"I have a brain tumor. It's okay -- probably/hopefully, but I have a brain "abnormality" that the neurologist believes is most likely a tumor. Saw it myself as clear as can be on the MRI films."
This was what I said to friends and family in an email that ultimately became the beginning of this blog. It was November 21, 2005. (Happy Blog-a-versary!)
I haven't told the rest of the story about that day, but I remember it well. It was a Monday, and we were awaiting word from my neurologist about the MRI and EEG studies that had been done on Friday. He had already called on Saturday to tell me to start taking anti-seizure medication, but had no other details. We had an appointment for Tuesday morning to go over these test results.
Then on Monday morning he called me with an urgent request to meet that day. Pick a time, and he would work me in. Other planned appointments and diagnostic tests had been cancelled. This was a highly ominous conversation, and I was obviously concerned.
Two conversations followed after I hung up. One was a phone call to my husband at work, so that he could arrange to accompany me. The other was back at my bedside, on my knees, to pray.
What occurred during my prayer was highly personal and sacred and comforting. I believe in the Comforter -- the Holy Ghost -- and knew that he was communicating with me in direct and immediate response to my prayer. Personal scripture with direct relevance to my situation was silently but clearly spoken to my mind. Specific words from long ago that had previously seemed unimportant and would normally go unnoticed, were recalled to my mind along with the impression that they were meant for this situation. And then there was a feeling of peace that cannot be adequately described. I rose from my knees knowing that I was under the watchful care of a loving Heavenly Father, and that whatever this was, I would be able to handle it.
Admittedly, I was also hopelessly naiive. The neurologist was very kind as he described the MRI results and the neurosurgery that would result. I knew that my grandfather had died from a brain tumor many years before, but this seemed different. I took solace in knowing that this was likely a primary tumor instead of a metastatic tumor, and that it was in an operable location. I had no clue that primary brain tumors are quite often malignant tumors, or that anything life-threatening was going on (other than the risks of surgery). I thought brain tumors were only a big deal when they were not operable. I was healthy and could surely endure neurosurgery. It honestly seemed like my biggest concerns were whether to continue with my upcoming hair appointment, and how to manage the logistics of neurosurgery so close to Christmas.
After coming home and digesting this news I started telling my parents. I remember both my mother and my father being very concerned, and weeping at the news. I figured they were overreacting because of my grandfather's experience. But it was so long ago! And this is different! I talked about it as matter-of-factly as if I had a cavity that needed to be filled. ("Hey, Dad -- wanna see the MRI film? Here it is right here!") I did my best to reassure them that I was going to be fine. You can see what I wrote at that time, if you go to my very first posts on this blog.
Obviously as the story began to unfold, my naivety gave way to reality. The seriousness of the situation began to sink in, and things beyond our worst fears were starting to materialize. It became overwhelming. However, once the pillars of ignorance and innocence fell, I did not collapse. The experience I had in my room prior to meeting the neurologist was a strengthening one that provided an important support column. It was the remembrance of this very personal answer to prayer, the words that entered my mind, and the unmistakable feeling of peace that accompanied it, that became the real source of my strength and optimism. Other similar experiences followed when needed.
I was taught long ago that there are counterfeits for everything except the peace that is the hallmark sign of the Holy Ghost. Within the presence of that peace it is impossible for fear and doubt to abide. There are many good feelings and emotions, and I've experienced those, too. Feelings of love and relief and joy and hope and wonder, and so on. But when there is spirit-to-spirit communication with the Lord through the Holy Ghost, it is unmistakably and undeniably set apart from these other feelings, and it becomes the only reliable source of confirmed truth. My greatest desire is to live long enough to help my children learn to access and recognize this for themselves.
What I came to know on that fateful day was and is still true, and it has sustained me throughout five years that began with "It's okay -- probably/hopefully" and remains standing at "It's okay -- definitely/surely--no matter what."