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My Beautiful Brain

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There are some battles that can only be fought on your knees – usually when you come face to face with your own powerlessness and the only moves you have left are to bow your head in reverence and clasp your hands in prayer. Not the once-a-week-in-church kind, but the kind that eclipses piety and rises from your trembling, tenderised, broken-open humanity like a memory and a thirst.

There are only a few times in my life that this has happened – most recently and notably the day I got my initial brain scan results, which was, undoubtedly, my darkest hour. Ever. I recall it like an old home cine film of my childhood, vivid with scratched scenes of indelible memories, each one traumatic and undiluted by the passage of time. As if I’ve tried to push it backwards into a far-off distant country I don’t want to visit again, but it keeps on visiting me.

Yet it was only five months ago.

I was already on a seemingly unstoppable spiral into oblivion when I received the news.  By then I knew about the tumours in my right lung, lymph nodes, neck, spine, shoulder and ribs. I was in pain and fear, each holding hands with the other and exchanging places over and over in a perfect dance. I didn’t think I could sink any lower, feel any frailer or shake any harder.  I was at my limit.

I went to meet my oncologist that day to plan the radiotherapy on my neck. He wanted to explain the process, schedule my appointments and make the almost suffocating mask that straps you to the same position on the table for each treatment in order to ensure the laser hits the right spot. John was working that day so I lined up a play date for Gabriella and drove to the hospital alone.

Even though I had pushed for a brain scan because I knew something was wrong, I wasn’t expecting the results that day and never anticipated how devastating they would be. My oncologist “happened to receive the report that morning” and proceeded to tell me what it said.

I was sitting at the side of his desk with my back to his office wall and no one to reach out to, as had been the case for all my other scan results. His words blur into non-sentences in my memory: “unfortunately… metastases… brain lining… brain tissue… multiple… small… inoperable… radiation… whole brain… urgent… start soon…”

My eyes broke like a dam. I was inconsolable. The fear and pain stopped dancing inside me and poured forth. He hardly knew what to say and I tried to stop crying if only to relieve him of his awkwardness, but couldn’t. The tears rolled down my cheeks like monsoon rain on glass windows. Words failed me for several long minutes. What could I say to make the tsunami turn around and drain back into the ocean? How could I un-hear what I had heard?

“How many tumours?” I eventually asked, still chasing the details of my condition as if they held the key to its impossible cure.

“Too many to count,” he replied, with a tenderness in his voice that felt like an arm wrapping itself round me so I could weep on its sleeve. “Sorry.”

After a while I stood up to leave, but was reminded I had to leave my car in the hospital car park so I sat down again to figure out how to get home.  He stepped out of his office and a few minutes later his secretary walked in to offer me a lift.  I accepted it without hesitation and pulled myself together enough not to scare her while she was driving.  It was early evening in November and dark outside.  It was dark inside. It was dark everywhere.

Forty minutes later I was sitting on the floor by a log fire in my living room waiting for John to come home. I couldn’t phone him or call my parents. I couldn’t stand or move or speak.

My brain. My precious, complicated, wise, worrying, poetic, funny, visionary, creative, flawed, fearful, loving, brilliant, exasperating, beautiful brain. Riddled with more tumours than they bothered to count.

They wanted to radiate it, indiscriminately – not target the tumours (too small and too many), but the whole brain. Apparently this leaves you bald for years (if you live that long) and, quite often, permanently. Far worse is how often people say after full brain radiation, “I’m not the same person anymore.”

But then the people who don’t have it are often not the same either. The vision in my left eye was already compromised and, while I hadn’t wanted to admit it, I was also confusing my words and forgetting how to spell. So either way it seemed I wouldn’t be Sophie for much longer.

Brain mapping for neurotherapy
Brain mapping for neurotherapy

I have dedicated my entire professional life to liberating people from the limiting beliefs, harsh judgements and inaccurate perceptions that march us into unnecessary pain and suffering. I have worked harder than most for lucidity of mind, clarity of vision, the ability to draw back the thick curtain of falsehoods that veil life’s possibilities and drink from the deep well of Life As It Really Is.

