Don’t Waste It

(Your Cancer, Your Tragedy, Your Problems)

 

The goal of life is not to live long, live healthy, get wealthy and leave all of it to great-great-grandchildren. But isn’t that easy to forget in our busy, goal-oriented lives?

Tragedy close to home

The school buses behind the hearse were a sobering sight. Though the vehicles from Wake Christian Academy said “activity bus,” the funeral was not an “activity” anyone had anticipated. The gravity of the situation stifled the noise on those buses to a Raleigh's Finestsilence they had never known. Even cars unaffected by the buses’ path pulled over in reverence to let the entourage pass. At each stoplight, Raleigh’s finest stood at attention, saluting the grieving students and the hundreds of cars’ drivers in the line that went for miles en route to the cemetery where Madison’s grave awaited.

My son’s classmate, Madison Pearce, did not survive when her car crossed the centerline and hit a truck head-on last Saturday, seven weeks before her seventeenth birthday. Being a small class of 2015 with only seventy-seven students, there was not one who did not know Madison: her smile; her unconditional love; her ability to light up a room. She was the captain of the cheerleaders – whether on the sidelines or just in life. She seemed to personify letting Christ shine.

“Things can change in the blink of an eye,” one of her last Tweets had said. Every student and parent from the school couldn’t agree more…now.

The pastor who spoke at the funeral was Madison’s uncle, Reverend Ben Pearce. He fought the tears just like everyone in the room. I loved what he shared in what must have been the most difficult speech he has ever made, “Don’t let her death be in vain.”

I think in a way, he was saying, “Don’t waste this tragedy.” John Piper had similar sentiments in his sermon, “Don’t Waste Your Cancer” which I summarized in the post-script below.

Go ahead and think about what happens when we die, because, we all are dying.

Now is a good time to recognize that we are sinners and deserve Hell, but receiveHope Parkway forgiveness when we ask through Christ alone.

“Mom, it just makes me realize that you never know when you say goodbye if it will be the last time you see someone,” my fourteen-year-old said he learned.

“She is the lucky one; she is in heaven with no more tears, no more pain,” my seventeen-year-old resolved.

As I watched Madison’s parents in the visitation line, I saw them hug each person. They comforted the long line of teenagers whose hearts were broken like their own. “She was so excited to have you singing in Chorale with her again,” the mom comforted when she saw my son. “Oh, I remember your name! You are the ‘smart’ one,” she said to another, repeating words to the teens that Madison must have told her.

The scheduled visitation hours were from 6-8pm, but people stayed – even the grieving family – until well past midnight. They gave as much comfort as they received while the crowd grieved together. Pastor Doug Bookman often says that God does His best work when we are at the end of ourselves. As I saw strength in that family to stand for so many hours: smile, cry, smile, cry and still have something to give to the next person in line, I couldn’t help but see God at work. They were at the “end of themselves” long before the line had even formed.

A friend recently mentioned how wrong it is that people quote, “God won’t give you anything you can’t handle,” because of course He does! He knows we can’t handle it – except through Him. When we cry, “I can’t handle it!” maybe it is just our final battle getting to the “end of ourselves.”

“My tears have fed me day and night; while men have said, ‘Where is your God?’” David wrote in Psalm 42. How real. Tears are real. Grieving is real. It’s what we do with it that could “waste” its purpose.

Bitterness knocks at the door. Answer with trust.

Resentment and anger take their shots. Kick them with praise.

Depression tries to check-in; Tell it that gratitude has already taken that room.

Drugs and alcohol invite to numb the pain; Remind them they only prolong it.

Despair tries to suck us into the black hole, but we can remember what even Madison knew, as her Twitter account quoted a song earlier this year:

“All I know is I’m not home yet, this is not where I belong. Take this world and give me Jesus, this is not where I belong.”

Heaven is not the consolation prize; it’s the destination. Don’t waste the journey.

in love,

Terri

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P.S.  John Piper in his article Don’t Waste Your Cancer, was quoted by a guest pastor, Scott Kellum, at a small church near our lake house. The words were too good not to take notes. The notes were too good not to share. Whether it is cancer, death of a dearly loved one, or another form of storm that hits our lives, the words aptly apply: “Don’t waste it.”

