Sunday, September 18, 2016

Two Steps Forward- Embracing Life with a Brain Tumor by Claire Snyman



Two Steps Forward
Embracing Life with a Brain Tumor
By: Claire Snyman

I found Claire on twitter through a friend of mine known by the name of Lou and twitter handle of @TumorWarrior. He and I have been mutual friends for years, and he has led me to understand, support, and even understand many kinds of brain tumors. 

When I found Claire on Lou’s page, I read up about her, and found that she had written a book, and learned everything I could about her, before I even contacted her. And then I decided more needed to know about her, and learn the things I have been learning. 

Many do not know about brain tumors, and many think that once people get tumors, they are a lost cause, and see them instantly and assume for the worst. I am not saying that that is not the case, but I want to let you the readers see, that sometimes there are lights at the end of the tunnels, and I also want you to see, that there are in fact, many struggles along the way. 

My goal here is: to help you as the reader, to see many new ways to look at brain tumors. Not just to cross the person off your list as a lost cause, and think that there is nothing more you can do, and not just to walk away. People with brain tumors have many different survival rates, and they need you and I. Just as much as anyone else. 

So allow me to share with you the insight I found when I read Claire Snyman’s beautiful book that allows you into her mind where she takes: “Two Steps Forward.”
 
In the beginning, Claire just thought she had a migraine and had been over doing it at work. She was only 34, married and has a young son. No one plans to get a brain tumor.

Claire shows you her feelings, her thoughts, her anger, her pain, and everything she has felt from the beginning and how she even dealt with it.

Her tumor was discovered to be a colloid cyst in the third ventricle and it caused vertigo and many migraines. It led her to the ER frequently, which is how it was discovered. It was 1.2 centimeters. And no sign of hydrocephalus or ventricular enlargement. It is considered to be a  moderately large cyst. The neurosurgeon states that if it is removed, they are uncertain if it will result in any improvement of Claire’s headache symptoms.

Claire and her husband decide to go and see Doctors in UCLA give her a much different opinion which is no longer watch and wait, but now a more subtle kind of “you matter, let’s get this taken care of.” approach. 

After a year of dealing with the tumor, Claire’s migraines have continued and now she has a problem with blurred vision in one eye. 

Although Claire is still working, she has found that her priorities seem to be changing. She wants to spend more time with her four year old son Aiden, and even her loving and supportive husband. Life now, seems more important than work. Life matters more now, and Claire wants to live it to its fullest and enjoy every moment.

Next comes a ringing in Claire’s ear, and hearing loss, to the point that she has to lip read, and is unable to hear a lot of things. This is another disappointing step for Claire. 

One day, while in the Doctor’s office Clair noticed a ‘Team in Training’ pamphlet. Said pamphlet supports a program to do a half or full marathon to support people with a variety of blood cancers through the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada. Claire, thinks this will be a nice thing to do, only walking it. She hopes she can do it, the farthest she had ever walked or ran was 10 kilometers. This was 2012 the BMO Vancouver Half Marathon. But after raising $1400 for the marathon Claire ends up tearing a ligament and it must be put on hold for that May.

In August 2012 Claire learns the cyst has grown almost fifty percent in size. She has been having constant migraine and vertigo, nausea, and made best friends with her toilet. She knew something was wrong. 

Shortly after that, Claire’s life becomes a blur. Her legs have stopped working, she is sleeping all the time, she is much weaker, and she has little to no coordination. Her short term memory has been impacted, and she cannot recall anything. Her husband Marchand gets a hold of the doctor feeling this means it is high time to get the ball rolling before Claire deteriorates any further. 

Rather than keep giving you all of the details of this book, which I have skipped over quite a few, I feel you should get your own copy. I just want you to know, this book is very heartfelt, and deep. My emotions had the best of me throughout, and I cried. And then, I even felt relief in some places, and sometimes I cried again. 

This book is full of all kinds of emotions and it is an amazing read. You truly need read this, whether you are a cancer survivor, or know someone going through this, or just want to know. This is a five star read. A very wonderfully strong written five star read. Truly, I am touched by Claire, and her husband. I just cannot say that enough. 

