Being diagnosed with brain cancer, or cancer of any kind, can be a life changing and defining moment. It is so often associated with fear, worry, anxiety, and maybe even helplessness; filled with the desire to find answers and a sense of hope.
My wife Allie was diagnosed with a brain tumor at the age of 24, one year into our marriage and the beginning of us planning for our future filled with promise. I found myself looking for someone or something to turn to in these moments of deep despair. For both of us, we chose to lean on our faith in God, and strived to make Him that source of peace, comfort, hope and strength when there seemed to be little to come by. We both made the very personal decision that when faced with this very tall obstacle that was her cancer, we would run to God as our ultimate source of comfort and protection.
Allie had been having various symptoms for nearly a year prior to that first dreaded MRI on October 13th, 2016 that showed the mass on her brain. I had actually returned to work that day after completion of her MRI thinking ‘it must not be too serious, or they would have admitted her.’ It wasn’t a short hour later that Allie called me at work saying her primary care doctor wanted to see her immediately. That was the moment that it all began to sink in, that I really wasn’t in control here, and this may not be the news we wanted. Sitting in the physician’s office and hearing the words that your wife has a brain tumor almost felt like an out of body experience. Initially numb from the weight of it all, it was later that evening and into the next day that the fear and anger set in. This was a mere 2 weeks prior to our first wedding anniversary, which only added to the emotions of the situation.
It was in this place, this moment where I felt stuck, helpless, and scared; not knowing what the next few weeks would hold as we approached surgery, that I broke down into prayer. Not only was I seeking comfort, but also answers. Answers that I knew her amazing medical team couldn’t provide. I would be lying if I said I didn’t ask the common “why us” question. While I understand God would never purposefully give us an obstacle like this to negotiate, I do think it is normal and very human to ask the “why” question. Even though I am not convinced we will ever really know the answer. In the moment, though, I don’t believe we should dwell in that thought, I think it is good to ask those questions. It grounds us; it humbles us; and it makes it known that we are in need of a comfort that I believe only God can provide. It was in this place, this vulnerable and lonely moment, that I felt the overwhelming sense of peace and comfort in which I was searching. The reassurance, that while I wasn’t in control, He was. As weird as it may sound to some, it was just a few days prior to surgery, sitting on our living room couch, that I felt the fruit of those prayers. God reassuring me and providing me with a comfort and confidence that my wife was going to be okay!
As a caregiver there is much being required of you physically, mentally, and emotionally. Whether it be after a diagnosis, after a surgery, or during follow up scans there is someone relying on you to be strong, to be supportive, and to be always ready to assist. It is a hard task; it is a task that I personally didn’t always know I could succeed at. Currently, Allie has had over 20 MRI’s, a cumulative total of 40 days of radiation, and is completing chemo. All of which is naturally associated with a lot of time to stress, worry, and cry which clashes with the feelings of needing to be strong, comforting, and courageous. It is God who has been my outlet, my support. Even though I have felt the gravity of the stress and the worry over the years, it is my faith that has made a seemingly impossible situation possible. And through it all I experienced the largest spiritual and personal growth of my life. I came to understand that caring for someone you love could actually be a fulfilling experience and can make your love for them even greater.
As a caregiver, patient or loved one, there are many avenues to explore when finding a way to cope with the consuming emotions that you will face going through this journey.
To learn more about Mitch and other caregivers, visit our Caregiver Ambassador page.