Sunday, May 20, 2012

Dave

In a week, Dave is having brain surgery. That tight ball of anxiety with which I'm so familiar is not there. Somehow it seems wrong. If there was ever a time to worry, this would be it.  I wonder if it's peace. Or if it's a denial mechanism.
Dave, as a freshman.

I guess I've gotten to this place from being married to Dave for 25 years. I've never once heard him say that he's worried. Concerned, yes. But not worried. He shrugs off the small stuff. And it's all small stuff compared to what he's been through.


The course of Dave's life changed when he was 17. He grew up in California. A gifted athlete, he was the star running back on his high school football team. By the end of his junior year, colleges were already looking at him including Penn State and West Point.  During football practice his senior year, he began having severe headaches and blurred vision.

The doctors thought the headaches were caused by being worn down from mono combined with the effects of multiple concussions playing football. He went to an optometrist to have his eyes checked. The optometrist examined him and sent him to a neurologist that same day.

He had a brain tumor growing around his optic nerve. He had surgery to remove what was a benign meningioma. He began recovery and was hoping to finish out the football season.

But the headaches returned. Another tumor had grown in the cerebellum, the area that controls balance and coordination. He underwent a second surgery. And then another emergency surgery after he started convulsing. His brain was swelling and hemorrhaging. One-third of the right hemisphere of his brain was removed. A fourth reparatory surgery was done to place mesh where the brain tissue was removed.

The doctors said he wouldn't ever be able to walk again. Dave's incredibly stubborn. Tell him what he can't do, and he'll set out to prove you wrong.

Dave had been the golden boy. The once star athlete had to relearn how to walk, talk, and write with his left hand instead of his right. The simplest tasks required intense concentration to compensate for traumatic brain injury. Playing sports was no longer an option. He finished the school year at home with a tutor. At graduation, he walked down the aisle assisted by his brother, Mike, at his side.

In his brokenness, he turned his life over to God. He spent the next five years rehabilitating himself to the point he was able to start classes at the community college and hold a job.

I met him several years after this. I admired his faith and how he had overcome adversity. He was good for me. He was the only guy who wouldn't put up with my flakiness. He told me, "I don't have time for this." We were married eight months later.

After we had Amber, we moved to Minnesota. We started working at Mayo; Dave started  to be seen by Neurology. A scan showed a small tumor, most likely residual tissue left from previous surgeries. Since it was small and wasn't growing, it was decided to monitor it with yearly scans. Each year the MRI showed that the tumor had not grown.

But we both felt like we were living with a time bomb. One year Dave's regular neurologist wasn't available. He saw another doctor, a soft-spoken man from India who was about to retire. I expressed my fears. He gave wise advice that I have hung onto ever since. "Leave here, enjoy your life and don't worry. You could live worrying about what may never happen, and you will have lived in fear needlessly. If he does one day need surgery, we will help him, but you will have lived through the experience twice."

Matthew 6:34 says this and has special meaning,"So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

Seven years ago he did get another tumor, this time in his spine. He underwent a fifth neurosurgery. Meningiomas are the most common type of brain tumor. They are almost always slow growing and don't grow back when removed. Dave's are atypical, fast growing and which often reoccur in other parts of the brain or spine. The spinal tumor grew back in six months and was treated with radiation.

Six weeks ago, an MRI showed he had two brain tumors; the original one having tripled in size. He is scheduled for surgery May 29th. We are grateful to be at Mayo. What are the odds that this California boy would end up in Minnesota working for Mayo which is rated number one in the country for Neurosurgery?

There is risk for further impairment, although Dr. Marsh says the risks are low and he will do his utmost to avoid damaging the surrounding brain tissue.

We have relative peace. I enjoy my days not thinking too much about what's ahead. When I do tell someone about Dave's surgery I get emotional. Mainly because I'm grieved that Dave has to go through this again. I so hope and pray he comes out with no further impairments.

