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In the Lust for Life section, we let people speak in guest blogs about a defining moment in their lives in which they found their Lust for Life. Because if we at Over My Body know one thing, it is: LIVE! This time: Marianne.
When I was 17 I had a rear-end collision while I was in the car with my then boyfriend and his mother, I suffered whiplash. And that on top of congenital kyphosis and scoliosis. Thanks to this accident, I had to stop the training that I followed to rehabilitate for 1.5 years and I was left with considerable fatigue, headache, quickly hypersensitive to light and motor complaints.
After the rehabilitation, I started the laboratory technique training and soon realized that I wanted more of a challenge. I then made the choice to take the entrance exam for the HLO study Biology and Medical Laboratory Technology. I couldn’t believe my luck when I got the phone call with the good news that I had passed the exam and was accepted into the training! The first year consisted mainly of having fun and studying. I moved into rooms and had a part-time job in one of the many pubs in Leiden. Soon I noticed my clumsy nature, I tripped easily, dropped glasses easily and pipetting was not easy during practical classes. When in the spring of 2006 my complaints started to increase and I also had difficulty walking and had a lot of pain, I initially thought of an accumulation of studying, whiplash complaints and kyphosis scoliosis. After weeks of rest and sitting at home sick, the complaints worsened considerably and my GP referred me to a chiropractor. But soon I was living back with my mother and I had quit my part-time job.
When my situation worsened, my doctor made an appointment for an MRI. On the afternoon of the scan, my mother and I visited another friend in the neurology department and said, “Just wait, before the day is over, I’ll be right next to you!” When they got home, the phone rang and we had to go straight back to the hospital. That night I was indeed in the room next to him. Only flashes of the conversation with the neurologist have stayed with me, a tumor was found in my spinal cord measuring 1cm by 4cm. Immediately I felt overwhelmed by the thought that this tumor was not going to determine my life, after all there was still so much that I wanted to get out of life. That growth really wasn’t going to get in there just like that! Shortly afterwards another surprise presented itself, in February 2007 I turned out to be pregnant. What a shock, but at the same time I was sure that I wanted to keep my baby. My body was clearly also capable of growing something wonderful. I also made the decision to continue my studies, because I had found my passion and carried the greatest motivation ever in my body. On October 26, 2007 my son Nori was born!
In February 2009 I had my first operation and the tumor was largely removed, after 2 exciting weeks of waiting we got the results. A ganglioglioma had formed deep in my spinal cord and unfortunately could not be completely removed. After this operation, after 5 days in the hospital, I was allowed to continue to recover at home and I ended up on the waiting list for a clinical rehabilitation program. During this intense period, away from my 1-year-old son, I was eager to get out of the electric wheelchair and I thought it was important to continue studying in the rehabilitation center. I was afraid of losing myself in a downward spiral and wanted more for Nori. My relationship unfortunately broke down during this period and Nori found a stable, loving home with my parents.
It is now 2022, I am 38 years old and I have undergone 7 operations on my back in 11 years, completed the necessary rehabilitation processes, obtained my HLO BASc Molecular Biology, got married, had another child, survived a divorce and I am incredibly happy with my loving friend Daniel and our beautiful blended family! Of course I carry my backpack of physical and mental scars. And I give room to sadness and the sort of recurring mourning of “would’ve, could’ve, should’ve”, since my life is now more limited by the tumor than I had in mind. Over the years, the fatigue has increased, the same goes for the chronic pain for which I undergo intensive treatments every 3 months. But in addition, I also feel daily gratitude and an intense appreciation for life, also for MY life and everyone who is part of it in the most positive and loving sense!
Over the years, I have learned through trial and error to follow my heart and feeling, no matter how exciting it sometimes feels! Thanks to my tumor, I’ve really learned to believe in myself. I have proved the contrary several times with fervent motivation when rehabilitation practitioners found my goal of being able to walk unrealistic. And as a VBO student, I did get my Bachelor’s degree while I actively battled my tumor and became a mother. Afterwards I also obtained the necessary papers to use my backpack as a volunteer experience expert to help others and I gave myself the creative writing course as a gift for when rehabilitation is completed. Finally, I want to close with a loud ‘I LOVE YOU’ to my sweet kiddies and everyone who is close to me. You are an enormous source of strength and motivation and I am endlessly grateful to you!