Share your gratitude

May 5, 2020 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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Eight years ago Lauren Brender found a brain tumour by complete accident. Last year, that brain tumour joined the party uninvited again – and helped her to realise the profound effect it has had on her life.

Lauren Brender with her baby daughter

She has just started her grateful website (gratefulfor.com.au) to encourage others to submit their own stories of gratitude.

Sydney-based Lauren is also hoping that people will donate to The Charlie Teo Foundation: https://charlieteofoundation.org.au/  to help find a cure for brain cancer.

“I started this project because I wanted to find a way to raise money for this worthy cause that would encourage the positive involvement of others as well as asking them for their donations. For good reason, I am extremely grateful and fortunately, so many of us have much to be grateful for. It is a thoughtful and heartwarming exercise to write down what you’re grateful for and it has been even more heartwarming to read the submissions I have received so far. I am really happy I was able to create a positive project out of this experience.” Lauren said.

Lauren shared her story on Mamamia last year: https://www.mamamia.com.au/found-brain-tumour-by-accident/  even though she knew that tough times are common. For her, this is a cautionary tale of sorts, and she thought that that writing it down might help her process things better.

Lauren writes: “To be in this position, I am so grateful to Dr Charlie Teo. Through this grateful project, I wanted to share my gratitude, encourage other people to share their gratitude, and I want to find a cure.”

When she was 21, after months of visiting dentists with a pain she believed caused by cracking her tooth on a Peanut M&M. Lauren was advised to consult a neurologist.

“I sat down as the doctor pulled out the scan report and calmly uttered words I never in my wildest dreams expected would be said to me: “The scan shows a brain tumour.”

At that moment, I want to say I felt alone or confused or lost, but I don’t think individual adjectives do it justice. I sat there feeling as if I was existing outside of my normal reality.

Soon after, I found myself in the office of Doctor Charlie Teo. He quickly educated me that it was very unlikely that my pain was being caused by the tumour.”

”After seeking a number of second opinions, many of whom told me that the tumour was too difficult to remove, Dr Teo performed a craniotomy. He removed the entire tumour and it was a relatively easy recovery. I was also extremely fortunate that the biopsy revealed that the tumour was a grade 2 astrocytoma (not malignant.)”

“The emotion manifested in many forms. I passed through shock, horror and denial, and found humour in the situation as a way to handle my feelings. I would joke to my family that all my negative attributes, like my poor ability to park a car and my lifelong incoordination, could now be blamed on the tumour. And when I wasn’t finding light in the situation, I was re-evaluating all my life decisions. I felt like nothing I had been doing before was adequate. I broke up with my boyfriend and found a new career path, rather than realising how lucky I was to have so many family and friends rallying around me. It took a great deal of time but I eventually convinced myself that the tumour had probably been there since I was born and was never coming back. It had never caused me any symptoms and was found by complete accident. I lived as if it had never arrived.”

In 2019, when her daughter was eight weeks old, she had a regular follow-up scan. She had been neglecting to have one for 18 months due to being pregnant and living overseas. The tumour had grown rapidly and she had surgery the very next day. “I now walk around as if nothing has happened, I feel very fortunate and grateful.”

Months after her first tumour was removed Lauren was still suffering from the shock of what happened, the minimal time she had to process the situation before surgery, and the fear that the tumour will return again. 

“There’s not an hour that goes by when I don’t think about it and the lingering curse that it is on me and my family. I have been informed by doctors that the tumour has a chance of recurring and I need to monitor it closely. I’m constantly faced with my own mortality while staring into the eyes of my greatest joys in life, my tiny children, who rely on my existence to survive.

It’s incredible to think about the fact that had I not cracked my tooth on that Peanut M&M, had the dentist understood what my problem was, or had the GP not sent me to see a neurologist, my life could have been completely different.

I often find myself longing for this life, free from the burden that this has caused me and pray that a cause and cure is determined soon.”

Life’s lessons sometimes present themselves in mysterious ways. I learned a great deal about myself and life, I just wish there was an easier way to learn it.

“Please go onto the gratefulfor.com.au site to submit your stories. It can be submitted completely anonymously and for me, it has been really beneficial to be grateful. Reading your stories makes me really happy.”

If you are one of Dr Charlie Teo’s patients, Lauren would love to hear from you. She has already received some of your submissions, which are on her website, and she would love to hear your stories. “It is not just me who has a story. Everyone has a story. It is just that I am sharing mine.” Lauren expressed.

Lauren Brender is a mum, freelance writer, speech and language pathologist, and coffee addict. If any part of this story resonated with you, she encourages you submit your grateful stories on her site. 

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