The below list was originally posted as Don’t Waste Your Cancer, but it could be, “Don’t waste your problems,”  “Don’t waste your tragedy,” “Don’t waste your hurt,” or “Don’t waste your today.”

When we truly believe that there’s nothing outside of God’s hands that happens in a believer’s life, this list is incredibly poignant.

Don’t Waste Your Cancer (from John Piper)

  1. You will waste your cancer if you do not believe it is designed for you by God.th-1
  2. You will waste your cancer if you believe it is a curse and not a gift. (The blessing comes in what God does for us, with us, and through us.)
  3. You will waste your cancer if you seek comfort from your “odds” rather than from your God.
  4. You will waste your cancer if you refuse to think about death.
  5. You will waste your cancer if you think that beating cancer means staying alive rather than cherishing Christ
  6. You will waste your cancer if you spend too much time reading about cancer and not enough time reading about God.
  7. You will waste your cancer if you let it drive you into solitude instead of deepening your loving relationships with others. (Some dig a hole and start pulling in dirt on top of themselves, blocking everyone out.)
  8. You will waste your cancer if you grieve as those who have no hope. (Grieving is perfectly legitimate, but not as if we have no victory.)
  9. You will waste your cancer if you treat sin as casually as before. (Today’s the day to make it right with God.)
  10. You will waste your cancer if you fail to use it as a means of witness to the truth and glory of Christ.

Feel free to go back and read that list again, making the substitution of the deepest struggle in your own life, which may not be cancer. “You will waste your…[past hurt] if you…”

Out of My Mind (with a Brain Tumor) Part III

For those who are just joining, it may be helpful to READ FIRST:

Out of My Mind (with a Brain Tumor) Part I and

Out of My Mind (with a Brain Tumor) Part II

Dear Lindsey,

In some ways, 2008 seems like yesterday, but as I recall my history, it seems like a whole different lifetime. As I said in part I and II of this letter, headaches led to MRI’s which revealed a tumor. Although the tumor seemed unrelated to the location of the pain, its speed of growth required surgical removal. When it rains it pours, and so did other “unrelated” health issues of skin cancer, a noise in my ear and swallowing problems which led to coughing issues…but the brain surgery took priority.

My story continues…

The Two Weeks

For the two weeks before surgery, anxiety woke me daily before my alarm.  My 5am quiet times would finish with the Lord’s arms around me like a warm blanket on a frosty morning. (Thanks, Alice Doan, a woman of our church for praying that to happen.)

I was already scheduled to speak in Phoenix, AZ and Louisville, KY those two weekends. I know anyone would have understood if I had decided to cancel due to impending brain surgery, but what happened in those two weeks was a wonderful alignment of priorities.

What is important now?” dominated my thinking.

If I were truly given only two weeks left to live, what would I do? The song says, “I’d go skydiving; Rocky Mountain climbing; ride a bull…” but none of that came to mind.

Although I think the chances of handicapping my voice were greater than the chance of death (The surgeon had said he wouldn’t come close to the life-threatening vein.), it brought the urgency of life to a head, as well as the momentousness of the ability to use my voice.  I wanted to live my life on purpose, and I felt like my message to the stadiums those two weekends was my purpose, or I would never have scheduled to leave my children, even before the diagnosis.

Each weekend, I changed my originally planned speech and told of the upcoming surgery and the heaven that awaited for those who have faith in Jesus Christ – whether the finish line would be October 15 or any time before or after.

During this time, the news of a fatal car accident jarred me to remember that we are all dying. EVERY day is a day that may be the end of our “dash”, and priorities should be lived as such, impending surgery or not.

Telling the Kids

The moment I dreaded had arrived: we needed to tell the kids.  We knew we had one promise we could make: not “Mom will be ok,” nor, “It will be just like always,” but that God is in control.

Pride of being a mother is a difficult thing to fight. Feeling the heavy weight of responsibility yet keeping perspective that if God chooses, it will be relinquished in a moment can only be accomplished by surrender. I surrendered (again) that I was not the one taking care of my children; God was.  If He chose for me to reach my finish line during brain surgery, my children would still be in His care.

