”. What if I come out of surgery like a champ with no complications and a diagnosis?
- Team of Doctors: My entire medical team and every other doctor agreed we needed a diagnosis ASAP.
- Symptoms: Progressing and new ones appearing.
- My family and closest friends: We had been through torture and needed to know *I will write another blog on my journey, how it started, progressed, diagnosis and treatment.
- Exhaustion and emotions: 19 months of extensive medical investigation and uncertainty was not the life I wanted.
Tidbits that help manage any kind of stress:
Try some of these strategies, I practice them in every situation big or small.
- Train your Brain: Choose better words to say to yourself, feel and process pain then focus on solutions and more positive thinking.
- Workout: Walk and workout regularly *somedays it was simply getting out of bed for me, other days it was any of these workouts.
- Food: Fuel your body from the inside out with healthy recipes
- Therapy: Seek an outside counsellor to work through deep emotional stress.
- Meditate: Start with 5 minutes a day in silence, just you and your thoughts. Dump thoughts on paper, it’s not pretty but it’s healing *I do this everyday, my Top 3.
- Support & Smiles: Lean on family, friends and smile even when you don’t want to. My husband was my rock.
Filmed before Surgery and exactly what I did daily
“Pushing forward works for a while and then it doesn’t”
Brain Surgery Day “Morning of”
Pre-Surgery: My Husband is my #1 Supporter
How I managed the morning of:
It’s all about what you tell yourself. Feed your brain the right words because it will believe it whether it’s real or not:
- Walk: Family outdoor power walk to get the endorphins rolling.
- Hospital Registration: I pretended it was a competitive 5k race and replaced anxiety with thinking “I’m picking up my race kit tools for my 5k run”.
- Toxic injection for Brain CT scan: Your body needs this “super kryptonite to survive and proceed safely on this run”.
- Meditate: Listen to guided meditation and tons of deep breaths to manage stress and anxiety.
- Mindset Reminders: “I’m going to come out a survivor and with a diagnosis“, repeat the positive, replace the negative.
- Songs: I listened to the song “Overcomer” by Mandisa over and over again “stay in the fight until the final round, don’t quit, don’t give in, you’re an overcomer”.
- Support: Prayers, hugs and tons of support from my amazing husband, family and friends.
Brain Surgery Pre-op
My Nurse was amazing in Pre-op
Brain Surgery Operating Room
“Today I’m coming out with an answer”
“I’m a champ”
“There will be no complications”
Post Surgery Recovery
- A long road to recovery of course
- Major stress, anesthetic, the contrast injection from the CT scan and the mixed cocktail of medication given makes you feel yucky to say the least
- Despite feeling sick, swollen, in pain and disoriented, I had an overwhelming sense of gratitude to be alive.
Surgery went well:
- I had a small brain bleed that the Neurosurgeon thought would heal on its own
- There were no complications
- My Neurosurgeon said I was a champ and surprisingly he got five samples from my brain – Yipee! He was a SUPER CHAMP
- My family was updated and my healing began
- I’m at home recovering now, mindset, fitness and food is where it’s at
Final Brain Surgery Tidbits
I’ve had no complications and am recovering like a champ. I will share more of my story, treatment and diagnosis when I have all of the details. I “choose” to believe that I will come out of this and I know that it’s already made me stronger. This was a curse and a blessing at the same time. Below are Tidbits for how to recover. Put any of these steps into action when you are dealing with stress, injury, loss and feeling the chaos of life. It works.
Tidbits to heal instead of “powering through”
- Move: Get your body moving daily, it is scientifically proven to battle stress and boost your brain.
- Fuel: Eat right for your body, give it what it wants, cut sugar, alcohol and any foods that make you feel tired or bloated. I will be posting recipes weekly of what I am eating for my recovery here.
- Feel it: Feel every emotion, cry, let go of blame, it promotes healing.
- Stop: Sit in silence daily and listen to what your body and emotions are telling you.
- Surrender: Let go of all expectations and the thought that you can just power through.
- Sleep: You cannot heal without sleep. Commit to a regular bed time click here for 4 Sleep Tidbits.
