Below is the
testomony of Sally DeAngelo, whom we met through the Virtual
Trials web page.
Sally went to be home with Jesus on April 14, 2003. Though we have never met face to face, Donna & I have come to love her and her husband Carl and their family. Sally was truely a Godly, Proverbs 31 woman.
The composition below was written by Sally. We pray that you gain inspiration
from her courage just as Donna & I have.
We meet Sally through the Internet on the Temodar Bulletin Board through Al Musella's website titled Clinical Trials and Noteworthy Treatments for Brain Tumors. Over the past few months we have spoken on the phone a few times, emailed many times and have prayed for each other. Sally & Donna's testimonies mirror each other as they have
gone through similar circumstance.
Sally's story was first posted July 18, 2001.
Early April 2000 I was busy as a bee, planning, cleaning , cooking and looking forward to a congratulatory "book party" that I was asked to host for my Vietnamese friend. She had successfully written and marketed a Vietnamese cookbook, and had dedicated it to my family and a few others who had helped her get her start in America as a refugee. Just days before the party I began to experience some strange symptoms : difficulty reading the written word, struggling with simple handwriting and some nagging headaches. At my daughters urging I visited the doctor just days before the book party and he suggested that I schedule an MRI of the brain. " Itís possible that this is just stress" were his words to me.... "but we need to do an MRI to rule out a brain tumor or other vascular problems". I knew that I had to get through the weekend and the party, so I tried to put the anxious thoughts of a potential brain tumor out of mind, and managed to play hostess in spite of worsening symptoms.
On Monday, April 10, the very next day, I found myself in the local hospital, being told that my MRI showed a golf ball sized tumor in the left temporal lobe of my brain. They couldnít be sure what kind of tumor it was, malignant or benign, until I had surgery, which should be done soon! Within 24 hours, after some all night prayer and desperate research on the Internet, my family decided to take me to NYC for a consultation with a brain surgeon, DR Mangiardi. We later found out that the other brain surgeons that we tried desperately to contact were unavailable because they were all attending a Neurosurgeons Conference in California! Dr. Mangiardi was only available because his father passed away the week before, and he had canceled his trip to California. I believe that God led my son in his all-night vigilant search to find this prominent brain surgeon. I was able to see my new doctor immediately ~ and the peace that I was experiencing during that consultation was secured when DR Mangiardi looked at us and said : "This is ultimately in Godís hands." ) This was the first decision of many that I believe was not only God-directed, but a direct answer to our prayers.
My surgery was scheduled on Friday, April 14, just four days after I had been diagnosed. The peace and absence of fear that I experienced was amazing. Only recently, as I look back, do I realize that my entire family had rushed to my side believing that I might not even make it through the surgery. The whole experience happened so fast that I have likened it to a Dorothy experience (from the Land of Oz). On Sunday I was walking out of the hospital - off to find a neuro-oncologist, just six days after my diagnosis. At that time pathology reports confirmed that the tumor was indeed a grade four glioblastoma....the most common malignant brain tumor, and the most aggressive, deadly form. There is no known cure. Dr Mangiardi suggested that I try chemotherapy treatment first, before radiation, which is not the normal procedure in treating GBM tumors. (Typically one has surgery followed by radiation, then chemotherapy). He sent us to DR Gruber, NYU, who gave us several clinical trials to consider. After consultation , we decided to start a combination of CPT11 and Temodar on a 28 day cycle and, if it went well, to follow up with radiation therapy.
I learned weeks later what no one had told me earlier, as I began to ask my own questions and do my own research. I learned that the median survival time with a GBM4 was one year . This was a hard fact to hear and live with. There were days that I cried out to God to please give me more time here with the precious family that He had blessed me with. Coming to terms with the brevity and fragility of my life was the most difficult experience I ever faced. But each step of the way, I was given the strength, guidance and peace that I needed. I found my comfort in Godís word and also the words of many wonderful hymns and songs. After my surgery , first four rounds of chemotherapy I had an MRI to see if treatment was working., The results were extraordinary ..... " absolutely clear, no evidence of tumor or disease." Every MRI since beginning chemo , and even now , has shown absolutely no trace of tumor, nor any evidence of disease on my MRIs. Each doctor we have consulted with has been amazed at my progress.
In August 2000, when I was preparing to start a six week course of conformal radiation, the (local) radiologist looked at my MRI, and said "I think we have a miracle here!" He later admitted to us that he had never before seen such results and had never given radiation treatment to a merely a tumor "sight" ! (There was nothing to "aim" the radiation at except the area where the surgery had been done.) He remarked that he thought maybe the surgeon and oncologist from NY might be "on to something" ( in their choice to treating me with chemo before radiation ). I replied that this may be true, but that I knew it was because they were given wisdom and were guided by God !
My new oncologist (DR Glass at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia Pa) also examined the post surgical, post chemo MRI, and comparing it to the pre-surgical MRI . He was so surprised at what he saw ~ he speculated that maybe I had brought him an MRI of the wrong brain ! He still shakes his head in disbelief with each new clear MRI , claiming he has never before seen results like this! I went on to complete my course of radiation, with no problems or need of medications. My Mri's continued to be clear, and I then began a course of Temodar on a 28 day cycle.
Because of the aggressiveness of the GBM tumors, all of my doctors emphatically agree that in spite of the clear MRIs , I must still continue to fight off the invisible malignant cells that they "guarantee" are still hiding in my brain, waiting to regroup and plague me with a tumor regrowth. They have all advised me to continued chemotherapy, as long as my body allows me to do so. To be honest with you, this is a struggle for me because I really want to believe that God has completely healed me. However, I also believe that He has been guiding me and has been using the doctors and modern medicine to get me here today. From the very beginning, my family and I have asked Him to give me and my doctors wisdom, and we have trusted Him each step of the way. God has certainly been faithful, so until He makes it clear that it is time to change direction, I will stay the course, continuing chemotherapy treatment. The battle is the Lords, and I know He is able to give me the strength I need.
