by Carol Sokolsky
It was a long day, and how Sid did it, I had no idea. I was falling apart — while trying to keep it together — but watching him with that steel contraption attached to his head just almost made me pass out. Yet he was so brave.
The neurosurgeon would not even let me into the room as they attached the “birdcage” to Sid’s skull. The chemo had taken his hair, so nothing needed to be shaved. His radiology oncologist had prepared us both well for what would occur that day. It would start with another MRI of his brain. The medical team wanted the most recent locations of all the tumors. The one in his brain stem was the key, because only a slight dose of radiation would be applied to that one as it was the largest and most critical tumor. Why, I wondered, did Sid have to go through this day of horror?
We knew it would be a long day; at least ten hours in that horrible “birdcage” before the stereotactic surgery would even occur. Stereotactic radial surgery, as we were told, was our only option, since the largest tumor was lodged in Sid’s brain stem and was growing. He had endured weeks of full brain radiation about 5 months prior, but the only thing it really did for him was make everything taste like silverware for months.
So, my very brave husband opted for doing whatever he had to do to arrest the tumors in his brain. His only real fear was that he’d become one of those people that can’t walk, talk or control anything, and surgery was not an option. So he braved the fear and again, proved why he was my hero of heroes.
After laying there for 13 long hours — with little conversation because he hurt so badly — he was wheeled down to what I call “radiation hell,” because it was in the third basement – practically a tomb! Those hours he waited were busy ones for the radiology oncologist, the neurosurgeon and the team that performs the procedure. They literally engineered his brain. The MRI showed exactly where the tumors were, and grids were set up to ensure that the intense laze of radiation was exacting to the tumors only, and direct how much radiation would be applied to each.
Yes, he was in pain. And finally, after those 13 hours, tears rolled from his eyes and my heart broke. He was so strong, so brave, and I was just falling to pieces. He was given heavy pain meds and then wheeled into “surgery.” It would last only moments for each tumor, but there were 8 tumors that required strict and precise attention. I sat and cried like a baby in the waiting area. I was not the brave one. Nope. I fell to pieces.
I sent a text to my sister, my rock. I was a mess and needed her calmness. She reminded me to open my Bible app and to just read verses that would bring me peace. So I did. Isaiah 43: 1-4: “Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you. I’ve called your name. You’re mine. When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down. When you’re between a rock and a hard place, it won’t be a dead end — for I am God, your personal God, your savior. I paid a huge price for you…That’s how much you mean to me! That’s how much I love you!…So don’t be afraid; I’m with you” (The Message).
Sid got through stereotactic and, after almost 15 hours, the “birdcage” was removed and he got to eat M&Ms (like they were going out of style). The doctors all told us that his stereotactic was the most intricate and longest process they had done yet to date. And the medical team told us that he was brave and courageous with what they knew to be a very painful process. Yes, the stereotactic radial surgery slowed down the tumor growth and a couple even diminished, but in the end, it didn’t really matter.
I found pictures of Sid and his birdcage last week, which immediately sparked this article. What I want to communicate is this: So many are suffering with cancer and other illnesses that require such bravery and courage. And outside of Jesus, where does that strength come from, I wonder? I don’t know if it is even possible.
Actually, Sid’s stereotactic day was the beginning of my journey to a real relationship with Jesus. I was getting there, slowly, very slowly.
And I was praying for God to just show me — somehow — but it was actually the words of my sister that gave me a jolt, and helped me realize that I had access to God —even in that “radiation hell” basement.
Now, I read these words like this: “Don’t be afraid, Carol; I’ve redeemed you. I’ve called your name, Carol. You’re mine. When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down. When you’re between a rock and a hard place, it won’t be a dead end — for I am God, your personal God, your savior. I paid a huge price for you, Carol…That’s how much you mean to me! That’s how much I love you!…So don’t be afraid, Carol; I’m with you.”
The waters are deep, dark and scary when life crumbles and dreams are shattered.
Watching someone you love suffer, knowing you have no control, is a place I never want to visit again. But no longer do I panic with paralyzing fear, because fear no longer has a hold over me. Jesus paid a huge price for me. The risen Lord never leaves me. And Jesus is just waiting for you to invite him into your life. So have that conversation with Jesus. I did. I’m empowered. I’m grateful.
I’m forever changed.
Carol Sokolsky is a contributing writer for the918. She moved to Tulsa in fall of 2014 after several significant life changes, including the death of her husband in 2012, and continues to write about her Journey through life. She, too, faced fear and uncertainty in watching her husband face medical procedures that were dangerous and painful, yet required for any life sustaining hope. Carol found her ultimate peace not in the outcome of the procedure, but in the life changing relationship with Jesus.