Now my lucidity was under attack and the possibilities I rely on, even when I can’t see them, melted like butterfly wings in angry flames. Without my mind it was game over. Time to go Home.

I used to think people prayed on their knees as a sign of reverence to a higher power, an act of humility. Now I see how sometimes we’re brought to our knees by the events of our lives that we may at last turn our faces to the Light we have never fully bathed in. We pray not to reach out to God, but to let Him in.

That evening I prayed with an unfamiliar ease and urgency, not questioning its content or the fact that I prayed at all. I prayed not to be saved, but to be spared. Not to survive, but to go out with dignity, as Sophie. To stay myself, my hard earned self. I prayed neither with reverence nor hope nor desperation. I prayed with sorrow, surrender, and sheer bloody faith.

By the time John came home I was a calm sea after the storm. Grief-stricken and gutted, but steady on my feet and able to rest in my beloved’s arms. Imagine doing this without my babe, I thought. Imagine doing this alone. My situation was excruciating, but I was cradled in love that picked up all my years without him and brought them in from the cold.

In the days that followed I made some tough choices:

  • I was given steroids to reduce the inflammation in my brain, but recognised the side effects of taking them and decided not to.
  • I was advised to start brain radiation in December, but asked for this to be delayed until we could determine if the drug I had started taking for the rest of my cancer might penetrate my brain.
  • I contacted two cancer clinics abroad to see if they could help, both of whom said they would only take me if I first got rid of my brain metastases (through radiation), but I continued to resist that option.
  • I emailed Dr Dana Flavin to ask if she could help me avoid having my brain fried. And God bless her she popped an email back saying, “Yes. Boswellia Serratta and Berberin. 800mg, 3 times per day.” Which I ordered at once.
  • I dropped anchor in the fact I had cancer in my brain and continued, as best I could, with my life.

A few days ago, a week or so after Easter and five months after my darkest hour, I received my latest brain scan report, which described an “excellent response to treatment” and was summarised as follows:

“No metastases detected.”

I repeat:

“No metastases detected.”

That is to say zero, zip, nil, nada, none. At this point in time, without radiation, my beautiful brain is cancer free!

IMG_1022_sm2
How did that happen? Pharmaceutical anti-cancer drugs? Natural supplements? Organic vegan diet? Chinese herbs? Rife technology? Cannabis oil? Divine intervention? Dedicated commitment to my path of healing? All of the above, I imagine.

Does this qualify as a miracle? Probably not. But it is as miraculous to me as the arrival of my daughter after I was given a 5-10% chance of conceiving her. It is as miraculous as jumping on a bouncy castle with her on the 5th birthday I didn’t think I was going to see. It is as miraculous as an answered prayer.

I still have cancer in my lung and bones. My prognosis remains ‘terminal’. But I told God that evening that I could walk this cancer road if I had my mind, if I had Sophie. And that’s what I’ve been given. My eyesight is normal. My sentences are coherent. I remember how to spell.

How long will it last? I don’t know. I take none of it for granted and all of it for grace. But for now I have fallen and been raised up, crumbled and been restored.

My dearly departed teacher, Brad Brown, once said to me,

“I have been to the bottom and it’s firm.”

Now I know what he meant. They couldn’t count the tumours. They wanted to radiate my whole brain. I was in grave danger of losing myself, which was more frightening than losing my life.

But here I stand.

On solid ground.

Living with cancer.

Lucid.

Grateful.

Awake.

Full of wonder.

And so I walk.

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Comments(32)

  • 23rd Sep 2015, 10:02 pm  Reply

    Once more, such a moving account of bravery, fortitude, and courage when the medically unexpected creates yet another gate to negotiate. And you clamber over it with such alacrity. You are a real inspiration.
    My love to you all

  • Cathy
    18th Sep 2015, 6:36 pm  Reply

    Hi My Kindred Spirit,
    I am so happy for you! I have coined a phrase, I am not terminal but eternal!! I also refuse to have that word pronounced over me!!! The Bible says ” life and death are in the power of the tongue”. I thank God everyday for my healing. I am expecting to live into my 90″s, which I may renegotiate when I am 89. haha and I expect to be reading your latest stories then too!

