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I always had thick, curly hair. The softest, most golden head of hair. It grew outrageously fast and there seemed no end to my sunshine-colored curls. Friends played with it. Created luscious braids. I enjoyed styling and spraying it with too much hairspray for weekend parties. My hair was my favorite thing about my exterior self. Freakin’ loved it. You would have liked it too, trust me.

It’s weird how things change. Little by little. So slow you don’t even know it. But then one day you wake up, and you just know. Something’s not the same.

My hair stopped growing. I became overprotective, terrified of my hairstylist’s scissors snipping off too much. It seemed the majority of my mane was dying. The strands were frizzy and crumpled. Where the hell did my thick curls go?

Other things were different, too. I was exhausted. Moody. Gaining weight was almost unavoidable although I was running up to nine miles regularly and ate like one of those clean-eating veggie gurus on Instagram that annoy the shit out of everyone. Yeah, pretty sure I annoyed the shit out of everyone.

I felt like an old tired woman in a twenty-year-old’s body. Exactly the type of person I strive to be. Sigh.

After months of bloodwork, doctor appointments, and procedures—finally, an answer. I had a small, benign (non-cancerous) tumor at the base of my brain, pressing on my optic nerve and pituitary gland. It was ruining my life in a very slow, yet very real way.

Over time the tumor could have caused me to gain a hundred pounds. At least. Other symptoms include depression, anxiety, fatigue, hair loss, and balding. I could have suffered from puffy face, also known as moon face. High blood pressure. Insomnia. Lowered immune system. Easy bruising. Diabetes. The list goes on. Sexy, right?

I remember sitting in the small white room with the doctor, having him tell me how lucky I was. How most people with this kind of tumor only realize they have it until after they’ve been depressed, overweight, and miserable for at least 10 years.

I wanted to cry tears of joy and gratitude. Joy, because minor brain surgery would cure me. Gratitude, because my path had changed course for the immeasurable better.

I couldn’t schedule the surgery fast enough. I would have let my neurosurgeon operate right then and there. Put the needles in and sedate me doc, let’s show this fucking tumor who’s boss.  

The surgery was about a month ago.

I had packed pajamas, a robe, and fuzzy slippers in an overnight bag. Because I’ll feel like changing out of my hospital gown. Brought my laptop because I’ll feel well enough to work a little.

Lol, silly me. I didn’t open my overnight bag a single time during my stay at the hospital. I spent thirteen days in bed, five of which were in the Neuro ICU.

Blurry and struggling—pain exploding through every cell—I was lost in agony. At that level of pain, everything else goes away. Disappears. I felt stripped clean—to the core—left only with myself and my aching flesh in a sterile, white hospital bed. The pain disconnected me from sophisticated awareness, any excess thought.

All threads tying me to anything but love were sharply cut. Pain forces you to lose the grip on any unnecessary shit in your consciousness. What time was it? Didn’t care. What did the doctor say? Whatever.

Opening my eyelids became an annoying burden. I tried to crawl inside myself as deep as I could. And I never wanted to come out.

When I did open my eyes, I saw only earth angels. Nurses and a tired mama who never left my side. My mom held my hand through it all. Told me silly stories, made me laugh. Love radiated throughout the room. Just her presence was healing. You won’t know real love until someone bathes you because you’re too sick to give a fuck. Sorry you had to see all—and I mean all—of me.

Yeah, brain surgery sucks. Pain sucks. But it’s also liberating.

After the pain subsided, I resurfaced. And the woman who came back was different. Changed. She came back knowing what is important and what exists inside her core.

Little by little, we change. Get better. Bolder. Day by day, minute by minute. So slow that you don’t even know it. But then one day you wake up, and you just know. Something’s not the same.

At the end of the day, you only have yourself, God, and the small silence of hope between what you think and what you pray. And it’s enough.

There’s something beautiful about life picking you up and smashing you against the hard ground, full force. Beating you down to the bone, tearing at your soul deeper than you’ve ever been torn, making you feel like a tiny crumpled leaf.

The beauty lies in the resurfacing. In change. In the realization that you are made of gold and glass—breakable but still beautiful—and luck does not exist. You exist, and you are not lucky. You are fate.

Article originally published on Herdaily.com 

Image via @danniahdaher 

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