The Truth About How Brain Cancer Cleared My Mind

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One night, my father collapsed, outside of a Portland hotel, during a Prince concert in Vancouver, Canada. I know this because I was at the Prince concert. The next morning when my mother told me about his fall, I instantly recalled the exact moment, during the concert, when my father likely went down.

Many of us probably have moments in our lives that have become memorable for undesirable reasons.

My father was a quiet, hard-working man. Not one to complain much, and certainly not of the visual disturbances he had been suffering, or the incontinence, or the imbalance. After an MRI performed in response to his fall, it was discovered that my father finally collapsed because of a GBM.

Glioblastoma Multiform: The Shark of Brain Cancer

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He died six months later, almost to the day, just like the doctor said he would. The tumor overtook his mental functions fairly quickly. That was a blessing. His passing obviously was very difficult for my sisters and me. Losing a parent is one of life’s cruelest conundrums.

The experience and survival my father’s untimely death from brain cancer was made even more poignant several years later during a moment when my sisters and I stood in the very same hospital, where my dad had been admitted. We stood, stony, listening to the surgeon say, “Your mother has stage-4 brain cancer.”

Let me back up a couple years…

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A few years after my dad died, my mother was informed that she had a small, benign, tumor in her head. Obviously, we were all stunned by the news, but we neatly processed the information as nothing to worry about. At the time, the doctor did not seem insistent that the tumor be removed.

Then the “bugger” began to grow. And, finally my mother made the decision to have it removed. The pathology report was not favorable. Oligodendroglioma: Stage-4. Although it was not the same “shark” that destroyed my dad’s brain, statistics suggested, that most of the time, this particular type of tumor didn’t extend life beyond five years.

I recall a moment, in which my sisters and I left my mother’s hospital room after the news. We silently formed a circle and held hands. We let the “C” word roll around in our mouths for a moment.

 “Cancer”

We looked at each other, and without speaking asked, “Are you ready to do this again?” We were, and we did. Together we traversed the long, twisty road to recovery.  My mother is about to have her 80th birthday and there is no sign of the “sneaky bugger.”

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 Here is the absolutely great thing about having two parents with brain cancer.

 These diagnoses occurred when I believed that, “There was no way I could have TWO parents with stage-4 brain cancers.” (The concept was not even on my radar.) I remember repeating that sentence over and over, as I worked my way towards acceptance. My parents’ double diagnoses blew the lid off all of my pre-conceived notions on life’s possibilities. This realization actually took me to an incredibly freeing place.

In other words, it meant that if I had to lift the framework of possibilities that I set in regards to what could negatively happen in life, I also had to consider that very same framework being lifted from the side of opportunity.

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 Let me break it down…

Misfortunes, as I found out, could be limitless. In the same sense, opportunities and blessings could also be limitless. I had previously centered my beliefs around what I THOUGHT I could achieve, but I soon realized that those barriers were only present because I had conceived them to be so. If anything wonderful came from the brain cancer diagnoses, it was the shift in the part of my brain that housed my “limiting beliefs.”

I would not wish this situation on anyone. Would I want you to go through what I had to go through to see behind the curtain? Absolutely not!

But, maybe you can learn a little from my situation.

Crazy and amazing, wonderful and devastating things can and will happen to all of us. We will leave the shocking, and tragic things for another discussion. But with regard to the positive things in life we are really capable of realizing, we need to expand, stay open and believe. 

 Don’t allow your own limited paradigms to leave you sitting on the sidelines of mind-blowing opportunities. Why? Because ANYTHING is possible! 

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I would love to know a paradigm-shifting story from your life! Please share in the comments section below. 

5 Responses

  1. This blog post is timely for me as I read it from my Dad’s hospital room. I’m amazed that you have turned what could be a double tragedy into something so positive. I guess it’s time to lift the frame and see what happens. Thank you!

    1. Oh Michelle. My heart is with you sunshine. God, it is hard in the moment though isn’t it? I will be praying for you and your family. And yes, time leads us into perspective, and hopefully wisdom. Just feel what your feeling for now. Loves. H

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Dr. Denniston is a wellness strategist for elite leaders and their teams, bridging the connection between personal well-being and professional success. She provides custom solutions for burnout and stress and facilitates cohesive habit-training strategies that maximize vitality, productivity, and resilience.

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