This book, “Two Steps Forward,” is just…amazing read, and so are Claire and her husband. Please check it out, I promise you will be impressed. Thank you Claire, for allowing me the honor and privilege of this interview and reading your book. 


My questions for Claire:
1. What made you write this book and how long did it take you?

One day as I was recovering from my brain surgery, I sat down in front of my computer and started to write to help me deal with the flurry of emotions I was feeling. I found it tremendously helpful and good for my soul and continued to do so almost every day. I saw it as my personal journal. It was at my visit to my clinical psychologist for post-traumatic stress after my surgery that she suggested turning it into a book to help other people who might have travelled a similar path. I then became inspired to start writing a book, based off my personal journal. Two years and 70 000 words later, Two Steps Forward – Embracing life with a Brain Tumor was available in e-book and print copy!

2. Having a brain tumor, is it true everyone thinks of it as a death sentence?

No one can ever prepare you for those words – “You have a brain tumor”—for that feeling when the world stops for a moment and everything outside seems to fade away. For me, my nonmalignant brain tumor did not require immediate surgery but a ‘watch and wait approach’ with yearly MRI’s to ensure the tumor was not encroaching on the important grey and white matter inside my skull. Being nonmalignant did not immediately equate to a death sentence feeling for me even though the tumor I had could result in sudden neurologic deterioration and death. However, the role of living with the uncertainty and the ‘what if’s’ of what would happen in the future were the most challenging things for me to deal with. My tumor was what was called a ‘nonmalignant tumor in a malignant location’ meaning that when it grew too big, it was in a location that was critical to survival and required removal for life to continue.

3. Did you learn a lot more about yourself through this?

Absolutely. Even to this day, four years on, I feel I am still learning things about myself as a result of this experience. For this, I am grateful. I have learnt more about my brain and body than I could ever have thought possible. I now have the utmost respect for my brain and body and what they do for me each and every day, even on my ‘off days’. My off days make me even more grateful for the great days. I have learnt that I am a survivor and can get through more things than I often given myself credit for. I have also realized that I need to be mindful of the balance I create in my life, as this is integral to the health of my body and brain.


4. How much has your life changed, and how much have you changed, if at all?

My life has changed. I have become much more in tune with my body and brain than ever before, by knowing their new minimum and maximum cruising levels.
My eyes have been opened through this experience. To my own inner thoughts, abilities and personal direction as well as really understanding and valuing the role of human connection and my contribution to society. Gratitude for my family, my friends and even the small things around me has shifted to a whole new level. I think the most important thing that has changed is learning to live more in the present by realizing that we are only here for the blink of an eye and that while my life may not be perfect, it certainly has so many perfect moments!
5. What is your favorite book of all time?

The House at Riverton by Kate Morton. I love all her books and am also a big fan of Jane Austen.

6. Do you, or the doctors know if anything caused your brain tumor?

The type of brain tumor I had is congenital, meaning that it is present from birth although the symptoms do not typically present until between the ages of 30-50 years of age. So, this was just something extra that was in my head from day one.

7. Do you have any details you wish to share with my readers, suggestions, or tips, about brain tumors, or health or anything in particular?

There are three things that I find useful to me that I learnt over the past four years since my surgery. They helped me during my recovery (and still do today) and I think can be useful to anyone really.

“Breathe in the small things’ is all about how important it is to embrace and be grateful for the small things in life e.g. taking a moment to notice the different colors of the summer flowers around you.

Be your own advocate” is about being your own champion and standing up tall when things don’t seem right e.g. I will ask for a second opinion on …. I had to practice this several times during the past six years since my diagnosis. A valuable tool!

“Make time your friend” means being accepting of time and not rushing things. We can make progress, by taking one step at a time. e.g. I will take a ten-minute walk each day (to support my body and mind without pushing too far!) I often try and rush ahead and get to the finish line without slowing down to my detriment.

8. What are your hobbies?

I love to walk in nature, love to write, have started playing golf with my husband and son, exercise, bike, drink tea, and have friends over.

9. Do you have any photos you would like to share with us?

Not at this time, maybe later!


