Note from the author: This is taken from what I remember about this experience, as well as what my parents related to me along with excerpts from my mother’s journal. I personally do not recall the exact details of these happenings.
A few months after my second birthday, my parents and older brothers noticed I would often vomit, run into walls, and otherwise lose my balance for no apparent reason. My parents took me to see three different doctors at a nearby clinic over the course of a few weeks. Each of these doctors prescribed medications they thought would help, but in the end, they were simply short-term solutions to a much bigger problem.
The third doctor my parents took me to see suggested we go to see an Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist at Primary Children’s Hospital. When they took me to the specialist, I had my ears checked to see if it would help with my balance issues. There was no problem with my ears.
Upon seeing the results of the ear exam, the doctor decided to send us to the radiology department at the same hospital. Once there, I had a CT scan performed, focused on my head. The doctor informed us there was a tumor, which we would later learn was roughly the size of a racquetball, practically in the middle of my head. My mother wrote, “Our worst fears were realized! I tried to be strong, but the tears came anyway.”
My parents waited for hours, speaking with several doctors, including a few neurosurgeons, to find out what would happen next. My mother wrote while they were waiting one of the other patients’ mothers saw them, and after a short exchange, gave us a box of Legos. We still have many of those Legos to this day.
According to my mother, once they met with the doctor to go over the CT scan in more detail, they found the tumor was growing in between two of the ventricles in my brain, from my thalamus. For those who don’t know, the thalamus is the part of your brain that helps you maintain balance. The tumor blocked off those two ventricles and caused spinal fluid to build up in my head. In simpler terms, because of the tumor, I was suffering from hydrocephalus or water on the brain.
The doctors then admitted me to the hospital, where I would spend a significant amount of my time for the next two to three years. To keep the children there occupied, they would give us rudimentary dolls and some medical supplies, mainly band-aids and the like, and if I remember correctly, they would let us “play doctor”. I may have been unique in that I would cover my dolls in bandages, and then ask for more to put on them. I also spent quite a bit of time watching my favorite movie at the time, Disney’s Peter Pan.
There were several occasions during those years when my parents called and asked worthy priesthood holders to come and minister to us in behalf of the Savior, Jesus Christ. From what I understand, it was mainly members of the congregation that we were attending at the time, though in some cases it included members of our extended family.
In the latter half of those years, the tumor had shrunk a small amount, but nothing too drastic. Then, one day we went in for an MRI and we found the tumor had disappeared completely!
I would attribute the fact I didn’t die to the power of the priesthood, as it had been exercised on my behalf. The scriptures contain many examples of miracles like my experience, in which the Savior was approached by, or had invited a person or a group of people to come and be healed. In each of these instances, He healed them on account of their great faith in Him.
Now, since then, I’ve certainly had struggles with the aftereffects of the tumor, which include a seizure disorder and short-term memory loss. I’ve had the idea to ask God to heal me of those afflictions as well.
But He hasn’t.
Instead, He reminded me of something from a devotional given by Elder Bednar: “Not Shrinking is More Important than Surviving.” In the devotional, Elder Bednar speaks about how we ought to bear our infirmities as they are allotted to us, as they are, all of them, given to us for our benefit. Elder Bednar relates a story about Elder Neal A. Maxwell:
“Elder Neal A. Maxwell was a beloved disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. He served as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles for 23 years, from 1981 to 2004. The spiritual power of his teachings and his example of faithful discipleship blessed and continue to bless in marvelous ways the members of the Savior’s restored Church and the people of the world.
In October of 1997, Sister Bednar and I hosted Elder and Sister Maxwell at Brigham Young University–Idaho. Elder Maxwell was to speak to the students, staff, and faculty in a devotional assembly. Everyone on the campus eagerly anticipated his visit to the university and earnestly prepared to receive his message.
Earlier in that same year, Elder Maxwell underwent 46 days and nights of debilitating chemotherapy for leukemia. Shortly after completing his treatments and being released from the hospital, he spoke briefly in the April general conference of the Church. His rehabilitation and continued therapy progressed positively through the spring and summer months, but Elder Maxwell’s physical strength and stamina were nonetheless limited when he traveled to Rexburg. After greeting Elder and Sister Maxwell at the airport, Susan and I drove them to our home for rest and a light lunch before the devotional.
During the course of our conversations that day, I asked Elder Maxwell what lessons he had learned through his illness. I will remember always the precise and penetrating answer he gave. ‘Dave,’ he said, ‘I have learned that not shrinking is more important than surviving.‘
His response to my inquiry was a principle with which he had gained extensive personal experience during his chemotherapy. As Elder Maxwell and his wife were driving to the hospital in January of 1997, on the day he was scheduled to begin his first round of treatment, they pulled into the parking lot and paused for a private moment together. Elder Maxwell “breathed a deep sigh and looked at [his wife]. He reached for her hand and said … , ‘I just don’t want to shrink’” (Bruce C. Hafen, A Disciple’s Life: The Biography of Neal A. Maxwell , 16). “
This helped me to understand rather than having patience and faith to be relieved of these challenges, I should be more focused on understanding how these things can help me to build my faith in, and my relationship with God. I pray we all, regardless of our challenges, may come to understand the same and use our trials as building blocks for our progression.
- “Behold, We Count Them Happy Which Endure” – Elder Robert D. Hales, April 1998
- “Endure and Be Lifted Up” – Elder Russell M. Nelson, April 1997
- “Endure It Well” – Elder Neal A. Maxwell, April 1990
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