True surrender is the most humble act.  I would have told you I surrendered when I was led to Christ at the age of thirteen. Again, a deeper surrender occurred when I “lost control” (which of course was never mine to begin with!) during infertility challenges.  I have often surrendered during my battles with pride.  But I had never before completely surrendered to the thought that the world would just keep turning in my absence. After a funeral and time, hearts who may have missed me would heal, and life would continue as it was…without me.  The church would find another musician; friends would get back to laughing; business would grow. I am the proverbial pea in the ocean. God’s ocean. Removing me was not a big deal. I suppose that is the humility with which we should live at all times, but nothing brought this to realization like a life-threatening storm.

We told the kids the good news: they would get to stay with friends, and then we told them the bad news. Chris grimly went through the recovery information, and the risk, and we prayed as a family. Within ten seconds of the word, “amen,” Nathaniel (8) said, “Can I tell you about the Scooby Doo movie now?!”

I know his comment frustrated my husband who wanted more concern, but the child’s words were a little note from Above: the kids would be fine.

To the Hospital

After a party for my daughter’s 5th birthday the day before, I wrote a little post on a blog my brother Tim had set up to give friends and family updates during my surgery. (The blog has since been deleted (after we printed it), because it wasn’t renewed.  There were more prayers/ comments in 10 days of that blog, than there have been on Letters to Lindsey since it began 15 months ago!)

I had indescribable peace as we made the two-hour trek to the hospital.  I was no longer preparing a basket with pitch and hyssop (from my Basket Case letter), but like baby Moses, I was riding inside, waiting to see where the Lord would have the water take me.  I decided everyone’s prayers were like a river on which I floated. So many prayers were said for the surgery, I bet Chris could have performed it! (but I opted for the surgeons instead.)

I believe PEACE comes from knowing that in all outcomes: God is in control. Thoughts at the time, while reading Trusting God (Bridges) were:

      • God is in control if I am healed completely.
      • God is still in control if I have nerve damage and live a life as handicapped. (Ask Joni Eareckson Tada if she agrees.)
      • God is still in control if I have reached my finish line; it would be heaven. Heaven is the finish line no matter what happens to my today.

First Surgery and a Friend’s Call, October 14

The first surgery on the 14th went better than planned; the arterial scope revealed there was no need for embolization to stave bleeding…answered prayer! Because of that, I was able to stay in a regular room and have one less night of ICU.

That night, while lying flat in bed as directed, I received a call from a friend who could hardly speak as she cried, “I don’t know if I know how to pray, but I just need to know, Terri, if I pray for you tonight, will God save you?”

Seeing her in her humble state, asking of the Lord for possibly the first time, I replied, “I don’t know if He will save me here, but I know if you pray to Him tonight, He will save YOU for eternity.”

She and I prayed together on the phone from my hospital bed, as I felt her come to the knowledge of what it means to be a sinner who is completely forgiven and saved by Christ.

Chris and my brother Tim visited with me before heading to their hotel, and I waited for the morning. I glowed with the joy that only comes from knowing a soul will be with me in eternity.

TT bed

Today’s the Day, October 15th

The morning of surgery, I sat up in bed and posted a favorite hymn on the surgery blog:

Day by day and with each passing moment

Strength I find to meet my trials here

Trusting in my Father’s wise bestowment

I’ve no cause for worry or for fear.

When rolling my bed to surgery that morning, one of the medical students said to me, “I can’t believe you have such peace about this!”

It was ironic that this guy who was probably used to trying to calm people’s nerves was trying to figure out mine. “I need not worry about tomorrow, God is already there,” I quoted a favorite saying. I knew I was in my proverbial “basket floating down the river,” – two IV’s, arterial lines, tubes coming out of every angle and all. Like baby Moses, I was secured by God’s plan, waiting to wake up 2 to 14 hours later, to see either Chris, or Christ:  completely surrendered to His will.  Oh! How I pray I live that way out of the hospital bed!

Post Surgery News

I guess the 15th was quite an exciting day full of drama, according to the surgery blog, which I was able to read weeks later.