The hardest part about brain injury is being misunderstood. Until you know what he's been through, Dave can come across as abrupt as he compensates for the part of his brain that's missing. He has many physical limitations but has compensated so well that it is often too subtle to detect.  Every day is a struggle.

He has persevered where most people would have given up. He has never wavered from his faith.  He's one of the most unpretentious guys I've met.  He unapologetically tells it like it is. He has a dry sense of humor that's hilarious. He's an amazing guy.

Despite its ups and downs, our lives have been rich with blessings. We have three beautiful kids,  supportive family and friends, a wonderful church home, and a God who is always near.  Whatever lies ahead, we'll deal with it, praying, being grateful for the blessings, and allowing God to use our circumstances for good.
Our beautiful family.

23 comments:

  1. Beautifully written, Jac . . . will be praying for a successful surgery and quick recovery . . . and peace for you and your family. Love you . . .

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    1. Thanks so much, Tracie. That means a lot. Love you too!

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  2. Jacci, you and Dave and the family will be in our thoughts and prayers! If you need anything at all please do not hesitate to ask. Mayo is good and God is great! He is in the best hands possible all the way around.

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    1. Thank you, Jodi. We are blessed to have our brothers and sisters standing in the gap.

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  3. sjhorstmann@hotmail.comMay 20, 2012 at 3:59 PM

    My thoughts and prayers are with you all!
    My husband had a TBI 5 years ago, and there is not a day that I wouldn't be by his side.
    Sharon

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    1. Thank you, Sharon. You understand the struggle then.

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  4. Your blog touched me deeply...He will provide. Thinking of you and your beautiful family in the coming weeks. Praying for peace and healing. love, Karyn

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    1. Thanks, Karyn! It's comforting to have friends pulling for you.

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  5. I had no idea after all these years. You guys will be continually in my prayers. I pray that Jesus, The Great Physician, will completely heal Dave and restore him fully. I pray for peace through The Holy Spirit. God bless you both.
    Marc Campbell from the old Vineyard Whittier days.

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    1. So good to hear from you, Marc. We have such good memories of the Vineyard. It was an awesome time with awesome friends like you. Thank you!

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  6. Jacci...you write so beautifully. Wow! Our friendship goes back a long ways. Nearly 45 years. You are an amazing woman!! Beautiful family!! Dave has always had that wonderful gift to make me smile! I will be praying and praying for Dave, and all of you... God Bless... Hugs... Joy S.

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    1. Thank you, sweet friend! Nothing like having history together...

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  7. Jacci and Dave....wow what a journey you both have been through.I know that G-d is with you both, but there will still be concern until he is on the road to recovery. Sounds like he is in good hands both from G-d the Father and also the surgeon and surgical staff. We will be praying on Tuesday. Love you both.Russ(Rusty)

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    1. Thanks, brother! You and Debby were there at the start of the journey for me. Bless you both and hope you are doing well. Love you both!

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  8. Praying Jacci... :::::hugs:::::

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  9. Continuing to pray for you all! You are like family to me and my heart goes out to you all. I'll be coming down Sunday and the first chunk of Monday, so if there is ANYTHING you need help with or just to be there, let me know. I love you all! God will provide.

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    1. Thank, Pipps. So great to have you and your family in our lives! :)

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  10. Jacci, We will be praying for you guys. WOW! We love you guys and we are here for you whatever you need let us know.

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    1. Love you, too, Judy. You've always been there for our family.

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  11. Jacci,

    You and Dave are in my prayers. Remember nothing ever can, nothing everwill overcome the Lord our God. He is victorious!

    This is just a blip on the road of life.

    Wanetta

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  12. I never really knew the full story. Thanks for the excellent way you wrote it. Praying for healing downloads from God and the eradication of these tumors, just like He did with our friend Mario. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. His love never fails.

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    1. Thank you! You must be one of the friends from our Whittier days. Thank you for your prayers. That's what our prayer is...that there would be no more tumors. Bless you...

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