August 16th, 2011
07:30 AM ET
In the Human Factor, we profile survivors who have overcome the odds. Confronting a life obstacle – injury, illness or other hardship – they tapped their inner strength and found resilience they didn't know they possessed. Today Jennifer Giliberto shares her story of embracing today after a grim diagnosis.
On June 20, 2007 we began a new life. In a brief moment, the world stopped spinning and a resounding smack signaled the closure of the life we knew. Nothing would ever be the same and we’d never be the same people again.
The glowing white lesion, a grade II astrocytoma, staring back at me from the MRI film hanging on the wall at the neurosurgeon’s office that day will always be a vivid memory. The flood of emotions, shock, tears and the entire aftermath are no less raw today than four years ago, but these emotions all exist with greater balance in my life now.
We're now grateful for the gift that has humbled us.
Since that warm, sunny June afternoon, we've faced my mortality, questions about quality of life, acknowledged that a new definition of “normal” would need to be created and have settled into our new life with unexpected ease.
We're happy and content having reached a point where we feel entitled to move on and away from a place where my brain tumor resides in the forefront and has an unbalanced weight in our decisions. With profound disdain for my tumor, I've come to terms and embraced life with a balanced respect for my tumor and diagnosis and I refuse to allow it to get the best of me.
Death is a part of life which for us means the process of living is that much more meaningful. I was unprepared four years ago when I received my diagnosis and was forced to face my mortality. I don't fear dying. I've accepted that I may not see my children graduate college or get married. I may not travel to the extent I had expected later in life and I may not check everything off my bucket list. Yet, I have opened myself up to the freedom of accepting one of the most powerful gifts my tumor has afforded us: The ability to truly live and experience life on my own terms.
Everything from the beauty and joy to the dark and ugly make more sense and are processed with greater clarity now. We've come to terms that a full life is not defined by number of years, but the quality of the experiences. I don't like my diagnosis and hate my tumor, but I'm at peace with it and would never change a thing. It is, what It is and It has been a gift.
Regret is an ugly word and Paul and I much prefer the beauty and potential that defines the word HOPE and welcome my stability as an opportunity to move forward living our lives as we had planned.
The journey to where we are today, nearly three years after surgery, could not have happened without my neurosurgeon, Costas Hadjipanayis, and our medical team.
We’ve all had honest, humbling discussions. While Paul and I acknowledge that no one has a crystal ball to predict when my brain tumor will return, Dr. Hadjipanayis has always encouraged us to forge ahead, pick up the pieces, live life and embrace my stability.
He delivered to us unfathomable news which has grown to be one of the greatest opportunities and experiences my life has afforded me. Bearing responsibility for maintaining my health, keeping me alive within the confines, definitions and beliefs we’ve all agreed upon, Costas will also be who my family will turn to one day for guidance.
When asked with trepidation if we were irresponsible to attempt having another child, Costas responded with an emphatic NO. The first to know of my pregnancy after my husband, Costas encouraged us to live life and embrace it all. This is what stability is about.
What, in a brief moment four years ago, caused our world to stop spinning and signaled the end of the life we knew has now grown to be our greatest gift.
My brain tumor diagnosis signifies not the end of a life we knew, but a turning point where we exposed, recognized and discovered our courage, strength, spirit, perspective, gratitude, appreciation, willpower and love of life. A life we now define, live and experience on our own terms.
About this blog
Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.