MY TESTIMONY: SURVIVING LIFE INTERRUPTIONS (A Brain Tumor Story)
PSALM 30:11-12 (NIV) You turned my wailing into dancing; You removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing Your praises and not be silent. Lord my God, I will praise you forever.
I am asking that you humor me as i post this very long testimony. I have entered it as a possible job that will give me a lot of publicity. It is my hope that many more folk will find this blog and be encouraged by the word our Savior places on my heart.
I want to encourage you all by saying that even though you see your world falling apart before your very eyes, God will rebuild it into a thing of beauty. He is doing it for me right now. He has no favorites so He will do it for you too. Trust Him and see what wonders are held in store for just you.
Life Interruptions are often Divine Interruptions. I am amazed at how my life has changed in just a year and a half. Let me start at the beginning.
I am a retired teacher and single mom. I adopted one of my fourth grade students and have known God all of my life. I have served Him in several ministries including as a member of the worship team, prayer groups, and counseling women with sexual abuse issues. My life was full and I was happy in my small southern Oregon town…. Until I had a break down.
I became clinically depressed. I had to take a leave of absence three times and all the times I returned, failed to finish the year. I eventually had to go on disability and quit my job. Humiliation and hopelessness were my constant companions.
For over 6 years I was struggleing with guilt. Christians have so much to be thankful for and yet, my behavior and emotional state kept spiraling downward. I went to my medical provider many times and the real problem was never identified. They said it was the stress of the job, a family history of depression, perimenopause, genes. It took the love of my parents and a bold step on their part to get to the bottom of my health issues.
I told them about being in a parking lot and not being able to stop. My walking turned into running. I intentionally crashed into a parked car to stop myself and fell onto the ground. I could not get myself back up on my own, so two strong men kindly helped me up. I decided something was really wrong with me and made an appointment with my Nurse Practictioner. Her comment will send shivers down your spine. “Well,” she said, “If it happens again let me know.”
There was no mention of a test or MRI. She sent me off with more concern over my low Vitamin D levels! When my parents heard this story it confirmed the fear in there hearts. They had been praying for me over the past two years. Knowing that I was not myself had them very concerned. They decided to drive out and get me.
Understand this: I moved to my beloved adopted state of Oregon in an attempt to forge out my own life. Although very close to my parents and sister, I wanted to build my own family. I was single and looking for a mature and Godly man. My faith was strong and I was hoping to find a relationship where we would be a team and equally yoked. I tend to be fearful by nature but my decision to move was confirmed by God in so many ways. The puzzle pieces just kept fitting together. I did not know a soul in the state and I did not have a job lined up either. It was by faith, obedience, and trust that I left behind a successful and secure life to find a new one in Oregon, which held for me even greater blessings.
So when my parents told me they were selling my house and taking me to their doctor in Arizona, I put up as good a fight as I could. I was happy where I was planted(aside from the clinical depression). I had finally bought my dream house and I had friends who were as close to me as sisters. I was a respected educator and my son had roots in the only state he had ever lived.
I had grown progressively sick very quickly. In the six months before my folks came to get me, my behavior changed significantly. I later found out that the behavior change was because of the location of my brain tumor. I became very anti-social and even more depressed. I was wetting the bed and wearing diapers. My ability to think and reason was greatly affected and I gave little thought to returning to my medical provider to give her up-dates on my condition. I was falling a lot and had no energy. I would wake up in the morning, eat, drink, and sit in my recliner all day watching tv. I had no strength to clean and at one point I had used every dish in the house. The kitchen was a mess with dirty dishes everywhere.
My son was off at college so I let things go. When my parents arrived they were shocked at the condition of my home. Someone once told me that my house was like a picture out of House and Gardens. Not now! There was trash and dirt everywhere. Every level space and counter was littered with cups, dishes, and clutter.
I was unable to open and read my mail so bills were not getting paid. Twice I had to drive down to pay my water bill as it had been shut off. This was not me. I was not living. I was the walking dead.
When my parents arrived they told me they had Power of Attorney. I don’t remember singning any papers as by this time my memory was leaving me. They told me that they knew what was best for me and they wanted me closer to them. They are snowbirds and think very highly of the physicians and medical facilities in Phoenix, Arizona. They also have a home in Colorado which is where I later moved and started a new life.
The process of cleaning up my house and getting it ready to sell was a huge undertaking. My parents are 77 years old. My mom and dad hired someone to clean up my once pristine garden and yard. They held a yard sale, and packed me up with little help from me. I was sleeping a lot and had no strength to say no to them, or refuse their requests to get checked by their doctor.
Even harder than leaving friends and a dream house behind was giving up my beloved lab mix, Bubba. He was the only thing that made me laugh during the years prior to my diagnosis. However, because my parents had (unbeknowst to me) rented an apartment in a retirement/assisted living facility that would not allow dogs over 15 pounds, I had to leave Bubba behind.
This was the last straw for me. With all my strength I told my parents I would not go with them without Bubba. My dad then had to take a very firm yet loving step. He told me that I was going with them even if he had to carry me kicking and screaming. He told me that he would put Bubba in a kennel or take him to the Humane Society if I could not find a friend to take him. I was crushed. I was at a loss as to what to do. Then God sent me Nancy.
Nancy and I worked together at an elementary school. She was very helpful in assisting with my adoption of Steve. She had become a good friend and was sensing in her heart that something was wrong with me. She decided to stop by my house to check on me. She told me it was a whim at the time, but later informed me she felt the Lord pressing on her heart to visit. Thank goodness she obeyed the quiet voice of God! It was she who offered to provide a temporary home for Bubba. She understood that I was very ill and that mom and dad were taking me to their doctor to get to the bottom of things. She knew I would probably not be back. She knew I was at risk of death.