The summary:

    • The tumor was surrounded by a sheath, which protected any nerves from being touched. No nerves to my mouth were damaged!
    • The tumor had “fingers” that went into my right ear, so, unpredicted by the MRI’s view, several bones from my ear were “eaten through” and were removed.  In one of my few memories of recovery, the brain surgeon motioned “YES!” with a clenched fist when I reacted positively to noise in that ear. Although hearing was lost for several weeks due to swelling, the nerves were not severed, and hearing was restored by 4 months post-op.
    • The surgery went as well as it possibly could. I stayed in ICU only one night, and a regular room one night and then went home! (I stayed longer for an emergency appendectomy a year later!) Although I have virtually no memory of that week, my husband tells me that I was in a lot of pain, and he was sure I would get meds in a more timely fashion in our house. (He cholerically took over.) Friends stayed with me 24/7 for ten days post-op, giving me medication and stabilization from falling. I learned what it means to serve one another in love.  I only wish I could erase some of those shower moments from their memories. (yuk!)
    • Although unable to get what the medical world calls “clear boundaries,” due to the tumor’s proximity to the main vein, the brain surgeon had confidence he got all he could see through his microscope. This has been confirmed by four years of clear MRI’s. (Praise God!)
    • I found out a couple years after the surgery (probably because my memory of the events was tainted) that there had been a 24-hour prayer chain during October 14-15, 2008. Apparently, all through the night, every 15 minutes, people were assigned to pray – on the phone with one another- in Michigan, Florida, Phoenix, Salt Lake, Louisville, etc. Wow. I learned what it means to be part of the body of Christ.
    • The headaches, the swallowing problem and the ear noise were all healed.  By January 2009, Chris was forgetting I was recovering and asked me to go snowmobiling! (I said, “no,” and reminded him the helmet would not feel good.) Really, less than three months after surgery, I felt better than I had felt in years. Chris said, “I feel like I got my wife back!” I still stand in awe.
    • I never before 2008 thanked God for a reflex like swallowing, but it still comes to mind. I learned that I have taken the body’s involuntary reflexes for granted.

When Bad Turns to Good:

I feel extra-blessed if I get a glimpse of God’s plan, when something I perceived as bad turns through a winding trail to be better for me after all.

    • My brother’s melanoma was such bad news, but if he had not called me, I may not have had the skin exams – which led to my recognizing the skin-healing problem. I cannot imagine I would have survived brain surgery lacking the ability to heal.
    • The rejection from the insurance company was a disappointment the day I received it; however, that rejection (along with Laurie Woodward’s encouragement) is what spurred me to get the second MRI. God’s thoughts are always higher than my own, and He meant it for my good. (Is 55:8)
    • The physical pain was bad, but it was good because it forced the solution. Without the substantial physical pain, I may not have sought help as fervently, and the tumor would have grown inoperable. (It reminds me of sin! But I will save that for another letter.)
    • I believe my friend (who prayed on the phone with me from the hospital bed) was changed for eternity. Heaven instead of hell… when my illness caused her to humbly reach for a Savior  (John 3:16). There is no greater joy for those who ask.

Despite whether we see the good coming from bad, we can be thankful for the struggles, because they promise to give us perseverance, character and hope (Rom 5:3-5) and increase our pain tolerance, too!

During a horrible storm that was tossing a fishermen’s boat in the billowing waves, Jesus said, “Peace be still,” and the winds and waves obeyed His command. (Mark 4:35-41)

The old hymn says, “the winds and waves still know His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.”

Although He may not remove you from the water, may you experience His peace as He calms the storm within.

In Christ,

Terri Brady (See below for Frequently Asked Questions)

FAQ:

1.  Will the tumor come back? – I was told there is a documented average 20% chance of return when they get clear boundaries around the tumor’s location. Since they did not get clear boundaries, the chances would normally be considered greater, but my surgeon was very confident that he got every cell, so any return would be due to its ripe environment for growth. At the five-year mark, the chances of its return decrease significantly.

2. Were there residual effects on me? – Yes. The biggest effect is that I am more grateful for pain-free days than ever. The other effects are minimal in comparison, and I don’t like to talk about medical things. 🙂

3. Do you still have headaches? – Yes. I am back to “normal”. In October this year, I was even speaking in front of a crowd – lights and all- with a migraine. To me, it was a testimony of increased pain tolerance. The occasional headache now comes as a blessing, reminding me of my past as “the leper” who comes back to say thank you.

