Blessed With a Tumor: How a Brain Tumor Changed My Life For the Better
AN INTERVIEW WITH GABRIELLE OLKO
everything we experience can have a positive and negative interpretation. which will you choose? photo: julia caeser
Conscious Lifestyle Magazine: Hi Gabby, so we have had the chance to get to know you a bit behind the scenes, but why don’t you share your story with us of what led up to the point of when you found out about your brain tumor diagnosis for our readers?
Gabrielle Olko: I moved out to California in 2010 to study acupuncture. A year and a half ago I was in a moped accident where I was taken to the hospital. Because I was not in an enclosed car and my head had the potential to be injured, although not noticeable, the hospital for legality reasons ran a CT scan, which surprisingly showed that something was present. They followed the CT scan with an MRI and returned to me with the results letting me know that there was a malignant glioma tumor present that was unrelated to the accident. I was than admitted into another hospital to undergo a biopsy, which led to a final diagnosis of a malignant oliogodendroglioma located in the left frontal and temporal lobe in a location that they would not surgically be capable to remove. In the past year I have released the idea and words of the tumor being “mine” and simply call it the tumor. So many people, as well as myself, have a tendency to say “my cancer” or “she has cancer,” and I have really unfolded the beauty of learning to not attach to it.
CLM: How did you initially feel when you found out about this brain tumor diagnosis?
GO: I felt like my body had been thrown to the ground and scattered into pieces—beyond what it felt like to be in shock on the road from the accident. The moment the pre-med student entered my hospital room and told me, I felt as though I had died.
CLM: At what point did you decide to shift into a positive, empowered mindset about the experience?
GO: There were many points and many shifts, and there still are, but the 2nd or 3rd day in the hospital I was laying there in a depressed “why me?” state and suddenly the news flashed on about the tsunami in the Philippines where over 10,000 died and 600,000 suffered severe injury. At that moment I lay there and cried and thought, “Why am I still alive? This life is a gift, and here I am alive for a reason! So alive!” From that moment on I knew that this was a gift, which has unfolded my journey in this lifetime in a beautiful way. Another moment that uplifted my positivity and gratitude was with our mutual friend, Kyle Cease. I met him at a little bookstore talk that he gave that was healing, from the heart, and inspirational. After the talk I walked up to him, and as shared my story, he held my arm, looked me in the eyes, and automatically responded by saying, “You are so incredibly lucky to be able to experience this beautiful journey at such a young age! You get to go start living and experiencing life and to throw all the bullshit away.”
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GO: It has truly impacted my life by helping me face many challenges and let go of many obstacles. There’s an aspect of loneliness that has been a huge obstacle for me most recently, that I am now finding beauty in allowing it to transform and to learn to embrace the beauty of aloneness. Whenever a physical medical fear arises or an emotion, I feel much more ease being able to use my empowered mindset to help shift me into a better place and to recognize this body that I am in and this life that I am living is no dress rehearsal. I am in full on play mode right now, time to be alive and enjoy every moment of it. The quote. “Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.’” from Mary Anne Radmacher shines through to me and gives me strength at the end of the day, that exactly where I am is okay; right now is okay! I know the human body, especially my own has a tendency to want to race ahead or have thoughts of, “I’ll feel better when…” I have learned to accept and love the idea of loving exactly where I am right now and allowing it to flow.
CLM: What are some of the biggest lessons you have learned from this experience?
GO: The idea that people have about “fighting” cancer seems absurd to me; to me fighting is having fire be thrown at fire, and causing the fire to get bigger or be left burnt out on the ground. I believe that allowing it to not be a part of me, and just watching as it passes by and thanking it for passing by is the best approach I can take. I have learned to not call it MY tumor, MY cancer, or say “I have cancer” or “She has cancer”, which is something that I have noticed is the way most people tend to address it. I have learned to say “the tumor” and phrase it in a way that doesn’t allow it to become something that is me or that I own. This enables me not to become attached to it or a part of what has presented itself.
CLM: Do you have a message for other people out there experiencing a tumor or other serious illnesses similar to yours?
GO: Time to start living! You are so lucky to be able to go through such an incredible life journey! What a gift!
CLM: And what would you advise people who have a friend or family member experiencing such a condition?
GO: This is a good question. You should ask my mom! [laughs] I think mainly just being there for them is of utmost importance, also not pushing your treatment ideas, cancer treatments, and everything and anything that they should be undergoing right now that you know of. The best treatment is to just be there and listen and laugh. Also being able to stand strong and to not constantly show the “I feel so sorry for you!” card. To be able to reconstruct your own thoughts to instead thinking of how beautiful and amazing and strong and magnificent this person is on their current journey.
CLM: Wow, that is so beautiful. Thank you so much for talking to us today and sharing such a great message of perspective and presence.
GO: Absolutely. Thank you!
About The Authors
Gabrielle Olko is a life and health coach currently in her last year of grad school to obtain her M.A. degree in Oriental Medicine and L.A.c. in Acupuncture. Halfway through her studies she found out there was a tumor in her brain–a diagnosis that has awakened for her the light and beauty within the challenges that life presents. She considers it her “extra credit” course in becoming a healer. She is part of a new foundation called Be Your Own Cure that educates others about alternative healing modalities and the importance of becoming our own doctor, and is soon to appear in a medical documentary about her healing journey, which you can follow along with through her blog: brainnewbeginning.blogspot.com