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How a brain tumour at 18 taught Sammy to fight back

By Sammy Taylor

I never used to consider myself a resilient person until I was faced with brain surgery, a stroke, facial paralysis and most recently a corrective cross facial nerve graft.

To say the last year has been a bit of a whirlwind for me would be an understatement. And just when I couldn’t contemplate throwing anything else into the mix, along came a global pandemic, increasing restrictions and social distancing.

When I was 18 years old – I’m now 26 – constant dizziness led to an eventual MRI scan that found a benign brain tumour. After five years of annual scans, the ‘final’ scan confirmed that the tumour had doubled in volume and needed operating.

So, in June 2019, I underwent brain surgery to remove my pilocytic astrocytoma. But during that operation I suffered a rara cerebellum stroke, waking unable to see, write, walk and embarking on daily physiotherapy to re-learn these seemingly small, everyday things.

Through it all, I’ve always managed to see the opportunity in every hardship, grow through challenges and most importantly, find elements of actual enjoyment along the way.

If these challenges have reminded me of anything, it’s that we all experience difficulties along the way; change is inevitable. And just as one problem is resolved, we’re usually faced with another.

But resilience is the very act of knowing that these challenges are part of life and finding the ability to cope with adversity regardless, helps us to bounce back stronger than ever.

Sammy’s 10 top tips for building resilience

Have a positive view of yourself

Remember that life is happening for you, not to you. Become aware of your strengths and of the qualities that got you to this point today. Look back at some of the hardest things you overcame in life and trust in your own confidence and ability to get through this next challenge too.

Replace negative self-talk

Avoid the type of limiting beliefs and fears that hold you back in life. Know that our responses to events, including our thoughts, emotions and feelings, shape our experience of them. Instead, reframe your thinking and imagine the worst possible outcome of a situation, then find a solution for it so you’re pre-prepared.

Grow through what you go through

Understand that life wasn’t meant to be easy. Challenges are sent to shape us and help us grow as a person. See every opportunity, despite how painful it is in the moment, as an opportunity to grow and learn something that can serve you in future. Ask yourself, what did you learn from this challenge and how has it shaped your views.

Do something for others

Use the pain of your past to help others and do something meaningful. Caring for others not only strengthens your perspective and increases emotional awareness, but it can also add an empowering meaning to the trauma experienced.

Laugh!

Even if nothing is funny right now, laughter has been proven to reduce stress, boost our immune systems and simply draw attention to the fact that hardships are all around us, yet laughter makes us instantly feel better and in turn strengthens our abilities to cope with stress and pressure.

  • Know that worrying is a waste of time

Know that we usually worry so much about things that never happen. We allow these things to affect our moods and how we feel within the present moment. Instead, right now, choose not to worry, let the news come when it does and remind yourself of your ability to handle it, as you have done before.

Control the controllable!

Remind yourself that there are many things in life that we have zero control over, but what we can instead control is our reaction to these events. Focus on the present moment and what you can do right now to stay positive.

Discover meaning!

Do something that allows you to view setbacks with a broader perspective. Volunteer or connect with your local community to do something worthwhile and offer a helping hand to others in need. Allow yourself the opportunity to connect with others and see that we all have problems we need to overcome.

Find the positives!

Encourage yourself to see the silver lining in every situation. Write down the lessons, insights or positives in a situation to remember than even in truly impossible situations, there’s always something to be thankful for.

Pain will pass

Remind yourself that pain is temporary. You’ve overcome things before and will do so again. Trust that better days are on the way and that this hardship is only strengthening your ability to be resilient and see the opportunities from future challenges.

Sammy Taylor is an accountant based in London and the Founder of beautybrainuk.com

Sammy founded BITB (Beauty In The Brain) in 2019 whilst preparing for brain surgery. The first mantra bracelet was born after needing regular exposure to positive messages, whilst faced with a challenge, to trust that better days were on the way. Now, Sammy is on a mission to continue sharing beautiful, positive reminders to encourage an optimistic mindset, inspire others to dream big and support others affected by brain tumours and visible differences by donating 10% of profits to Brainstrust and Changing Faces. 

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