Meanwhile, I give all my praise to the Great Physician, Jesus, who has carried me through this journey in his everlasting, gentile, yet strong arms. Not only has He guided me each step of the way....to the right doctor, the right hospital, and to the right treatment, He has lavished His love on me though it all. The prayers and outpouring of love that I have experienced is overwhelming. People I have never met have prayed for me , written to me, sent me flowers and brought my family meals. I have received e-mail full of words of encouragement and prayers from all over the world, thanks to the wonderful world of cyberspace and the forwarding ability it provides. My brothers even set up a world map in my living room where pins were punched into each city (and country) that someone was praying for me! I have been continually immersed in the prayers of Godís people. What a beautiful demonstration of how God loves each of us through His people.
So, that is the story of my ongoing journey in the world of brain tumors! I have enjoyed and appreciated this past year of my life more I aver would have if I hadn't traveled this journey. It has been an incredible journey, and God has taught me so much about myself and about Him! I must admit though, that it troubles me, when I hear someone say "Sally , you are so strong" or, "Sallyís faith is so amazing". While it is true that I wouldnít be here today without my faith, I want to be clear that this very faith is a gift from God ! And I am strong only by Godís grace, as He gives me strength! I have found that there is great strength to be found in the gift of hope that Jesus has given. Eternal life is waiting for me when God chooses to end my life here on earth, because He was willing to die on the cross for me. I now realize , more than ever, what a priceless gift this is.
There have been many times through this journey, to be honest with you, that I havenít felt so strong. I was as unprepared as I believe many would likely be for such a trial. I was not exactly standing strong and ready for this battle. But God is faithful ! He tells us in His word (2 Corinthians 12:9) "My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness " . This He has proven to me to be absolutely TRUE! God continues to teach me and through my experiences I have learned many life lessons. I am stubborn, slow to learn, and easily distracted . My struggle with sin hasnít ended . I know that I must disappoint God and I am ashamed of the times that I have fallen short of His purposes for me. I am grateful that He has always persevered with me and loved me unconditionally.
What else have I learned ? I have learned that if I really want to be closer to God ( which has often been a prayer of mine) , then I will probably face some adversity. It has been in these most adverse stressful times that God has been most real to me . And it has been in the middle of the storm that I have learned to know and appreciate God the most. I have also observed others growing closer to God with me in my storm. God has given me incredible peace and strength through it all. In fact, if anyone had told me what the year 2000 was going to bring, I am sure I would have panicked, knowing that I would never be strong enough to stand ! But I have learned that Godís promises are true! 2 Cor 12:9 " My grace is sufficient for you and my power is made perfect in weakness " - Paul goes on to say " I will all the more gladly boast of my weakness, that the power of Christ may rest upon me........for when I am weak, then I am strong." My strength is not my own. It has been given freely to me as I have needed it.
Of course I do have down times, when I lose my focus, and become emotionally fragile. Like when I hear the words "malignant" or "terminal" , and the reality hits me that I may soon be leaving my precious family without their daughter, their wife , their mother, their nana, and their sister. My heart grows faint at the thought and I ache for each of them. I donít like to think about leaving them, even with the promise of heaven before me. Sometimes I feel guilty for feeling this way, but I know that God understands and knows my heart. He is in control and He will make me ready when the time comes to say good-bye. This life is fleeting and I was wrong to always assume that I would have tomorrow . The truth is that I have no way of knowing what tomorrow may bring, but that has always been true, really. I am painfully aware of how much I have always taken life for granted, thinking that somehow I was in control ! The truth is that none of us really knows whether we have tomorrow, and this is a truth that I needed to learn. Looking into the face of death has taught me to appreciate each day of this life God has so graciously given to me. Every day is truly a gift! Nothing has really changed. My life has always been in His hands. I just thought that I was in control!
I pray that I will never lose this new perspective that God has given to me. I am so grateful for His patience and perseverance with me through the years. I think that my favorite character description of God is His Shepherd quality. I love the picture of God as my Shepherd, who himself "searches for His sheep and looks after them. He searches for the lost and brings back the strays ." (Ezekiel 34:11&15) I have no problem fitting into the "dumb sheep" role, the creature who needs constant supervision and care ...... One who strays too frequently from the fold, yet one who loves to be carried in the arms of her Shepherd .
Of course I am not proud to be one who has strayed, but I am grateful that I was "found" by my Shepherd, that He watches over me always and will carry me home one day. I canít even imagine facing this past year without this great Shepherd.
He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way;and the Lord has led on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:5-6)
Sally DeAngelo , 4/2001
UPDATE (7/2001) ~ The MRIs are still clear, and I continue (at my divinely guided doctor's counsel ) to continue the chemo regimen (Temodar). I will now take it every five weeks rather than every four weeks to ease the fatigue. I praise God for the FIFTEEN months of love and life that He has granted me since diagnosis!
UPDATE 11/2001 - Sally has had a set back; we recently learned that she will be going in for surgery on November 26. Sally started to have some seizures and a scan has shown either some necrosis or tumor regrowth. I will place an update when I hear from her. FF 11-21-01.
UPDATE 8/2002 - Sally's most recent MRI has shown no growth. She is struggling with her reading and typing, but her recently married daughter is keeping Sally's prayer warriors up to speed.
Back to the In Honor Page
Back to Donna's Home Page