One year ago I was in Switzerland working with clients, sharing time with dear friends and family, and making new memories. While staying near Winterthur in a 16th century farmhouse, I met Clemens Ressel. Clemens is a motivational speaker who was touring with Bob Procter a popular American motivational business performance coach. Clemens was working on a book and asked me to contribute a chapter. It has since been published in German as a print on demand book.
It is important to share our creations, our stories, and the tools for transformation to navigate this world. For me, it is the process of revelation, which allows you and I to truly see the divine in each other. We are often trapped by the stories, the projections, and the judgments, and do not really see each other. This is a crime as not one of us is the same. By sharing my story, with my voice, my hope is it will help you with yours. As we do this, we make the world a better place for us all. We are the Champions!
Be the Champion, a book by Clemens Ressel
Sally Aderton Chapter Contribution, La Jolla, CA, USA January 27, 2012
There are simple truths to human kind. We all know them instinctively. One of these basic truths is our life is our responsibility. This is a blessing. Sometimes this memory is lost or we still would like the creation of our lives to be different. However, each of us is born empowered to write, produce, cast, and direct our own story. Another simple truth is that we must know we have this power, to use it. There is a difference. From my viewpoint, the awareness of this distinction sets the stage for us to become our best champion, our best ally, and our own best friend.
My ability to be my own champion was challenged in 1998 when I was diagnosed with an acoustic neuroma tumor, which was defined as a ‘benign’ growth on the auditory nerve on the right side of my brain. The word benign should never be associated with brain surgery. At least, for me it was far from the definition of the word, which I share with you from Merriam-Webster:
A: of a mild type or character that does not threaten health or life; especially: not becoming cancerous <a benign lung tumor>
B: having no significant effect <environmentally benign>
My tumor was not cancer but anytime someone has his or her skull cracked open, it absolutely threatens health or life and has a significant effect! I know because it happened to me.
When I hear people casually in conversation say, “But it’s not brain surgery!” my thought immediately is, “But it WAS brain surgery!” Of course, the reason people use this colloquialism is to express that what ever they are talking about is not difficult, does not require high skill, nor is it life threatening. My challenge was to learn to live with brain surgery as a defining moment of me, becoming even more me. This meant my champion spirit must carry me through, even if it was difficult, it required high skill, and indeed threatened my very existence.
As my life irreversibly changed, I started defining it in epochs, BBS – Before Brain Surgery, and ABS – After Brain Surgery. There are turning points, or stepping-stones, for each of us as we move forward in time that significantly defines who we become. This turning point for me was more profound than I would have ever comprehended. If I would have known how difficult life would become, I do not think I would have survived the 14-hour surgery to begin with. My faith in God, my eternal optimism, my innocence, my family, my friends, and my commitment to healing myself, no matter what, is why I am alive. I continue to do the best I can every day to champion what ever challenge before me.
The doctor told me that it was highly probably that I would lose my hearing and possibly as well, the function of the right side of my face. My response would always be to him, “And, we do not know for sure!” I was a student of metaphysics. I had a worldwide healing practice. I had witnessed magical, miraculous, and mystical phenomenon for myself and for others. I knew my attitude would be everything to walk through this experience with as much hope as possible. I knew this would be my personal proof theorem about the power to heal our self. There was a lot at stake in how I handled my recovery, the life lesson, and myself.
The power to heal I learned was truly not in the doctor’s hands, my parent’s hands, my sibling’s hands, my friend’s hands, stranger’s hands, but in my own. I have become a living example of the principles I promote and teach. I loved myself enough to take responsibility for this challenge before me. The truth of which, is on my face.
During the night after the procedure, which is what I wrote for September 8, 1998 in my Day-Timer, the right side of my face was paralyzed. The trigeminal nerve that stimulates the muscles of the face to move had died. Both of the doctor’s warnings about my hearing and my face had come true. And, additionally there were other physical issues: my vestibular system was damaged, my memory compromised, and classic brain trauma issues with stimulation either visually or with sound. My life would never be the same. I had arrived in the life epoch ABS.
There are many, many stories about this experience to share and give you hope about your life. The one about my face is the most significant as the results are evident for everyone to see. What helped my nerve come back to life came down to just one thing:
I never allowed myself to believe it wound not function again.
This belief , followed with action and willingness to do what ever I could, is what has let my smile be seen again for the world. Vision without action means nothing. We can pray and meditate; seek guidance for the top surgeons, get the best therapy and have the best medicine, and that is not what makes us heal. We do it. All of these things listed are our assistants to the process, especially, other people. We hire them as consultants. It is only our heart, intuition, or inner knowing that will give the path of our own recovery.
Inviting help is necessary as we are social animals that thrive on the participation to both give and receive of ourselves. Inviting help is essential as it can educate us about our challenge. Inviting support is critical as there is strength in numbers. Inviting wisdom can help create solace. However, in the end, it is out choices, our actions, and our beliefs that define our challenge, our healing path, and the eventuality of them.
