Through The Fire
Brain Tumor 101. Edie and I needed to share with our children, who to this point didn't know anything about what was going on. That is except for the fact that our oldest, Kaitlyn, whose curiosity eventually led her to ask us what we kept going into our bedroom about. This sparked a fire with our younger two, Grant, and Mandy. We finally decided to have a discussion with them once we had made all of our decisions and had all of the planning worked out.
Before all of the craziness started, my wife and I and our three children were able to slip away for several days to one of our favorite places, Hutchinson Island, FL. Thanks to our great friend Brett Thomas who owned the beautiful condo, it was almost a yearly retreat for us as a family. Except this time it was to be way more special to all of us.
It was while we were there, that we discussed my health concerns and my family and I had a memorable Bible devotional. This devotional is when my family and I decided on our family's favorite Bible verse. It's Isaiah 41:10 that says:
"Fear not, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."
We all memorized that verse that day and it remains special to us this today. Our kids and I will always treasure those special moments together as a family.
Planning our trip to be away from our kids and for the removal of my brain tumor was a very overwhelming to both Edie and I. We had been charting a course where, as I had written earlier, was a little uneasy to me because I didn't know when, where, or how the next storm in life would come. I just knew that it would. Glad I had Jesus.
Remembering how I felt before as unused by God, I didn't want to mess this up by doubting what He was doing. Feeling strengthened and confident that everything would be okay, I kept my head high, prayed to Jesus, and trusted.
A week and a half before we were to leave for North Carolina, our good friends and next door neighbors Mark and Melanie Parmer invited us over for fellowship and prayer before we left. While we were there it was so amazing to feel God's presence during our prayer time. I remember when Mark prayed, and and how I felt every word that he spoke and felt as if God was standing right over us. It was incredibly powerful.
On Sunday, Edie had arranged for me to be with all of the pastors at our church to be anointed with oil. That was one of the most special times with the Lord that I can remember. I am so thankful for my pastors at First Baptist Church of Orlando.
So we made the long trip up to North Carolina, a trip of which I remember driving most of the way. CeCe, Edie, and I were on our way to have my brain tumor removed, a Craniopharyngioma. I had said the name some many times from sharing with people, and explaining what led up to being diagnosed, that now the word Craniopharyngioma just rolled off my tongue.
CeCe said, "Charlie are you getting tired?" "Why don't you pull over somewhere and let me take over."
"No, I'm doing alright." I said.
CeCe is the type of person who is always looking after the well being of everyone. She truly has been blessed with a servant's heart. She has been an incrediblly great friend to our family. Especially to Edie. I truly believe that every mother and wife needs a great mentor. I am so glad and blessed that she is a mentor to my dear wife. She has poured so much into my Edie, and I can never ever thank her enough for that.
Well I knew CeCe could eventually get me to pull the van over for me to let her drive. As much as I wanted to be the man and drive all the way to Raleigh, I finally relinquished the helm.
"Now you pull over and let me drive."
I couldn't say no to her again. Little did I know how significant that moment would be later in my life after my brain tumor surgery.
Peace Be Still
On the Monday after arriving in North Carolina, Edie and I met with Dr. Fukushima and his assistant Lori for a consultation. The purpose of the meeting with him was so that he could answer all the unanswered questions that we had.
Although we had several phone calls with Lori, we really had not gotten to speak with Dr. Fukushima yet.
After we met with Lori and gave her the CD ROM from my MRI, we sat and waited in the lobby of Dr. Fukushima's office for him to review the disc. I couldn't sit for very long. We were in the office of a great surgeon who is very well known all over the world. He had performed more than 1,000 brain surgeries in and around the optic nerve, optic tract, optic chiasm, and the pituitary gland with great success. He had performed more brain surgeries on brain tumors including the Chraniopharyngioma than all of the other surgeons we had interviewed combined. This boosted my confidence. I was pumped up and ready to get this brain tumor out of my head.
On the walls of his office lobby were huge plaques, recognition, awards, thank you letters, pictures, and posters from so many people that Dr. Fukushima helped. He helped these people get through one of the worst times of their lives. Seeing all of those stories of newspaper articles and clippings sent chills off my spine and down onto my arms and throughout the rest of my body.
Most people have had their life immensely impacted by someone that they know who has had a brain tumor. A brain tumor comes in all types, the worst of them being malignant. Being there in that office at that moment looking at some of those photos and the names of people who Dr. Fukushima had helped save, reminded me of the irony of my situation.
