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Remember Me

Posted by: John_Hamilton on 01/09/2012 01:23 PM Updated by: John_Hamilton on 03/04/2012 08:54 PM
Expires: 01/01/2017 12:00 AM

Happy Anniversary… to my Stroke?! By Catherine Lewallen

Murphys, CA...I am writing this on January 8th, 2012, the one-year anniversary of my stroke. What a terrifying day that was! I was alone. I was at my business, though it wasn’t open, getting some work done. Going up a stepladder I got really light-headed, as if I stood up too fast. As I tried to get down the ladder, I realized I was not in control of my legs and was going to fall. I laid there on my side, struggling to get my phone out of my pocket, with the one arm that was working. It took several tries to successfully dial for help, only to be unintelligible in my pleas....

It took nearly two months to figure out that it was metastatic melanoma that caused that stroke. The cancer was spreading very quickly, and that stroke became one of many miracles I was given this year.

The first gift was that I live in a time when information is so readily available. I was initially misdiagnosed with “vertigo.” The doctor did not recognize that I had suffered a stroke, which I acknowledge is unusual for a 36-year-old. So, at home, I started learning how to be my own advocate. I read, among others, the testimony of a widow whose husband had been sent home after having a stroke in his thirties. It went undiscovered until a massive stroke killed him a week later. After also getting educated on the brain, and different kinds of strokes, and symptoms, I demanded an MRI first thing Monday morning. Now, a year later, I continue to ask lots of questions… politely but fearlessly.

Second, is that 2011 was one of the biggest years for successful melanoma research. The treatment to which I am responding was only approved by the FDA a couple weeks before I started taking it. Only a year before, doctors could only offer patients in my position 15% success with any of the available treatments. Now, they boast possibilities in the 80th percentile.

One of my favorite blessings is a passion for life! It is a zest that is both meaningful and playful! Now able to feel every moment just dripping with beauty, I am regularly overcome by emotion and awe. I am grateful that this disease has just ripped me open, and I am left exposed and so vulnerable to all the sensory experiences of life.

Most importantly, my heart is just saturated with God’s love. We all know about trying to keep our marriage’s “spark alive” or trying to “rekindle that flame.” Of course, this refers to the deliberate efforts to not lose or to regain that passionate feeling present in new human love. You know that exciting feeling? Almost giggly like high school love! What I’ve discovered over the last year, is that my loving relationship with God gets better and better. A love that keeps me lit up and full of joy all day every day. It, too, benefits from my efforts. Efforts such as prayer, and reflection, and obedience. But there are some major differences. He doesn’t hold a grudge when I betray Him. He never withholds His Love if He’s been neglected. He doesn’t say mean things out of anger when I am disobedient. It is the kindest, most perfect of all relationships. Think of how much time you have perhaps spent or efforts you’ve put into horrible relationships. Then ask yourself how much time you put into The Most Important One.

So this week I head back to Stanford Hospital for my next PET/CT and a meeting with my oncologist. This is the 4-month mark since beginning this new treatment. Typically, the highest response a patient shows is present after 4 months. I am feeling great lately, and very confident that we will continue to have great response. Medical science continues to warn me this success may be short-lived. Luckily, our God is a supernatural God! Andrew Murray was a South African writer, teacher, and Christian pastor who I think said it best… “Your Christian life is to be a continuous proof that God works impossibilities.”

Editors Note...Catherine's fight and the manner in which she has fought it publicly has been an inspiration to many. If you would like some context and a more personal look at her battle you can find it on the Caring Bridge Website Here! We would like to welcome Catherine as one of our contributors and we hope her story can help you along your journey in life.

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