Today is one year from my original surgery. I feel so far away and at the same time, so close to that moment in my mind. There is nothing that could have prepared me for the last year of my life. Never in a million years would I have imagined I would have a brain tumor. Never in a million years would I have imagined I would have had facial paralysis… but they both happened.
For weeks before my surgery we prayed, received prayer and believed God as His word for healing instead of surgery. And while the day of surgery still came we were encouraged by the words we had received along the way that everything was under control. I remember getting ready for surgery, sitting in the pre-op bed and being nervous. I reminded myself that God had spoken to me and he said there would be an end and it would be good. I rehearsed these moments over and over in my head as I waited for Jonah to join me. Once he was at my side with my hand in his, the anesthesiologist was close behind and I soon drifted off to sleep.
I remember waking up from surgery and seeing a clock slowly come into focus. In the ICU I could hear Jonah’s voice immediately there telling me my 8 hour surgery had turned into a 14 hour ordeal to extract the tumor which had been attached to my brain stem. I remember knowing I couldn’t move my face, but I don’t remember the moment I was told… probably better that way. I couldn’t talk above a whisper, I couldn’t swallow anything. In addition to my face, one of my vocal chords had also been paralyzed in the process.
The stay in the hospital is all but a fuzzy blur. Some moments I wish were more fuzzy. Jonah had visited the maternity ward and told them about our ordeal. Maelie was just two months old at the time so they gave him a bassinet to wheel her around in. She was such a champ. So peaceful and happy, she is such a gift of God that way. Iyla was blissfully unaware of a lot. She knew mommy was at the doctors. She would come in and sit next to me on the bed, eat snacks and then in true toddler fashion grow bored and need to leave. Not once did she look at me with my head wrap and eye patch and shy away. To her I was still just mommy and I am so grateful for that. Friends and family took turns staying with me at night while Jonah handled the girls. I have the absolute best of the best. I don’t remember much, but I know I needed medicine and ice and bed pans and they all took me on in stride. I was about as useful as a newborn, crying and sleeping, but they were there for whatever I needed. My siblings were so brave. We had lost our dad just 4 years previous. I know nothing about this experience could have been easy on them. If I could have avoided everything just so that they wouldn’t have had to set foot in a hospital again I would have. I’m the big sister, I’m supposed to take care of them, but the tables turned and they were there to encourage and love on me. I’m so blessed. My mom is a super hero. She doesn’t take anything from anyone. I don’t know what was going on in her head, but on her face was a smile and a “God’s got this, Nat”. She made sure that I knew even when I didn’t, that everything was going to be ok. Jonahs parents were the best. They were by my side as if I were their own. I don’t know what I did to receive such amazing selfless people in my life, but I really won the lottery in them. And finally my husband. When I went to sleep before surgery I knew I had a great husband. Today as I sit writing this I know I have a true champion of a partner that could be rivaled by no one. This year has been filled with so many tears. Time after time as I broke down weeping Jonah would meet me and tell me I was beautiful and loved and getting better. His fortitude and strength in this process I will admire for our entire life. When we vow to love each other for better or worse, in sickness and in health, those words have an expression, and Jonah has defined them above and beyond what you ever expect you’d have to in a marriage.
My recovery has taken me to the edge and back time and time again. In my mind I had imagined my year anniversary being this victorious moment where the pain of this journey was nothing more than a distant memory. And while much of it is, I am still walking it out. With this latest surgery and now infection treatment, I am reminded of how precious life is and just how fragile this existence can be. I wish I could say this has been easier, but this experience has challenged the deepest parts of who I am. It’s made me ask questions I don’t want to ask and face things I don’t want to face. But at the same time it’s shown me the true kindness and love in those around me, it’s shown me how in the midst of trials it’s possible to still walk in peace and joy. And it’s shown me the sweetest places of the Fathers presence where when he speaks all the noise fades and he can cut through even the most daunting challenge. Sure, I would rather read a book and learn these lessons. But I know there’s a plan here, I don’t know what it looks like on the other side of all of this, but I know He’s there. And I know so are those who have surrounded me in such love. So today instead of looking for piece of wisdom to share I just want to say, thank you. This experience has humbled me to my core and has never left me disappointed in people. Just know that those walking out challenges around you are sometimes more dependent on your encouragement than either of you realize. God has quieted my heart a million times over, but it’s been through the mouths of those around me that those whispers and promises have been confirmed. I’m no where near where I was and I’m no where near where I want to be, but today I feel encouraged. I’m looking forward to so much life sitting right in front of me. Today I’m so grateful and I encourage you, no matter what you are walking through today to be grateful for the gift of life in your veins and the love in those around you.
2 Corinthians 4:7-9
“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— “