  • Hannah Yadi
    30th Jun 2015, 11:08 am  Reply

    Smiling. And crying a little bit. Then smiling again.

  • Sue Sneed
    30th Apr 2015, 2:32 pm  Reply

    Amen. Still Sophie. Still walking. On solid ground. Amen.

  • Barbara
    27th Apr 2015, 10:05 pm  Reply

    How wonderful, Sophs! What amazing news. You are such a warrior indeed and such a powerful, inspirational writer. Amazing grace… All love to you xxx

  • Samina
    27th Apr 2015, 1:17 am  Reply

    Hard to express how I feel. Happy for your news, yes. Glad for your family, yes. Inspired by your courage and ability to express your journey, yes. Yet underneath all of this something else bubbles, something about the absolute unknowability of living, of our lives and how you seem to be constantly mining that truth over and over. Thank you for sharing your courage and wisdom with us all. You inspire me profoundly.

  • Suzy and Colin Webster
    26th Apr 2015, 10:03 am  Reply

    You have brought inspiration and hope to so many people- your beautiful heartfelt writing has created a great chain of further miracles and the pain though great has not been in vain. God has given you a great gift and you are so generous to share it with us. With thanks and love from the Websters

  • Brenda Edwards
    24th Apr 2015, 10:18 am  Reply

    Dearest Sophie Your great faith & determination has made the impossible,,possible, & how!!! You have been,& are in my prayers every day since I first heard your dire news . You are an inspiration to everyone; in your resolve,your use of language & humour in the worst of circumstances. Hope to see you in the summer at Grendon. Bless you & John & Gabriella..All love Brenda xxxxxxxxxxx.

  • JULIE W BRUNDAGE
    23rd Apr 2015, 9:07 pm  Reply

    Sophie, I know and love parents, and thus I love their offspring. I am a terrible writer, but I recognize beautiful writing. You have all our prayers and hearts, Julie and Howie Brundage

  • Vania
    23rd Apr 2015, 10:53 am  Reply

    Sophie – speechless, in awe, tearful, evoked… sending you so much love xxx

  • Alison Pope
    23rd Apr 2015, 9:22 am  Reply

    Soph
    As you know I am rarely speechless.
    But….Oh!………..
    Precious clarity, precious faith, precious belief and precious YOU.
    If this is not a miracle what is? Much love Chubs x

  • 23rd Apr 2015, 2:18 am  Reply

    Dearest Sophie,
    I have read and reread your news, quietly taking it in to my heart feeling a wave of joy and wonderment. Your honesty and exquisite beauty of spirit touches me deeply. Thank you for writing. Thank you for being you showing me how to live, now. Much love, Cxx

  • Gabrielle Lear
    22nd Apr 2015, 6:16 pm  Reply

    Three most delightful words in the English language (for the moment): “No metastases detected”. Sophie, you are awe inspiring! Chapeau!

  • Natasha Edwards
    22nd Apr 2015, 5:49 pm  Reply

    Dear Sophie, so glad to hear your news. Love, Natasha

  • Jeff Rose
    22nd Apr 2015, 11:21 am  Reply

    Thank you for being a miracle Sophie, and for sharing the journey with us. Thank you for your willingness to live so exquisitely and to “die” so well and to live again. Thank you for inspiring such joy and gratitude in me and reminding me to take things not “for granted” but “for grace”. I am celebrating with you and praying for continued your healing!

