Let's not be afraid to receive each day's surprise; whether it comes to us as sorrow or as joy it will open a new place in our hearts, a place where we can welcome new friends and celebrate more fully our shared humanity. – Henri Nouwen
One year ago today, I received news that buckled my knees and changed me forever. The bombshell that defined my existence for many months to come had actually been brewing for a long time, maybe years. We just didn't know it.
The tiny-but-mighty troublemaker made its grand appearance two weeks prior over a casual, Friday-night dinner at the neighborhood pub, when my husband came down with a bout of hiccups. He held his breath – no luck. We laughed a little embarrassedly and he excused himself from the table to get a breath of fresh air, but he still couldn't shake them. And this is how it went for the rest of that weekend. Spoonsful of sugar, drinking water upside down… the hiccups persisted.
Rather than commute to Dallas that Sunday evening as he had done every week for the past three years, Tim agreed to see if he could schedule time with our family doctor Monday morning. Fortunately, she squeezed him in. With a prescription of muscle relaxants in hand (she suspected something had simply triggered his diaphragm to spasm) we expected this to be over in a matter of hours.
The pills helped, until they didn't. They made it so Tim could sleep (without them, he hiccupped every three to four seconds) but within days, he had to double the dosage to get any relief. A return trip to Dr. Smith led to MRIs of his head, chest and abdomen. And a few days after that, I got a phone call from my husband, now back in Dallas trying to work through hiccups that evolved into barky coughing fits and occasionally, dry heaves. He asked how I was doing. He wondered if I was busy.
"I'm fine. Why? Did you get your results?"
"I did," he said pausing to take a breath, "are you sure you're not busy? I think you should sit down."
"I'm sitting down." I wasn't sitting down. I was standing at the kitchen counter feeling my heart accelerate in my chest, "What's going on?"
"Um… uh… I just got off the phone with Dr. Smith. I don't know how to... uh… okay, I have a brain tumor."
My jaw slacked and my knees buckled. I gripped the counter to keep from falling on the floor. And within seconds, it was as if my life – my ideas, my goals, my plans – had been tossed into the air like a deck of card that landed in a new order. There were things I suddenly knew for sure. Truths revealed themselves to me instantaneously and very unexpectedly, and their clarity that couldn't be denied.
That moment set the stage for what would be a year of life-altering change, beginning with surgery to remove a 1.5-centimeter tumor at the base of Tim's brain, which had been pressing on nerves that control the diaphragm. The weeks and months to come were a time of unexpected growth, divine connections and spiritual awakening that inspire me to share my stories, even when finding words is hard – especially when finding words is hard.
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