Thank you!

Written by Meagan Daumont - Winner of 99' Elks and Royal Purple Literary and Poster Contest

In 1999, I wrote a winning entry essay in the Elks and Royal Purple Literary and Poster contest.  At the time I was a shy, introverted 13 year old who loved to write and express myself creatively.  I can honestly say that I do not remember what I wrote about, or how the opportunity made its way into my life.  However, I can tell you that after 19 years, I have come across my Certificate of Merit and am extremely surprised as to what this means to me now. 

The years following this essay contest, I had grown out of my shyness, began to socialize and moved away from creativity such as writing and music.  I spent many years preparing to become a nurse followed by many years in college studying to become one.  I successfully completed the Licensed Practical Nursing program, then decided to complete my Bachelor of Science in Nursing to become a Registered Nurse.  Needless to say, I was writing a substantial amount of papers during these years, however, they were all academic.  I was no longer fulfilling that desire to write as an expression of who I am.  I graduated the BScN program in April, 2016 and proceeded to start training for my dream job as a Neonatal Nurse just 4 days after leaving the classroom.

During my last year in nursing school, I began experiencing challenges with my left ear.  Hearing sounded muffled, it was hard to hear in noisy environments, and I had a constant ringing that grew louder each day.  I didn’t pay much attention to it and attributed the hearing changes to a potential infection and continued on with my studies.  Overtime, the hearing loss was worsening.  I remember having to go in the hallway while working on group assignments as attempting to communicate with others in a loud room was too much to handle.  I also had severe, debilitating headaches and had changes to the sensation of the left side of my face.  Overtime, the entire left side of my face was numb so much to the point that eating and drinking became troublesome.  I finally saw a doctor who told me there was no sign of infection and sent me to an ENT specialist soon after.

I didn’t want to make a big deal about what I was experiencing, perhaps I was in denial, but I spent my energy focusing on my education and career as I waited for a head MRI.  I graduated, started my job, and kept my health concerns to myself.  However, it didn’t take long for certain events to occur that would force me to slow down and may more attention.  Not even 24 hours after writing my national board exam for nursing, I was side-swiped off the highway by a massive semi-truck.  I was sore head to toe for months, and my body insisted that I rest and rehabilitate before going back to work.  It was hard for me to relax knowing that I had just started my career and was eager begin my life.  However, I kept telling myself that this would only be temporary, that I would be back in action in no time.  As I was off recovering, I ended up getting a call from the MRI department stating there was an opening and asked if I could come for my scan.

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On August 26, 2016, I went in for a head MRI to investigate why I was experiencing hearing loss and other symptoms.  I was told to remain as still as possible, however I could not stop shaking.  As I got out of the scan, I could tell something was wrong based on the expression of the techs face.  I collected my belongings, cried the whole way home, and waited for the call that ultimately came in 2 days’ time.

“We have your MRI results and the doctor wants to see you as soon as possible”

When you hear those words, you know that can’t be good.  And so, I waited two long days for my results and paced back and forth in my living room experiencing significant anxiety. 

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I went to the appointment with my mom and was given news that ultimately changed my life forever.  I was diagnosed with a large tumour called an Acoustic Neuroma, which arises on the 8th cranial nerve.  Although non-malignant and slow growing, these tumours have the ability to impede many cranial nerves and the brain stem, causing symptoms such as hearing loss, balance issues, headaches, loss of facial sensation, facial paralysis, double vision and more.  I was in complete shock and was told I would have to see two more specialists, another ENT and a neurosurgeon.

How could everything in my life come together so fast and fall apart even quicker?  I spent the following weeks attempting to work again.  However, I was still experiencing significant pain from the truck accident and my anxiety was impeding my ability to concentrate.  I ended up taking a medical leave from work as I waited for surgery and started to feel depressed because I felt I had lost a sense of who I was as a nurse.  It was supposed to be a happy time, but I was living in fear and grief. 

I wasn’t used to having free time such as this and I didn’t know how to spend my days.  In the back of my mind I was always thinking “maybe I should start a blog”, perhaps that would be a positive coping mechanism.  One evening in November, 2016, I sat down and decided to do just that.  I started writing about my journey with hearing loss and how it was impacting my life.  I documented my feelings, my fears and made a point of always writing about the positive aspects that were embedded within the struggle.  I wrote for months and proceeded to connect with thousands of people from across the globe.  Many were going through the same experience I was.  Some were further along, some were just diagnosed, and all connections were valuable in some way.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was just like that creative little girl again, hiding from the world but expressing myself through writing.

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On February 14, 2017, I underwent a 10-hour brain surgery at Vancouver General Hospital.  The team of surgeons removed my entire tumour.  And with it, I lost all of my hearing in my left ear and my balance as well.  It took several weeks of re-training, but I eventually gained my balance back.  However, I will not gain hearing back in my left ear as the nerve is completely dead.  The tinnitus is profound and severe and I have had many challenges with my hearing over the past year.  But, I do make a point of being grateful as I still have perfect hearing in my right ear and I believe I could have been worse off in many ways.   I use CROS hearing aids and an FM system at times.  Noisy environments cause anxiety, and so I live a simple and mindful lifestyle, quite opposite than my busy life before.  I enjoy daily meditation, prayer, yin yoga, gratitude and nature.  In fact, I believe I had to lose my balance physically to learn how to live a more balanced life.  And, I had to lose half of my hearing to learn how to listen to the voice within, the one that I ignored for so many years. 

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Recently I came across my certificate for winning that essay contest in 1999.  And although it may seem insignificant, it is rather the opposite.  I looked up Elks and Royal Purple only to discover that this organization is dedicated to help children who have speech and hearing disabilities.  The beautiful mystery of life: I wrote and won an essay for this organization years before I knew I would lose my hearing.  The very event in my life that encouraged me to come back to writing was in fact hearing loss.  I was extremely excited when I realized this coincidence and couldn’t wait to reach out.

Although life was challenging for some time, today I am doing better than I ever have been.  I have decided to take my nursing practice and merge it with coaching to be able to create a program that enables individuals who experience illness/trauma/change to re-build their life when they are ready.  I am taking this experience and using it to help others as I believe that story sharing and helping others are key ingredients to a happy life. 

Thank you Elks of Canada for sharing my story and for helping as many people as you do!