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The Alchemy of Life

My experience taught me that every part of us needs to be acknowledged and nurtured if we are to become whole.

I live and work in New York City, which is an exciting place, but I leave it a lot to travel to other exciting places. In fact, I grew up in Bulgaria during the Soviet era.  For those of you who are geographically minded, Bulgaria sits a little to the left of Turkey and just above Greece. I moved to the USA in the early 2000s with $300 in my pocket and one pair of shoes with holes in the heels).

From humble beginnings, I followed my passion for psychology and earned a degree from UCO (University of Central Oklahoma).  From Sigmund Freud to Carl Jung, Watson, and Skinner, I was and still am fascinated by philosophy and theories that explore the topographical view of the mind.  I suppose that means I like internal geography as much the external.

Fast forward a few years after landing in New York, I discovered my second passion- real estate. I worked for many different companies, then started my firm.  Over time, I have built a successful real estate business, specializing in commercial and residential investment sales. I know, the field of residential and commercial sales could be much distant from the field of Psychology. Still, there is much relativity between those, and my work allowed me to find a practical application of my studies. Hence, sometimes, I replay I work my psychology degree on the streets of NYC. It helps.

Our culture tells us that you can get what you want if you work hard and push yourself somewhere new, outside your comfort zone, and I had come from a place where everything was rationed. So, I immersed myself in building my business and increasing my financial prosperity, and I became a money-driven Machine who was looking for freedom. I thought that freedom meant being able to do whatever I wanted, and that money could buy it. But working hard made me less free.

One day while doing cross fit, I sustained an injury. Working out with a barrable, I was doing overhead squats. Before I was able to complete my set, shooting pain electrifying current run down from the top of my skull down my neck and right shoulder. I finished my set instead and went home. Researching the possible causes for the pain, I found on google that a trapped nerve might cause such. “Occipital neuralgia” –should be that one, I thought. It made perfect sense.

Raised and grown in the Balkan region, you should know that men are expected to act and behave like men. I know this could be quite vague. Still, my ethnos and background draw delineation, and men are supposed to rough it up and “keep your teeth tight.” It is a cultural characteristic, and if you are in pain, you bear with it, and you don’t go for an MRI. So, the days went by, and my head and neck pain became my daily companions.

Until, one day, while sitting at the bar for my happy hour drink, I observed something peculiar. Whenever I would look at the very left of me, objects would appear double. “This could not be!” I thought. “I did not have that many drinks, and my vision is already double. How come?” my curiosity arouses.  See, another typical characteristic of the stereotyped profile of men who grew up in the Balkans region is that we don’t go to the Doctor. In this event, I might have betrayed my nature of origin, and I visited the ophthalmologist.

The neurological testing went well, still taking some precautious measures, the ophthalmologist sent me to have a CT scan.  The imagery revealed the least expected, and that rainy Tuesday the afternoon brought the news that changed my life forever.

“You have a huge mass in your brain! You have to seek the advice of a neurosurgeon, immediately!”, the voice in the receiver ordered, and then I heard the clicking sound.

For a split second the clicking sound got me disconnected from the world around, the raindrops got suspended in midair and the noise, the city hassle noise got muffled and ceased. So, this was the beginning of my brain tumor odyssey.

My diagnosis was Cerebellopontine angle meningioma. “It is the meningioma cells, the very spider web-like membrane that covers the brain and the spinal cord, this is made of…”, the Doctor explained.

I found this to be ironic. The protective sheet of my brain has evolved into a self-motivated formation that wanted to harm me. The irony of life was shaping into a golf ball size drama taking its tall in thy physical representation of a tumor. I did not name it, I just wanted it out of my head, and my brain.

It could only create you more problems eventually! See, brain tumors are all about the location, location, location! The location is bad, the tumor is large, and it is pressing onto some vital nerves in your brain…”, the Neurosurgeon said.

After some deliberation and obtaining a second opinion, I decided to have it removed. My brain tumor surgery was on the 6th of March 2018. Now, this is another date to celebrate on my calendar. The operation and the recovery process changed me.

I belong to a brain tumor support group in NYC. Meeting other brain tumor survivors, and listening to their survivorship stories, I find a sense of empathy and tranquility, I discover the ability to relate to my suffering and this of others.

 The aftermath of my brain tumor surgery changed my priorities in life. Now I spend more time traveling around the world and visiting the places that I have on my bucket list.  Right after my brain tumor surgery, Within the last year and a half, I traveled to Japan, China, Indonesia, Peru, and few countries in Europe. I am interested in finding a correlation between the therapeutic effects of traveling and the patient’s recovery.

 Currently, I am working on my theory, which goes like this. When some emotion remains unresolved within us; it grows until it eventually assumes form in the physical world. Or, if we fail to resolve a situation at the conscious level then it can manifest at the physical level as faith. I learned that nonmalignant brain tumors could be seen as physical metaphoric expressions of emotional and psychological trauma, and finally, I learned that we are Spiritual beings first and foremost and that this part of us needs to be acknowledged and nurtured if we are to become whole.

 

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- MARCUS AURELIUS

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