G. C. Gigi George
2002 by G. C. Gigi George
Life is cruel sometimes in that it never guaranteed you would turn out like your peers. Being fraught with disabilities has showed me this. But I am not one to broad over situations that are inevitable. Rather, I thrive on re-discovering myself as a disabled individual.
My story begins in the city of Montreal. I am a brown-eyed girl who is disabled but have always remained driven to make my mark in life, no matter what curve balls would come my way and there were plenty; some I could manipulate, others I just had to accept because there wasn’t a thing I could do about it but cope with the situation.
I think it’s no accident that I came into this world quite normally at around 5.7 pounds in 1963. Life was as normal as can be until I was 3 ½ years. To put it mildly, all hell broke loose or more precisely I was diagnosed with a Brain Tumor. Take it easy and breathe deeply, that’s it because at the time my parents were not breathing so easily. The percentage of my survival rate was very slim. In other words, I was not slated to survive and was assessed and operated on the day after of my diagnosis. Of course the doctors were hopeful for my survival but the truth of the matter was they wholeheartedly were in doubt.
Now my mother brought me into this world, rather both my father and mother were to blame for my good fortune. However, my mother was the one who went through all the labor pains and looked like an overgrown baboon. My father on the other hand, was the parent who wanted so much to have a baby girl. So, getting back to me and everybody reeking havoc over the situation, I would suspect that my father suffered more stress not knowing what gender his baby would be but more importantly whether I would survive. My mother only had to cope with not knowing whether I would make it to my first birthday, and in that case what was it she would buy me.
Miracles of miracles, the Brain Tumor was completely removed and it was determined benign, meaning that it would not re-occur. Brace yourself for the next part though; with such good news there are always consequences or hell to pay for. Even today I suspect Chemotherapy and Radiation are still the best methods for doctors to treat Cancer patients. But what do I know I’m not a doctor?
Back in 1966, I was treated with both types of treatments. Nevertheless, the neurologist who followed me through my coping with the tumor felt that the Radiation may have stunted my growth because I only stand at less than five feet. Ah well, “Good things come in small packages” don’t they?
My having to cope with this experience during and after it occurred meant that my parents were pulling their hair out not knowing whether they would end up with a normal child. My father confessed to me later when I was older that the reason I did not have any siblings was because the strain and trauma had exhausted him to a point where he did not want to endure a horrible ordeal such as this ever again. Meanwhile, my mother took it upon herself to enroll me in a special school where I would re-learn my Fine and Gross Motor Skills. Fine Skills consist of learning how to write in Real and Print Writing, and Gross Skills would entail being able to throw, catch and bounce a ball. Somehow the tumor made me forget how to complete these actions. So I wouldn’t be the world’s most graceful dancer or athletic basketball player. My parents were just happy that I was alive and well.
As for my having to endure a cancerous tumor, I must have inadvertently pushed the memory of it into the sub-conscious because I don’t remember anything. I don’t think I wanted to recall anything from this occurrence because it was disturbing to say the least to have to reflect upon. I’m sure you will agree with me that this should have never happened to someone at such a young age? But as one of my girlfriends would say, “It should have never happened to you, but do you realize that you are a miracle?” Perhaps so, but my only interest was to survive this terrible incident and live a healthy life.
Growing Up is Hard To Do
My trials and tribulations as I was attending elementary school and learning how to network with the other children was less than satisfying; For starters, I didn’t fit-in with my peer group. I don’t know if this had to do with my appearance or culture but I was very much in need of attachment, friendship, socialization and acceptance. To this day, I still don’t understand why some children blend so smoothly into certain groups while others feel alienated from the norm. I certainly felt this way. Being of small stature and not very athletic, I wasn’t the first but rather one of the last to be chosen for sports oriented games. It was humiliating to know that this would happen over and over again as long as I competed in groups. As for my wanting to meet children from my culture, you could say that I was not welcome into their little clique and naturally this hurt. The school in which I attended was predominately populated by Jewish children as was this association that I longed to be a part of. I believed that they owed me the opportunity to be a member of their group simply because I too was a Jew. Boy or should I say girl was I dreaming? They made me feel as if I wasn’t good enough for them. Thus, I learned very quickly how their snobby attitude turned me away from wanting their acceptance and friendship. Meanwhile, I occupied my time by forging friendships with children from various cultures other than my own. Little did I know by doing this I was educating myself at the same time. Today I believe that diversity such as culture should not determine a friendship with someone. It also fascinates me still as it did in my childhood to know about alternative cultures. I think it’s important to be able to socialize with people who are unlike me. I also think you’re fooling yourself if you think you can become a well rounded individual by only knowing and venturing within your own culture. Maybe this is why I have had Christian, Jewish, Homosexual and Hearing Impaired friends. Well, I’ll let you figure this one out.
