I'd been fatigued for years. As a dancer, actress, and model, I'd always done a lot of activity on little sleep. But ten 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 with a slight speech delay. I endured intense speech, physical and occupational therapy.
Being partially paralyzed everyone thought dancing would be over for me but I was determined to start dancing again. I can now say, ten years later, I have regained a sense of movement, which was imperative. Dance is my life. Staying focused, trusting in God and believing the mind controls the body enabled me to conquer all of my fears!
I’m a new person now, a social worker, disabled performer, teaching artist and motivational speaker. I want to show others who are disabled that you can live joyful, creative, and expressive lives despite your disability. I demonstrate directly that mental or physical challenges need not limit a person’s passion for living. Since I understand what these people have been through, I truly believe that I can help them.
Visit Zazel O’Garra’s website at www.zazelchavah.net for more information about her and her work.