My Survival Story
Something wasn’t right
It all began when I started waking up every morning with headaches. I was used to a few then and again, but I thought it was a bit weird. I remember mentioning it to my mom, and she told me to start taking ibuprofen. So I did and didn’t think much more about it. Weeks after that was going on I began to feel weaker, I was always tripping over things, I was getting dizzier and I recall a particular time when my family and I were all seated for dinner one evening. I stood up and walked over to the stove to grab some food, but right as I reached the stove top my plate felt like it was ten pounds heavier and it slipped from my grasp. It shattered on the floor making everyone turn their heads. After that day, my weakness and headaches kept progressing. Finally one morning my mom told me she was going to have dad drive me over to a family doctor to get it checked out. I remember trying to tell her I was alright, being the fact I hated going to the doctor, but she insisted and I finally gave in. That day was spent getting checked into the medical center, seated and finally being asked a billion questions. I answered them the best I could and the doctor said he needed me to get an MRI immediately that day. After the interesting experience of going through the MRI they told us the results would be in by the next day and would call us then. I couldn’t have been ready for what was about to happen in twenty four hours but it would drastically change my life forever.
Mom got the call that they needed us back at the hospital as soon as possible. That was it. They didn’t give us any information except to be there early in the morning. Dad was at work so me and mom took a second trip to our family doctor. The second I walked in a strange feeling overcame me and my heart began to beat a little quicker. We waited for the doctor to come in and the time couldn’t have gone any slower. Finally after what seemed like an hour the door opened and the doctor sat himself down. One look at his face and I knew something wasn’t right. A lump formed in my mouth and I gulped it down awaiting the news. He began explaining what they had seen on the MRI but all his words were too elaborate for me to fully understand. My moms face grew serious and she was on the verge of tears. I tried to listen to what the doctor was saying but it was like all the noise was drowning out. Then he said two words that brought me back to reality. Brain tumor. My eyes got bigger and my heart beat a little faster as he explained I was growing a tumor almost the size of half a fist in my right thalamus. He said I would need to get a biopsy in the next few days as they weren’t sure if it was cancerous and spreading. Once the news had been delivered he stood up and told me he was sorry. Me and mom walked out of the room and down the hallway. As we passed one of the waiting rooms, I remember a nurse looked over at me, her eyes saddened. Once we reached our car we hopped in and right away mom called dad, voice cracking as she did. I remember sitting in the back seat, totally confused about what just happened. Was I in a dream? How could this be happening to me? Why would God allow something like this in my life? Did I have cancer? What were the next weeks and months and years potentially going to look like? All these questions bombarded my fourteen year old mind as I tried making sense of it all. There were only two times I cried this entire process and this time was one of them. As I sat in the car and watched the traffic and people pass by the verse Romans 8:28 came to my mind.
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to them who are called according to His purpose.”
I didn’t know it then, but that verse would be the one that God would continually show up in areas of my life, and encourage me during this process.
It wasn’t much longer and I was being wheeled into the operation room. It was early in the morning and they had to shave circles around my head. They put my long locks into a special bag and gave it to me to keep. I honestly don’t know why, it wasn’t like I was going to keep it on my mantel or something, but it was a kind gesture if anything. They rolled me into the bright white rooms with all the big lights, a view I would never imagine seeing other then in the movies. Nurses rushed around and some stuck more IV’s into my arms if there wasn’t enough in there already. They asked me if I needed pain medication, which I thought was kinda a silly question to ask since I would be going under anesthetics anyways, so I said no. Next they told me they were going to place the mask over my mouth and that I would be out in less then three seconds. They told me to count and I’m positive it was three and half seconds.
I awoke confused at where I was. I looked around and realized I was hooked up to a machine with needles poked into me. My parents were close by my side as they were always there for me and supporting me. Not much longer we were informed that my tumor was non cancerous but benign, which meant it was slow growing and that it could have been growing since I was a baby. After many more hospital visits and checkups they said I would have to take radiation therapy instead of surgery because it was inoperable, and even the radiation wouldn’t take it away completely. My parents started to seek out second opinions and eventually they came upon Mayo Clinic in Rochester Minnesota. We decided we would talk with the pediatric neurosurgeon there and see if he would be able to perform the complicated surgery.
