It was twenty-five years ago today that the most definitive event of my life occurred. I was seven years old, and I had brain surgery. I had a tumor that had caused me to stop growing for about two years. I was the same size in the second grade as in kindergarten. I developed piercing headaches that would wrack my tiny body. The memory still burns brightly in my mind: writhing on my parents’ bed with a cold cloth on my face, certain that I was dying, my mother sitting next to me silently, helplessly. I may have been a little girl, but even I knew something was terribly wrong.
The tumor was removed. The surgery left me with a non-functioning Endocrine system, a 40% loss of my visual fields, the loss of my sense of smell, and my life. Through the years I’ve wondered what I would be like if none of this had happened to me. Who would I be now? Surely the trauma, the lifelong medical problems, shaped who I am physically and emotionally. What would I look like? Act like? Feel like?
People find solace in the idea that everything happens for a reason. Honestly, I do not believe that, no more than I believe that God causes bad things to happen to us. I do believe with every fiber of my being that God can take any situation and use it for good.
I do not know what I would be like if I’d never had a brain tumor, but I do know that I am blessed with a loving husband, two beautiful daughters, and a body that lets me live the life of my dreams. Surviving a medical crisis is part of the tapestry of my life, a thread that can neither be extracted nor ignored, as it was the point at which the path of all future events was determined. This one thread combines, woven together with thousands of other experiences, to form a picture of grace, love, and joy.