September 7 | The Lifestyle | The Practice |
When I asked Erin Murray, Chicago YogaSix instructor, to give me her “elevator pitch”, I expected her to tell me about her professional career in advertising or describe her dedication to her YogaSix South Loop and Gold Coast Boot Camp crew. Instead, she responded with, “I am positive, grounded, goofy, and quirky.”
It was not the answer I expected to receive, but I appreciated her take on my question — especially because this is the response she provided less than a month after she had surgery to remove a brain tumor.
During our conversation, my entire body was covered in goosebumps.
I was speaking to a woman recovering from a major brain surgery and all she could talk about was the “power of positivity”.
As I prepared for our conversation, I thought we’d talk about her fears and her struggles — I assumed I was going to need to uplift her. Instead, her experience and words supercharged my take on life and her message reminded me that with the right perspective, nothing is “too hard” to handle.
Before we jump into Erin’s heroic story — the story of how she navigated life knowing she had a brain tumor, her brain surgery, and her ongoing recovery — it is important to first review the timeline that led up to the discovery of her brain tumor:
For as long as she could remember, Erin felt dizzy when she would go from sitting to standing. Since that is a common for a lot of people, Erin dismissed the severity of her dizziness. In November of 2016, her dizziness got worse — she would get so dizzy she was unable to see straight and she began to experience numbness in her left arm.
When her symptoms intensified, she went to her doctor. After rounds of test, her doctor gave her a perfect bill of health. “Perfectly healthy”, Erin went to the ER twice between January and May of 2017.
Erin kept her dizziness and other symptoms to herself — she did not share what she was going through with her advertising colleagues nor her YogaSix community. Erin is tough and she is did not want to burden others.
At the end of May, it got so bad, she went to her doctor again. Her doctor sent her back to the ER. After numerous test, yet again a perfect bill of health. The ER doctor could tell Erin was still very uncomfortable. He decided to try one more test to rule out the possibilities of mini-strokes. Doctors ran tests to check the blood flow to Erin’s brain. Fortunately, she had not had a stroke. But, they did notice a shadow in her cerebellum.
Erin was admitted to the hospital for an MRI — she was told she may have a cyst on her brain, but she would need to follow up with a neurosurgeon in 3-5 days. When she heard that, she was not afraid. During her time at the ER, she thought there was a possibility that she was having strokes, she could handle having a cyst!
During the first week of June, she went to see a neurosurgeon. Erin said, “I really did not think about it until I realized I needed to have surgery. I was sent to a neurosurgeon, not a neurologist.”
At her appointment, the neurosurgeon confirmed that Erin had a brain tumor in her cerebellum…
Being a woman that strives to live a balanced life, Erin laughed when she was told that there was something wrong in the “balance” part of her brain.
After receiving a second opinion, Erin booked her brain surgery for three weeks later.
When I asked Erin how she coped with this news, she told me, “this experience has brought out more positivity in me.”
Take a moment to stop and think about how powerful that is — instead of shutting down or becoming overwhelmed with fear and uncertainty — Erin made the choice to be optimistically positive.
She said she focused on “letting go of the what if’s… they make things worse”. She frequently told herself: “it’s going to be okay, you’ve got this”.
Also, instead of shutting down and hiding out for the three weeks, Erin kept moving through life normally. She went to work everyday. Three days before her surgery, she taught her SUP Yoga Class AND she went out to celebrate her friend’s birthday!
The night before her surgery, her entire family joined her in Chicago and they all went bowling together and enjoyed the evening.
Erin’s surgery was on a Monday and right before her procedure something beautiful happened, her anesthesiologist grabbed her hand and said, “you’re going to be okay, you’ve got this, I promise!”.
One thing Erin stressed during our conversation was the admiration and respect she has for the nurses that took care of her during the week she was in the hospital after the surgery. Today, Erin is healing at home with her dog, Milo, and her parents. She feels very grateful for her “tribe” — they have truly shown up for her.
Through this process, Erin said she has “learned to slow down and listen to her body”. We live in a culture of harder, better, faster, more… Erin said she’s “learning patience” and that “sometimes it has to get worse before it gets better”.
Erin is also incredibly thankful for her yoga and fitness practice — the strength and endurance she cultivated prior to her surgery has provided her mental and physical strength for her recovery. She is on the mend and she attributes that to her positive attitude and overall health!
Since her diagnosis, Erin has been very open about sharing her experience and she has documented her journey publically. Once she privately shared the news with her closest family and friends, Erin began posting about what she was going through on social media. Sharing about her experience on instagram has “helped a lot”, she receives encouraging messages from strangers and she is able to connect with other people who are moving through similar experiences.
If you are feeling stuck or struggling with something in your own life, follow Erin on instagram. I am confident her post will inspire you to get out of your own way and live a positive, healthy life.
She would love to hear from you, connect with her: @ErinMurr on Instagram
Thank you for being an incredible teacher on and off the mat, Erin!