A Rude Awakening
I was about ten years old when I went to summer sleep-away camp. The camp was French speaking, and all activities were conducted in this same language. Campers participated in swimming, canoeing, games and so forth. Unfortunately when it was time for the camp to come to a close and for children to resume their studies, I did not escape Scot-free. In fact because I had done so much swimming, I developed earaches and infections in my left ear. The problem further resulted into my developing a hole in my eardrum and a cancerous growth to top it off. You would think I was rid of the Cancer when I was operated on very early in my life. Well I wasn’t so fortunate! The growth later resulted in my losing all my hearing in that ear. At ten years of age having fun at camp like any other kid, I didn’t know what was in store for me later on at the age of twenty-two when I was again operated on. It was a rude awakening. Again, the Cancer was successfully removed but so was a good part of my hearing. I didn’t realize the trauma or the impact of the loss at the time because I still had one good hearing ear. I tried to look at what was positive about the situation not what I didn’t have anymore. Nevertheless, the loss was traumatic and I don’t deny this. However, it wasn’t until I had a further loss of hearing that made me realize how serious and upsetting the impact in either ear really was.
I Was A Rebel
I think my parents were over protective of me because I had already been through a fare share of experiences in my young life. But, like any other teenager I wanted to stay out late and party, party, party! What adolescent wouldn’t? I used to drive my parents, but especially my father crazy with worry if I didn’t call to say where, what or who I was with, and then approximately what time I would be home. My father became so worried at one time that he started to drive around the city of Montreal looking for me. But I refused to comply with their wishes because I saw their meddling in my private life as a nuisance, so I was negligent in this sense. I knew they worried and were anxious of my whereabouts, but I needed some relief from the stress that I was feeling. Thus, I would receive no such relief as long as I was in communication with them. So for the time being when I was with my friends, I would misbehave and omit to call home.
Epilepsy’s Entrance Into My Life
By this time my adolescence was almost spent and I had matured into a young woman but not without repercussions. At nineteen years of age I experienced my first Grand Mal Seizure. What’s a seizure you may be asking? Well, when something isn’t functioning properly in my brain, I have what’s called a seizure. The reason for this occurrence is due to the Brain Tumor that was detected earlier on in my life. It is suspected that the tumor may have triggered my developing Epilepsy later in my adolescence. What may cause a seizure from happening is stress, anxiety, missed medications, lack of sleep, pressure to succeed and so forth. So, too much unwanted stress as in everyday life is not good.
I remember my father telling me how anxious he would get whenever I would have an epileptic attack. Generally people who have never experienced another person going into a seizure especially a Grand Mal become insecure not for the person who is enduring it but rather for themselves. Sounds selfish no? But, this is not helpful to anyone.
My first occurrence happened when I was walking my dog. I remember that I had keeled over to the left side. This is one characteristic that seems to happen over and over again whenever I have a Grand Mal seizure. Remarkable huh? Well maybe not to you. I was discovered on the grass close to where I lived by a student nurse who had been on her way to work. So if my calculations serve me right, I had to be out walking at around eight o’clock in the morning. This is usually the time that I would take my dog out for her morning exercise. But before I knew it, there I was trying hard not to succumb to an oncoming seizure. I felt my mouth being pulled and jerked around. I knew then that I was foaming at the mouth and eventually the seizure would begin. I hated every bit of what was happening to me. It was like trying to fight with a roller coaster that refuses to let you off until the actual ride is over. Eventually, after the seizure has ceased, you’re usually out like a light. I was out of commission for about two hours. So when I awoke feeling all groggy, there, waiting by my hospital bed were my parents. Where else would they be but near their daughter who was more like a zombie than anything else back then?
This being my first seizure ever, I went for electroencephalography or E.E.G. testing. It’s quite awful really, and did you get the pronunciation of that medical jargon; e-lec-tro-en-ce-pha-lo-gra-phy? Well, not to worry. In any case, I was yelling my head off at the time because I thought they were killing me. A figure of speech you understand? In retrospect, the technician was trying to fit electrodes to my scalp which would enable her to monitor my brain waves. I didn’t know what she was doing nor did she explain to me what was happening. Meanwhile, my mother was trying to calm me down. She’s was always trying to lecture me because she thought I was not acting my age. I admit I wasn’t acting appropriately, but would you if someone was poking your scalp trying to fit electrodes to it? I think not!
