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  • Writer's pictureMagda


A few years back you would always see me organising my life a few months in advance. I would know where I was going to be at any given moment at least a few weeks ahead. Then BANG! I forgot that the Universe may have plans other than the ones I set for myself. This is how my life began to change.

This is when I started to notice that it's not all up to me.

To cut a long story short…. In December 2015 my sister suffered from a ruptured aneurysm which resulted in a stroke. It was probably the most challenging few weeks of my life.  The stroke caused expressive and receptive aphasia. Aphasia can include loss of speech, comprehension, reading and writing skills. Thankfully her reading was not hugely affected which definitely helped with her rehabilitation. From losing 98% of her speech, within 2 months she was back to about 75% after only 6 speech therapy sessions. As you can imagine, it was a hard, challenging few weeks. She was so determined. I’ve always considered this her biggest strength. Her determination and persistence, as well as the help of her closest friends and family, helped her regain her ability to speak and understand in an incredibly short period of time. Doctors called it a miracle recovery as they did not expect her to regain most of her abilities. You can watch her story here.

A couple of weeks ago I found a letter I wrote to her during my stay in the US while she was at the hospital. Writing has always been my coping mechanism even though not many people know about it. "If only I could swap places with you, I would do it without a shadow of a doubt" part of it read. My sister is the strong one, how was I supposed to cope with all that was thrown at us so quickly, how was I supposed to keep a straight face on, I just didn't know. I guess we don't know the sort of strength we have until we have to find it in ourselves. Two months after her operation I was faced with issues of my own. After suffering a terrible headache I was admitted to a hospital, where a CT scan picked up a haemorrhage on my brain.

At first, taking into consideration family history, doctors thought it was also an aneurysm. After I was transferred over to a specialist neuro hospital the diagnosis changed. It was an AVM.  AVM is Arteriovenous malformation and it is an abnormal connection between arteries and veins, bypassing the capillary system meaning that blood was just gushing through in that part and the wall was torn under pressure hence it bled. It was rather large, about 6 cm, so I was very lucky as the large ones bleed for a short period of time and not too much. Yay. Now seriously – what the heck is an AVM? It all sounded like a different language to me. The lucky thing is, I suffered from a slight vision loss as the rupture was in my visual cortex so I could not read up on it and scare myself with Dr Google. The evening before the surgery, one of my dearest friends stayed after the visiting hours to offer me some extra support and help me understand my fears and feelings. I will be forever thankful for that evening. He always says that he’s just a signpost on my path but had he not been around to guide me and lift me up at that challenging time of my life I really do not know how I would have coped.

"Those who look outside, dream. Those who look inside, awaken." C. Jung

I didn't talk to a lot of people about it at the time, only a handful knew. A handful that mean the world to me and I am certain that they will remain in my life forever. They are the family I chose.

Surgery was long. Eight hours under anesthesia and constant radiation from the x-ray machine. I swear that it wiped out all of my positive energy reserves and left me deflated for a while. They didn't manage to block all of the AVM, 50% of it still remained to await further treatment. After the operation, I was faced with 5 weeks off. I panicked, but then I realised that what had happened was probably my body’s way of telling me “stop & live”.

I worked so much; by that time you could consider me a workaholic, my social life for the past few months was mostly non-existent. Then the doctor said that after my surgery I could not fly, use a computer, read, or even exercise as all these tasks would most likely result in a headache. He said that I should allow my body to adjust to the foreign object in my brain which was the glue they used to embolise the AVM. As a newly qualified PT, it was a big hit, but with travelling and reading out of the equation, it seemed even worse. I had trained myself to look at things in a positive way so I took the 5 weeks and I used it to my advantage. I learnt more about myself than I have in the 29 years of my life.I meditated daily, morning and evening; I observed nature, people and myself, my reactions, my feelings. I was mindful. Not in the Mind Full type of way, I was just mindful of everything. It's as if I saw every single leaf move with a slight gust of wind, the birds flying high up in the sky, the raindrops on my skin. All of it felt as if it was brand new and as if I felt it for the first time ever. I thought I was on the right track there, I felt good and then….

Easter, friends downstairs, super happy times, I am in the shower. As I started washing my hair, all of a sudden chunks of it started falling to the floor, blocking the drain hole... I sat in the shower and cried as it continued falling on my body. I cried some more in front of the mirror as I was drying it. It felt weird, only bits of it left at the back of my head. By the end of the week a quarter of the hair on my head was gone in the area where the AVM is. Appearance was always important to me but this is when I was reminded of yet another lesson. It’s the inside that counts, the beauty goes away with time, it's your heart that matters. It’s the compassion and the love that you give out to others, it's how you make others feel.  I considered shaving it all off, but the rest of my hair was heavy and thick enough to cover the baldness. I wore a hat more often than I didn’t – especially when it was windy. I always had a solution. As a matter of fact, this bald patch became my comfort spot - I would catch myself holding it and rubbing it with my hand every time I was deep in thought. To be fair, I still catch myself do it sometimes even though it's long gone. That chapter of my life always reminds me of something that the amazingly talented Maya Angelou once said, “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