  • Katharine Newman
    22nd Apr 2015, 10:32 am  Reply

    Wow,Sophie,such good news and so beautifully and movingly written, you are an amazing girl !
    Loads of Love Kath X

  • Audrey
    22nd Apr 2015, 8:18 am  Reply

    Dearest Sophie. I am in tears after reading this news and there are no words that I can offer which could explain how I am feeling right now. All I can say is that you are such an inspiration to me and a true testament that no matter how hard life gets, you keep on going by putting one foot in front of the other. Thank you for sharing you with us all. Love you xx

  • Gilli Stephens
    22nd Apr 2015, 7:10 am  Reply

    Oh Sophie, I burst into tears! what fantastic news, what a tribute to your resourcefulness, what a joy for your family and us friends. Not only did you get them on the run but they have quit without being zapped. Yeah!
    Your beautiful brain is free to enable you to apply your techniques and protocols to those other tumours that have the temerity to hang around.
    Thank you, thank you for sharing.
    Many blessings and love from Gilli xxx

  • 22nd Apr 2015, 6:20 am  Reply

    That’s just bloody marvelous Sophie. I am thrilled, relieved, optimistic for you… You have done our family such a massive favor with all you have learnt about the BFC. You are leading the way on what we do when we get struck down. Coaching is a mighty powerful tool to have in your survival kit if you ask me. May be that’s why you are the survivor because you choose to crack on…Loads of love, Kate

  • Sharon Agates
    22nd Apr 2015, 5:59 am  Reply

    Amen Sophie! Sounds like God has plans for you here on earth. Brad would be so very proud of his warrior women xxx

  • Jan Gowling
    22nd Apr 2015, 3:09 am  Reply

    Such a beautiful blog Sophie and such wonderful news!

  • Steb Fisher
    22nd Apr 2015, 2:06 am  Reply

    Dear Sophie, that first prayer was for your dignity and to go out as Sophie. I hope the next prayer is for you to survive this. We need you here.

  • 21st Apr 2015, 10:56 pm  Reply

    I am crying tears of joy for you and your child Sophie. You are a warrior beyond measure. So much love and respect to you – Sx

  • Rachel Buckler
    21st Apr 2015, 9:35 pm  Reply

    Dearest Sophie, your brain is indeed beautiful. Really really lovely news from you. What a whirlwind you have found yourself in and how extraordinary you are. With much love to you all. Love Rachel

  • Sanna
    21st Apr 2015, 9:27 pm  Reply

    Please keep writing. You are brilliantly poetic and an inspiration.

  • 21st Apr 2015, 9:24 pm  Reply

    Dearest Lady Lazarus,
    What utterly fantastic news.
    Keep on rising up like the courageous Phoenix that you are.
    Big shout out for the Infinite. I really believe this is an answer to yours and many others prayers.
    Thank you God.
    I am so thrilled for you and yours.
    Much love to you precious woman.
    Liz xxxxx

  • Rachel
    21st Apr 2015, 9:18 pm  Reply

    So delighted for you Sophie. Living in the realm of possibility. Thank you so much for sharing and shining your light.

  • 21st Apr 2015, 9:17 pm  Reply

    What a testament of faith and positivity. May you go forward bravely as ever, as Sophie .
    With love Mary

  • Vanora
    21st Apr 2015, 9:13 pm  Reply

    well done – i am so happy for you that this has gone the way you wanted. and you write very movingly about it too. love from vanora

  • 21st Apr 2015, 8:41 pm  Reply

    Awesome news… keep on keeping on with your numerous creative responses to your journey. Utterly inspiring and so full of excitement and joy for you and yours xx

  • Todd
    21st Apr 2015, 8:30 pm  Reply

    I am speechless; stunned, and grinning. That you are here, writing, sharing, and expressing in this way, with the result in your brain as it now is. Life isn’t done with you, is it?! Thank god! (literally–or is it ‘theologically correct?) I am grateful to the One that Is that you still IS too!

  • Mel
    21st Apr 2015, 1:20 pm  Reply

    That’s fantastic news, Sophie, even if this post did reduce me to tears..! At least you’ll be Sophie when you face what might (or might not!) lie ahead. Thank you for sharing it.

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