How It Began: Part 4

From James:

This is the latest in a series of posts describing the events leading up to when this blog began.

“If we keep the tumor in, you will die. If we take it out, you will die.”

It wasn’t the most elegant way to start a consultation, but so began our first meeting with a brain surgeon at Georgetown Hospital.

I have to admit that I was in awe of the guy. I mean, he was a brain surgeon after all. So Young, on the other hand, was horrified.

It was a brutal way to make a point, but the doctor was trying to say that he wanted to surgically remove the tumor but could not remove it all because of its location in the brain. He estimated that he could remove 60%.

“There is a case similar to yours,” he continued. “A patient we treated, a law student here at Georgetown, in fact, had a similar tumor — similar size, similar location. Another doctor here operated on him, removing perhaps 80%. After surgery and radiation, he is practically cured. He is now continuing his studies… With assistance.”

I didn’t want to ask what “with assistance” meant.

The doctor went on to list the risks of the surgery: stroke, paralysis, more vision loss, loss of speech, loss of motor ability, death. So Young became increasingly horrified, focusing a great deal on the “death” side effect. It was clear that some impairments were likely. Death was a slight risk as he described it, no different from most other surgeries.

The doctor walked us over to a computer showing the MRI.

“It is quite large,” he said. “Six centimeters or so.” He went on to qualify it as larger than a golf ball. Perhaps the size of a field hockey ball, which of course we had no familiarity with.

So Young asked the doctor if he believed in miracles. He looked down and shook his head gravely. Later, So Young told me she wished she had said that she believed in miracles and that he would see one this time.

When we left the meeting, So Young was very disturbed, but we decided to move ahead with surgery anyway given the urgency of the situation. We could cancel or reschedule later while we investigated other options. So Young very adamantly wanted to pursue a second opinion. Naive about such things, I did so to humor her, not knowing how differently things would turn out had we not done so. This was the best hospital in the area, after all.

I sought the second opinion from another doctor at Georgetown, based on a tip from a friend who said that the best surgeon there had a “French name,” although she couldn’t remember precisely what it was. I called the doctor with the most French-sounding name I could, not knowing that the doctor she was recommending was really the first one we met with.

This misunderstanding turned out to be a strange kind of blessing, because the second doctor was a brilliant communicator, able to explain everything clearly and put us at ease with the “resectioning” procedure — removing, he said, possibly 80% of the tumor. He was in fact the very surgeon who had operated on the law student.

His nurse, however, was confused that we were seeking a second opinion from Doctor Number 2.  Despite his terrible bedside manner, Doctor Number 1 was the best brain surgeon at Georgetown — “Mr. Brain,” she called him.

Reassured that removing the tumor surgically was the best option for So Young, we felt more peace about Doctor Number 1 and did not cancel surgery with him. A bad communicator but a great brain surgeon. It was God’s will.

A day or so later, I got a call from an old friend from college while I was rushing out of the house to pick the kids up from school. He had a brain tumor a few years ago, surgically removed at Georgetown. He ended up with impairments that seemed to be evidence of amateurish work by his brain surgeon. Who was his brain surgeon at Georgetown? Doctor Number 1.

“Don’t go to Georgetown,” he said. “Stay away from that doctor. In fact, if I were you, I would stay away that hospital altogether.”

I had to end the conversation abruptly. What was I supposed to do with that information?

<< Part 3 | Part 5 >>


5 Responses

  1. Dearest SoYoung and James…
    This morning I am so lost in words…I don’t know what to say, or how to comfort you…It just breaks my heart to read what you wrote, feel what you must be feeling…
    I am praying for all of you with positive attitute. Because I too strongly believe in miracles!
    Love you all!
    Your aunt Grace

    • Thank you for your continued encouragement and prayers, Auntie Grace! — So Young and James

  2. Brave! I look forward to your report concerning So Young telling the first surgeon about her miraculous healing. We will tell anyone who will listen about the goodness of God, and how He healed her. Remember that God loves you with an everlasting love. He will never leave you or forsake you.


  3. So Young, and James,
    I am a friend of Kim and we have been praying for you in our weekly Bible study and I am going to be following and reading your blog. I do believe in miracles and have had several myself. I am going back and read all of your post. Kim has witnessed in our class of what a friend you have been to her and how much you have always loved the Lord. I have looked forward to hearing of your new reports and that you were able to see a little better even though fuzzy. We will trust in the Lord that this surgery, and every thing in the universe is controled by Him and that your Dr. No. 1 will be witnessing a miracle thru you and our Lord. Sending Hugs and Love and Prayers to you and your family.

    • Robin — Thank you so much for your encouraging words! We too are eagerly awaiting complete healing here on earth to show off how great our God is. — James and So Young

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