health, SWEA Idols

“My sense of humor helped me survive brain tumor”

Given only a 20% survival chance by the doctors in Nairobi, Sonal Ganatra’s funny sense of humor was what emancipated her from the claws of a fatal brain tumor that she was detected with in 1997.


Currently, retired after working as an educator for 25 years, and running a successful preschool in Dar es Salaam for 23 years, Sonal is now a healer herself. She practices reiki, reflexology, chakra balancing and hypnotherapy – in fact every healing technique that helped her during her own recovery process.

And, that’s not all. She recently won an inter-community swimming championship in Mombasa, despite having lost sensation and coordination from the left side of her body, and partially losing her eyesight.

SWEA chatted up with Sonal to know more about her story, and what gave her strength during this tough time.

Tell us a little about your fight with brain tumor. When was it detected, and how did you manage to fight it and never look back?

Sonal: My brain tumor was detected after I had a brain hemorrhage while driving my car and I was sent to Nairobi by flying doctors and we had an MRI done. This was in August 1997. Luckily, my silly sense of humor was one of the factors that helped pave my way towards recovery. I remember, when they first told me that I had brain tumor, my reaction was, “Oh, I have some extra brain in my head.”

Although the doctors did get a little upset with me, because that kind of a reaction was obviously not ‘normal.’

But, perhaps my sense of humor was what kept me sane the entire time.

Who had been your biggest support in this tough time?

Sonal: My sisters and my parents. They had always been there for me.

How has your life changed after your ailment, has it made you a stronger person?

Sonal: It has certainly made me stronger. I am much much stronger now than I ever was before. Emotionally, mentally, physically, spiritually – in all sense. I still remember one incident when I was in the hospital. I said to my sister, “I am like an oyster.” She looked at me confused, and said, “You don’t look like one.”

I said, “No, not physically. But when a grain of sand gets into an oyster, it makes a pearl out of it because it was in pain.”

– My pearl was my faith in God.


Tell us about the inter-community swimming competition you recently won? Were you always into swimming, or is it a sport you recently took up?

Sonal: I have been swimming ever since I remember. I have won a lot of trophies when I was 16. I was very sporty as a teenager. My sports were badminton, that I played for the national team as well, and swimming.

I had lost sensation and coordination of my hand side of the body, after my surgery. So it was a big achievement for me. After 26 years of not being able to do much. – Well, I still did a lot, I must say. – Laughs.


What is you motto in life?

Sonal: Have faith in god. Be happy and make everyone smile.


Any message for women who are going through similar circumstances, or are witnessing their loved ones battling fatal ailments?

Sonal: Just have faith in God. Just pray, pray, and pray. We don’t know where the path ends but God does!


2 thoughts on ““My sense of humor helped me survive brain tumor””

  1. Sonal Gunatra, you are one fantastic inspiring woman. I have never met you, but your positivity and encouragement to others gives out a kind of strength and energy that I cannot explain! All the best my dear, and May God bless you with all his very best in life! You touched my soul! Big hugs coming your way…


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