Real Face Time: How a Diagnosis of Brain Tumor Can Change Your Priorities

The first week of December, my husband Dan and I flew to the Pacific Northwest forFamilyPix2014 our Very First Ever Visit with both of our children, their spouses, and all three of our beautiful grandsons.

Life doesn’t get any better than this–even though the babies had croup, were teething, and cried pretty much the whole time.

 Crying and mayhem didn’t matter because we were together, enjoying REAL Face Time.

But on December 30, I was lying on my back in the neurology unit of our local hospital, awaiting surgery.

My diagnosis: glioma–a nickel-sized tumor surrounding my brain and producing swelling.

My neuro surgeon had calmly explained the risks and realities of what my MRIs had shown. The mass was in an inoperable location. They would be able to take only half of it through a craniotomy procedure in an effort to biopsy a sample. Little had a I realized when I walked into my doctor’s office several days before Christmas for pain and tingling in my face that I would be facing brain surgery and a life-challenging diagnosis. What have in learned in these past several weeks?

1. Life is fragile–handle with gratitude.

That FIRST trip to see my grandchildren suddenly came into focus. It could well have been my ONLY opportunity to see my children and grandchildren together. Had I invested those moments well? Would I have gone back and done anything differently?

2. Reconcile, and do it today.

Holding an offense against someone? Don’t wait for them to make the first move–do it today. We’re called to a ministry of reconciliation as Christians. No ifs, ands, or buts.

3. Look and talk like Jesus.

The world pretty much despises Christians because we can be so busy judging the world, that we forget to love the world. And to love them the way Jesus loved them–sacrificially, and always in ways that would glorify God. He tells us that we can’t claim to love him if we’re not loving others. Even our enemies. My enemies–those people who have treated me unjustly and the people I love unjustly. I’m supposed to love them. (Which doesn’t mean giving them a free pass on the consequences of their actions, by the way). But it means releasing my bitterness and anger and praying God’s best in their lives.

I was blessed with five days between my diagnosis and brain surgery. I wrote some letters. Made some calls. Humbled my heart. I’m learning every day what these three lessons mean, and they’re HARD, but they’re sweet.

What about YOU? What would your priorities become if you were suddenly told you had inoperable brain cancer?

4 thoughts on “Real Face Time: How a Diagnosis of Brain Tumor Can Change Your Priorities

  1. I’m so sorry you’re going through this. I had a tumor on my pituitary gland seven years ago, and it was most certainly a life-changing event. Thankfully it was benign, but I lived through months of not having a clue what was going on before the surgery (it took 8 months to get it diagnosed because my symptoms were so odd no one put two and two together) and several months of very painful recovery afterward. I’m not sure I would say my priorities changed due to that experience, but I did learn a lot about gratitude and letting go.

    Hoping for the best for you. -Amy at

    • I consider myself blessed. Right now I only have preliminary results, but it appears that I may be dealing with a remitting/rellapsing form of MS. My lesion appears to be a tume-factive type of MS demylenating lesion. Final report pending from Mayo Clinic, however. Thank you, Amy.

  2. Hi Shelly, I’m not sure what to say … but in the middle of the night my abusive & unbelieving spouse had an angry outburst and today my car won’t start..!!!!. I got up… after really no rest & received this message. I am so shocked w/ your news … it made me sad, as my mom died of brain cancer not that long ago… I felt so sad & shed more tears.Then went back to bed & prayed for you.-Today my husband went to work so maybe a few short hours of rest .Your words are so true and good & helpful for me today and so my thankfulness goes to you with these spiritual tips! I live in Grand Rapids & maybe we could meet up….. I’m curious of what the prognosis is if the rest of the tumor is non operable?? I will be thinking of you “Live each day” In Christ Jesus, Dawn[?]

    • Hi, Dawn. Thank you so much for your concern, and I’m so glad you’ve asked questions. I’ve just received a preliminary biopsy report: demylenating lesion consistent with MS. Most MS lesions appear higher up in the brain; mine appears near the brain stem and images like a tumor. But docs are beginning to reverse their original diagnosis of glioma. I had an identical event in 1999, with a demylenating lesion in the same place in my brain. I believe it’s highly likely that I’ve lived with a form of remitting-relapsing MS since then, but I haven’t had the official diagnosis, treatment, or another flare until now. My biopsy has been sent to Mayo Clinic for further evaluation, and I hope to hear back sometime next week.

      I know my blog mentioned reconciliation. But God does not expect women to tolerate and thus empower and feed abuse. I write about this in my newest release, “Love Letters from the Edge,” co-written with Wanda Sanchez. If you are in danger of abuse, take steps to protect yourself. But a plan of action in place. Sometimes leaving an abusive situation is a first step of accountability on behalf of our loved one–and ourself. Know that I’m praying for you, too, Dawn.

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