About a month ago we decided to build a picket fence in the backyard. After a long day of post hole digging Mike had a really bad headache, his neck was stiff and he just felt bad. He slept for more than 24 hours. That week he went to work one day, then spent a couple more days in bed. A visit to the doctor got him some migraine medication, and the doctor told him to come back in a week for a ct scan if the pain persists. We thought maybe he had a neck injury and thought this was all due to the fence building. It’s hard to get Mike to the doctor, so getting him to the doctor two weeks in a row…well, that wasn’t happening. Being a prior Marine he felt like he could “suck it up” and work through it. He was noticing that he was having a hard time focusing and really didn’t know why. He had mentioned several times that he felt like he would lose focus during emails and meetings at work. He noticed it was hard to function. Fast forward to last Thursday. The kids were at school for the last day of the school year. Mike planned on taking the day off to blow bubbles with Kenzie because he was leaving Friday morning for a business trip to Japan. He woke up and, in his words, “couldn’t function.” I took Kenzie out to the grocery store so that Mike could have some peace and quiet. When I got back, he told me he needed help. I was confused that he was so confused. He was in the kitchen looking for socks and I just couldn’t imagine that he was seriously having that hard of a time getting ready for the day. But I remembered the day weeks before when he stood there staring at the Keurig confused about how to make coffee. And its ridiculously simple…you put the coffee pod in, place a cup under the spout, and press a button. I helped him find clothes to get dressed and Mike, Kenzie and I headed to the ER at 10am. I focused on the confusion, because that is the part that I felt like the other doctor dismissed. The ER doctor realized that Mike had no peripheral vision in his right eye. Literally you could circle him and he wouldn’t see you until you were in front of him passing his center. This prompted the ct scan. I had to leave to pick up Cameron from school since it was a half day (yay, summer vacation! Although we still haven’t had time to be excited for summer) So Cameron, Kenzie, Mike and I were in the ER room watching cartoons and 4 nurses and 2 doctors came into the room and said they were going to take the kids out. We knew this was bad news. When I sat in the room alone at one point, I knew the very moment that I experienced THE moment before the moment everything changes. The doctor told us that there was a mass on his brain and that there was swelling, so he was going to order an MRI and admit Mike into the hospital. I took this news mustering all the strength that I had. I only had a minute to process this before they brought the kids in, so I told him he was going to be ok, and that I was going to arrange childcare for the kids, find phone numbers for his work and call the boss and let him know that Mike wouldn’t be going to Japan for the inspection, and get back to the hospital asap. He still was not thinking clearly enough to help me get a phone number for his work so I had to make some phone calls. During phone calls looking for childcare and trying to find info about phone numbers, I had a mini breakdown, but it was quick because I had to get things taken care of to get back to him. The first phone call was to a friend who was not available to babysit, but she was available to pray. The next phone call was to one of our pastors because I was sure that with her big family there would be someone available to babysit, or at least pray again. So more prayer, more strength and peace. A trend had started to become obvious. prayer = strength, peace, increase of faith. By the time I got home I was good. He was given medication for the swelling, and soon after that Mike started to think clearly. I went ahead and told the kids right away before I even went back to the hospital. I was honest, positive and strong for the conversation. I told them their Dad had a mass on his brain. When I got back to the hospital he was still laying in the ER waiting for the MRI. Finally at about 6pm we were finished with the MRI and in a room in a step down unit, which is a step down from ICU. At about 8:30pm a neurosurgeon came in to talk to us. He told us that it is a large tumor. Typically there are 3 choices. 1. Watch the tumor. (not an option because of the size and effects) 2. Biopsy to check for cancer – because of the size, this is pointless so it has to just be removed. 3. Removal. This is what he recommended.
He wanted to set a date for “next week.” We were told he would be in the hospital for a couple days while the swelling was controlled, then we could go home for a couple days or so to get things in order and then come back for the surgery. He also explained the surgery – part of the skull is removed, the tumor is removed, and the skull is replaced with titanium plates. While the surgery is taking place a piece of the tumor will be sent for a quick biopsy. If they find an extreme enough case of cancer, chemotherapy wafers (Gliadel wafers) will be implanted right then to start chemo. Otherwise we will wait about a week to find out if it is cancer, and how severe it is if that is the case – and determine if chemo or radiation needs to be the next step. After the surgery on Friday Mike will spend about a day in ICU, a day in a step down unit, and a couple days in a regular room. The doctor said that he could be out of the hospital in 4 days, and to expect about 3 weeks of recovery at home if all goes smoothly and there is no cancer. This is the best case scenario that we are praying for. Or a better scenario – God could be shrinking the tumor before the surgery even begins and the healing may already be taking place! I slept at the hospital that night and we laid awake until about 1am talking. We actually laughed a lot and cried very little during the hospital stay. The next night he was released with the medication (steroids) to continue to reduce swelling until the surgery.
