I'd been fatigued for years. As a dancer, actress, and model, I'd always done a lot of activity on little sleep. But eight years ago, I felt tired beyond what seemed to be normal. Doctors told me that it was due to stress, but when I began having what I thought were hot flashes, we suspected something hormonal.
Because I was approaching 40, I thought it might be perimenopause, so I went to my gynecologist. I told her my recurring symptoms - dizziness, hot flashes and fatigue - and she prescribed birth control pills to regulate my hormone levels. I now believe that seeing her saved my life, because shortly after starting the prescription, what I'd thought were hot flashes were actually seizures.
One day, I visited my sister and she took me to the ER. They gave me an MRI and that’s when I found out I had a benign meningioma, a brain tumor 3 ½ centimeters. The next week I had the surgery and the aftermath left me partially paralyzed. I endured intense physical and occupational therapy. Being partially, paralyzed everyone thought dancing would be over for me but I was determined to start dancing again. Eight years later, I have regained a sense of movement which was imperative. Dance is my life.
I’m a new person now, a social worker, teaching artist and motivational speaker. I want to help others who’ve suffered from a traumatic illness. In June 2010, I was honored with the VSA Teaching Artist fellowship given to outstanding teaching artists with disabilities. VSA an affiliate of Kennedy Center will support all of my endeavors as an artist. As a teaching artist and social worker I will offer artistry and guidance to those who’ve suffered from this traumatic illness. Since I understand what these people have been through, I truly believe that I can help them.
Listen to Zazel's story: