Blogging challenge and living with an optic nerve brain tumour

Earlier this week I came across a tweet from Elizabeth at Rosalilium saying she’s hosting a blogging challenge in May. She’s been hosting it for the last 3 years and it’s grown in popularity creating a great community of lifestyle bloggers. The challenge blog every day!!! in May following a daily calendar which guides you through the whole month. I’ve never EVER done anything like this before but I like to challenge myself and thought it would be fun to join it and see if I can actually do it. I’m excited to start today and share something with you I never did before!

If you’re a regular reader of my blog you might notice a subtle change in my normal schedule but the topics won’t change. You will be getting more interiors tips, case studies and projects as usual.

If you are new to my blog I’m Karolina, an interior designer who’s been blogging for just over 18 months. I started my blog to document my projects and give interiors advice when I decided to open my design studio. But there is another reason behind my blog, keep reading. My style is colourful (hence you see lots of bold colours around here) but elegant and practical.

I live near London with my husband, 2 daughters and our dog. We are, what we call, a true European family. I was born in Prague and came to the UK in 1997. When my older daughter was small we lived in Germany, Belgium, Ireland and Switzerland. My parents still live in Prague but my sister lives in Northern Italy near Vicenza. We travel to the Continent quite often to see relatives and for work.

My life, work and illness

After getting my degree in Economics & Business Studies I ventured to set up my businesses. The first one was in the training sector while still studying for my degree. We closed it after almost 3 years when I couldn’t juggle work, family and studies alone while my husband was working abroad. My second business was in the fireplace industry and I was running it for 6 years. We were importing products as wholesellers from Germany and Italy. We had a network of retailers and small DIY stores. The business was doing extremely well but when the recession hit, it went down the hill pretty fast. Within a year we lost most of our trade network as they were closing down. My suppliers went bust and I lost money on unpaid stock.

Now to the bit which I never shared here before. While this all was going on,  I was diagnosed with a rare benign brain tumour. I was in early pregnancy with my second daughter. 8 weeks after my diagnosis I lost vision in my right eye. I went from perfect vision to complete pitch black darkness within that short space of time. My brain had to adjust and deal with my pregnancy as well. I was put on steroids and as a result had many other complications. I delivered my daughter 8 weeks early as my life, and hers too, was endangered. Once I was medically ready I had two major stereotactic surgeries to stop the growth. For the time being, I am monitored on regular basis and have various specialist consultants to see 4 times a year.

Dealing and living with brain tumour

The prognosis is that as long as it’s not growing I’m fine. The location and the complexity of my tumour prevents me from having it fully removed. If I ever need an operation there is a high risk of loosing my vision completely. I get headaches and bad migraines at least 4 times a week on average. The really really bad headache episodes where I feel sick, nauseous and out of balance I have at least once a week.

The way I cope with it is through optimism. I don’t think about what might be, I live in presence. I keep moving forward, ticking off my to do lists  so my brain is constantly occupied. I never relax or stop. My blog, work and my family help me tremendously. I keep challenging myself and make most of every minute.

Dealing with all this can easy lead to depression and “the giving up” state of mind. It’s a slippery road which even I was heading for a short time.  I believe I avoided it purely because of my personality and character. You have to stop yourself mentally from going that way. You just don’t let the illness beat you and take charge.

Once we shut down our second business and I went through the radio treatment I enrolled myself for Diploma in Interior Design at KLC. I had something new to learn. A new skill, new techniques, new knowledge. Plus I was being creative with my assignment work.

I purposely did the course as full time even though it wasn’t designed for full time studying. The tutors used to say I need to slow down and take my time. Of course, they didn’t understand my reasons behind my studying process. They didn’t know. Learning something new everyday was my main goal. Honing my newly acquired skills everyday was my main goal.

Once I’ve done that I went to get job experience in the interiors trade. I had to learn new knowledge again. I used to sit on the train studying products, materials and anything technical or historical that I needed to know for my job. It felt like my brain was going to explode. I didn’t have time to stop and think about anything else.

My mission

Through my blog I want to inspire others. Take your life in your hands and change it if you don’t like where you are now. Imagine if something was going to happen to you and all the regrets you might have because you stopped yourself from doing them. Fear of failure, lack of confidence or stepping out of your routine may be preventing you from finding your true happiness. You need to take charge.

Interior design – embrace your style

The same thing applies  to your home. Your home should be a place which reflects your personality. It should be unique. I want you to be more experimental with colours. Be bolder, braver and more adventurous. Show your personality in your home. No one is black and white. We all have colourful characteristics. You can translate all of that into interiors. Find that perfect rug, piece of furniture, wallpaper or fabric that is “totally you”.  I want to push you into the zone which you didn’t know existed and give you encouragement on the way. I believe that design is a mind set. A mental process. It’s something which you can grasp if you have an open mind. Colours in particular have effect on all our senses and our mood. They can help you to express yourself creatively.

For me discovering colours and especially letting myself experiment with bolder colours has helped me to cope with my day, business, life and illness in a much better way. I created an environment where I feel safe, motivated, inspired, relaxed and energised. And I want to same for you too.

As I said I never wrote about my condition before but I thought that it might be a good time to share this with you. I hope that someone who is in similar situation might find it helpful. Thank you for stopping by and let me know your thoughts! Do you know someone who deals with similar condition?

Karolina Barnes Studio