Author: Melissa Hatch

“Why don’t you give it a name?” my friend suggested. Of course, I thought, this tumor has come to me as a teacher and we will get along better as partners than his adversaries. From that day on, the tumor in my brain became Maud.

Maud caught my attention through blind spots in my vision. At its worst, the entire right side of my sight was gone. I was passed along from my optometrist to an opthamologist to a radiologist and finally a neurosurgeon who ordered an MRI scan. The MRI is a non-invasive procedure that highlights the soft tissue with pictures similar to an x-ray.

The results showed the tumor clearly resting on the optic tract deep in the left lobe of my brain. My doctor labeled her as an astrocytoma and his only solution was radiation. But I clearly felt that attack only leads to stronger defenses, and this tumor was not something to battle with or wage war against. I had no desire for my brain and body to be under siege.

I chose the different, less traveled path, and my world expanded as I turned the singular focus from my tumor to the broader view of my life. I saw illness not as a punishment or sinister plot against me, but simply as an attention getter. Illness is a voice calling out “Stop, something is out of sync and changes need to be made.” I had ignored earlier hints and nudges to take stock of my life, but now my attention was riveted, and I thought it prudent to listen carefully.

Yes, I was scared and confused. With supportive family and friends I cried and screamed, punched pillows, and asked “Why me?”  I let my fears run wild with gruesome scenarios. I knew these feelings had to be expressed and released. The flood of energy and calm that followed these “sessions”  was magnificently soothing. With these emotions more or less out of the way, Maud’s guiding voice became stronger, and I learned to trust it. 

The next step was to reclaim my power and take responsibility for my own healing. I had grown up on the coast of Maine the youngest of a hard-working family that placed emphasis on accomplishments and putting others first. To avoid confrontation or conflict, either within the family or workplace, I accommodated as necessary to keep things smooth. The idea of standing up for myself or saying “no” or “I’ll do it my way” was an alien concept. Also, our society has cultivated a dependency upon authority figures. We look for someone else to take care of us and to fix us right now so we won’t be late for our next appointment. To say “No, I don’t want radiation and I want to pursue alternative methods,” to my doctor was a difficult but key step. When I hung up the phone, my body was shaking, but a new strength was surging through.

My job was next. Realizing that I was not indispensable, nor responsible for the make or break of the entire organization, I quit a stressful and emotionally draining job. Healing became my full-time occupation, and now macrobiotics took the stage.

I had a better-than-average dietary rearing with awareness of healthy foods with homemade whole-grain breads and lots of fresh vegetables for my garden, but the consciousness still revolved around meat and dairy with a hefty sweet tooth to top it off. After leaving my parents home, I evolved easily toward a vegetarian diet, but the amount of cheese, butter, eggs and yogurt I consumed was astounding. My roommate once remarked that I was a bovine delight. I used to tease with a friend that we could cook up anything with butter and love. We had half of the equation right!

I had known of macrobiotics for several years and now the time was ripe. Here was a very tangible arena for me to work in and I loved it! The idea of letting my body heal itself by getting out of my own way appealed to me immensely. I’d always love to cook and now the concept of food and healing fascinated me. I had an interview with a macrobiotic counselor and with the direction to go in, I usually spent 75% of my time dealing with food planning, preparing, and chewing.

The other aspect that made a tremendous difference was attending a weekly cooking class. The support, information, and inspiration received from human contact was so much more valuable than trying to memorize from a book. My Wednesday nights became sacred –  and still are!

For the first three months on the healing diet I was exhausted, often constipated and lost 20 lbs, looking emaciated and frightening to my family and friends who bravely continued to support me.

Prior to understanding the all-encompassing effect of food in my life I watched my emotions shift with confusion. I had very little patience, and became easily frustrated and intolerant of others. With tears of frustration I complained, “I don’t know what’s happening to me.” My husband gently said, “I think it’s your diet.” Wow, the notion of food affecting my feelings was staggering. I had become “tight”!

Yoga was an important aspect of my life, and I found that the movement and meditation was very soothing and relaxing to my body and wound-up emotions. 

As I learned more I felt comfortable working with the food, to stop and really think about what activities made me happy was new. I had spent my entire life focusing on others. Another key to healing and health became clear. I needed to stop taking care of the rest of the world and neglecting myself. I had to figure out how to take care of myself, and I had to allow others to take care of me. This last aspect continues to be the hardest as it flies in the face of all my “It’s OK. I can do it myself” upbringing which is terribly isolating and not very helpful.

The autumn progressed, and my stamina slowly returned and then surpassed previous levels. I was still painfully thin (literally taking a pillow everywhere I went to sit on), but I felt great!

I wanted to give myself time before I had another (my fourth) MRI scan for feedback. My counselor has said that I could possibly go through a period of tumor enlargement as it attracts all the toxins my body was releasing. But in December 1990, six months after starting my healing and macrobiotic diet, my doctor, my husband, and I were pouring over the picture of my brain taken that morning, and no one said a word. I finally broke the silence, “I don’t see anything.”  After a pause and with syncere confusion my doctor said, “I don’t either. Just where had the tumor been?” Maud was gone.

Now, two years later, I know that the essence of Maud has never left me. Her voice continues to guide me to doors that keep opening deeper into the world of macrobiotics, of yoga, and of self-reflection. Trusting the center voice is the greatest gift Maud has given me and I am eternally grateful.