November 6, 2014

A Brain Tumor Warrior’s Guide to Taking Care of your Mind, Body & Soul.


Last summer I began having, what I thought were, fainting spells.

On November 12, I had an MRI scan of my brain at a local imaging facility. An hour after my MRI, I received a call telling me to get to the intensive care unit of a local nearby hospital.

The next day I watched a neurosurgeon show me a picture of a giant tumor that was pushing my brain to one side which, apparently, was not a good thing. Four days after my MRI I underwent emergency brain surgery.

When I left the hospital, I weighed 320 pounds, had a spinal injury and felt very depressed. After my surgery, I spent plenty of nights crying in my hospital bed. I cried, not because I had almost died, but because I had not lived.

I was like a lot of Americans, happy to live in ignorant bliss. Give me my McDonalds, nifty gadgets, football and tons of entertainment and I am satisfied. The second I returned home, I knew things had to change. I realized that the only person responsible and able, to improve my life is me. I didn’t want carpe diem to be cliched words on a motivational poster, but a saying to live by. In order to achieve my goals, I needed to repair my mind, body, and soul.

Here is how I did it:

1) The Mind: I had known for a long time that mindfulness/living in the present moment is the only sane, effective way to live. Our minds were first programmed as a survival mechanism, but the meaning of survival has become warped over the years. Running from a tiger trying to eat you is survival. Trying to emulate a Kardashian or work yourself to death so you can live in a house with 50 rooms is not.

Living in the present moment is an alien concept for most people. The emotion of fear, once used to preserve a person’s life, is now overwhelmed by stories like Ebola, ISIS and a 24-hour media that is scarier than any horror movie. How can I be present when I have bills to pay, a relationship to maintain, to drop the kids off at soccer and make sure my large fries are filled to the top? The mind is a skilled lawyer creating a case that uses painful stories of the past to project a grim, fearful future.

“Oh god, remember how broke we used to be? If I do not make 100X that we are doomed, doomed I tell ya.”

How can anyone function when their mind is constantly lying and creating an internal hell of which there seems no escape? The answer is different for everyone, but if you take a glance at our world, it is easy to see that we are not functioning well.

The only sane way to live is in the present moment where action arises from the ether, god, the universe, or whatever you want to call it. You cannot force yourself to be mindful and present. If you force yourself, you are only creating a form of self-improvement, and self-improvement always takes place in the future. I don’t know about you, but I want to enjoy life right now.

I strongly suggest reading the works of Eckhart Tolle and Jiddu Krishnamurti to gain deeper insight into living in the present. There are a lot of people who have written about this subject—find the one that speaks directly to you.

2) The body: This one was a lot easier for me to grasp. The body is a machine, and the machine needs to be maintained using quality parts and strategies. Here are some no-brainers (get it, no-brainers. I will be here all week. Try the organic lasagna):

A) Eliminate toxic foods: Junk in, junk out. If I see the words partially hydrogenated, or high fructose, I automatically put the item down. I have cut out a lot of sugar, replaced dairy milk with almond milk and eat organic products. I have not seen the inside of a fast-food restaurant in over a year. This strategy seems so simple that you would think it’s a waste of words to write about it. However, if it is so simple, why don’t more people do it (a long discussion for another day)?

B) Exercise: Get off your mass. This is another common sense piece of advice. Yet, it is another example of simple things most people do not do? You do not have to get a  “banging” body like a photoshopped model to benefit from exercise. You want to give your health the best chance to succeed. There are many studies that sing the virtue of exercise, so I do not need to mention them here.

I found the very best exercise program for me is something called DDP Yoga (I am not affiliated with or paid by them). DDP Yoga combines yoga, aerobics, strength training and spinal flexibility. The program is designed by former professional wrestler Diamond Dallas Page, and his encouragement is positive, motivating and sincere. The program encourages you to modify the positions and progress at your own pace. Each workout video has one person in a modification position that makes it easier to learn  the exercises on step at a time.

I have lost 95 pounds since changing my eating habits and using DDP Yoga. If a brain tumor warrior can do this, imagine what you can do.

3) The soul: How can one define the soul? I will not presume to tell you what it means, but simply what nourishes my soul. I do my best to live every day with joy (there is a huge difference between joy and happiness; a conversation for another day), passion and compassion. When your heart sings, you are in alignment with your true self. When you have passion for something, you know you are headed in the right direction and compassion allows us to be better human beings.

You do not need to be a brain tumor warrior to improve your life and I do not recommend it as your main source of motivation. Please do not wait for a devastating life event to make you realize how precious life is and how much of it is wasted. Carpe Diem!


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Author: Andrew Langerman

Editor: Travis May

Photo: Wikimedia Commons 

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