By the end of my 5 weeks off, I could have written a full-on essay about myself but by then it barely had any significance: it no longer was ME that I transformed. I was changed, it’s like I woke up from a long dream, which was making me unconscious. My eagerness to learn more almost became an obsession for me. I just wanted to learn and figure out how I could potentially heal this world, one person and one day at the time. 2 years after my first surgery I had to make a decision whether or not to go ahead with a 2nd one which carried a lot of risks that not a lot of people would be willing to take. Other than death or stroke, the one that terrified me more for some reason was partial loss of vision that would be counted as a disability. I was confused and scared. I tried to plan around and tell the doctors when I could potentially be available rather than them telling me. I tried to plan just in case something happened but I felt that it was not right. The day before I had to give my dates, the confusion was so strong that I decided to ask for guidance during one of my evening meditations. That day, I went to bed just as confused as I was before but when I woke up, the only word that I kept on hearing in my head was "Surrender". The benefits of a successful surgery outweighed the risks, therefore I went ahead and signed all the consent forms. I put myself in the hands of amazing surgeons who I trust were guided by something bigger and greater than all of us here. The surgery was successful.

A few months after a course of SRS followed (stereotactic radio-surgery) (which was probably the most painful experience of my life!) - now I just have to wait for a few years and see if it works (Roll on 2022 - just kidding, Time please slow down!)

There is still a long journey ahead of me but the one thing that I know now is that no matter what, I will be ok. I will also not let this thing define me. I am not my AVM and I am not my past experiences. I found that a lot of people going through similar situations put themselves in a “protective bubble”, which stops them from doing things they want to do. I am the complete opposite. This experience pushes me to try more of the amazing things that this wonderful world has to offer and that will help me achieve greatness and learn more about myself. The AVM made me realise what my true passions are. I know I want to help others reach their ultimate potential hence you're reading this blog here and know me as Life Coach Mags. I also know that writing and cooking bring me happiness. I find solace and peace when I lose myself in either of these task. I could sit here and write for hours about things that may make no sense to anyone but it makes me so happy. It is what led me to publish my first book "Easy Way to Go Vegan" which is such an amazing achievement for me. I also had a few public speaking engagements which allowed me to talk to people about my experience and help others find motivation and determination to go after the things that they really want from life. I wanted to share my story with you because at some point in our lives we are all faced with challenges and sometimes life-changing experiences. It’s up to us how we deal with them. We can look at everything as a curse or we can look at it as a blessing.

One of my favourite authors, Wayne Dyer said: "When we change the way we look at things, the things we look at change". Since it happened to me my life has taken on a completely different turn. I am so grateful for everything in my life. My friends may think I am a little crazy, but I say I love them a lot, I do not like to leave things on a bad note with anyone either as quite frankly, I do not know whether I will get a chance to see them again because this 'life thing' can get a little crazy.

The most important thing is that every morning, without fail, before I even open my eyes  I say “thank you” three times. I am grateful for everything, for the AVM too and the pain it had caused and for the blessings that it brought my way. I am grateful for the friends and family members that picked me up along the way and helped me stay strong, they make my life very precious. Most importantly I am grateful for my breath and that's what I always come back to whenever I feel down. I breathe. I see my AVM as my wake up call, don't wait for a major fall down, accident or medical emergency to realise that you are important, start now. Take a day off and spend it with your family, take time to meditate, do the things on your bucket list, grow. Just walk, one step at the time.

Lao Tzu said, "A journey of a 1000 miles begins with a single step". You don't have to know what the journey is, you do not have to have it all planned out and by all means, you don't have to act as if everything is ok all the time. Allow yourself to let go and surrender to the greatness that surrounds you, to the greatness that's within you.
My sister Kasia and I

This may or may not have some relevance to you, if it helps you in any way I am happy, if it may help someone else, please share it with them. Since it’s been a long journey and to me, it’s almost like a new life, I just wanted to say thank you again to the people who keep me motivated, people who keep on pushing me and people who continue to believe in me even though I sometimes lose faith in myself. You know who you are and I am forever grateful for you in my life and I truly hope that we can watch each other blossom and grow while we go through this wonderful journey called life. There is so much more to this story and it was really difficult to squeeze it into a short blog post. One day I will share it in full but in the meantime, if you have any questions or would like to talk, just drop me an email. 

If you want to find out more about AVM and available treatments, to donate or read other stories, please visit Butterfly AVM Charity website.

To find out more about stroke, to donate or read on how to work with people affected by stroke go to Stroke Association website. For those not familiar with the FAST rule, click here for video. Love and light,  Mags x


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