On August 13, 2000, my week started like any other - I was getting ready for church on Sunday morning when I realized that I could not lift the blender with my right hand. Since it lasted just a moment, I didn't think much about it. That Wednesday, I began having muscle contractions in my abdomen that lasted several minutes. Since these contractions were so severe, my husband came home from work and brought me to the Emergency Room.
They began to run the usual tests - blood, urine and EKGs. It was not until they performed a CT scan that we learned what was wrong. The results showed a 'lesion'. Moments later, we met Dr. Princewell Ehirim of Gwinnett Medical, who would become my neurosurgeon the following week. We learned that these contractions that I was experiencing were actually seizures from this lesion. He arranged for a MRI to be completed the following day and Friday my worse fears were being confirmed - I would need surgery to remove this 'lesion'.
Over the next several days, the seizures became more intense and lasted longer. I began to lose mobility on the right side of my body. I was no longer able to do the simplest things for myself - I even needed help to feed myself. The paralysis I had was due to swelling in my brain from the lesion.
I entered the hospital a couple of days before my surgery. I was admitted directly into the ICU. The medical staff had to place a drain into my head to remove fluid from my brain. They did this to relieve the pressure that had built up in my skull. It was at this time that my husband learned from Dr. Ehirim that I had perhaps three to six months left to live.
Before I entered the hospital, I had asked our pastor, Bobby Linkous, if our church deacons could come to lay hands on me in prayer. 40 of our 32 serving deacons came to pray for me. (Yes, that is correct!) Don't ever doubt the power of prayer to Christ!
My surgery lasted just over six hours. The lesion was located in the left Parietal Lobe. When the surgery was completed, Dr. Ehirim reported that he was able to remove 'all visible tumor'. Two days later, the pathology report stated that the tumor was a Glioblastoma Multiforme - the most aggressive and deadly type of brain cancer. I was devastated - not so much for me, but for my three kids, Donna 27, Frankie 14 and Thomas 12, and my husband of 16 years, Frank.
Several days later I was moved to a rehab facility. I was told that I would be there for up to a month to learn how to do the basic things of life - like dress myself, brush my teeth, etc. They also told me that I might be able to walk again, but that I would probably need a cane or walker. Again, with the power of prayer to my Lord Jesus, I walked out of the rehab facility in two weeks, under my own power. I was slow, but I was walking!
I then underwent 6 weeks of radiation therapy. During that time, I continued to rebound physically and regained all of my mobility. However, about 2 or 3 weeks into the radiation therapy, I began to experience heavy fatigue, which is normal. I lost my hair at this time from the radiation, thought it did come back after a few months. Once this was completed, I began to take Temodar chemotherapy.
I had two rounds of Temodar by the time I had my first post-op MRI. The anxiety of getting this test result was terrible - everything that we heard and read said GBM comes back. However, the Lord watched over me and we learned that my first MRI was clear! There was no tumor regrowth! My husband & I cried with joy when we learned this news.
About four months after my surgery, I was able to return to my part-time job at our church. Two months later I was able to start driving again.
I was also taking Temodar monthly from November 2000 until April 2001. At that time, I began to suffer from incredible fatigue - I was napping two or three times a day. My oncologist, Dr. Loyd of Lawrenceville, GA, changed my Temodar from every 4 weeks to every 6 weeks. I have continued taking Temodar every 6 weeks since that time.
Since my surgery, all of my MRIs have come back clear. In May of 2002, I had a PET Scan completed. My doctors had anticipated that the PET Scan would show some 'activity', yet it too was 100% clear! My doctor could only say "Astonishing!"
My husband has kept our friends and family updated through a web site that he has put on the Internet at http://www.coed4.org. We use that site to help communicate and update people and to help encourage others faced with having to deal with a brain tumor.
Since the time of my diagnosis, I have begun to speak to church and civic groups sharing my testimony of what the Lord has done for me in my life. My life has returned to the active level that I enjoyed before my surgery. I give all my thanks to the Lord Jesus Christ!
This essay was submitted to Al Musella at Virtual Trials, August 2002.
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