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How Nicole Scherzinger's Music Helped Me Through the Struggles of My Illness

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My name is Charlotte, I’m 20 years old and I’m currently living with neurofibromatosis type 1, osteoporosis type 1, neurological deficit, chronic fatigue and chronic pain.

And the truth is, it sucks. Living with a chronic illness sucks.

The past four years have thrown me hurdle after hurdle, surgery after surgery, relapse after relapse.

I have always struggled with self-love, something I thought I could never overcome.

I didn’t think I was pretty – I didn’t think I was worth it. I didn’t think I had a future. I didn’t think I was anything. I was just a patient – another arm to stick a needle in, another body to cut upon, another case study to the hospital and nothing important.​​

In 2014, I had to have hip pinning surgery, due to me breaking my right hip, and I had to learn to walk again for the first time. I was sure in a dark place, and I wasn’t sure I would get out of it.

It took me a long time to be able to walk again. Even now I still limp and do not walk like I used to.

The writer with an oxygen mask on her face.

The recovery was tough, mentally and physically.

In May 2015, I was diagnosed with an neurofibromatosis (NF) tumor in my neck. After being sent for multiple MRIs, PET scans, and blood work, they decided surgery was the best option, as the tumor was still growing. I was loosing feeling in my arm, hand and fingers, and loosing the ability to use them – and experiencing extreme pain.

My surgeon only successfully removed parts of the tumor, as taking out the whole thing was impossible. The recovery was something else. I could barely lift my head off the pillow, move my head and I could barely move my arm. I was bed bound for a while, only being able to have my head lifted from a pillow for a short period of time.

Ever since I was 5 years old, I have always had a tumor on my right leg. It was always something I was embarrassed of, always something that made me different. I would get teased, bullied, called names. Not just by kids – but adults and teachers too. People were cruel, and people were mean.

But in September 2015, it gave me more issues than just bullying.

I had started to experience way more pain in my tumor, and my legs were giving way, and I was struggling to walk. My surgeon and plastic surgeon made the decision to try and operate on it to remove some of the tumor. Again, I knew what I was facing. I’d have to learn to walk, again, just a mere few months after learning again after I broke my hip.

A picture of the writer's leg in bandage wrap.

In December 2015, three months after my leg tumor surgery, I was diagnosed with having multiple spinal cord tumors, ranging from close to my brain stem at C1 – all the way to C6 of my cervical spine.

Three months later I was having surgery on my spine to remove some of the tumors. I was being operated on for more than 12 hours. But when I eventually woke up, I could not feel my entire left side of my body. I couldn’t move it, and couldn’t feel it. My worst fears had come true.

Am I Paralyzed? Will I be like this forever?

Day by day I was laying in the hospital bed for it to be over. I had endured months and months of tumor removal surgeries, having to learn to walk again, having to recover. ​​

Then, before I knew it, less than 30 days later, I was back on the operating table, having more spine ​​tumors removed. This time they were operating on my C1 and C2 – close to my brain stem.

At this point, I didn’t know what to expect, I didn’t know whether I’d survive. I had barely made any progress since the first spine surgery, and I was afraid.

I was under general anesthetic for almost 15 hours, and I had a stroke, which I didn’t know at the time – and I didn’t wake up for a while.

When I did wake up, I couldn’t feel a thing. I couldn’t move, nor feel my entire body. My first reaction was to the pain, and then the fact I couldn’t move or feel anything.

I screamed and cried for hours on end. And then, I just slept.

I still remember asking my surgeon whether I would be able to move again, to go back to normal. In which he responded, “I’m not sure. Only time will tell.”

I felt barely alive, and feared for my life every night.​​

A picture of the back of the writer's neck with a surgical scar.

I still remember the day I decided to play one of my favorite albums by my idol through my headphones. It was around 2 a.m., I was in pain, tired, and couldn’t sleep. Anxiety, panic and pain had taken over my body.

“Run” and “Big Fat Lie” by Nicole Scherzinger were the first to come on shuffle.

Suddenly, it was like a little light had turned on in my head.

This was the first time I had properly listened to music in weeks. I listened to the lyrics, word by word.

Nicole Scherzinger had always been an important figure to me. Her songs, what she stood for. Everything she did inspired me.

But her lyrics inspired me in ways they never had before.

Over the next few days, I started to make progress. I started to do exercises. I started to slowly move again. My determination changed. I’d play her songs almost everyday to rev me up for the upcoming physiotherapy. And then, when I walked for the first time after surgery, “Don’t Cha” by The Pussycat Dolls came on shuffle.

Instead of not wanting to be alive, and not wanting to try, I believed.

The writer laying in a hospital bed with a tube in her nose.

Over the next few months, I was faced challenge after challenge. I learned to walk again, for the third time. I slowly learned how to move my upper body again. I slowly gained more strength. I slowly gained more confidence. And I went from a half dead, barely there girl, to a confident and read to fight girl.

It has been a year and a half since my spine surgeries. Since, I have been tested for cancer three times due to NF tumors always having the possibility becoming malignant, have my neck tumor grow back,
been diagnosed with a breathing issue, having to practically depend on a breathing machine, and discover a new tumor in my left leg.

But things will always be different.

Nicole helped me feel loved. She helped me find my inner fighter, and helped me push through a time I never thought I’d survive. She helped me feel important, feel beautiful, worth it and confident.

Like I said at the start – being sick sucks. Having tumors grow in your body wherever, and whenever sucks. All that taking place 24/7 sucks. Having chronic illnesses suck, and being stuck in hospitals 24/7 really does suck.

But I learnt that to get you through the darkest times of your life is to find something and never let anybody take it away from you.

And no matter how different I may look and may be, I am worth living. I am worth it.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

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Image From Nicole Scherzinger’s Facebook Page

Originally published: December 14, 2017
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