We can all do great things and recover from extraordinary circumstances. It is inside each of us. We just need a little help along the way sometimes to tap into the extra strength needed.
Per the National Cancer Institute, there is an estimated 688,000 people in the U.S. that are managing life with a primary brain or central nervous system tumor, majority of them are benign (about 75%). I am part of that data.
No one is ever ready to receive a brain tumor diagnosis. A brain tumor diagnosis is life changing. Each person’s experience will be different, but there is a similar sense of fear. I learned to manage that fear by taking an empowered approach.
What’s the definition of being empowered? It’s about how you choose to behave through your actions and overall attitude.
I was diagnosed with not one, but two primary benign brain tumors in 2009. The first one is a tiny pituitary tumor that was causing symptoms and is what prompted an MRI of my brain. The second tumor is a medium-size acoustic neuroma. This type of tumor grows between the acoustic/hearing, vestibular/balance nerve and facial nerve. Mine is also pushing on the brain stem.
Receiving news like that is scary and the fear can be overwhelming. The Patient Empowerment Concept is very beneficial to your recovery. Patient empowerment is being actively involved in the recovery process, which provides a sense of control and can improve the quality of life. I’m thankful to have taken the empowerment route.
No matter what type of “problem” you encounter or perceive, here are six actions you can take that provide empowerment:
- Express Your Emotions. It is a normal reaction to feel scared, alone and insecure; even angry. It can be challenging but you don’t have to go through it alone. Reach out to others who have had a similar personal experience and talk to experts. Remember to give yourself time to absorb what’s happening.
- Ask for Help. It’s important to acknowledge the emotional, physical and social needs you’re going through. Friends and family want to help you. It makes it easier for everyone if you can give them specific tasks that you need help with. For example, you can ask them to drive you to appointments, help with grocery shopping and prepping meals, or just simply talk.
- Gain Control. Consider all treatment options. Communicate with your doctors – view them as partners, part of a team, and not as an adversary. This allows for a higher sense of trust, a greater sense of control with the potential outcome(s), and will provide that needed confidence.
- Focus on Healthy Eating. Your diet and daily nutrition impacts your health; and the right diet can help you heal. If diagnosed with cancer specifically, it’s recommended to consult with a nutrition expert that has oncology experience. Some foods to avoid would be meat, cheese, food coloring additives, and fried foods.
- Exercise Your Brain. We know that exercising is good for our bodies, but so is exercising our brains. The brain can get in shape, be strengthened and developed by using it just like any muscle. Brain exercises can improve mental agility and reverse memory loss. Your treatment team can recommend the right regimen for your situation.
- Learn to Relax. Being calm is important as it helps reduce the stress you are dealing with. You can learn meditation techniques such as deep breathing exercises and yoga. You can gradually build it into your daily routine. A little bit goes a long way.
Being empowered also allows you to find hope in many things. What people hope for changes throughout their lifetime, but rarely does anyone stop hoping. Choose empowerment.