“To anyone reading this: don’t doubt your capacity to live, to heal and to thrive. If I can do it, I KNOW you can too.“– Dawn Dalla
One of the VERY best parts of launching this brain business has been hearing from SO many of you. You’ve reached out to share stories of hope, healing, and resilience. These stories and experiences are important. They matter. And most of all, they remind us that we are not alone.
Dawn Dalla was a recipient of our (exciting new) Sponsor a Brain Program. When Team Brain and I read her story, we knew it had so much potential to inspire others. Dawn graciously agreed to write up this great post reflecting on her experience and sharing the wisdom she’s gained. In her story, Dawn shares how:
- The unique medical crisis that changed her life forever.
- The one powerful thing that helped her persevere.
- How her painful journey connected her to the amount of love and support in the world.
My name is Dawn Dalla.
In 2017, at age 45, I began the most challenging time of my life. I had been slowly losing my vision in my right eye for years. So slowly I didn’t realize how bad it was until I relented my stubbornness and went to the eye doctor. She was unable to find a cause so I was transferred from the regular eye doctor to a cataract doctor. He could find no reason for the blindness either.
From there I saw a retina specialist. As before, she could not explain what was happening. Finally, they did an MRI and found a tumor deep in my brain. It was displacing my optic nerve and pituitary gland. Left untreated I was guaranteed to go completely blind. Thankfully it appeared noncancerous but it was in a location that would have been considered inoperable only 10-15 years ago.
The surgery was so difficult and so specialized that I had to travel over 500 miles from my home in Las Vegas to Stanford Medical to be treated by their Chief of Neurosurgery! He tried an endoscopic procedure up my nose, through my sinuses and then into my brain from below. This was the less invasive option and he had had many successful procedures before me. Unfortunately, in my case, it failed when they nicked my internal carotid artery causing significant bleeding. They used a muscle graft from my leg to stop the bleeding! As far as I know, it’s still up there.
Six weeks later I was back in the operating room at Stanford. This time they did a full, open, frontal craniotomy and successfully removed the tumor! My forehead is now attached with screws and metal bits. (I tell people I’m a real metal head now ha ha). The tumor is 100% gone.
My vision is back but I’m forever changed.
Physically there are many things that I can’t do anymore. I’ve had seizures. I’ve fainted. I have central vestibular dysfunction (permanent vertigo). I am also wildly more aware of the amount of love in my world from those who have sustained me through this weird and painful journey. And I have had to fight through all of that with anxiety, depression and panic attacks that went back before the tumor.
Best part: Nothing I’ve gone through has taken my ability to love, to hug, to cry, to dance, to sing and to be as weird as possible.
Brain: If you had to share ONE piece of advice with someone else going through difficult times, what would you share with them?
Dawn Dalla: In a word, hope. Honestly, nothing can be done without hope. In the darkest moments when fear is seemingly everywhere, find one tiny thing to hold onto that gives you hope. It will be a different thing for everyone, but hope is the fuel of the soul and it is the only way through the darkness.
Brain: What do you think is the most important thing you’ve learned through these difficult experiences?
Dawn Dalla: I have learned new definitions of strength and determination. Strength is so much more than one concept. Sometimes strength is admitting you’re tired and need to rest. Sometimes strength means crying. I have also learned that when I feel weak, there are folks who will be strong for me. Determination used to mean achieving career goals or educational milestones. Now, for me, it means not letting my brain, or my life, stagnate. My life looks nothing like I imagined but it’s mine and I’m proud.
To anyone reading this: don’t doubt your capacity to live, to heal and to thrive. If I can do it, I KNOW you can too.
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