Lessons from LAP regarding Illness Anxiety

In 2008, I was a young, happy lawyer, enjoying my family and with relatively few worries. Then, I suffered a seizure and was diagnosed with brain cancer. Suddenly, all my plans for the future were up in the air and I was really scared. I reached out for help from the Lawyers Assistance Program and am tremendously grateful for the support provided.

The seizure occurred at the end of the game. The puck was at the opponents’ blue line and I was skating hard to put it deep in the zone. Their defenceman got to the puck first, but I managed to check him and throw the puck behind their goal. Then, the defenceman punched me in the face.

It was like a dream- everything seemed to happen in slow motion. I struggled to push the defenceman backward, but I could not move. I sank to my knees and could see my teammates coming over to me. I tried to say “this guy hit me” or something stupidly obvious, but the words would not form. I collapsed and everything went black. The next thing I remember is the referees standing over me and saying I had just had a seizure.

I was taken to the hospital and received a CAT scan, which revealed a small circular mass in my head. At first the doctors thought it was a cyst because of the shape, but they wanted to make sure and so I received an MRI. The MRI determined that the mass was a tumour and potentially cancerous, but the doctors believed it was benign. The approach suggested was “wait and see”. I consulted two other specialists for opinions, and one confident surgeon thought the tumour should be removed. I agreed to have the surgery, and shortly after the removal of the tumour I received a diagnosis of stage 3-4 brain cancer.

The brain cancer and subsequent surgery affected the communication centre in the left frontal lobe of my brain. For about two years after surgery, I lost the ability to speak fluidly and to understand complex arguments. My reading comprehension dropped to that of a grade 11 student.

LAP counsellors helped me through my anxiety by providing practical advice and talking about death and dying. Early on it was suggested by a LAP counsellor that I should do everything and anything to help me stay healthy. I made that an ongoing goal, because what did I have to lose? I exercised and changed my diet. I had traditional treatments of chemotherapy and radiation. I had supplemental treatments like acupuncture and massage therapy. I went to naturopaths, chiropractors and other alternative practitioners. I meditated and reconnected to my spirituality. I accessed the community resources that were suggested by LAP and took workshops offered by LAP I even travelled to Switzerland to see a renowned energy healer, and while I was there skied in the Alps! All in all, I felt tremendous encouragement and support from the counsellors at LAP in making these healthy and fun choices.

After studying and practising law for 13 years, being a lawyer was a big part of me. As well, I felt like I was sitting on the sidelines while my friends and colleagues took steps forward in becoming partners and building their law practices. LAP counsellors helped me to see that I was much more than just a lawyer. They also helped me through the frustration of struggling with a disability by reminding me to let go of constantly comparing myself with others and appreciating the gifts I do have.

I am now entering my fifth year after surgery and two years post-chemotherapy. The doctors told me that with treatment I would live for five years, because brain tumours are very aggressive and tend to recur. Now I feel confident that I am going to blow that prediction out of the water. I am very healthy, and there is no sign of the tumour progressing. However, I still have to manage my energy and have made a lot of permanent changes in my life.

LAP helped me to look at the positives in my situation. I indulge myself more, in the sense that I make myself take more time to do the things I enjoy. I am always reminding myself to take care of me, and self-care is a big priority. I am more aligned with my values and goals. I am less likely to be sidetracked by the goals of others and other people’s concerns. Most importantly, I have learned to let go of many stressors in my life and to recognize what I am not letting go of. I still have work to do on surrendering and letting go, but with the continued support of LAP, I believe I will get there.

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If you would like to speak to LAPBC counsellor on a strictly confidential basis, contact us at 604.685.2171 or 1.888.685.2171 or (info@lapbc.com) info (at) lapbc (dot) com.