A young mum of three school age children, a wife, a self made business owner and a pillar of strength as a pre-school support worker, Heidi’s life was full and fluid. Then the news came.
“But that happens to OTHER people.”
I met with Heidi for a friendly vino and heard her story. I’d love to share it.
Earlier this year Heidi, like any mum, was busy. She was working three days a week in pre-school, studying, running her own business groovy goose.
She went to the doctor with sinus troubles.
After being diagnosed with nasal polyps (which are common and generally non problematic), and a course of antibiotics, Heidi ‘was still not feeling right’.
Call it ‘gut instinct’, a guardian angel or intuition, she returned to the doctor and asked for further investigation.
She was sent for a CT scan of her sinuses and head.
Shortly after this, amongst finishing work, peak hour traffic and picking up children on a Friday, Heidi received a phone call regarding her scan.
“We need you to come in. Now.” the receptionist said.
With enough already on her plate, Heidi asked if she could come next week.
After the persistence of the receptionist and herself being an anxious person, Heidi started to worry. In the end, on her third phone call to the rooms, she spoke directly to the doctor over the phone while she had a car full of children outside school, peak hour traffic, Friday, like I said.
“WE FOUND A TUMOUR ON YOUR SCAN.”
Can you IMAGINE??
After contacting her husband and completely holding herself together in front of her children, in peak hour, Heidi managed to get back to the doctor’s rooms to discuss the diagnosis.
A meningioma is a relatively, often benign, common type of tumour that occurs in the meninges, or the membrane surrounding the spinal cord and brain. About 27% of all primary brain tumours are meningiomas, particularly (90%) in females between 40 and 70 years of age.
Heidi had experienced NO symptoms from her slow growing 2cm tumour in the frontal lobe of her brain. Symptoms can include memory loss, distortion in visual acuity and even personality change.
If it wasn’t for her sinus condition, the growth may not have been discovered until it started to affect her body in these ways.
After much soul searching, many private tears (though never in front of the children), and discussions with the head of neurosurgery in the city’s hospitals, Heidi made the decision to get the tumour surgically resected.
Heidi said, “I’m a young mum. I need to fix this NOW.”
The following 8 week wait was in itself “an amazing spiritual journey” for Heidi. All the while, she and her husband kept the finding from their children, protecting them from the worry and sadness the news could cause them. To them, Mum was having ‘an operation on her nose’.
Heidi said “Googling was empowering.” Her surgeon and information he provided “was amazing.”
She learnt that her frontal lobe tumour, if left, could grow 1-2mms a year, eventually encroaching on the superior sagittal vein (returning blood supply from the brain back to the heart) within the superior sagittal sinus (the drainage space between the two brain hemispheres). As far as tumours go, having one in this frontal third of the brain is preferable. But by no means does this diminish the enormity of what lay ahead for Heidi and her young family.
In the coming weeks, Heidi prepared for the inevitable ‘what if?’ question. Naturally, she wondered what would happen if surgery did not go as planned. What if she didn’t come back to her children? How would they cope? What did she need to say to them? How would she be remembered? What REALLY mattered for the weeks to come?
As her business suggests, Heidi is a creative soul who cherishes beautiful looking art.
She wrote 15 page letters to each of her 3 children. She copied out the famous family recipes she knew now by heart. The gingerbread!!
Can you IMAGINE?
She created a jar of notes explaining what she loved about each of them. She created a video for her children, reminding them of many special memories she holds as they have grown up, then singing to her children one of their night time ritual songs, holding their favourite teddies.
“You are my sunshine…..my only sunshine”.
I CAN’T imagine!
But as Heidi said “I decided this was going to be a positive journey. I could have chosen two different paths but I chose to be positive and set an example for my children. They were going to learn from my strength.”
“My anxiety and my sinus symptoms never came back after I was diagnosed!”
During the weeks before surgery, Heidi had to farewell one of her children to a school camp, knowing she wouldn’t have that precious time with them. But again, she wanted them to be safe from this sadness, so they didn’t know what lay ahead for their mum.
When home, she spent cherished hours with family. Cooking, togetherness and charades around the fire pit. They’d chat and share stories and she’d spend long moments laying with them to say goodnight. She’d study their faces and stroke their cheeks.
Heidi said “It’s all about the kids.”
“It’s the little things. “
“It’s the raw, simple stuff that counts.”
Privacy is important to Heidi and so she only told a few close family members and friends about her condition. Within this fold, she received an outpouring of support, and ‘armed herself’ with information also reaching out on Instagram to a woman who’d endured a similar ordeal.
By the time it was the day for surgery, Heidi was ready. She was after all, a self admitted control freak.
She remarked ” I had so much support spiritually that I felt like I had a hundred hands carrying me in.”
With the tumour being frontal, Heidi was put under a general anaesthetic. The operation to remove the growth took two hours.
Once the neurosurgeon had retracted Heidi’s skull and the tumour could be seen in real time, he had a decision to make- with Heidi’s blessing.
1- remove the entire tumour.
2-leave part of the tumour if it had attached to surrounding dura, bone or blood supply. The body would re-create blood supply means if necessary but the tumour would continue to grow.
3-take ALL of the tumour. If it encroached the sagittal circulatory system, a stroke may result.
Can you IMAGINE?
Fortunately, the tumour could be removed entirely without complication.
Recovery went well. Apart from craving cordial and mudcake, Heidi said the worst part was that she couldn’t drive for 3 months. Every mum’s nightmare! She also had to farewell one of the children to school camp again only four days after surgery. Heidi worried that he would not want to go for worrying about Mum.
After I’d wiped away my tears in the middle of the pub we were sitting in, I asked Heidi what she learnt from what she calls ‘her gift’.
She said, ” sometimes you have to learn to give up control and trust the people around you.”
“It was a gift . I’m here and that’s what counts!”
She found it amazing to witness such kindness from those she would never expect it from. During recovery, she was given casseroles from neighbours, blessings and communion from the school community and support and love from those around her. And Panadol. Nothing stronger than Panadol to come home with and a temporary turban protecting her wound (which I found pretty cool BTW).
With no detriment to brain function, lots of rest and time, Heidi has made a full recovery.
She is here to bake gingerbread, plan parties, kiss her children and husband goodnight-for as long as she likes, chill around the firepit and enjoy the raw, simple stuff this Christmas.
Heidi- as a mum myself (who can’t bake), I want to thank you.
Thank you for sharing your story. Your strength and honour to choose the path of positivity and example is an inspiration. Your courage to safeguard your children (who now know the whole story) and those around you astounds me.
May your future, enlightened journey be full of joy, precious memories, laughter and gingerbread.
Here’s to YOU girlfriend. Here’s to YOU!!
*If anyone finds themselves on a similar path to Heidi and would like to reach out to her, please email me firstname.lastname@example.org and I will put you in contact.
*If you would like to surf over to Heidi’s business page, jump on to www.groovygoose.com.au
*Heidi if you would like to bake more gingerbread, you know where I am….