“I don’t know what to do,” I wept.
“Please be something on that scan,” I prayed.
“What will I do if there’s nothing on that scan?” I fretted.
It turned out I had a tumour on both of my eighth cranial (Vestibulocochlear) nerves, the nerve that transmits sound and balance information from the inner ear to the brain. The silent world was to be lifelong, and the balance difficulty was to be a fluctuating lifelong issue. Then the tumour was removed and I had to accept the change in my appearance, as I was left with partial facial palsy, which is emotionally difficult at any age. My relationships also changed. Suddenly the healthy girl people had known for several years, was chronically ill, a wonky walker, and couldn’t hear a thing. It was a sudden flip for everyone; we all needed to learn how to communicate again, and what to say. What do you say to the girl who has dramatically changed in less than a year? And what does the girl who has dramatically changed in less than a year say to the people she knew in a different era? These weren’t the only changes I had to get my head round. My education changed.
This was a big switch that I struggled to understand. I had already let go of my independence,m as the simple act of walking to school was no longer an option, but I was now overcome with uncertainty about my future, too. I felt trapped. As a teenager I should have been feeling my horizons expand not sink. Of course I know better now, but I felt betrayed. Demotivated. I was angry. So with demotivation coupled with angry, pent-up energy, I needed to fill the gaps. Something switched in my mind then; suddenly I was on a mission. I got to work straight away, setting strict rules and goals for myself. The more determined I became in my quest, the worse I felt about myself, and thus the more ambitious my goals became. As the cycle wore on, soon I was gripped. I was selfish and couldn’t see beyond my new-found project.
“What about my Education?” I cried.
“Does she think I’m stupid? I bet they are all in the staffroom talking about this,” I fumed. “She told me to look in the mirror!” I repulsed.
“...but what about my education?” I wept some more.
All I needed to do, of course, was articulate my thoughts and feelings to someone, but my mind- set was destructive, not constructive. Due to mental health, I left school when I was 15 with no formal qualifications. This was a fact I found very hard to swallow.
‘In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity’ - Albert Einstein
I found purpose in understanding how and why my education affected me, which subsequently led to work experience. I also returned to formal education. This was a few years down the line, and by this time, following multiple brain and spine surgeries, my health had deteriorated further. I had lost all my voice, I had been blind in one eye for many years, I had reduced vision in my other eye, and I had developed muscle atrophy in my right dominant hand. On top of this, I was deaf, couldn’t speak, and I struggled to grip a pen for more than ten minutes. How on earth was I going to be able to sit - let alone pass - my GCSEs? It meant more adjustments were going to be necessary than if I had sat the exams in school at 16, and it was a challenge no doubt. But it was possible. I participated in all speaking assignments using British Sign language (BSL). As for the writing exams, well I certainly wasn’t going to let anyone hold the pen for me!
So what’s my point?
Well, my experiences enabled me to learn the value of education - the motivation that comes with being challenged, and what being without it can do to you. I love to keep challenging myself, both on an academic and personal level.
My advice to the learners out there is to keep learning and growing - you never know what doors may open and where they could take you. Not everyone has a chronic illness like mine, of course, but no one knows what’s round the corner, and when the waters may be more difficult to navigate. There really is no better time than now to grab life by the horns. Just trust the journey, even when you don’t understand it.