This is just a side note, but I feel like it is more proof of God working in the situation – Friday morning I received my first call for an organization that I signed up to volunteer for (nilmdts.org). They provide free photos to families who’s babies have passed away before/during/after birth or are expected to pass away. When I received the call I told her I couldn’t do it. I was in the hospital, totally spent emotionally, and hadn’t had much sleep. As I hung up I realized that God knew this was the absolute perfect moment for me to take my first call. So I called her back and told her I would be on my way. I drove home, picked up my camera gear and headed to the NICU. I cannot give details of the situation due to confidentiality, but I can say that I had peace through the session. I went back to the other hospital to be with Mike from the session and knew that God had every moment of every day already planned and that I didn’t need to worry. The distraction was probably just what I needed. Photography is the only thing that submerges me in the moment. (well, during worship/prayer its the same…but they are one in the same for me) When I’m shooting, I am 100% living in the moment and no matter what else is going on in my life, I am totally focused on what I am doing and I forget about everything else. And Mike probably needed a break from me. I caught myself buttering his bagel that morning, which he was totally capable of.
The Pastor came to the hospital and started the momentum of prayer, then other Pastors came and prayed some more. People ask how Mike is taking this. I can say we have laughed a lot and have had quite a bit of peace. There have been some tears and fear, but I believe that God’s got this.
Saturday night I asked Mike if he wanted to go to church and his response was beautiful. He said “I better go” and chuckled. We stayed up until about 2 because neither of us could sleep. I’m kinda enjoying this QUALITY time. Church was great. I’m so thankful for our Pastors. The Pastors prayed for us. I will probably remember those moments forever. Standing there knowing that we will not walk this alone…words can’t describe it. I was also told I should be searching the bible for all the verses regarding healing. As soon as we got home from church I rallied the kids and had them writing them down verses on index cards as I found them. We have taped them to the walls, cabinets, mirrors, etc. We are also planning on making some type of poster for Mike’s room in the hospital. This has been an awesome family bonding experience. (a much needed family bonding experience)
Another positive note – This was a push to schedule overdue family photos. Of course being a photographer, one of my first thoughts was the importance of family photos before the procedure. It is right up there in importance with making sure his will is in place. We have only had family photos done 3 times in 13 years because it is such a hassle to try to coordinate 5 outfits, and family sessions with my family tend to be hectic and chaotic. I’m so excited that Sharon from Sharon Elizabeth Photography has fit us into her schedule Wednesday. I decided to not worry about trying to shop for outfits. We’ll pull ourselves together the best we can and be captured.
Mike and I are the absolute worst when I comes to asking for help. We just can’t do it. We both have this thing about being self sufficient. Thats hard to admit, but hey…its just a blog…only being read by people we know well… and people we don’t know at all. (haha) yikes. I have a feeling we are going to have to step out of our comfort zone. I am so thankful that so many people have offered to be there if we need anything. We might need something, and I hope we can swallow our pride and ask.
So thats it so far from my perspective.
I also want to take a moment to thank each individual who has called, texted, visited, given a hug, given words of encouragement, or left a note on facebook that they are praying or thinking of us. Knowing that we aren’t in this alone is an amazing feeling. That is why I decided to blog. I appreciate each of you and would like to share updates without spending too much time and energy updating people when I want to just be there with Mike helping him through this. I hope this blog ends up being an awesome testimony of God’s healing and restoration. This situation has already given me a testimony of peace and strength. If you know me, you know that I am a very emotional person and I tend to cry pretty easily. Its how I’m wired. BUT GOD! God has given me such peace and strength. I have cried too, but I know God has given me strength that I didn’t know I had. It is God that got me through the news in the ER, that gave me strength and peace to tell the children, gave me the emotional strength during the first hospital stay to be able to “be chipper” and keep things positive and light hearted. In the hospital Mike asked why I was so chipper. I told him its because I believe everything is going to work out (back to the prayers) and that I thought a positive attitude was the best approach. Just like Romans 8:28 says, I know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. God has a plan here, and I’m trusting Him and I’m excited to see it through. Let’s do this, God!!