So now with Bubba safe I could leave my home. I remember very little of the next two weeks. We drove to Phoenix in about three days. Dad gave Dr. Metelits all of my medical records and like the exceptional man that he is, he poured over them for hours in his free time. He told my dad he could tell I had a neurological problem by just watching me walk and that I should go to St. Joseph’s Hospital for an MRI. By now I was falling even more, throwing-up, suffering from migranes, and had absolutly no memory. I do not remember the MRI, being told I had a tumor, or of going into surgery. I remember waking up in ICU. What a shock it was indeed!!
I must say the care I got was exceptional. St. Joseph’s really does live up to it’s reputation of having the best neurological department in the nantion. My pain levels were well monitored and the therapy they provided was all very helpful in my recovery.
For over a year I was unable to cry. What a paradox! I was clinically depressed but unable to shed a single tear. No release. Well, the dam broke in ICU. The full realization of what had just happened to me and the overwhelming job it would require to get back on my feet sent me into a long and loud period of sobbing. I am sure every person on the hospital floor heard my cries and to their credit, they left me alone. They let my tears bring the release I needed to face the future ahead of me.
My dad, or Pop as I call him, was my knight in shining armor. He took care of all my insurance issues, medical paper work, mortgage and realtor needs, and me! I made him promise to NEVER put me through such an invasive and horrific surgery again. I told him that if the tumor came back I would not go through the agony of surgery again. He really hesitated in promising me this, but he did. Now that I am well, I told him that I could go through it again if I had to, with God’s strength and his love.
When they took me home from the hospital, I stayed with my parents for nearly a month. Insomnia was a big issue and one night my mom came into my bedroom and talked with me. She saw that I was greatly worried about my dog Bubba and that I needed to make a decision about his welfare. With a pained heart I concluded that I would ask Nancy and her husband Sherm Hoppet to adopt my dear companion. They graciously agreed and I knew he would have a wonderful life with them. This decision was a relief and a deep wound all rolled into one. My love for Bubba had to come first. I did not know my future and it was not fair to him or the Hoppets to say I would take him back in a year. For one thing, I had no idea where I would be in a year and I also did not know how complete my recovery would be.
My vision was affected by the surgery. I was unable to read and could not take my meds without my dad’s assistance. Writing was a challenge too. I wrote and spoke slower than before the removal of the tumor.
I worried about being a burden to my parents and wondered if I would ever drive again and live independently. My son needed care and my attention but thankfully my parents helped out with his needs so that I could concentrate on my own healing.
I have parents that don’t believe in letting the bad things in life defeat you. They have known their share of sorrow, including the death of my brother in a mountain climbing accident. I was feeling like I deserved to wear my pajamas all day and rest. They let me have two days of pajamas and then, a week after brain surgery I was dressed and going for a daily walk. There was no time to sit and mope. They were loving and supportive but firm. Life goes on.
This is when the hand of God touched me. Within two weeks I was walking a mile and a half without my walker. My balance was getting better and I was able to drive after my vision returned to normal. My quick recovery was a testimoney of God’s grace.
After a month, and seeing that I was on my way to a full recovery, my parents took my son to their Colorado home while I healed in the assisted living facility. I was lonely but God provided an old friend. Dora is the wonderful woman who led me to God. We had lost touch but I knew she lived in Phoenix, so I reached out to her.
What a blessing Dora was and still is to me. She took me to her church where we joined a woman’s bible study. Linda Dillow’s book Calm My Anxious Heart met me exactly where I was and convicted me of all my worry. I started to believe that there was a reason for my trial, a purpose.
Determined to make my tragedy a thing of praise and an encouragement for others, I asked God to help me write a book. The answer came in a five day wrting session. It turns out that a ten-chapter bible study referencing the book of Job was something God wanted me to share with other believers. The study is called DIVINE INTERRUPTIONS: OPPORTUNITIES FOR SPIRITUAL GROWTH. Still a work in action, the revision is taking far longer than the initial body of work, I hope to get it published this year.
I had never read a blog in my life. However, I felt God pressing me to set up a personal blog and to write encouraging words for people going through difficult times. I am a bit fearful of technology and hesitated until the pressing got to be too much. Once again God led me to an old friend I had just recently reconnected with on Facebook, another thing I had no interest in and had never visited. She has a job in social networking. Thanks to her advise and coaxing, I set up an account on WordPress called WEEPING INTO DANCING. http://weepingintodancing.com/
Oh, how God will bless us when we are obedient to His leading and call!! In less than four months I have had 10,000 hits and over 180 people who follow my blog daily. God provides an endless supply of encouragements to write about and I am feeling so blessed. He is using me to encourage and help others.
Never in all time would I have imagined a new career in writing. I thought I would go back to teaching but that door has been closed tight. Writing on the other hand has been a big open door. On a whim, I decided to join a freelance writing site. Within four days I was hired by a Christian Evangelist to write some articles for him. He even suggested I write a blog for his new Christian Magazine. What a surprise! Within two weeks I got another freelance assignment writing Letters From God.
Where God is leading me is still uncertain but I know the path will be wonderful. I can now say that I am thankful for a brain tumor that nearly killed me and has changed my entire life. I am excited to see how God uses me in the future. If my role model, Corrie ten Boom, was used in her fifties and beyond, why can’t I be used at the half-century mark as well? Maybe it took fifty years of trials to prepare me for what lies ahead.
To God be the glory forever and ever. This is the end of my story….. for now. I know I will have many more chapters to add in the future.