As far as the monitoring of my brain waves are concerned, I still to this day have to go for testing. Only I just tell myself that I’m going to the beauty parlor. In case you’re puzzled here, the technician who prepares me for testing is similar to how a hairdresser would prepare her client for a haircut. However, the tools in which a hairdresser uses don’t include; colored pencils, special glue and electrodes. The truth of the matter is I hate going through the whole process but by telling myself that I’m going to be beautified makes it that much easier. Call it psychological if you like.
Living A Life On Anti-Epileptic Medication
It’s no secret that any type of anti-epileptic drug comes with negative side effects. What drug doesn’t? But probably the most common one is that the various medications make you drowsy. Nevertheless, there have been newer drugs that do not have this effect.
Coping Is Hard To Do
I know from experience that it is wise to find a method on how to cope. While each and every individual copes differently, there is no one way to deal with the disorder. One other thing in case you didn’t know, Epilepsy is a disorder and not a disease. But I bet you knew this anyway.
Well, in my situation it took me the whole summer for my body to adjust to the medication. My eating and sleeping habits were drastically altered and stress became a major factor in my life. Personally I tend to get anxious and too much anxiety can influence an epileptic attack. My seizures occur maybe once a month and are very unpredictable. More than not my seizures are what are known as Simple Partial and not Grand Mal. The difference between the two is that Partial Seizures are those in which a person is conscious during the whole ordeal opposed to Grand Mal when a person is unconscious. Speaking from experience I dislike epileptic seizures altogether because I equate them with being drunk and passing out somewhere.
A Further Hearing Loss
I had a further hearing loss in my right ear. The hearing imbalance test showed that I endured a profound loss. I remember the experience well, and at first I didn’t know that I was losing my hearing. It was scary not knowing what was happening. But on July 1st, 1996, the only thing that I could hear was loud ringing in my ear. It made it very difficult to communicate and I was miserable. The doctor who assessed me in Toronto came to the conclusion that I probably had a virus of some sort and would have to wait six weeks to be certain what was actually going on. Six weeks is a long time to wait especially when you’re anxious to find out what the root of the problem is. I questioned also why I had to wait so long for a proper solution to my problem. Hence, it was suspected that the loud ringing in my ear was the beginning of Tinnitus or Head Noise. But at the end of six weeks the ringing ceased and a good part of my hearing was gone forever and ever.
I wasn’t diagnosed properly until I underwent testing in Montreal. Thanks to my father, he contacted the neurologist who attended to me when I was 3 ½ years old and explained the situation to him. His reaction was, “Come right away”. “Coming right away”, meaning it would take my mother and I a day to get to Montreal from Toronto by car. I remember the experience so vividly because I was going through a lot of emotional pain and it hurt to accept the fact that I was becoming a Hard of Hearing Woman. I hated having to accept this harsh reality. It was so unfair. I was crying, grieving for myself half the way to Montreal because I knew no other way to cope with who I was becoming and there was nothing I could do but grieve. My mother in her way of trying to make me feel better had said, “You’ll get over it”. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned from studying Social Work, you don’t get over the hurt but learn how to cope with the situation that is thrust before you and it takes time, lots of time.
A Proper Diagnosis In Montreal
Once I did arrive in Montreal, I was put through a series of testing at the Montreal Neurological Hospital. The doctor who attended to my needs, a Nero-Audiologist was convinced that I had more hearing than the graphs showed from the hearing imbalance test. It was greatly suspected however that the reason for my loss of hearing was due to the virus that I had when the ringing or Tinnitus began on July 1st 1996. Despite this fact, I wasn’t at all prepared for the emotional pain which was then just beginning. At least I felt relieved that every avenue had been explored before coming to a valid conclusion. Having gone through the motions, tests and visited various doctors made me feel that much more at ease that something had been done.
I have several degrees and certificates that I completed throughout my life, but only one degree, a Masters Degree in Social Work can I truly be proud of because I completed it successfully while I was coping with the transition from being a Hearing individual to becoming a Hard of Hearing Woman. Although at times my emotional pain did get in the way of my studies, I persevered and received my diploma. It wasn’t easy but life is filled with obstacle courses that at one time or another we are forced to have to run through them to attain what we want. Not very encouraging is it? But we take on the challenges and hope for the best.
Today I live in the city of Toronto. I am a Jewish woman of many colors who copes with a substantial hearing loss and bouts of Simple Partial Seizures. To help describe myself to you, I would have to say that I have become somewhat of an introvert who prefers to, “watch the parade go by” rather than always putting in my two cents. I am not a cold human being but see myself as being very warm despite my sometime solitary behavior. Thus, to know me is to spend some time with me because I’ve been around the block more times than a lot of people that I know. This is not to say that I know it all, far from it. In some ways I am driven to make a difference, and on most days you can catch me in a good mood because life is meant to be enjoyed. So here’s to life.
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Gigi's Story List And Biography