My Brain New Beginning by Gabrielle Olko, 3rd Year Student
This past October, I was involved in a scooter accident; I was immediately taken to the ER. My left shoulder had been injured, but they performed multiple tests on me to make sure that nothing else had been affected in the accident. Because the injury was near my spine, they decided to run a CAT scan to make sure I didn’t have a head injury. To their surprise as well as mine, there was fogginess on the CAT scan, which led them to perform a full MRI scan. Thirteen hours later, and when they also found out that I did not have health insurance, I was released and told that I had a broken humerus and a cancerous tumor in my brain.
The journey that I am on at this time has guided me to look inward to discover how my path in life has led me to where I am today. Sometimes it’s not immediately clear why we have to face certain challenges along the way; but I believe they happen to us for a reason. It has taken me a while to understand the importance of being in the moment. I have found that it is important to not wish my life away and to remind myself each and every day to embrace the journey I am on at this very moment.
Four years ago, in February I broke my wrist and was cooped up at my home in Virginia, in snowstorm after snowstorm, waiting for interviews to come my way after I had applied to be a teacher at several elementary schools. I had just received my teaching certificate and Masters Degree in Early Childhood Education from James Madison University. I had been working as a long-term substitute in a second grade classroom; but after my wrist was broken, I started filling the position of lying on my couch. Several weeks had passed when one morning I woke up and urgently felt that it was time to begin the search to understand my life journey.
I found out about a Life Coaching Certification Workshop being held in Los Angeles at Yo San University, which was being led by Dr. Maoshing Ni (one of the brothers who founded Yo San) as well as Phillip Christman. I felt that this would be an amazing opportunity to find guidance as well as help to guide others and to explore the coast of California before I came back and committed to becoming a teacher. This experience served as a catalyst; three months later I filled out my application to attend Yo San University and began looking for a new place to live.
That fall, I was a new student at Yo San University beginning to pursue a master’s degree in acupuncture. What I have learned four years later is that the journey at this school is so much more than just starting a new profession; it is a voyage to discovering ourselves, body, mind and soul. I have created relationships with my fellow students, teachers, supervisors, masters, and employees that I will treasure throughout my lifetime. There have been challenges along the way, and times that I wanted to fight against what I have been working towards, as well as moments where school seemed to be on the bottom of my list. But what I have noticed is that along the way I am always drawn back in to the energetic and beautiful safe haven I like to call school.
The first day of school orientation, Dr. Mao Shing Ni told us a story about a patient of his that was diagnosed with a stage 4 melanoma brain cancer. She had been given three months to live. She came to Dr. Mao's office in tears and in fear of her imminent death. His advice was to do all the treatments that she could, but also to look within and do what fit her soul the most. She told Dr. Mao that her soul wanted to go swim with the dolphins in Hawaii. Three months later after swimming in the beautiful ocean with the dolphins at her side, the sun shining on her body, and connecting with the medicine of nature, she had forgotten she even had a tumor in her brain. When she got back her MRI results showed, to everyone's surprise, that the tumor was almost gone! The healing power of nature is amazing when we connect with it as well as when we allow our body to relax, and to just live. This story has really resonated with me throughout the past four years, but stirred a light within me over the past six months that has given me courage and a deeper insight about life and helped me to deal with my own health challenges. I look back on that first day of school and at this story in amazement and how it deeply connects to where I am now. Throughout the past four years of school I have compared myself to other students, felt rushed to finish and get into clinic as well as wanting to get a professional job and start making money out in the "real world," wishing away my time at school. One thing I have realized in the past six months is that we are our own personal journey and we are exactly where we are meant to be right now for a reason.
This past October, I was involved in a scooter accident; I was immediately taken to the ER. My left shoulder had been injured, but they performed multiple tests on me to make sure that nothing else had been affected in the accident. Because the injury was near my spine, they decided to run a CAT scan to make sure I didn’t have a head injury. To their surprise as well as mine, there was fogginess on the CAT scan, which led them to perform a full MRI scan. Thirteen hours later, and when they also found out that I did not have health insurance, I was released and told that I had a broken humerus and a cancerous tumor in my brain. Two days later, I was admitted into the public hospital where I began to learn how the western medical system works. During my first eight days there, I had extensive pain killers, two more MRI scans, a spinal tap, as well as an EEG scan. I lay in the hospital hoping that there had been a mistake. The evening the doctors came in to tell me their diagnosis, was one of the greatest challenges I have ever faced. They explained to me that the tumor was in the left temporal and frontal lobe of my brain and seemed to be a grade 2 glioma. They also told me that this type of tumor was a form of malignant cancer and the best thing to do would be to undergo a biopsy to determine the exact type, location, and size of the tumor. I barely heard anything else they said because my physical body collapsed into a pile of emotions. Shortly after, I was released from the hospital for ten days before returning to undergo my scheduled biopsy.
