Suzy Bonner

Suzy Bonner's Story


Wed 02 December

After suffering worrying symptoms for many years, Suzy learned she had a brain tumour. Through her experience, she discovered the power of positive thinking, of setting herself goals and how Essential Oils could play an important part in her recovery. This is her story...

It was ten years ago, whilst travelling to my brother's wedding in Exeter, that I felt the first symptoms of a brain tumour. As I was driving along the motorway, it suddenly felt as if the car was being pulled into the other lane, as if the suspension or tyre had completely given way. I pulled over to give the car a check over, but couldn't find anything wrong. It of course never occurred to me that this feeling could be a symptom of something more serious. 

 

I tried to carry on as normal, even when the symptoms persisted, and pushed away any worries and focused instead on just living my life. I didn't want to think about what they could mean or how my independence might be affected if something more serious was wrong. 

 

But the lurching feeling continued, eventually making it impossible to drive on motorways or winding country lanes. Soon, I couldn't drive anywhere at all, even in the passenger seat, and it was then, in May 2018, that I realised I had to go to the doctor.

 

They put me through all the usual tests for vertigo and other balance problems, but after all the tests were negative, they sent me for an MRI. I came back for the results in early September of that year and I could see something was wrong as soon as I walked into the doctor's office. It was plain to see on the MRI: a brain tumour the size of a satsuma.

 

The rest of the meeting was something of a blur; I couldn't quite take in what they were telling me. After all, how could I have a brain tumour that size and not know about it? But somehow I was able to stay calm, holding it all together. People react to traumatic news in different ways and it wasn't until I had to call my parents and tell them what was happening that the realisation hit me, and I finally broke down. Telling my parents had somehow made it all feel real and I felt as if I was making their whole world fall apart.

 

I really struggled with the thought that I was going to ruin the lives of the people I loved. Of course it wasn't my fault I had a brain tumour, but I just couldn't bear the idea that I might be causing them pain. Somehow I was able to stay calm though, and I think it was because I was so focused on not causing anyone around me any more suffering that I was able to get through it all.

 

A few days after my diagnosis, I decided to post about it publicly on Facebook. I wasn't looking for sympathy or kind words, I just wanted to urge everyone who might read my story not to ignore worrying symptoms and to go pester their doctors if ever they felt that something wasn't quite right. I was honest about how I'd lived with my symptoms for eight years, constantly trying to push the worry away or ignore them, and this delay had meant I wasn't able to have radiotherapy or any other treatment. Surgery was my only option.

 

Until the date of the surgery, I tried to carry on as normal. I worked as a payroll consultant for a large corporation; it was a high-pressure job, with frequent deadlines and lots to get done, but I was keen to keep working, if I could. I didn't want to take time off or give any extra work to my colleagues, but I soon found it increasingly hard to concentrate, no matter how hard I tried.

 

With the operation looming, I once again fell into 'practical mode' and kept myself focused on getting everything in order. I updated my will, sorted out my life insurance and even cancelled an upcoming holiday. I was determined to tie up any and all loose ends. Strangely, it wasn't a fear of dying that motivated me, but the fear of leaving unfinished business that other people would have to sort out.

 

During this difficult time, I also kept a journal, recording my day – who I'd seen, who'd visited – and my thoughts and feelings, something that was very helpful. In the journal, I began to write about my tumour as a living creature who had taken up residence in my head and nicknamed it Gizmo. Somehow, writing about this cute and cuddly-sounding creature helped ease my fears. 

 

Just before my surgery, I wrote one final entry: “I've fed Gizmo after midnight. Now it's time to get rid”.

 

If you're able to be lucky with a brain tumour, then I was lucky in every single way. The tumour itself, a 6cm x 5cm meningioma, was not cancerous and had grown in a way that didn't cause any physical symptoms, just visual ones. My surgery at the LGI was also 100% successful and the doctors were able to remove all of the tumour. But what followed was a difficult few weeks of recovery.

 

The operation left me very weak and the recovery was an incredibly traumatic time, requiring physio for me to even be able to sit up. I had to work hard to change my mindset and concentrate on achieving specific goals, no matter how small they seemed. This new way of thinking soon helped me turn things around though. With physio, I was gradually able to sit up on my own again, then I worked on the idea of being able to walk out of the hospital. I found that having something to focus on gave me strength, it brought me back into the moment by making me constantly think: what is my goal? 

 

These goals never had to be big things, just baby steps sometimes, but it gave me something to work towards. This mindset, of just taking everything one step at a time helped me return to work just three and a half months after the surgery. 

 

Back at work, I again struggled with the fear that I might not be able to do the job properly and become a burden to others, so I made myself take it very slowly. I started with just an hour a day, slowly building back to full time in another three months.

 

Slowly I began to realise that I could get my life back, by focusing on one goal at a time and always trying to keep a positive attitude. 

 

I first became interested in Essential Oils after attending a health and wellbeing festival. Something about their approach just chimed with me and I signed up for more information straight away. Since my surgery, I'd been suffering with Neuropathy down the left-hand side of my body due to damaged neurotransmitters, causing them to send incorrect messages to the nerves, and it was because of this pain that I was interested in essential oil therapy. After extensive research of my own, I found a way to use the oils and to strike a balance between eastern and western medicine that worked for me. It's really important to always do your own research, as so much is not governed in this area, but natural therapy will now always be my first choice.

 

I consider myself a Naturopath and have tried to embrace that way of thinking, one that emphasises the importance of removing synthetic products from your life and being active out in nature. I think this approach helped me bounce back so quickly after my treatment. Surgeries of this magnitude can often leave you with debilitating side effects, but it's how it's managed on a day to day basis that makes the difference. 

 

Now, two years on from my surgery, I don't have any side effects and I feel like my life is getting back to normal. My tumour threw me into survival mode and made me completely re-think what I wanted from life. It was like a reset button and I realised I had to make life what I wanted it to be.

 

I saw the importance of finding balance. You can't always repress negative thoughts or feelings. Even though it's hard, you have to accept them and process them. You have to work to find the balance, but it is possible.

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