I have blogged about my emotions a lot. I have also blogged about the people in my life who mean the most to me and observations I make about them. However, I feel I should blog about something personal, something that changed the course of my life. This will be a long blog post but I hope, if you can make it to the end, it provides you with the idea that there is peace even during a storm and that even storms serve a purpose. I don’t speak of my Christian beliefs much but this story requires I make an exception.
“Instead of complaining that the rose-bush is full of thorns, be happy the thorn-bush has roses.” -Proverb
Several years ago, about 11 to be exact, I had a brain tumor removed. It was benign and I was very lucky, if luck is the word, to find it when I did. I had symptoms like strange spots on my right thigh falling asleep at strange moments but nothing that made me worry I might have a brain tumor. In fact, it was a very slow-growing tumor and in all likelihood I had this tumor growing inside me for at least 10 years previous to its discovery. I will never forget the moments leading up to discovery of this little hitchhiker.
It was a beautiful day, the sun was out, snow and ice had begun to melt, and I was meeting my mom in about an hour to have lunch and to do some last-minute Christmas shopping. The night before, I went to my husband’s work Christmas party. It was a lovely get together but there was alcohol being served. I am a lightweight so I don’t drink unless I have my husband with me to keep me out of trouble. Apparently, after a drink I got up to get myself some water and someone noticed halfway through my glass my behavior was a little off. It was Vodka…oops…so much for my husband taking care of me. Needless to say I was hung over something awful when I met my mom for lunch the next day. I could have cancelled but I really wanted to spend some nice quality time with my mom.
My mom and I had a great time despite the violent headache I was enduring. She knew something was wrong, just as all good and observant moms would. I told her of my night and she was clearly worried I might make a habit of such adventures. Actually, it was a VERY long time before I drank any alcohol after that night. As we were wrapping up our date I helped my mom into her side of the car just in case there was any ice left to be thawed by the sun. She was standing on her side of the car opening the door to get in as I eased myself around the car and happened to step on the ONLY piece of black ice left. I fell and hit my head squarely on the ground before I knew I was actually falling. I laid there for a moment when I heard my mom’s frantic voice looking for me, “Angie? Are you ok?” I quickly jumped up and opened my side of the car and said, “Yup!” with a huge smile on my face. I told her I slipped and we laughed the entire trip to my house. We made jokes about how it was lucky there wasn’t more ice or I would have been sliding through the parking lot dodging cars on my back. It really was very funny.
The next three days I felt dizzy and nauseous. My boss implored me to call my doctor. I thought it was really quite ludicrous to call but I relented just to appease her. I told the nurse how silly I felt calling her because I bumped my head but she assured me it was best to check it out. I was scheduled for a CAT scan. The scan was done and the tech came in to tell me they needed to inject me with some dye and redo the scan. They assured me there was nothing to worry about and I literally did not worry. I guess since I had never had a scan before I assumed it was part of the procedure. The next morning my doctor called and said, “I am sorry to be calling you so early but I just got your CAT scan results and, this is nothing you should worry about but, you have a tumor. I will make an appointment for you to see a neurosurgeon and get and MRI.” I am not sure I heard anything other than the not to worry part because I said thank you and waited to hear from my neurosurgeon.
I decided not to share the news with my mom until I knew something worth knowing. Besides, it turns out my husband was worried enough for an army of people so selfishly I wasn’t sure I could handle anyone else worrying. So if you read this mom you can blame it on your son-n-law. Incidentally, she was extremely unhappy I decided not to tell her.
A few days later I was sitting across from my neurosurgeon telling me I had a tumor and I had the option of having him remove it or leaving it to watch its growth speed. Watching it grow? Really? It wasn’t a growing baby. I know myself too well and I did not need one more thing to obsess over. “Let’s just take it out…is that OK?” I asked. He said yes and an appointment was made for a week later. At this point the neurosurgeon took interest in my husband and called for a nurse. He was speechless, pale and looked as if I had just been read my last rites. He started to shake as the nurse took him into the hall and gave him some water. I look back on this event and wonder why I wasn’t in shock, why wasn’t I worried? I am always worried, about everything, and here I was totally at peace. Before this blog becomes a novel I will just say I had the tumor removed which was fairly simple since it was in the lining of my brain and about and 1 ½ “ in diameter.
I will hold dear the memory of my husband singing Zoom, Zoom, Zoom, like the car commercial, as they were preparing to wheel me to surgery. I will remember my surgeon saying a prayer in the corner of the room as he is about to start. I will remember the voice that told me he was my anesthesiologist because it later occurred to me I knew that voice to be a friend who lived 5 doors down growing up. I tracked him down by the way to confirm this and we had a nice discussion about it being a small world and childhood crushes. I will always remember the supernatural strength that seemed to have been bestowed upon me during this time. It was the news the doctor gave me that makes me wonder if there had been a bigger plan in place the whole time. He told me that it was a good thing we removed it when we did because it had started to grow arms. It could have easily penetrated the blood barrier either killing me or making it impossible to remove surgically. Hmmm…lucky?
I grew up a Christian, I have always had faith, and I don’t know what it would be like not to have that faithful hope. My husband believes, shit happens, you deal and there is no rhyme or reason…who am I to argue? Who am I to say my belief is more important than his? I knew when I married him he wasn’t a Christian. I never pushed him to go to Church and rarely went myself. Naturally though, I believe it was part of a bigger picture I may never understand. There are things I do know are the direct result of this series of events.
First, I may have always been a Christian but I had no idea what the Bible said. I knew in my heart that I loved Jesus and felt his comforting ways….I knew he would guide me through prayer. I didn’t grow up in Church so other than my early childhood church experiences I am not sure how I gained such faith. I decided to read the Bible and along with my husband, who surprisingly happily agreed, went to some church classes with me to get through it. The Bible I should say is a fantastically exciting book if you put yourself in the times and places it takes place. Of course, the first few books are a bit hard to read but set the stage beautifully. Moving on…..we both go to Church. I suspect my tumor could have caused my husband and I both to consider the important life questions so this in and of itself is not really that extraordinary.
The other main change in our lives is extraordinary as far as my husband and I are concerned. You see, our whole family had given up us giving them grandchildren. It was the furthest thing on our minds….we agreed….no children. My husband refused to say baby, he always said little person. We joked about how if I got pregnant he would be skipping the country. I didn’t want to hold any babies and was about as maternal as a hamster eating its young. We both decided that we wanted a child. I can’t put into words how amazing it is that both of us wanted to have a child 10 years into marriage. The funny thing is we tried and couldn’t get pregnant. It wasn’t until after we finished reading the Bible and had given up on having a child that I got pregnant. I found out I was pregnant on Labor Day!
I am always horrified to find out a friend has discovered they are suffering from cancer, or a tumor, or any other number of horrible diseases. But I have always looked at my ordeal fondly with a dream like quality to the memory. Maybe the fact I felt Jesus hold my hand before the surgery and the amazing peace that came with the whole ordeal was shock. All I know is I crave that feeling of strength and comfort and peace every day. In my mind it was a gift given to me from a God who loves me beyond measure.