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Understanding Life's Before and After's

By Kayla Giacin
Tuesday, March 19, 2013

I've heard of people saying that "such and such" an event is the point when their life changed so drastically that it became a determining factor of how to base all other events in their life. Sort of a before and after, if you will. A good example is 9/11. Many people's lives and view of life was significantly altered between the mere dates of 9/10/2001 and 9/11/2001. Some felt their safety net had been removed, felt differently about life in general all within a span of 24 hours.

For me, this before and after is much more personal and a little more difficult to wrap my mind around because I wasn't quite old enough to get what was happening even though it turned out to be my own "before and after". For me, it was being diagnosed with a brain tumor at the age of 8. Before I was 8, I was a silly kid who marched to the beat of their own drum and played with my friends at recess. I was often in my own world and nothing seemed to phase me. After 8, I became more withdrawn and couldn't keep up with my friends in gym class. I also worried a lot more.

The older I get, the more I realize that the majority of reference points for my childhood are "before 8" or "after 8", "before brain surgery" or "after brain surgery". I don't try to reason it out like this- it just happens.  If someone asked me, "How old were you when you first flew on a plane?" my thoughts would automatically go to "Well, it was shortly after my surgery so I must've been 9 or 10".

When you're 8, you have so much about you that can still be determined. While not exactly a blank slate, you are still being molded into the person you will become.

To think that at 8 - there I was just waiting to absorb the world around me yet something so definitive as a brain tumor spliced the “what could have been” into the “what is”. What happens when at this age, your "before" transitions into your "after" before you've had a chance to become the person you were meant to be?

While growing up, I've asked myself this question many times. Would I have turned into a worrywart at some point along the line anyway? Would I even be the same person physically or did medications and the type of tumor I had determine my physical appearance?

It's difficult to be satisfied with the way things have turned out when they were determined by medications or things that can otherwise seem very unnatural.

There are many parts of my life now that I know for a fact would be different if I never had a brain tumor. I wouldn't have gone to the Heads Up Conference in 2011. Everything was a part of the domino effect after that. Although my "before" included lots of friends and lots of invites to birthday parties, my "after" left me feeling excluded and awkward. However, after attending HUC I could easily say I have friends across the country who "get it". Without a doubt, my job is a direct connection to my "after" as well.

When the majority of my life- from my relationships and job right down to the mundane task of taking my medications- revolve around my after, it's difficult to conceive that my life could have been any different. As much as I would like to believe that my brain tumor did not define me, how can I deny that it had a significant if not crucial impact on my entire life's course?

I suppose there is no way to know what I would've been like if my "after" didn't begin at the age of 8. I suppose that I can never know what would’ve transpired during my life if I had never been sick.  But then I also have to realize that everyone has their personal “before” and “after”s that have made an impact in their lives - even if it didn’t change something as concrete as how their body functions, something such as the aforementioned 9/11 affects their entire outlook of how they might proceed in interpreting their world.

Everyone has a demon to deal with or an uphill battle they must pursue and as much as I'd like to have these answers to the differences between my before and after I know that I, just like everyone else, have to find a way to incorporate it into my life where I can be satisfied with what life has handed me.

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