4. Was the brain tumor caused by cell phone use? – I have read probably too much information on this topic. Although evidence is still questionable, it can’t hurt to hold cell phones far from the ear, and limit children from holding phones to their heads. (Their skulls are softer and the radiation has been measured much further into their brains.) My guess is that a cancer survivor who thought it had nothing to do with smoking could probably have written a letter like this in 1950, but of course my guess could be wrong.

5. Do you think your healing was a miracle? – I don’t feel worthy of the term, “miracle,” considering the miracle of a virgin’s birth or raising of a Man from the dead. However, I don’t take from God that He provided answers that the doctors were unable to predict. To God be all glory.

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Out of My Mind (with a Brain Tumor) Part II

“Compassion is showing our scars to those with open wounds.” –Gary Hallquist

Dear Lindsey,

In my last letter, I gave Part I to this story. I originally hesitated from sharing this brain tumor journey: Was I afraid of dwelling in the past? Was I afraid I would scare readers into getting themselves checked for brain tumors? Or was it that my heart aches for so many people still in their “Holland,” with worse problems, bigger tumors, cancer in multiple family members, unrelenting back pain, life-changing car accidents, addictions, etc., but they are still living through them today? A friend reminded me that suffering is not a competition. If showing our scars can be helpful to those with open wounds, then sharing the past is celebrating God’s victories. So I continue to write:

When we last left the story, my insurance application had been rejected unless I would get another brain MRI.

September 6, 2008

I had the MRI early in the morning. I “checkmarked the box” so I could get the new insurance. The diagnostic center gave me the normal line about how I would hear from my doctor within two weeks to review the results. I knew from booking this appointment that the neurosurgeon was on vacation that week, so my follow-up appointment to review the MRI was scheduled for September 22. I was not worried, just like she had told me not to be at my previous appointment, months earlier.

The following week, the caller ID revealed the hospital’s number on a phone call. The kind woman told me that they needed to get another scan for clarity.

“I am flying to Salt Lake City in the morning,” I told her and we booked a time for the following Monday and ended our call. I figured my brain must have moved during its photo shoot, and blurred their view. (smile) It’s hard to hold still for 45 minutes – even if your head IS clamped.

The phone rang again within minutes. “I spoke with your doctor, and she said you should not get on the plane.”

“Is something wrong?” The dumb question escaped my mouth as my nerves escalated, realizing they had called that doctor on vacation –obviously, something was wrong.

“No, we just need a better view. It is actually not an MRI, but a VRI we will be taking,” she said as if that was a logical answer to my panicked question.

“So why can’t I fly? Is it the plane pressure? I am supposed to leave at 10am.”

“Well you could come in at 7am, and if the radiologist clears you, you could be out in plenty of time to make your plane.”

The following morning, I went back on the cold table into the tube. It screamed a sound similar to the old dot-matrix printer, seemingly through a microphone directly into my ears. Halfway through the test, the young (and obviously naïve) technician started my IV as normal and asked,

“So how long have you known about this?”

Known about what?! Went through my head, but I played it cool: “A while,” I said, not sure if we were talking about the same thing.

“Can they operate?” she asked, curious.

Oh. My. Word. Am I in a Twilight Zone? Did I miss a phone call somewhere? Last I had heard, this kind of tumor is common and no big deal… “Uh, I don’t know yet. I think that’s why I’m here,” my heart began to race as my mind wandered in “what ifs,” but exteriorly, I was calm.

“Is it cancer?” she asked me.

“I hope not,” I said quickly, as if the speed of my answer would bat that chance away.

“Well, you must be scared,” she said as she rolled the table with me on it back into the tube.

I lay on the hard, skinny table surrounded by my own cocoon for the second 20-30 minutes of the test. I thanked God that the technician was talking to me and not to some little old lady who didn’t know my God of peace. I knew the tech wasn’t supposed to talk to me like that, but regardless, the cat was out of the bag!

The radiologist released me, I guess, because I made the plane to Salt Lake City… with a headache.