The irony was that I had worked as a pharmaceutical representative for the past 12 years. And in those 12 years at least 10 of them I was a specialist focusing on oncology and helping cancer patients receive their medications. While I was with with Walgreens I was hired as their sole oncology specialist in the country. I traveled to national meetings where I would train the new reps and also those who had no prior oncology experience as I coached a team in the SE Region. In that position I felt well liked, well respected, and very much appreciated.
What added grief to my situation, is that one of my best friends, Kent Jones from Tennessee, lost his wife Kaye Jones to a terrible and aggressive Glioblastoma.
At first she noticed head aches that continued for some time. One of the most obvious symptoms of a brain tumor is that of a headache that last and can be very painful as in my case. One day as Kent and Kaye were in Orlando visiting family, she developed a headache that was so violent that he had to take her to the emergency room. A cat scan revealed a mass. Kaye was referred her to MD Anderson. The neurosurgeon in Orlando told Kaye that she had a Glioblastoma, a highly malignant brain tumor.
Now Kaye, with an A++ personality, is the type of person who will tell you like it is. She didn't take any flack from anyone and was more than willing to speak truth to you, in case you needed to be corrected. She would be more than happy to put you in your place and make you feel glad about it at the same time.
The neurosurgeon told her, "Get your affairs in order, you only have one month to live."
At that exact moment with perfect timing Kaye looked him in the eye with total peace and she said to him...
"I'm a winner either way."
These words of truth from a faithful follower of Jesus, flowed from her soul with complete peace. Peace in knowing that if she died she would get to be with Jesus.
Not accepting what they were told, they notified Kent's brother, who is one of the top in charge at a medical facility in town, arranged surgery with a highly respected neurosurgeon.
For the next two and a half years of her life, her family and friends wrapped her up in love in every way imaginable. Kaye who was fearless, survived two brain surgeries and two and a half years of chemotherapy, passed away.
These extra years gave Kaye more time to spend with her sweet little girl Hannah, who perhaps may not have remembered her Momma if she had passed away sooner. But during those three years, you never heard Kaye complain, she didn't worry, she just shared the joy of knowing Jesus and wanted everyone who she came in contact with her to know the love and the peace that she knew.
After slipping out of my thoughts of Kaye, with a transfixed gaze up at that wall in the doctor's office, I felt the irony of my circumstances. I remembered Kent and Kaye's unwavering faith. Their faith in Jesus, the love they shared, and the giving of their time as their most valuable possession. Indeed it was. When you looked at them, knowing what could possibly be the inevitable, you would see Kaye as an overcomer. She had no worries and no strife. She firmly believed and was heavily rooted in her faith and completely at peace knowing that possibly one day soon she could be in the arms of Jesus.
Dr. Fukushima RE:
My Brain Tumor
I was so thankful and grateful to know that most likely the type of brain tumor that I had was not cancerous as was Kaye's. But as we walked into Dr. Fukushima's office what we were about to hear, took the breath away from us.
Before we began our discussion of questions and answers, he wanted to know how I found out about my tumor. When I mentioned that I was having headaches he was quite surprised.
He said to me, "You mean to tell me that you found your tumor because of headaches?"
And I began the explanation of how my symptoms started with what was thought to be Bell's Palsy, and also how one month later I had tremendous headaches and pain behind my left eye that didn't go away.
Dr. Fukushima leaned over to me and said, "You are very lucky you found this."
He continued, "Most people who have this type of tumor do not realize it until it is too late."
He said, "It spreads into the brain like fingers."
He waived his fingers in the air.
"And by the time you realize it there is nothing that can be done...it's too late." You'd be sitting here listening to me and not understanding a word that I am saying to you."
"Now." He said with a familiar accent. "There is something that you need to know and understand."
"Okay. What is that?" I said.
He lowered his tone into a very serious manner and he said, "This is a very risky surgery. Not only for your eyesight, which you already are aware of."
He continued in all seriousness.
"After you brought the CD Rom to me, I see more clearly in the disc than in the film that you mailed to me, that your brain tumor is really really close to the Basilar Artery. When I go in there it will be extremely difficult to work around this."
I swallowed and my heart pounded as Edie and I looked at each other.
Dr. Fukushima then said, "If I...if I...just one nick of the Basilar Artery and you will die on the table. There is no way to stop the bleeding. There will be nothing anyone can do to save you.!"
There was total silence as both Edie and I took it all in. It was unimaginable that we were there in the first place. I was there for a brain tumor removal and could die in the OR. Whew...But, no matter what we were just told, I still had a total peace about proceeding. I truly felt that God had a purpose and this was adding to my story that He wanted for me to tell. I knew as I had felt then when I was first diagnosed, that God was not through with me yet.
Philipians 4:13 "I can do all things through him who gives me strength." -niv