Recently, I have been blessed to be a medical advocate for a friend of mine. She has been through a series of health hurricanes within the last ten years. It began with a lesion on her wrist which turned out to be melanoma. It was removed along with 1/3 of her wrist.
A few years later she was diagnosed with colon cancer. My friend came through the surgery and chemotherapy; continuing to work throughout the course of treatment without a complaint. Truly amazing considering the side effects from the prescribed chemotherapy cocktail usually causes such debilitating effects that often render the patient lethargic and debilitated.
Two years later, my friend begins to have trouble breathing and is diagnosed with melanoma that has metastasized to her lungs. More surgery and radiation. It is at this time that the oncologist informs her that she has a one percent chance of survival.
There were a few quiet years (sort of) when the only events were a broken arm and a fractured shoulder which could not be operated on because of her history of melanoma. While this has made getting around difficult, my friend has maintained a remarkably positive attitude – concerned more for her husband and family than for herself.
This Memorial Day Weekend, while visiting the Disney Theme Parks, my friend began to experience alarming symptoms and a local hospital felt she appeared to have a blood clot in the brain. She was immediately air lifted to Florida Hospital for emergency surgery to remove what turned out to be yet another metastatic melanoma, this time in her brain. When I called my friend to ask how she was fairing and what I could do to help, she excitedly told me about how cool it was flying in the helicopter to Florida Hospital! Her only complaint was that the nurse would not let her sit up, look out and enjoy the view. She said nothing of the surgery and recovery that laid before her. In that moment, my friend taught me that attitude is everything when you are helicoptering in a health hurricane.
The hurricanes continued to batter her body. A month after her brain surgery she began having severe abdominal pain which resulted in emergency surgery for several abdominal hernias. Had she not come in when she did, the doctors told her she would have died.
As she recovers from both the brain and abdominal surgery, doctors continue to try and determine what is her prognosis and future. Having had a recent MRI and CAT scan of the brain, three of us friends (emotional & medical support advocates) were at the neurosurgeon’s to receive the results and determine the best course of treatment for her. We braced ourselves for the worst, but prayed for the best. My friend expressed her hope and prayers that they would not need to re-enter her brain for more surgery.
The neurosurgeon began explaining that he saw some surgical scarring where the tumor had been removed; however, it showed none of the signs often associated with melanoma of the brain. While there was no evidence of melanoma and he could not guarantee she was without cancer in the brain or that it would not return there or elsewhere; he believed that surgery was not indicated. He suggested Cyber Knife Radiation to be her best course of treatment. My eyes began to tear and my emotions swelled as I felt God’s presence in that small and crowded examining room. Like Moses and the burning bush I felt I was witness to something extraordinary – God’s presence within the burning bush that is my friend’s life right now. I knew without a shadow of a doubt that God was holding my friend’s hand and that I had been privy to extraordinary events in her life. Again.
There is more to this story than just a recounting of my friend’s medical history. I feel gifted in having been a witness to a miracle. Often it’s missed because we are looking with our science mind rather than our spiritual faith. While my friend’s body shows signs of being cut, bruised and battered; her spirit and soul is so healthy and alive that her aura shines bright. While I will whine, weep, groan and moan, she quietly trusts in the Lord. She grows strong in her weakness and frailty; showing us how to live by faith and be at peace regardless of her circumstance. She has been an unwavering example of spiritual faith, surrender, and acceptance. She is full of patience, love and grace and is a witness and example of God’s love to those of us privileged to know her.
Thank you, my friend.