Everything seemed to be moving fast, I thought, as me mom and dad sat in the doctors office. I looked around and couldn’t believe all that had just happened in the course of weeks. So here I was again praying for a miracle, praying I wouldn’t have to go through radiation therapy the rest of my life. It all would be determined through this meeting. Once again I felt my heart beating a little quicker as we waited for what seemed like another hour before the surgeon walked in and sat down. He took his time explaining and answering our questions and long story short, he told us that he would be able to perform the surgery. Remember I said earlier that I only cried two times this whole process, this would be the second time. All three of us cried happy tears of joy. I was so overwhelmed with gratitude towards Jesus and even though I heard it many times, I knew He was with me and He did have a plan and a purpose for my life.
Up to the day of surgery I had been on a very high dosage of medication. There were dozens of side effects due to taking them that caused me to be in a lot of pain. One of the side effects was being constantly hungry. If I didn’t eat something every ten minutes I felt like I was starving. So as you can imagine I gained a lot of weight which really hurt my self confidence. In the course of weeks I felt like a completely different person. I went from fitter, energetic, extroverted, teenager to over weight, physically exhausted, introvert. I would often find myself blaming the pills I was taking as they changed me into someone I didn’t care for. I didn’t know it then but even though the medication was my worst nightmare, it was actually saving my life. I found out pretty quickly the morning of surgery. I remember me, mom and dad and a couple of my siblings were staying in a house near Mayo Clinic. I had to wean off the pills that night and all was normal until I woke up. I didn’t feel like myself and it’s very difficult to explain exactly how I felt. All I know is I was very dizzy and confused at first. I remember going to the rest room and falling down, hitting my head against the wall. I cried out to my sister who came in to help me. Minutes later we were all packed into the vehicle and I recall lying in the back seat with my sister and what I felt was indescribable. Basically I was feeling the full magnitude of the tumor pressing against my brain. I don’t even like to talk about it cause it was so traumatic for me but even though it was the most difficult part of my life, I felt God’s presence with me. Again I remember thinking of the verse Romans 8:28, and through the pain and confusion, I knew He was with me and I prayed for a peace that passed all understanding. I don’t exactly remember all the details following right before my surgery but I do remember being put into a medical bed and being wheeled to the operation room. Once I was there nurses were walking around prepping. They inserted needles into my arms and again I felt the heat from the giant bright lights above. The white room and shiny instruments mixed with my dizziness making me all the more, but still I wasn’t afraid. I couldn’t explain to you other than the presence of God. I knew His hand would be on me going through and I was ready for whatever He wanted. Even if there were complications like, never being able to use my left side, blindness, or even death, He would be glorified either way. Soon, nurses leaned over me and told me they were going to put me under anesthetics. Within seconds, I was out and everything was black.
As I ponder back to that day and all that God has done I am extremely thankful and blessed for all He’s done in and through it. We were constantly told that after surgery I would most likely live the rest of my life with an unusable left hand, left side weakness, vision issues, and learning problems. But I can tell you, I have very little to no side effects following my surgery. Yes, it took time to heal completely and I still trip from time to time, (whether it’s from my own clumsiness, I’m not certain,) and I’ve lost some memory but it’s all a testament of what God has miraculously done in and through the hands of the doctors. Do I still struggle with the effects of the medication? Yes, but God is continually working in that area of my life and reminding me of the things that truly matter. Like the fact I’m still alive and He has a plan and a purpose for my life as I seek for His will and direction. I’m so grateful for the verse Romans 8:28 as it was a continual reminder that ALL things work together for the good of His glory. That means both the good and the bad, pleasant or unpleasant, everything and everybody. Once I truly believed this verse and carried it deep within, Philippians 4:4 began to make more sense when it says,
“Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, rejoice.”
When I placed my faith and trust in Him, I was rejoicing! Even now seven years later I am rejoicing and praising Him for all His marvelous works. None of the pain that we feel or trial that we face is out of reach for our heavenly Father. I truly believe that God uses our trials to build up our faith, draw us nearer to Him, and gives us a testimony of His faithfulness to share for others.