I am about to share my story from this past year, and I hope if you continue to read, that first you go back and read what I wrote on October 19th. My last writing hopefully sets the stage for the heart of this writing. This is how my story goes...
From Fall to fall...my life has been tested and my life has been taken by surprise. I have received blessing beyond blessing and my heart has been captured anew by the grace of God. September, one year ago, I met a man named Jamie- a good man with kindness in his eyes, faith and honesty in his soul, and a keen sense of wit and sarcasm that brings out laughter in those around him. This was a man with a strong heart to serve, a steadfast love for his friends and family, and a gentle spirit (but don't let that spirit fool you, as his drive for life and adventure pulses in every vein). Something was different about this man from the day we met, and my heart was brimming with peace and growing in newfound love I had never known before. On our second phone call I had to tell him news no guy wants to hear from a girl he just met and had started to pursue, "So, you want to hear something crazy? I have a brain tumor..." I thought that was the end of it, our goodbye before it ever really began...but he didn't skip a beat. At the strangest, most daunting time in my life, I found deep friendship with this strong man named Jamie, which grew into lasting, forever-love. He was by my side through it all.
In the meantime, friends and family had gathered about me with extraordinary generosity, incredible faith, and kindness beyond compare, raising funds for "Caitlin Jane's Brain Tune-Up" so that I could fly to California for life-saving skull-based surgery at my brain stem which would be performed by Dr. Shahinian. Oh, and let me not forget to shout it from the rooftops that Jesus found my brain surgeon! Yes, in an unpredictable turn of events, through pro-life advocacy work and a sweet woman in Ohio named Kim, I became friends with Bruce Marchiano- the renowned Hollywood actor best known for playing the role of Jesus in more films than any other actor. Bruce told me in an email, "I believe I know the best brain surgeon in the country...just let me know if you can't find anyone on the east coast." Closed door after closed door led me no other option than California, as my tumor was in the most critical part of the human anatomy, surrounded by the brain stem, three cranial nerves, and an artery running through it. To most neurosurgeons- this was what is considered, quite frankly, "inoperable." My primary care physician told me with a kind and perplexed twinkle in his eye, “Caitlin, you broke the first rule of medicine. You never want your doctor telling you, ‘This is interesting! I’ve never seen this before!’” However, the doctor "Jesus" found for me was quite confident he could operate successfully, though he informed me that the risks were high and anything could happen in surgery. (Yes, I do believe it was the work of the Holy Spirit who led me to Bruce who led me to Dr. Shahinian. I love to joke about Jesus finding my surgeon, but in all seriousness, it was a miracle that God led me to this doctor and there is no such thing as coincidence!) My dad and I read through Dr. Shahinian’s text book on endoscopic brain surgery and we were amazed- this procedure he had perfected was exactly what my precarious and rare situation required, and we knew without doubt that this was the man to whom God had led us for my operation.
Unfortunately, the date of my first surgery was delayed due to medical politics...and my heart was crushed. I chose to not give up hope. There’s always a purpose and a blessing, even when our plans are dashed and what makes sense is in fact crashing around us into pieces. Little did I know at the time that that date when I was supposed to be flying to California for surgery (just about one year ago- November 8th, 2014) would be the date Jamie took me on our first date. Had I had surgery as originally planned on that day in November, I may have never gotten to know my now husband. I think of Psalm 33:19-11, "For He spoke, and it came to be; He commanded, and it stood firm. The LORD foils the plans of the nations; He thwarts the purposes of the peoples. But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of His heart through all generations." I had planned to have brain surgery, but God planned to bring into my life the man who would marry me. Before Christmas my surgery was delayed once again...crushing news, but we would not give up, yet again. By this time over 100 patients around the world were on a wait list for Dr. Shahinian and others were being turned away, as He had to find a new hospital out of which to do his operations.
On January 2nd, 2015, the night Jamie and my parents and I went to see Les Mis with our dear friend Nancy and her family, I received the call that I was back on the operating schedule and it would be the following month! Time to book plane tickets and make plans once again...here we go! January 4th was the wedding of the dear couple that introduced Jamie and me. What a gift to be able to sing at one of my closest friend's weddings and celebrate in their joy, all because my surgery had been delayed that second time. January 22nd was the annual March for Life, and my heart was happy beyond words to be there on behalf of life, beautiful life. February 1st was the last day I sang before surgery- I picked the words of the old Charles Wesley hymn, "Love Divine, All Loves Excelling" and played a haunting new tune I wrote on the piano. I was about to embark on this great adventure, with a man by my side who cherished me, family supporting me day by day (and helping me “keep it real”), and friends around the country cheering me on with prayers and cards.
What was about to happen I couldn’t predict…I didn’t know what the outcome would hold, but I knew the God who held the outcome. Christian Holocaust survivor who bravely laid her life on the line to protect Jews, Corrie ten Boom, said it best, “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” And so I was ready for whatever might come my way, because I knew my God went before me.
Love Divine, all loves excelling
Joy of heaven, to earth come down
Fix in us Thy humble dwelling
All Thy faithful mercies crown
Jesus, Thou art all compassion
Pure, unbounded love Thou art
Visit us with Thy salvation
Enter every trembling heart
Breathe, oh, breathe Thy Holy Spirit
Into every troubled breast
Let us all Thy grace inherit
Let us find Thy promised rest
Take away the love of sinning
Take our load of guilt away
End the work of Thy beginning
Bring us to eternal day
Carry on Thy new creation
Pure and holy may we be
Let us see our whole salvation
Perfectly secured by Thee
Change from glory into glory
Till in heaven we take our place
Till we cast our crowns before Thee
Lost in wonder, love, and praise
(Charles Wesley, 1747)