During those ten days before returning to the hospital, I made acupuncture appointments at my school with Dr. Wing as well as appointments at the Tao of Wellness with Dr. Mao Shing Ni. Dr. Wing was one of my teachers at Yo San as well as an incredible practitioner. When I went in for a treatment, I felt a spiritual bond with him and his healing. Before my treatment that day and the minute I walked into the University, I felt a new love and safety there, like I had never felt before. I had no idea that the students had started a fundraiser for me. I was in tears, when I saw what they had done; not because of the money but because of all the support, love and healing energy that was being sent my way from my Yo San family. Even new students at the school and patients whom I had never met were reaching out to me. I suddenly realized that sometimes the greatest love is directly in front of us and around us all along, and because we are often looking ahead and into the future we forget to embrace the moment and where we are. I realized that comparing myself to other students or wishing away my time at Yo San had caused me to not see the shining beauty of accepting and loving exactly where I am.
The accident happened midway through the fall semester of my fourth year, so I ended up having to drop out of the "official" classes I was taking that semester and drop into learning about my own body and health. This experience has opened my mind to healing and acupuncture as well as the human body, in an even greater sense than I have ever known. This has been the most challenging yet most meaningful "elective" course I have taken in my life. Suddenly what I had been learning at school all along was now unfolding in a new light. Right before this happened I was busy cramming and studying to take the pre-clinical exam. I did not end up taking the exam, but what I have realized is, that the universe has shown me the importance of looking inward and healing, loving and protecting myself before reaching out to and healing others.
On November 13th, I went back into the public hospital to begin my biopsy. I kept going back and forth as to whether it was even necessary for me to go through this process at all. I feel as though choosing to undergo this challenge for myself has taught me many lessons, one of which is appreciating the small things in life and not taking things for granted. I awoke from the biopsy with half of my head bald, and 43 metal staples holding my scalp together. What I truly woke up to had nothing to do with the baldness or staples at all, but was the joy I felt at being alive. I felt awakened to the presence of my breath coming in and flowing out and felt a smile spread over my face and into my body filling me with gratitude and love and connecting me to the universe and the people in my life.
After coming home from the hospital for the second time, I surrendered myself completely to acupuncture and Chinese medicine to assist in my recovery from the biopsy. I had a huge amount of medication still in my system, as well as a broken shoulder (they had told me it would take at least six months to be able to reach my hand up to the sky). I started undergoing regular treatments with another amazing acupuncturist and tuina specialist who is also a teacher at Yo San University, Dr. Benny Lin. Within one month I was able to reach my arm up to the stars! I also continued my treatments with Dr. Wing and Dr. Mao. The energy at Benny Lin's office, as well as at Yo San University Clinic and the Tao of Wellness put me completely at ease and created a feeling of calm, relaxation and a feeling of being nurtured. As the New Year rolled in my healing began. I was inspired to open new doorways of light into my life. One of my New Year’s resolutions was to take singing lessons. The vocal vibration led to an even greater healing within my being. I became grateful for the little friend within my brain. One morning I awoke with the song "Somewhere over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World" in my mind. As a surprise, I decided to sing this at the Yo San University Chinese New Year’s celebration, in front of my father and the Yo San community to thank and give back some of the immense amount of love and healing that had been sent my way.
I could already feel and still feel the power of this Chinese New Year’s 2014 Year of the Horse. Dr. Mao explained at the celebration the importance of having a clear purpose and well-defined direction in our endeavors because then the momentum of the year will carry us the distance and we can accomplish much. He also explained the importance of containing our impulsiveness otherwise many confrontations and challenges will stand in our way. It is already April and the momentum and movement of this year has begun, this leads me to understand more deeply how present the horse is this year.
I have also been focusing on learning to ride the horse in the best way that I can, as challenges have started to present themselves. I have been able to face my fears, one of which was to sing in front of everyone at the Chinese New Year’s celebration. This year began for me with the ability to breathe in courage and breathe out fear as it comes my way.
Since the New Year’s Celebration I have had one follow up MRI to check on my tumor. After viewing the results which showed that everything was still the same I began to look inward and realized that the most important thing is to continue to accept myself and embrace where I am and love who I am at this moment. I smile and feel at peace when I remember the story of the woman who swam with the dolphins, who connected with nature and the moment and forgot and let go of what was creating her negative emotions and dis-ease. Today I feel healthy, and happy and excited to continue on the path of healing myself and healing others. I am learning how to relax and quiet my mind and open my heart. My journey at Yo San as well as throughout this experience has lead me on the true path of healing.