Monday, July 18, 2016

A Second Chance?

In 2012, 19 years after being diagnosed with a brain tumour, I was told that there was no longer any evidence in my brain of any form of tumour or malignancy. I have undergone 12 lots of neurosurgery and radiotherapy in my 19 years with the tumour. As a result of the surgeries there is large amount of scar tissue in my brain. At the appointment my oncologist told me the good and bad news. Even though I could celebrate that the death threat had been removed from my life, my ongoing reality of constant pain and headaches would remain.  So it was bittersweet news.

Along with medication I found several non-medicinal ways to relieve my pain in exercise and also in singing. However, as soon as I stopped these activities the reality of the pain kicked back in with force.

In 2013 a friend of mine, who had battled with CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) for over a decade, told me of a course (for lack of a better word) called ‘The Lightning Process’ that she had done that had completely turned her life around. She went from only being able to walk the distance of her driveway, to tramping every weekend, going on challenging tramps through the holidays, and then eventually doing a tour of Europe by foot. My friend strongly encouraged me to do the course to see if it could work for me. However, in my mind I saw CFS and what I had as very different things. My pain was as a result of things going wrong after so many lots of neurosurgery, and having so much scar tissue in the brain. How could this be reversed? However, I took the 20 hour introduction audio book on holiday with me and listened to it and hope was stirred within me.  I became so inspired to do the course and learn the process and applied for it. Excitedly I had the interview, however due to my complete lack of belief in my memory, and being able to retain anything, I was turned down and told that I needed to try and improve my memory and increase my faith in it.  I couldn’t think of how I could possibly improve my memory. It sounded so easy but seriously, how can you just do that?

A few weeks after having been turned down from the course I heard about a brain training website called ‘Lumosity’. This site was designed by neuroscientists and, after sitting lengthy tests, a program was custom designed to work on my problem areas. Being signed up to the program I was given five games (different every day), that varied from being 45 seconds to a minute to play each day. They dealt with the different parts of the memory, attention span, information processing, how I responded to distractions, vocabulary proficiency, spatial orientation, verbal fluency, and problem solving. It was extremely challenging but I diligently worked on this training seven days a week for eight months and was astounded and delighted that in that time my scores on all of the ‘games’ at least doubled! It was the first time that I began to see that I could actually change my brain’s function through training it. This news got to the trainer of The Lightning Process and she let me know that I was welcome to reapply for the course. However, there was one major component missing. It was suggested that you could take a support person and I didn’t have anybody suitable. Then, in January 2015 I met an amazing man who is extremely interested in personal growth who was very keen to attend the 3 day course with me as my support person.  

In June 2015 we attended the 3 day course and it was absolutely astounding. For the 5 years before attending the course I had used a pre-frozen cold pack behind my back during all of my waking hours for pain relief, as well as behind my back in bed during the summer. Daniel, my support person, suggested on the 1st night after doing the course that I try going without it the next day. Just the thought of this I found unnerving. However, using the process I was able to get through that day, and every day since, without it.

Another thing that I had been using 24/7 since 2010 was wearing a cooling head patch on my forehead.
This patch switched the burning sensation that I experienced with all of my pain and headaches to a cooling sensation. They were an absolute godsend when I had found them, but at the same time led to stares and questions from strangers when I was least feeling like answering. They were also hard on the skin of my forehead. I decided on the 2nd night of the course to see if I could go without them the next day by using applying the process that I had learned. To my astonishment I was able to. I haven’t used one since the 2nd day of ‘The Lightning Process’ course.

Before attending ‘The Lightning Process’ I was unable to walk more than about 100 metres before intense pain came into my legs and it became too difficult. I had lived with leg pain since 2009 and as a result I had only exercised on an elliptical cross-trainer. I had stopped going for walks as it was just too painful. In the days that followed doing the course I was able to increase my walking to about 2km. Then in the following weeks I got that up to 4 km. In August I competed in a 5km athletic event. It was just mind blowing to me that I was now able to easily walk this distance. Then in October I entered my second 5km event and won it!!! I just couldn’t believe that I was now not only able to walk 5km, but was actually able to compete against and beat ‘normal’ people in races! In November that year I did my first 10km event. This was at a running festival through an absolutely incredible course. I was competing against runners and didn’t stand a chance of winning. However, it was absolutely stunning and so thrilling to be out and experiencing the natural beauty of New Zealand. 




For the 15 years before doing ‘The Lightning Process’, when I had clear vision, I could only drive a maximum of 5 minutes. This was a lot to do with my concentration levels, but more my ability to sit with my arms directly in front of me without the most intense pain. However, now just over one year on from doing The L.P. I can freely drive myself into Auckland (an hour’s drive in traffic) and can traverse from one side of the city to another. I could never have even dreamed of doing this before doing the L.P.

There can be no doubt that The Lightning Process has given me a second chance at life. My life had so many limitations for the 15 years before doing The Lightning Process but now I feel as though a whole new world is ahead of me. In this blog I look forward to sharing both my feelings and experiences in this incredible new journey.

If you're interested in reading more about 'The Lightning Process' you can do so through NZ's two trainer's websites:

The brain-training website I continue to consistently work on is

1 comment:

  1. Hey Gabe - such a lovely read! It's a lovely feeling to know that I was able to help you so much to get your life back. You worked really hard for it and you have achieved so much! Best wishes from Mel Abbott, Empower Therapies ;0)