When a young acupuncturist handed me a box of needles 5 months after the surgery, photocopied 2 pages from a textbook, and told me “Do this everyday.” My first reaction was “You want me to do WHAT!” Alison Henderson very calmly and wisely said: “Sally, if you were in China, this is how you would be treated. You are not. You are in the United States. You cannot afford to see me everyday, and I cannot afford to see you everyday with free sessions. So, you are going to have to do it yourself.” Talk about responsibility! Talk about stretching my comfort zone! Talk about fear! Talk about wanting another option! In that moment, I had a choice. I chose to overcome my resistance and accept the challenge.
It is funny now when I think back about the first time I put the needles in my face. I only put in 3 but it took several hours to do it. I was looking in a mirror. I would bring the needle up to where I though the point was. I would look at the diagram on the pages Alison gave to me. I would look back at the needle, then my face, and then I would freeze. Eventually, I added looking into my eyes to this process and telling myself, “You can do this Sally!” In this way not only was I my own Champion; I also learned to become my own Cheerleader.
Acupuncture was on the only healing I was doing just for my face. Chiropractic, cranial sacral therapy, Feldenkrais, EMDR, massage therapy, facials, Reiki, Graduate School, vitamins, and a myriad of other disciplines, were also my medicines for my face. Remember to my face was only a part of the challenges to my health. Yet, everyday I did something. I took action. I was responsible for my healing.
Thirteen months after the surgery, my neurosurgeon sent me to a Stanford doctor to measure the function specifically of the trigeminal nerve. The results were calculated and the bated breathe I was told, “You have 2.2 % of function and that is all you are ever going to have.” That meant I had 97.8% of non-function. That is a lot.
My immediate response to the doctor was “How can you say that to me?” He literally and figuratively puffed out his chest and said, “I am a doctor at Stanford. I have more experience with this than you do!” To which I replied, “But you do not know me.” At home that night, I prayed. I told God, “You have my attention! Tell me what to do to make this outcome different.”
For me, negating the negative does not make a positive. I truly felt the words of the doctor were a message from God to help me take even more responsibility for my healing. In my meditation that night, I was told to do three things:
1.Keep doing the acupuncture
2.Keep doing all the therapy
3.Take a self-defense class
Well, you can imagine I wondered about that last thing but I signed up the next week regardless of my skepticism. I just knew I had to do it no matter how afraid I was. I was even able to get sponsorship, as the cost would have been prohibitive. This was another sign that it was the right thing for me to do. Cost is always a popular excuse to not do what we need to do. Money only inhibits anything if we allow it to do so.
The results of the self-defense class showed immediately in my body. I had asked the surgeon to crack open my head to save my life but my body still felt violated. By going through the self-defense class, I reminded my body that I had the power to fight back. A dear client and massage therapist Tess Cordill was gifting me with sessions weekly. Tess told me for the first time since we had started working together my shoulders were relaxed. She had been trying for months to get them to drop. As an instinctual reflex, my shoulders did not feel anymore that they had to protect my wound.
This story, of taking a self-defense class, might not sound like medicine to you. However, the results were the same. When we listen to our own guidance, our own little voice of reason, our own intuition, we are most likely able to choose wisely for ourselves. It is our life. Just because a path of action worked for someone else, does not immediately make it right or good for others. Medicine can be virtually anything. Remember Harry Ward Beecher said, “Mirth is God’s best medicine.” Humor is not something bottled for consumption but it does not mean it cannot heal.
Three and a half years later after doing the acupuncture daily the results were clearly showing on my face. My cheek had definition again. I could close my eyelid. Occasionally my tears would flow with the emotion instead of days later. Just several months ago for the first time, I had actual twitching on my bottom lip. Twitching! The right side had not done that in 13 years! It became another milestone to celebrate. It also became another validation that I have no idea where the place, Recovered, actually is.
My recovery I have learned is not a destination where I will be whole, fixed, recovered. I will not win if I get the function restored totally in my face. In life if we take on the dichotomy of winners and losers, we limit the wisdom possible. If I waited for my joy, my self-acceptance and my ability to see my own beauty until my face worked right again, I would have lost precious time. Once gone, those moments will never come again. I learned recovery is not a place; it is a way of actively engaging responsibility with the challenges before me. The wholeness of each of us includes our brokenness. We are lovable all the same.
As life ABS unfolds, I still hold the thought that there is only more healing possible. Why not? The good news is that I learned that the smile did not live on my face. It lives in my heart. I was the person that walked down the street and smiled at everyone. The compassion for people with disabilities took on a new light as I learned what it was like to be stared at not for my beauty, but for my pain. These were invaluable life lessons. I am grateful to have had them as the gifts from my brain tumor. This potential is true for any experience, no matter how painful. Every challenge helps me learn to love others, and myself, even more.
Being the Champion does not mean that I believe I have to win to be ok, or well, or happy, or wealthy, to be loved. Being the Champion means to me that I am the Captain of my crew along the river of life. Being my own champion means to me that it is ok when I make mistakes. It is ok when I do not win. The negative experiences direct the course of our life paths as much as the positive ones. What is important is that we know we are the navigators of our own journey on Earth. For me, the compass is my heart. It is the best compass I know for us all.
To order the book in German, click here.