In January that year, Mari, aged 45 at the time, started having migraines. It turned into recurring migraines, every month. She told Express.co.uk: “This may be something ‘normal’ for many of us, especially ladies, but for me that was unusual because I had never had them.” In April 2019, Mari had a serious episode of migraines and vomiting and ended up at the hospital emergency department.
She explained: “They did some neurological tests and blood tests, but didn’t find anything unusual and let me go home with painkillers.
“A few days after I went to see a doctor to get some answers, but he didn’t find anything either. He said it could be hormonal and gave me painkillers.
“Months went by and I kept having these migraines. I had to cancel days of sessions from my diary as I couldn’t function and had to stay in bed for at least three days each time.
“I remember having these sharp headaches even during some sessions with my clients.
“I knew there was something very wrong. It was frustrating because I was told to take painkillers and that it would go away, however I wasn’t happy to do that, because I knew that when we experience pain, there is something that is causing it.
“I knew that I was numbing the pain but the problem was still there.”
After nine months of recurring migraines and several visits at the GP and A&E, Mari experienced another episode of feeling very sick as she returned from a trip abroad.
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She said: “I traveled alone at that time. My focus was very foggy, I realised I started to have short term memory loss and I was texting my family and friends but I wasn’t making much sense. My words were distorted.
“I don’t remember many details, but I recall my sister suddenly showed up at my door to take me to the hospital emergency department for the third time that year. It was the 9th of October 2019.
“She insisted I had a head scan and that is how they found it. I don’t recall the exact moment when they announced the diagnosis, because I was very confused, but I was diagnosed with a meningioma, a huge brain tumour, on the right side of my brain which had begun to bleed.”
A meningioma is a primary central nervous system tumour, meaning it begins in the brain or spinal cord.
Although they are not technically a brain tumour they are included in this category because it may compress or squeeze the adjacent brain, nerves and vessels, says the Mayo Clinic.
It continues: “Meningioma is the most common type of tumour that forms in the head.
“Most meningiomas grow very slowly, often over many years without causing symptoms. But sometimes, their effects on nearby brain tissue, nerves or vessels may cause serious disability.”
Mari said: “At that time when they communicated the diagnosis, my condition was very fragile; my brain was foggy and my short-term memory was unstable. I cannot remember the exact moment when they announced it.
“All that I recall is that a part of me knew that I had a serious condition and I needed urgent surgery, I just could not feel any emotional pain. At least not at that point because it all hit me much later when I was moved to another hospital.
“I was heartbroken because of what my family was going through and what a shock that was for everyone. My heart was going out for them.
“I was also feeling gutted about my business, and felt like I had let all my clients down. It was so hard to see everything I had built slipping through my fingers.
“I guess the hardest thing was to let go of the need to control and to surrender to the situation. That was my biggest lesson. To let go of what I thought my life was supposed to be like and just accept what was happening.”
Mari said her first surgery went great. “They removed it all and the great thing was that it was non-malignant. I recovered very quickly and went back home thinking that I made it through the worst part.”
But there was more to come: “Three weeks later, I had an infection of the wound and had undergone another urgent surgery as I was in danger of that spreading everywhere. Because that part of the skull was affected, they left the bone flap out so that meant another surgery later. That was the toughest experience.
“I had never felt so weak and vulnerable in my whole life. My body felt so invaded by all the chemicals, needles and piercings through my veins.”
Mari’s third surgery was supposed to happen in April 2020, but got cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
She said: “It was scary to know that a deadly virus was killing people around the world.
“Having to wait without knowing when I was going to have the surgery was another challenging mental game. Surrendering to the unknown is tough. It takes trust and faith. It takes letting go of the need to control. It takes letting go of the thought that life is against you. Because it’s not.
“I know that so many people struggled with the isolation period mostly mentally. Having to deal with health issues on top of that, it makes it even more difficult. Despite all the fears and doubts I had from time to time that something could go wrong again, I maintained a positive mental attitude and that has helped me make it through. I had the third surgery, where they added the titanium plate, in September 2020 during the pandemic with no family or any visitors allowed.”
Today, Mari feels great in all aspects – physically, mentally and emotionally.
She said: “I am fully recovered. I am back doing all of the things I was doing before. Most of the time I forget that I have been through all of that.”
She is now a life coach, working with people that are going through difficult life challenges.
She explained: “I help them find ways to navigate through the storms of life. I have created a platform called BodyMind&Soul Fitness, a place where you get to work on all these aspects of physical, mental and emotional health.
“Perfect health is not just about going to the gym, exercising and eating well. A healthy body starts with a healthy mind as well and with a healthy way of dealing with our emotions. I have created various tools and programs and a space where I work with people on all these aspects of our wellbeing.”
Mari is now urging others to listen to their bodies if they suspect an issue with their health.
She said: “Your body will always tell you the truth. If you have been given a diagnosis that just does not make sense to you, or have been prescribed medication without any reasonable explanation, please go get a second opinion and a third if you must.
“In fact, always get a second and third opinion especially when it’s a serious diagnosis. I once had a kidney scan and was told I had cancer, and that ended up being a wrong diagnosis.
“Never leave any unanswered questions when it comes to your health. Challenge everything until the truth rests with you. Get more than one independent opinion. Don’t stop until you find the root cause of the symptom.”
Mari has also written a book titled ‘The Wisdom of a Willow Tree: A true story about resilience, re-birth and second chances’ which details her experience.
“My first intention was to raise awareness so that this is less likely to happen to other people.
“When I was in the hospital after I realised that I made it through, I knew that there was more to it. I knew I had to honour this experience by sharing the story with other people who, just like me back then, may be going through similar shocking situations.
“Also, in the first part of the book I share a series of decisions I took from a very young age, decisions that have shaped my life to that point before the diagnosis. It is a very personal story and it took a lot of courage, emotions and tears writing about that, but I know it will inspire those who are called to read my book and I know it will impact them in a positive way.”
The book is available on Amazon worldwide and also other platforms which Mari has links for on her website.