You too are a champ, I believe in you. I wrote this to help you manage any difficulties in your life. Please implement even one thing from my Tidbit lists. Thanks for reading, this was a long one and thanks for your thoughts and prayers during this journey.
Hospital Recovery, thanks 4 the love
More amazing tips with Trina’s Tidbits.
My Painful Hip Surgery Journey is the most popular blog on my website. You can read it here for some inspiration.
To get me through stress, I listened to to this song, Overcomer by Mandisa
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Trina, you are SUCH a gift to this world. May your recovery continue well!
Tricia thank you so much for your kinds words. I can’t wait to tell the world all about my recovery, keep me in your thoughts girl.
heal well, big hugs to you and Robert and the kids 🙂 xoxoxoxoxoxo
Teresa thank you so much. It is so appreciated.
Unbelievably inspiring. Your words are so powerful. Thank you Trina for sharing. Your story will change lives. Please know I will be praying for you and your family.
Laurie thank you! I hope to change lives for the better and appreciate this so much. Exactly why I wrote it and I thank you for the love.
You always were an inspiration Trina! Thank you for writing this blog and helping all us understand not to just “power through it”. To feel. I will be taking more then 1 “tidbit” from this! I’m so glad you have a diagnosis and now can fight the good fight. I know you will!
Lil!! Yesssss! I love to hear that my Tidbits will help you. Thank you for the love so much. I am so happy you read and commented. Keep me posted about which Tidbits help you.
Trina I am so sorry you have to go through this but am so proud of you for how you are handling it. I knew from the first day I met you at Agro Zaffiro how much of a go getter you were and still are. Look what you have done with your life – wonderful career and family. You got this girl. I can learn a lot from you and your journey and will endeavour to use sone if the tips as I tend to internalize my stress. Love you and I am here for you if you need anything. I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers!!!??♀️??♀️
Elizabeth I’m sending you a big virtual hug. You are so sweet and I’m so glad to hear you are going to implement something. Full permission for you to stop internalizing your stress. It is incredible what can happen when you start to process.Thanks for the love.
Trina, Thank you for this very empowering blog. You are a champion. Love you!!!!!
Chantale thank you so much for those words!!! Empowering is exactly why I wrote it and I’m so glad that came through the blog when you read it.
Thank you for sharing your story! I love how honest and positive you are. You’re so inspiring. Xo
Sarah! Thank you so much I appreciate you taking the time to comment so much. Honesty and positivity are where it’s at for me and I’m so glad that is shining through. Thanks darling xo
Glad to hear you made it through this. I myself am heading for a brain biopsy 26 Sep.2022. I have had 4 spinal taps, at least 6 MRIs and 4 Cat scans, plus the Brain angiogram was done on the 19th of Sep 2022. Oh by the way Nam Vet age 70 but it was scary. NOYE afraid of pain? I notice that in medical procedures there is no measure to pain? Makes some irritable, mild pain, somewhat painful.
Whyyh not a 10 scale? Make a dental novocaine shot in the mouth a 10 my brain angiogram would rate a around a 3! I would think that would be a relief! I also would have like progress reports. Why lay there awaiting that big OUCH when you already passed that stage and it didn’t hurt?
My situation after well over 200 differttest, MRIs Cat scans, spinal taps I am without a diagnosis. The Brain angiogram everything was normal. So its now the Brain Biopsy but you look them up and you see neither is a absolute diagnosis! GRRR. They say it will take possibly 2 weeks for results. Personally I think I have reactions from the COVID vaccine I took J&J booster on 21 Dec 2021 came down with Covid on the 28th. Mild systems recovered. Bad thing I started going downhill very slowly June 16 wife took me to ER I had lost 30lbs, didn’t know where I was or date. I had swelling of the brain and spinal column and was one sick puppy! Spent 17 days in there was discharged put on steroids and weaned felt sick again went to ER blood clots! They think I have CNS Vasculitis but thats only guessing and it is rare only 2 in a million get it. I will update. Again glad to here ya made it.