An update on my friend Christine, one year after we heard the terrible news about her brain tumor. So thankful for the many blessings in her life. Her husband Rob wrote this letter.
Dear Family and Friends,
As I write this, it was exactly one year ago today that Christine was diagnosed with a brain tumor. How thankful we are that God has granted us another year of life together as a family but what journey this past year has been. A flood of unbelievable memories sweep over me as I recall the events surrounding the seizure and of the days and weeks that followed the diagnosis. I must say that the Lord is faithful and has sustained and guided us all along the way. We are so very grateful for his providences and all the support and help we have received. As I look back over the last year I am encouraged in remembering that, “the fact that we are called upon to endure trial shows that the Lord Jesus sees in us something precious which He desires to develop. If He saw in us nothing whereby He might glorify His name, He would not spend time in refining us. He does not cast worthless stones into His furnace. It is valuable ore that He refines.” (FLB 64)
We recently went back up to the NIH for our 2nd post delivery checkup and were very thankful that MRI showed that the tumor was still stable – there is no sign of growth or change. In fact if anything the MRI showed that the grey area surrounding the resection cavity was slightly smaller in size than it was before. They said that this was most likely still healing from the surgery and not something to get excited about. But we are hopeful it might actually be tumor shrinkage and we are just praising the Lord for every indication of his mercy and for each day of continued life.
As I consider the past year, there are so many things that we are incredibly grateful for. Allow me to list a few.
1) For a safe, natural, vaginal delivery of a full term, healthy baby Girl: Elizabeth (Ella) Joan Neall was born Saturday, December 24 at 1:28 p.m. and weighed 7 lbs 13 oz. She continues to grow and is a real joy, smiling everyone. At 5 months now, she just laughs and laughs at the antics of her big brother who dotes over her and loves to entertain her by jumping off a stool onto the floor. We are so grateful for our little miracle girl! The Lord brought her through so much.
2) Family and Friends: We feel so privileged to have had so much support throughout this ordeal. We have appreciated all the care and concern, the cards and gifts, the words of encouragement and faith, the many prayers with and for us, and the many sacrifices in our behalf. God has blessed us through so many, I cannot list them all but a few prominent ones come to mind: the Clarks for their constant care and concern, for their adopting Elliot and Ella as “grandchildren” and helping to care for them through this trial; for Mrs. Clark for dropping everything to come to doctors appointments and coming up to NIH with us; for all my siblings for coming to be with us before and during the operation; for my sisters, Carol and Shelly for staying by Christine’s side during recovery from the operation; for mom and John Wood for coming to see us through the surgery and for their love and support; for James Gulley for helping to get us into the NIH, for giving us expert counsel and answering all our many questions; for he and his wife Trenise for opening up their home for us and feeding us whenever we come for checkups and picking us up or take us back to the airport and to NIH; for Megan Smith for sacrificing her summer plans to “go where ever you go” to caring for Elliot during our time at the NIH; for our OHA family, for their love and prayers and for providing food during our crisis; to the Gillises for showing up at our door with loads of food.
3) The Anointing Service: This remains in our memory as a special plea for the Lord’s intervention. Indeed we saw Him part the waters and guide us through the wilderness in answer to these prayers of faith.
4) The National Institutes of Health: It was truly a miracle that we were able to be treated at the National Institutes of America. They have some of the best neuro-oncologists in the world and the whole medical team has been so compassionate and caring as well as professional. It has truly been one of the most incredible medical experiences we have ever had. It is an amazing place and we feel very privileged to be able to be patients there.
5) For a successful operation to resect the tumor: The operation went well without any serious complications. Christine has very little residual affects from the surgery other than a scar from ear to ear across the scalp. She still occasionally has some speech aphasia and her right arm has some weakness. They were able to remove 90-95% of the tumor without compromising her quality of life. We are very grateful for the expertise of Dr. Lonser and Dr. Zaghul who did the surgery.
6) For our precious son, Elliot: We realize that he has not been immune from the stress of the whole situation and we are grateful for his resilience. He continues to grow in many ways: in height, in curiosity, in energy, in vocabulary, and into our hearts. The other day he fell out of his bed onto his toys left on the floor beside the bed. Thankfully he was unhurt except for a scrape and a shiner or two on his face from the toys. He is in a “big boy bed” now (a queen bed – so we still have room for guests should they come by) so it was not a terrible fall but shook us up some.
7) Counsel: We are so thankful for some resources the Lord has led us to. We have found some very helpful information on creating an anticancer environment that is evidence-based on scientific research which is specifically tailored for brain tumors. Also, the Lord has also opened up the way for us to be able to go to Yuchee Pines this summer to see what we might be able to learn from them on strategies for cancer treatment and an anti-cancer lifestyle. We are excited about the opportunity and thankful for the opening up of doors to allow us to be able to go. We will be attending one of their lifestyle programs during the middle of the summer so it looks like we will be gone much of the summer.
8) Lessons Learned: One of the lessons that we are continually learning is that we cannot take life for granted and we are continually reminded of the necessity to appreciate every day of life that He grants us here on earth. Even 80 or 90 years is “short.” Let us make sure there is an infinity beyond. This is what counts.