In the summer of 2015, I underwent brain surgery for a rather large meningioma in my left frontal lobe. It was causing a huge amount of swelling and what we in the neurology field refer to as “mass effect” and “midline shift” which is shoptalk for one lobe was pushing on another lobe and the left side of my brain was on the right. Not fun stuff.
I had no time to really ponder much of anything as I was immediately admitted for tests and surgery. Cutting my skull from ear to ear, my neurosurgeon adeptly removed the tumor. A gross total resection, as we call it. And it was a success. Tumor gone. Job well done. Ordeal over? Well, not so much.
I often tell patients that the body does not know the difference between a surgical wound or a stabbing knife wound. The response is often very similar. And when the organ is the brain that is experiencing that level of insult, it does not bounce back so easily. It is akin to a severe traumatic brain injury. It may not of been traumatic in it’s making, but the functional effect is still the same.
So I got to work healing my brain and as well as my psyche. As a neurologist, I have a unique perspective in that I have seen many in their recovery from similar surgeries and similar injuries. I have helped them heal. I have also spent my career understanding the brain and what it needs to optimally function. Many were amazed at my recovery and I often get asked about my approach. Here are the top five things I did to heal myself:
1. I juiced every morning when our cells are hungry and yearning for high nutrition and are in optimal state to receive and utilize vitamins and nutrients. My juice was specific and intentional in its ingredients. My powerhouse recipe for maximal healing and regeneration is:
1 whole cucumber
1 whole lemon
3 pods fresh turmeric
2-3 inches fresh ginger
4 leaves basil
6 oz alkaline water
5 drops ashwagandha
2. I learned to meditate. Meditation helps heal the brain and it was the first thing I did each morning. A post-traumatic brain is sensitive to light, noise and stimulation and exposures create more inflammation and irritability. Meditation gave my brain the rest it needed to rejuvenate.
3. I fed my brain. I avoided pro-inflammatory foods, consumed lots of anti-inflammatory foods, and took daily doses of Boswellia, Rhodiola, magnesium, alpha-lipoic acid, N-acetylcysteine, and astragalus.
4. I moved. I regularly stretched and walked to keep my blood flowing and my muscles flexible.
5. I placed myself in nature. Studies have repeatedly shown how brains heal faster in the presence of the earth’s flora and fauna. One does not always have to go far. A nearby park did it for me. And when the sun was out, which is not often in Seattle, a bonus.
6. I had weekly acupuncture sessions. Acupuncture spreads energy, life, and blood. It helps to restore a natural balance of excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitters. It brings calm and inner peace while boosting the immune system to support healing of the most important kind.
Most of all, I gave myself a break and allowed myself time. I was kind to myself and patient with my recovery. I did things that brought me joy and contentment because I realized life is too short not to appreciate who we are, what our bodies are capable of, and the world around us.