Bring To Light: The awe-inspiring Grace Latter discusses invisible illnesses, scars and how wonderful imperfect bodies really are
Grace lives in East Sussex. She is an aspiring author and influencer who is a two time survivor of brain surgery. Grace was diagnosed with a brain tumour in her early twenties – a low grade pilocytic astrocytoma, lodged unusually deep in her left temporal lobe. She has also had a bowel infection and obstruction, which led to her having major surgeries on her intestines. Grace speaks frankly and openly about her invisible illnesses and the impact these have had on her life and general wellbeing. She's an inspiration to us at Phaein and, without doubt, one of our shining #bringtolight stars!
Hello, I’m Grace. Let’s see, what do you need to know about me…? I’m 27 and I live by the seaside in East Sussex. I write things, do some podcasting, ‘influence’ a bit, and model - but I cannot do anything without coffee. I’m a legal citizen of the UK and Australia. Houseplants have become a big part of my life in the past year. Oh, I also have a couple of invisible illnesses, and have had 5 major surgeries in the past 6 years, plus radiotherapy.
But you can only ‘crack on’ for so long. After each surgery, once things calmed down, Bad Thoughts would creep in. The time would come when I couldn’t put the grief and terror off any longer. It would become this huge unavoidable thing that broke into every room I was in, and set all the elephants free. I went to my GP about it, the third or fourth time this cycle happened. I felt silly, because a bit of stress and sadness was surely nothing compared to the enormous physical trauma I’d experienced - so I was surprised when my GP told me it was valid, and that my mind had been through just as much as my body. He told me that it’s normal to just run through the difficult times, with your chin up, and you keep going even over a cliff like a very cliched cartoon character, because the momentum is so strong. But eventually you stop, you look down, and realise there’s nothing beneath you. And then you fall. Then you need to forge a path through the bottom of the canyon… okay, I’ll stop using this metaphor now. You get it.
My mental health has been on a wild ride for the aforementioned ‘lost years’, as I’m sure you can imagine. As has my relationship with my body. I am often asked how I’ve dealt with everything; how I stayed positive when I learned I had an unwelcome guest pitching a tent inside my brain, or how I coped with the indescribable pain before and after both of the operations on my bowels - and the honest answer is, I just did. To me, there was no other option. I had to ‘crack on’, to keep going and live through the trauma and uncertainty. I had to paste a smile on as convincingly as possible. I didn’t actually have to fake it that much - because it hadn’t yet sunk in properly.
Another huge part of my journey has been my relationship with my body. It wasn’t until my life as I knew it fell apart, I lost control of so many normal things and my mind was in quite a state, that I began to truly appreciate my physical vessel, after years of struggling with insecurity around it. My body not only carried me through trauma, time and time again, but it also healed itself and kept me safe. I had a lifetime of revelations in just a few whirlwind years of health scares; we are souls within bodies, not the other way round, we mustn’t feel dissatisfied with our shapes and forms because of the expectations the media enforces, and the best thing you can do to keep your body happy and healthy isn’t a fad diet or retouching photos on an expensive app - it’s saying thank you to it regularly, and taking a moment every day to think about what it’s got you through. I have some gnarly scars from my surgeries, one of which runs down my belly, creating a deep cleavage of sorts, and I can honestly say I love my tummy more now than I ever did when it was smooth and symmetrical. This is why I do a lot of modelling work now (something I NEVER thought I’d say, as a self-conscious teenager!), because I want folks like me with invisible illnesses and scars and ‘imperfect’ bodies to be made more visible everywhere. I dream of, someday, someone seeing a photo of me in a magazine or on a website, in all my scarred, jiggly glory, and thinking ‘oh, she looks like me!’