The owner of Just Be — a meditation, mindfulness and well-being company in Akron — went to the emergency room after a week of experiencing these symptoms were capped by nausea, and it was quickly shown through a CT scan that this would not be a quick visit.
The scan showed that this healthy 48-year-old had a single lesion on her lung as well as three in her brain. Her husband called her parents, prefaced with the question: “Are you sitting down”? An early diagnosis at the hospital pointed to the possibility of Stage 4 lung cancer, a grim prognosis at best. And her parents hurried to Ohio: her mother, coincidentally, was at the time caring for her own brother who just had surgery on his cancerous brain tumor.
“I remember being handed this possible diagnosis and not feeling it… at all,” says Koz, a practitioner of deep meditation for almost two decades. “As I have learned through my work, I don’t worry about conjecture or potentials. Especially if something doesn’t feel ‘true’ in my gut. And, I also knew that this entire event was somehow purposeful to me. I was not sure the whole picture yet, but parts of it would come to pass very soon.”
The attempt to biopsy the lesion in the lung failed, as it was too close to the heart. The next option, which was a week into the hospital stay, was brain surgery. Upon having her first craniotomy, no cancer was found. Doctors instead discovered she had contracted a rare bacterial infection. This led to another craniotomy in less than two weeks as the antibiotics were not taking hold.
She adds: “I almost lost my life twice. Both of my docs, a neurologist and an infectious disease guy, I feel, just crossed their fingers in terms of correct medication as nobody (as far as I know) has ever had this infection go to their brain. Luckily, after brain surgery number two, as well as a decisive culture (which also elongated the name of my infection), everything seemed to be on the up and up. This event will be in medical journals.”
Her ordeal brought with it a number of physical challenges, like seven days of immobility, having to relearn speech after the first surgery, vision loss and almost two months in the hospital. However, there was no paralysis or seizures or the other issues that usually accompany this type of surgery.
“I was comfortable with each part of this experience, including death,” she recounts. “I attribute that mindset again to my practice. And I knew, even though my passing would be difficult, my husband, kids (who, at the time were 12 and 15), friends, family, they would adjust and there was nothing that I had left unfinished. And I also knew I could handle just about any issue thrown my way. Not that I was happy about everything but, for the most part, I was calm and accepting. I probably had only a week where I was down and really didn’t feel good.”
She applied this fear and anxiety toward her practice, which helped Koz find a sense of peace amid all of the uncertainty.
“This challenge showed me that even with all my teaching and how I had changed in my life, it was time to change more. To really slow down and walk my walk. I thought I was doing that, but I wasn’t fully. This infection has also broadened me in terms of my outlook and clarified, even if there didn’t seem like a choice at the time, what was important for my company and my work. I needed to let go of my Hudson studio (which included several wonderful, holistic practitioners), bring my work back to my house in Green, and no longer concern myself with rent and bills. It was time to streamline, even though the old me would have seen this as a setback. This was needed to move forward.”
Meditation and mindfulness have been scientifically proven in life as well as business to help manage stress; enhance leadership; assist with medical challenges (ie: high blood pressure, diabetes, insomnia, fibromyalgia, Alzheimer’s); and on an emotional scale proven to increase sense of purpose, happiness, compassion and rival medication in the treatment of depression, says Koz, who writes about meditation and mindfulness for The Huffington Post.
She works with kids of all ages, parents of children with special needs, veterans, individuals and companies. She teaches classes on weight loss, mindful aging, meditation for depression/anxiety/PTSD. She has contracted with Akron Children’s Hospital, Summit County Developmental Disabilities Board, Goodyear Tire, JRayl Trucking and Clear Path Home Health & Hospice for training/speaking engagements, to name a few.
“At the end of the day, the heart and soul of this business has been to empower a community of people of all ages and backgrounds who want to live a connected, authentic and peaceful life,” she says. “Now I can do that with full commitment. Right now, if you saw me, you couldn’t tell that anything has happened. There are many things in my life that have changed, but not my dedication to this work. Parts of Just Be may look different, but the heart of it all has only gotten bigger.”