At the age of 24 I was living my childhood dream. I was approaching the end of a 2 year adventure in a developing country. My job was to teach English as a foreign language in a secondary school in a small town. Not only was I influencing the lives of young people as a teacher, but I was enjoying learning a new language and culture. At the end of the summer, I was busy getting ready for the new school year to begin. I was excited for the many lessons I had prepared to teach my students. That's when my brain suddenly "snapped". I didn't have time to think about why it happened because all of a sudden my brain was flooded with memories. My attention was immediately drawn away from my lessons to these new memories that portrayed people in the USA who wanted to hurt me. Not knowing how to react to this sudden news, I ran into our outhouse and cried for two hours. I was so distraught that I stopped eating. How could I have forgotten that I was in danger? The horrible memories continued to stream into my mind and they got worse.
Fully believing that my new memories were true, I was shocked and scared of their content. Fortunately, I had friends. One in particular, traveled 8 hours to my town to persuade me to travel the 6 hours to see my doctor. After 2 days of fighting with her, I went very reluctantly to see the doctor. However, I couldn't understand how a doctor would help me when other people were trying to hurt me. I didn't think that there was anything wrong with my health. After pleading my case to the doctor, he gave me no choice but to return to the USA for a full check-up. Abruptly leaving the life I made in that country was devastating. I hated the doctors for making me leave my friends and host family. More importantly, I hated the doctors for sending me closer to the people who were after me.
Back in Washington, D.C., the hospital neurologist told me that I had a gangliocytoma in my left temporal lobe that was causing seizures. Initially, I was unaffected by this news. Instead, I was having new nightmarish memories and spending my time thinking of ways I could save my life from the situations I was remembering. Months of doctor's visits and testing followed. I went along with the doctors' plans because I was sure I could prove them wrong. According to me, I didn't have a brain tumor. The memories, testing and diagnosis were all part of a big practical joke. I stopped having the memories about 2 weeks after brain surgery. Gradually, and with the help of professionals, friends and family, I stopped believing what my memories told me.
A year after my surgery, I finally believed that I had had a brain tumor. It is easy to feel alone and vulnerable when you have a brain tumor, especially when you believe in a different reality than your loved ones. I spent 2 years fighting an imaginary world caused by my brain tumor. Today, I am no longer tortured by nightmares, real or imaginary. I am grateful to be a straight A graduate student. In fact, I'm going to be a teacher.