The official news site of Albemarle High School.

Home At Last

May 17, 2022

Nine days after her ordeal began, Jan. 25 brought two major moments. The first was that Bruno was released from the hospital. During the ride home, she looked out the window at the familiar route and remembers a “comforting sense of normalcy” settling over her. 

“It was my first time out of a hospital gown in weeks, I felt glorious,” Bruno said.

The same day Bruno and her family received the much-awaited pathology results. Her tumor was benign.

“My whole family just started sobbing and fell to our knees and I gave the glory to God that this was not cancer,” she said. “It was this overwhelming, indescribable feeling to get such a glorious happy moment and we had to soak it all in.”

Despite the momentary relief, the recovery journey ahead was an uphill climb. 

Bruno was in a lot of pain for the first couple of weeks, caused both by the procedure and the side effects of heavy medication. Movement was difficult but necessary to regain strength and stability as well as prevent blood clots. 

While in physical therapy Bruno prayed through the pain and used those around her to gather strength. Her physical therapist told her recovery was a bigger mental struggle than anything else. “I had finally become confident with my body and where I was in my life, and then I was thrown back to square one,” Bruno said. 

Things as simple as getting out of bed now required an immense amount of effort. 

“It was hard to rely on people for everything because I am a very independent person, but it has taught me lessons like patience and accepting help from others.” 

Bruno had to sit in a chair for her first home shower, an extreme contrast to how she left her house a month before. “I was crying and [senior] Anna [Greenstone] and my Mom showered me,” she said.

Ginny and family members wear “In this family, nobody fights alone” t-shirts. (Courtesy of the Ginny Strong Facebook page.)

The recovery process tested her renewed faith. At times Bruno felt “forsaken” by God when dealing with the pain and frustrations of re-learning actions that used to be easy. While “grateful to be alive,” the occasional feeling that God had abandoned her created a shame spiral.  

The doubts, however, ended up increasing the strength of her faith.

“When Jesus was being crucified he cried, Mary cried. They felt forsaken,” Bruno said, “ But they never lost their faith.”

“God wants me to have those feelings. I am human.” 

Since being home, Ginny has had really high highs and really low lows. Most of this has been caused by her “laundry list” of medications. These medications have also caused joint pain, muscle soreness, heat flashes, numbness, heart flutters, spotty vision, and insomnia. 

“A lot of things were overstimulating and frustrating,” Ginny said, I felt like I was feeling a thousand emotions at once; I still do”

Bruno found comfort in crying during these times of immense emotional surges. “Crying is such a beautiful thing because not only do you get an emotional release, but your body releases chemicals to help you regulate your emotions,” she said.

Along with physical and occupational therapy, Bruno has needed to adapt to many new physical and dietary restrictions.

“I am willing to do whatever I need to do for my body,” Bruno said, “but that is not to say I don’t have moments of resentment for all my restrictions.”

I felt like I was feeling a thousand emotions at once”

— Ginny Bruno

On the day of the seizure, Bruno was eating Chick-Fil-A and Starbucks. Her usual order, iced matcha with oat milk, contains about 28 grams of sugar. Sugar she never had to worry about or regulate. Now, five grams of sugar is too much for Bruno’s body to handle and increases inflammation. 

Bruno had a breakdown in her kitchen a few weeks after being home. “I just started crying because I couldn’t eat another salad; I didn’t want to do it anymore.” 

There are times when Bruno says she misses her old life despite coming to terms with her new one. She has lost many of her teenage freedoms since the seizure. 

“It is weird to have my parents drive me around again. I wanna go drive my car, windows down, and listen to music.”

Simple things like scrolling on TikTok for two hours are also restricted. The use of screens could trigger a seizure which Bruno and her family are very diligently avoiding since they found out that scarring from the surgery and tumor had caused induced epilepsy. 

“The fact that my life is going to be very different from my friends has been settling in since the beginning, “ Bruno said. She is preparing for at least two years of heavy medication and numerous hospital visits to monitor and try to remove the tumor. 

Bruno has been assaulted with all of these lifestyle changes in such a short amount of time but understands that following these new restrictions is necessary to keep herself alive.

Many people have suggested that Bruno take a gap year before heading off to JMU, but she is more determined than ever to start the journey to becoming a nurse, no matter the obstacles she may face to get there.

Ginny wears a purple hat and JMU nursing sweater. (Courtesy of the Ginny Strong Facebook page.)

“If I have to spend my spring break in the hospital instead of at the beach, so be it,” Bruno said, “I am going to college.”

Bruno is considered to have a disability going into JMU. “It’s weird because I feel very able,” Bruno said. 

She never thought of herself as being a party girl; however, she did envision a more “normal” college experience including staying out late and going to some parties, even just listening to loud music at concerts. 

 “I have to just let that go. At the end of the day, I feel like I’m going to be living a more fulfilling life the way I have to anyways.”

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