10. Please share with us your book links, and social media links:

Website: www.twosteps.ca
Twitter:@clairehsnyman




Two Steps Forward: Embracing Life With A Brain TumorTwo Steps Forward: Embracing Life With A Brain Tumor by Claire Snyman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I found Claire on twitter through a friend of mine known by the name of Lou and twitter handle of @TumorWarrior. He and I have been mutual friends for years, and he has led me to understand, support, and even understand many kinds of brain tumors.

When I found Claire on Lou’s page, I read up about her, and found that she had written a book, and learned everything I could about her, before I even contacted her. And then I decided more needed to know about her, and learn the things I have been learning.

Many do not know about brain tumors, and many think that once people get tumors, they are a lost cause, and see them instantly and assume for the worst. I am not saying that that is not the case, but I want to let you the readers see, that sometimes there are lights at the end of the tunnels, and I also want you to see, that there are in fact, many struggles along the way.

My goal here is: to help you as the reader, to see many new ways to look at brain tumors. Not just to cross the person off your list as a lost cause, and think that there is nothing more you can do, and not just to walk away. People with brain tumors have many different survival rates, and they need you and I. Just as much as anyone else.

So allow me to share with you the insight I found when I read Claire Snyman’s beautiful book that allows you into her mind where she takes: “Two Steps Forward.”

In the beginning, Claire just thought she had a migraine and had been over doing it at work. She was only 34, married and has a young son. No one plans to get a brain tumor.

Claire shows you her feelings, her thoughts, her anger, her pain, and everything she has felt from the beginning and how she even dealt with it.

Her tumor was discovered to be a colloid cyst in the third ventricle and it caused vertigo and many migraines. It led her to the ER frequently, which is how it was discovered. It was 1.2 centimeters. And no sign of hydrocephalus or ventricular enlargement. It is considered to be a moderately large cyst. The neurosurgeon states that if it is removed, they are uncertain if it will result in any improvement of Claire’s headache symptoms.

Claire and her husband decide to go and see Doctors in UCLA give her a much different opinion which is no longer watch and wait, but now a more subtle kind of “you matter, let’s get this taken care of.” approach.

After a year of dealing with the tumor, Claire’s migraines have continued and now she has a problem with blurred vision in one eye.

Although Claire is still working, she has found that her priorities seem to be changing. She wants to spend more time with her four year old son Aiden, and even her loving and supportive husband. Life now, seems more important than work. Life matters more now, and Claire wants to live it to its fullest and enjoy every moment.

Next comes a ringing in Claire’s ear, and hearing loss, to the point that she has to lip read, and is unable to hear a lot of things. This is another disappointing step for Claire.

One day, while in the Doctor’s office Clair noticed a ‘Team in Training’ pamphlet. Said pamphlet supports a program to do a half or full marathon to support people with a variety of blood cancers through the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada. Claire, thinks this will be a nice thing to do, only walking it. She hopes she can do it, the farthest she had ever walked or ran was 10 kilometers. This was 2012 the BMO Vancouver Half Marathon. But after raising $1400 for the marathon Claire ends up tearing a ligament and it must be put on hold for that May.

In August 2012 Claire learns the cyst has grown almost fifty percent in size. She has been having constant migraine and vertigo, nausea, and made best friends with her toilet. She knew something was wrong.

Shortly after that, Claire’s life becomes a blur. Her legs have stopped working, she is sleeping all the time, she is much weaker, and she has little to no coordination. Her short term memory has been impacted, and she cannot recall anything. Her husband Marchand gets a hold of the doctor feeling this means it is high time to get the ball rolling before Claire deteriorates any further.

Rather than keep giving you all of the details of this book, which I have skipped over quite a few, I feel you should get your own copy. I just want you to know, this book is very heartfelt, and deep. My emotions had the best of me throughout, and I cried. And then, I even felt relief in some places, and sometimes I cried again.

This book is full of all kinds of emotions and it is an amazing read. You truly need read this, whether you are a cancer survivor, or know someone going through this, or just want to know. This is a five star read. A very wonderfully strong written five star read. Truly, I am touched by Claire, and her husband. I just cannot say that enough.

This book, “Two Steps Forward,” is just…amazing read, and so are Claire and her husband. Please check it out, I promise you will be impressed. Thank you Claire, for allowing me the honor and privilege of this interview and reading your book.

View all my reviews

Helpful Links: