The days home from the ICU Trauma Center had passed quickly as mornings fell into nights wherein all the moments of those hours surrounded with the faces of my family were startled with that eerie anticipation of the storm’s stare impending, encroaching. Soon, we would all be in the center of this dark and bewildering massive gust that had crashed into our lives only weeks early, knocking me into the arms of my husband in a seizure that shook me awake days later to learn that the catastrophe had only begun.
I could remember the ICU staff standing around my hospital bed looking at me while the neurosurgeon, Dr. Jonathan Forbes informed me that my brain tumor was caused by a mass they found in my right lung. There were tests and MRIS to be performed, biopsies and on and on until I interrupted. “Tomorrow is my son’s 21st Birthday and I’m going home to make his cake and blow up his balloons!” I said, determined to make them realize that I would not remain for any more of their prodding, tests or otherwise.
I felt the pressure of someone’s hands holding mine. A man with a long beard stood beside me, his eyes intensely staring into my own as I struggled to think, to speak, to utter my protests with a determination bound to break through to those insistent that I remain hospitalized. “He has cerebral palsy,” I sobbed, staring up at the man who was my doctor. “I’m going home. He is going to have his Birthday…”
Praising God, I was home the next afternoon to celebrate my son’s day. As for the man who had been holding my hands the day before, my husband informed me there was no such person. “He wore black, he had a long beard, very dark almost glassy penetrating eyes vacant of any emotions,” I recalled, describing the peculiar man to my husband over and over again. He should have seen him being that since everything happened, he was with me every hour of those initial days, but no.
Glimpsing back now, I often wonder if perhaps that was the angel of death come to take me away from this world. That was not God’s wish, his plan. I felt this a few nights before my upcoming surgery to remove the tumor in my head. I had been kneeling on the living room floor, staring up outside of our window at the big tree outside when I whispered, “Thank you, Father for choosing me, for giving me purpose that I may testify to your glory, your love, and mercy. Know that I shall spend the rest of the days of my life you give me through Christ Jesus testifying to your love, your glory.”
I knew everything that had happened to me was God’s will and that He was in control of every aspect of my life, death. There was nothing to fret about because this is what He chose for me to endure, to fight with faith knowing that it was his WILL was all that gave me comfort, strength. I felt privileged and happy that God loved me and would care for me through everything.
“Most patients have folders full of questions for me before their surgeries,” Dr. Edie Zussman smiled, her eyes darting from me to my husband as we sat in the exam room. “But you guys have no concerns nor questions?” she asked, shaking her head in astonishment.
“No, none,” I answered. “I know this is all God’s will and he chose you to be our surgeon. That’s all I need to know.” I smiled.
Dr. Zusman said that she would be assisting in the surgery and wanted me to know that I had touched the heart of Dr. Forbes who told her that he wanted to go above and beyond to help me. He would be performing the brain surgery. In 72hrs I would undergo a surgery to remove the tumor that resembled a tiny apricot according to the neurosurgeons whose task it was to prune this evil from my head.
I made it clear from the beginning that I did not wish to remain in the hospital after the surgery. “I won’t recover well if I am in the hospital,” I said, “I want to be home.” I felt adamant about this and was pleased when I was told that perhaps my wish would come true a few days after if all was going well. YES! My thoughts sang! I will be home shortly after this necessary surgery! Praise God! Thank you Jesus!
The morning of my craniotomy we took an uber to the hospital nearly thirty miles away. It was still dark outside as I strained my sights to glimpse the familiar forms of cows and horses that often shadowed the hillsides along our route. There was none to be seen, but I knew they were there somewhere watching, waking. My thoughts roamed those cliffs as I listened to my husband telling his brother that we were on our way to the hospital and he would keep him informed throughout the day.
“I am the daughter of the One and Only God,” my whisper ushered me past the hospital doors and out of the cold airs of that morning with a confidence anew as I strode towards the operating theater. I knew that no harm would come to my brain, stealing my will, my soul which was a gift from my God who gave his son, Jesus Christ to die for our sins, our sicknesses. I was chosen, loved and led by my father to endure this for purposes that only He in his infinite wisdom knows and that I would be fine because He was with me.
I could write an entire book sharing with you all the holy signs of that one day when I had been rolled into the surgical theater for the operation that would change my life, but as this is a blog for which I hope might help someone about to undergo such a frightful, harrowing experience, I am remaining focused, faithful.
“Do you believe in God?” I asked the anesthesiologist who inquired if I had any questions. He quickly answered that he did at one time, but not any longer and that it didn’t matter because he had sworn an oath towards caring for patients to the best of his abilities. I smiled, he looked so familiar, everything he was saying I felt as though I had heard before, somewhere, sometime long ago.
“That’s OK,” I said, waving away his reassurance. “Because I believe in God and I know that He chose you to be my anesthesiologist.” I felt certain that I knew this man as though I had seen, heard and had this precise conversation with him at some other time, place…
The operating theater was bustling with people all introducing themselves to me and what their part was in the surgical procedure. A tall nurse who stood next to me, pushed her hand under the sheet near mine and I clasped on, holding tightly. I felt humbled, grateful and certain that God wanted her to hold my hand, reminding me that it was going to be OK. I wasn’t alone.
Three big breaths under the oxygen mask, a hurried whisper, and a soft nudge from the anesthesiologist to breathe and my eyes closed. I awoke crying for my husband hours later in the ICU. I was hungry, happy and ready to return home.
They asked me if I wanted something for pain and I said no. I had no pain. My head felt unusually heavy, but I wasn’t in pain. My neurosurgeon Dr. Forbes said I had a very strong threshold for pain, but I knew it was God who took all the pain that I should have endured away. He also said that once I underwent the radiotherapy, shooting beams into the part of my head where once the tumor had been, I would never have a problem with my head again.
I liked that certainty, his encouraging manner. He unwrapped the bandages on my head and the nurse counted 27 staples which surprised me as I thought that was quite a lot, but then, I never inquired anything regarding my surgery to begin with and didn’t know the scale of which my head was operated on to that point.
I was given pain pills (which I never took), cough medicine for the tumor still in my lung, anti-seizure medicine, steroids to my brain from swelling and told to follow up to radiation therapy the following week. I was doing excellent and my wish to return home was granted!!
My brain surgery was Thursday September 1st, and I stepped out of the Uber onto our street in front of my home Saturday afternoon September 3rd just three days after my brain surgery. Praising God every step of the way, I couldn’t wait to kiss my children and drink some coffee!
It’s during the second week after my surgery that I had been inside the drum for radiation therapy, a thick gel-like substance over my face that was for a mask molding for my sessions I had begun to panic. I felt as though I couldn’t breathe, my head was trapped, my eyes crammed shut. Everything was dark when suddenly Jesus Christ appeared before me. I felt a sudden rush of relief, “There you are!” I cried out, lunging towards him and taking his long hair in my hands.
Then I realized where I was, where we were and like a memory that slams into you when you least expect it, I was suddenly a child again in the arms of God. I had experienced miracle moments that were blocked from my memory all the years of my life until that day when the Lord answered my cries and calmed my spirit with the remembrance of His mercy, his love! It was God’s way of showing me that I was going to be fine, He had been with me all along even in the darkest years of my life.
My book titled There You Are is merely the beginning of my testimony to God’s incredible love, mercy. Certainly, I would not have survived without Him, Jesus Christ who has been with me, with us since the beginning of time. There is nothing that we cannot endure when we believe in Christ our Lord and Savior who has bore our sins and sicknesses, keeping us according to God’s will, God’s plan.
We have to bow our heads through the storms knowing the light of God will shine through and better days lay ahead.
It’s been almost 2 years since the day of the surgery, I’m still undergoing immunotherapy treatment for stage 4 metastatic lung cancer.