This time last year, on a Saturday, I had a party. Really the only party I’ve ever hosted in my own home, it was a momentous occasion for me. I finally got to trim flowers and use serving trays. It only took a brain tumor for me to finally do what I always wanted, wear sparkly pants and have a holiday party. But, being me, it was no normal party, it was a “Smell Ya Later Herbert” party, complete with stickers and a brain cake. I’d have even cut the fruit in the sangria into brain shapes if I’d have had the time. This time last year on a Tuesday, I got pre-surgical testing. They took vial after vial of blood, oddly checked my ankles to ensure my health (doctors are so weird) and had me sign my life away just in case. This time last year, on a Wednesday I had a steak dinner with my family, way too heavy of a meal before surgery, but now that I have high cholesterol steak dinners are few and far between, so I don’t regret it. That night I blow dried my hair and shaved my legs so I’d be presentable for the surgeons, hoping my nicely coiffed hair would mask the fear in my eyes. This time last year on a Thursday early in the morning I woke up and got dressed, like a feelingless zombie I prepared for what I could not understand. That morning I sat on the edge of a dark bed, in a barely lit room and cried to my Mom that I didn’t want to have surgery. That morning I tried to escape a hospital. That day they took a part of me quite literally, they took a little part of Herbert too.
This time last year, I had brain surgery. They took something from me. They took my hearing. They took my tumor (sort of). They took my infallibility. They took my fearlessness. They took a little of my skull.
Then they gave me something. They game me a second chance at my life.They gave me a chance to see into a future and choose. They gave me a chance to challenge myself. They gave me immense love. They gave me a new view of the world. They gave me hands to hold.
When I think of all the crazy, crazy, just nutty things I have faced in the past year, all that this year has held, sometimes I can’t breathe. I suffocate under the weight of it. It drowns me. It’s too much, how could I have come past it, gotten through it? Then I remember that I didn’t. We did.
Everyone struggles through something, my mom had two surgeries herself. My Dad kept us all afloat. Jason loved me relentlessly. My siblings made me laugh, did my hair, bought me giant gorilla stuffed animals. Their kids laughed with me. We did it. We got this far.
It’s not at all where I thought I would be, or what I thought my life would look like. I had hoped with the surgery the appointments would slowly come to a halt, the pain would abate and I’d go back to normal.
I truly can’t remember what my life was like before this. I can’t see my life how it used to be. I don’t know what I looked like, or how I acted. That person is a stranger to me. I don’t recognize her or see her face when I look in the mirror. I spent so much of this year trying to locate her inside me, trying to be like her, look like her, workout like her. The only thing I do like the old Samira is love like her. That’s the only part of my old normal that is left. I’ve come to mourn the person I used to be. To see her in the shadows and quietly wave goodbye. In her absence I’ve come to love (most days) the new woman who stands in her place. She stands a little bit taller, a little more easy going (sometimes) and much much stronger. I don’t know the person I was, I don’t remember. What I do remember is all the joy my life held before. It was bursting at the seams and it is now too.
I think when they took Herbert out they only made room for more love, more commitment, more hope and more joy.
Sometimes I tell Jason I wish I didn’t have this brain tumor, that my ears would stop ringing and my mind could quiet itself. And sure, I’d love less pain, but it decreases day by day and i find myself rising from the ashes like a phoenix. I’m not who I used to be, I still love the world, have compassion to fight for it, but now? I’m resolute. I’m powerful. I’m strong. I have seen what I am capable of, and it’s more than I ever imagined. What’s more? I’ve seen what my love with Jason is capable of and what love of family is capable of. I’ve seen it. I believe in it. It’s everything that I am.
I hate when people who meet me and find out about this journey say that it is the reason I seem different, the reason I seem “good”. Different from what? I wonder. I am good because I was raised in love, I was granted chances to see the world. Herbert threatened to take that from me. I am good because I fought, not because I was given a choice. I’m good because I choose to be. I am good because I chose life, no matter what that means. I see life’s great contradictions, I see my great contradictions and I choose to be ok with them. I’m good because I love and it is love that makes me good.
Sometimes when I think of all that happened in the last year, the good, the bad, and the otherwise I think I can’t breathe. So I close my eyes and I think of what I’m grateful for. I slow down, curly my toes under, bite the tip of my tongue and locate myself in this body, in this time, in this moment, in this life and I exhale. In that exhale I release the pain and I choose, each day, to live this life, to the fullest, no matter what.
This time one year ago my world changed, I changed, and my heart persevered. Thanks for walking alongside me in the journey.
Peace and love-