In Salt Lake, we met with close friends and business partners. I told a small few, trying not to initiate panic, but asking for prayer and still hoping it would all blow over.

The following Monday, the 22nd, I saw the neurosurgeon, and she was less jovial than our first meeting months before.

“Your tumor has grown over 50%. This is a much more serious situation than I originally thought. It is compressing one of the two main veins to the brain. If it continues to grow at this pace, it is life threatening. It is unclear, but it looks like it is close to pushing your right brain to the left, which will cause seizures, so this is becoming an urgent situation. I wouldn’t touch it with a ten-foot pole. I am sending you to a specialist a few hours south of here. I assume surgery is your only option. We made you an appointment for next Monday. Bring your husband. You will want him with you.”

She handed me 2ft x 3ft films to hand-carry to the specialist neurosurgeon in the Detroit area. It felt like the entire office staff was looking at me with a, “poor girl,” glance as I walked out, but it was probably just in my head. (“Just in my head” began a whirlwind of puns, humor which Chris and I enjoyed to relieve the weight of the situation.)

I got to the car, dumfounded. Opening the humongous envelope that held the films

Not my brain, but similar tumor, opposite side.

Not my brain, but similar tumor, opposite side.

and spreading them across steering wheel, I could see a lot of gray matter – like any picture of a brain- except one big difference, the white, oblong golf ball on the side. It looked big for my small brain. I searched for my name and date to be sure they were really pictures of my brain.

As I drove home, my mind was silent. The chatter of “things to do today” was gone. The bother of the other drivers wasn’t registering on my new Richter scale.

.

Really? This could be IT?! The finish line is sooner than I thought?

But,… my “dash”?!

I remembered hearing Lou Holtz read the poem, “The Dash,” about the symbol on a tombstone between the birth date and the death date. The dash represented what was done with the life during the time on earth.

My dash may be done?! But I was going to make a difference in this world; I was going to raise my kids to be difference-makers; I was going to spread the Gospel: I was going to…

I drove past an abortion clinic, and I was reminded of how many in there didn’t have a chance to even start their dash. Life is not fair. I don’t deserve more than they.

What would I do differently? Ironically, that week I had just read the account of Hezekiah in 2Kings 20, where Hezekiah was granted another 15 years of life, after he was told he was dying. What would I do now if God chose to continue my dash?

In my quiet car that day, my priorities aligned, as if seeing a ghost of Christmas future and being pleased. What?! PLEASED? Yes, pleased. I did not think about where I could have been in the work place had I only held on to my position in engineering. I didn’t think of patents I could have owned or promotions I might have possessed. I realized more than ever that I was blessed to have invested the time of my dash (so far) into being a mom and wife and encouraging other moms and wives. I recognized the GIFT my husband gave me in being a stay-at-home mom! If God’s plan was that I would never speak again, I had no regrets of missed words with my children. I wish that for every woman who chooses to be a stay-at-home mom! If it were all over, I had no regrets.

I called Chris to let him know the doctor’s news, and by the time I arrived home 30 minutes later, he had a dozen coral roses on the kitchen counter, accompanied by his warm embrace.

As the week progressed to the appointment with the specialist neurosurgeon, my quiet times with the Lord progressed to depth. It is always during storms, when I seek the Son most.

Chris and I kept our secret, trying to protect our children, then ages 11, 8, 4 and 3 from fear. The night before the next neurosurgeon appointment, we decided to tell our parents of the impending days.

I had difficulty spitting the words out to my mother and father in Colorado, imagining they would feel helpless 1300 miles away, and fighting their own medical battles.

My mother immediately reacted as if packing her suitcase, “We will leave within the hour, and drive all night.”

I could barely keep her from hanging up the phone to pack, when I told them it was just a doctor’s appointment, and I would let them know if indeed surgery was scheduled.

Skull-base Neurosurgeon, September 29

“The fast growth rate of the tumor tells us it is likely NOT cancer; less than 4% chance.”

The appointment gained speed as the skull-base-meningioma specialist went through the options of treatment. “The brain surgery where the child is outside playing later in the day as seen in some commercial is not an option. The size of the tumor (3.6cm) exceeds the limits of our non-invasive radiation treatments. Waiting longer to see how the tumor acts [if it would shrink] is getting to a dangerous point, and we have zero data of a tumor that has ever grown at this rate and then stopped. In view of what lies ahead for you, if you have always wanted to go to Hawaii or something, now is a good time to go.”

I had never had to endure such a speech, and yet it continued.

“At your age and health, your body will handle the surgery well. However, due to the proximity to the vein, I don’t know that we will be able to get it all. I will use scissors so small that the tips can only be seen under magnification, but if even one cell is left, the tumor will grow back. Regular MRI’s will hopefully allow us to catch it small enough to use a radiation “knife” or other noninvasive options next time.”

He laid out a plan for future surgeries and radiation treatments dependent on my age at the time of diagnosis and size and growth rate of the tumor. This diagnosis did not look like it was ending… ever.

His informatory speech continued with how he would enter the cranial cavity (my head!) by cutting a football shaped piece, extract the tumor and then create a seal to replace the missing skull. The location of the tumor seemed to him far enough from the ear to be able to avoid hearing damage, but it looked like it was directly on the nerves of my mouth; one nick of a nerve would cause permanent paralysis and inability to use my mouth, so he would have a feeding tube team standing by for insertion.

“Is this why I have been choking?” I asked, grimly.

“The location could definitely cause swallowing problems.”

He continued to talk about the tumor’s location, also pressing on the main vein, as he gave us an anatomy lesson of the sinus vein and its relation to the body.

“I will not get close to touching that vein. I will get every cell I can –as long as it is not touching that vein. If it is nicked, bad things happen.”

My heart sank, knowing the tumor was visibly pushing on the vein in the MRI.

Chris excused himself, and I noticed that he, too, was going green in the face.

His absence didn’t stop the doctor’s progression.

“It is a two part surgery. The first is done by a vascular surgeon, who will go through an artery in your leg all the way to your brain, to put a “super glue” (for lack of a better word) into the tumor, to stave off bleeding. This pre-surgery often avoids the need of a blood transfusion. The second surgery is by my team, the following day. The head surgeon here [no pun intended] will want to be involved, due to the nature of your case, so we will schedule a day for both of us, although I am hoping only one will be needed.

You will be our only patient for the day. This second surgery will take 2-14 hours. You will be in ICU one night after the arterial procedure, then 1-2 more nights of ICU after the brain surgery, and 3-5 days in regular room. It usually takes two-three months to feel 80% healed and a year before patients feel 100%.”

It had been so long since I felt “100%,” a year didn’t seem like a long wait.

“So do you think this will take care of my headaches?” I asked, hoping he would give me a different answer than the last neurosurgeon.

“It’s hard to say, but the location of your headaches does not look related to where this tumor is. Unfortunately, I hate to say, but sometimes it can make headaches worse.”

I held the tears until Chris and I were alone in the car.

So let me get this straight:

If I leave the tumor alone, its growth will likely lead to seizures, paralyze me and end in death;

If I have surgery, there is a chance of paralysis or death.

If I go through the two surgeries and a hospital week, and IF I survive and happen to get myself back without paralysis, the chances are high, that I will not feel any better than I have for a year, and I may even feel worse.

– And this is likely not the last time to have to go through all this.

Surgeries were scheduled for October 14 and 15.

As I called my friends, it felt like I was dropping a bomb on each one. I hated to make the call, and yet, I found through their tears, the love of Christ in our friendships was shining. When talking with my friend, Tracey Avereyn, I was the one who broke down. Through tears, I tried to master the language of cry-talking. I said, “I know that all things work together for good, but is it sinful that I dread this SO much?!”

Being a sister in Christ, she didn’t hesitate to sharpen as iron sharpens iron, “Terri, even Christ went to Gethsemane.” In other words, even Christ asked that the cup be taken from Him, but yet He conceded to God’s will being done.

The Son of God does not shine so bright as when our world is in its darkest state.

I knew Jesus had been through worse.

…..……...to be continued…….

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When We Don’t See A Purpose


Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.
– John Watson (aka Ian MacLaren)

My friend and pastor, Tom Ascol, was struck by lightning in 2008 and lived to tell about it. Continue reading