It was 4 years ago today - February 24th, 2009 - that a radiologist at MUSC informed us that there was a tumor the size of a ping pong ball in the back of our 7-year-old's brain. Since today is the 4th anniversary of that event, I feel like the time is right to say a few things to a few people that I've wanted to say for a long time.
I actually started composing this message 3 years ago, but completing it has taken a lot longer than I expected. It's been slow mainly because every time I think about that day, and every time I think about the people and the places and the events you see listed below, I start crying. And that's only notable because I'm not usually a crier, not an emotionally driven guy at all. But when you receive the news that your 7-year-old has a brain tumor, and that the tumor will have to be removed tomorrow, and that you'll have to submit your boy to 18 months of radiation and chemotherapy, crying is what you do. And even though some time has passed since that day, it still makes me sad to think about it.
Fortunately for us, once the news broke about Forester's brain tumor, we were immediately surrounded by a marvelous collection of saints and servants who flooded our home and our family and our whole lives with countless expressions of God's grace and lovingkindness. These good people were never properly thanked or acknowledged for all they did (and still do) for us, so here goes. Take a look at what these incredible people did for us...
Charleston Baptist Church (West Ashley) - This is an amazing church. When Forester's brain tumor appeared, the people of Charleston Baptist Church reached out to us and gave and gave and gave to us as if we were their own. Matt Kinard and the Upward Basketball community, a garage sale to raise $ for our medical bills, meals from CBC members that we'd never even met before, and so on, and so on. Amazing. Amazing generosity. Amazing people at this church.
Chris & Staci McLain - Bringing us meals, baby-sitting Micah, praying for Forester and anointing him with oil the day of his brain surgery, a fabulous 3 day respite in Puerto Rico... This is just the beginning of the list. In the past 4 years I've had a number of serious illnesses, including Myocarditis, Pneumonia, several bouts of Bronchitis, and a debilitating pinched nerve in my neck. Chris McLain has tended to me and taken care of me so thoroughly and so selflessly that I feel like I owe him everything. Occasionally I regret the fact that I didn't pursue medicine as a career and a calling, because I wish I could do for others what Chris McLain has done for me.
Chris Harle - This came as a surprise to me, but when you find yourself suddenly in a situation like this, it's impossible to overstate the value of a good pharmacist. This guy constantly looked out for us and always went above and beyond the call of duty to make sure we had all the meds we needed for Forester's care. If you live in the West Ashley area of Charleston, you should get to know this guy. I'm convinced that Chris Harle is an angel in disguise masquerading as a pharmacist at BI-LO.
Damon Gibbs - At 0600 on the day of Forester's brain surgery there was a knock on the hospital room door, and when I opened it there stood Damon Lavelle Gibbs. He had driven all night from Lexington, KY, just to be there with us. Can you believe that? I think that's called extravagant love, and I wish I was as good at it as Damon is.
Dr. Buddy Jenrette (MUSC) - A positive and encouraging voice at a time when it was desperately needed.
Dr. Jay Traynham (Plantation Pediatrics) - On the day of Forester's brain surgery, Jay Traynham sat with us in the waiting room at MUSC the whole day just to make sure we understood the updates we were receiving from the surgical team.
Dr. Mary Kral (MUSC) - A true advocate for Forester and a source of invaluable feedback as we continue to wrestle with Forester's learning deficits and special education needs. Dr. Kral has been a Godsend.
Dr. Steven Glazier (MUSC) - Steven Glazier is the pediatric neurosurgeon who removed the brain tumor. Can you imagine the awesome and terrifying responsibility of performing brain surgery on an 7-year-old? This man does it every day.
Dr. Todd Vasko (Plantation Pediatrics) - On February 23rd, 2009, Todd Vasko was the guy who had the foresight to order the CT Scan that 5 minutes later revealed the brain tumor. Thank God (literally) for Todd's instincts and experience.
Glenn Hubbard - Out of nowhere former Atlanta Braves second baseman and first base coach Glenn Hubbard appeared and helped us create memories at Turner Field in Atlanta that Forester will never forget. I wish everybody could get to know Glenn Hubbard, because knowing him has made me a better person.
Jean Slater & the Sisters of Alpha Phi (Northwestern University, Class of 1967) - These ladies, my mom's college sorority sisters, sent a steady stream of packages and gifts to all 3 of our kids for a full year. Incredible.
John & Lauren Fortney - Lauren watched Micah countless times while we were preoccupied at MUSC. Countless times. And thanks to John we had (and still have) immediate access to information about Forester's case. John the Apostle wrote: "There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John." For the rest of my life, every time I read these words I will think of John Fortney and wish that I could be more like him.
John & Molly Meekins - John & Molly organized a motorcycle ride fundraiser ("Ride For Forester") to raise $ for Forester's care. Completely kind and charitable. I love these people.
Kelly Dent & Michelle Cooper (MUSC Peds Hemoc) - These two nurses on the 6th floor of Rutledge Tower at MUSC cared for Forester tenderly and brilliantly for 18 months. There will forever be a bond between Forester and Michelle Cooper. She is an angel, the kind that come down directly from Heaven and change your life forever.
Kevin & Julie Giordano - Where do I begin? The fact is, for 6 years we lived next door to a family of superheroes. For years I thought I understood the concept of giving and servanthood, and then we moved in next door to Kevin & Julie. It took 1 day for me to realize that when it comes to giving and serving and putting others first, I am just an imposter compared to these two beautiful people.
Kevin & Sheri Gerald - Kevin was the first person to call me and say, "Let's go for a ride together. Talk to me, dude." He is one of the most sincere, others-oriented people I've ever met.
Kristin Pirolli (Charleston Pediatric Rehabilitation) - A diamond in the rough. Forester loves Kristin and wishes he could still spend time with her every week. He will never forget her.
Nic Porter - Nic organized a running event ("Run Forester Run") on Seabrook Island to raise $ for Forester's care. Thank you, Nic. You have been so kind to us.
Our Parents - Simply put, you can't make it through events like this without the help and support of your parents. Our parents brought us through it, and we love them.
Phil & Colleen Weston (Charleston Christian School) - Colleen was utterly selfless in helping us get Forester back on track at school. Tutoring Forester in our home was uncharted territory for Colleen, but she handled it with grace and confidence. As for Phil, how can you not love this man? We sure do.
Rick & Amy Sargent - Rick brought meals for me and games for Forester to the hospital, and he was ever-present during the first few weeks after the news broke.
St. Andrew's Church (Mount Pleasant) - Dwight Huthwaite, Kristy Barry and the St. Andrew's worship team showered us with kindness and support and care, and they have continued to do so for the past 4 years.
The Nurses of MUSC Children's Hospital (Floor 7B) - You don't have too spend much time on the 7th floor of MUSC Children's Hospital before you realize that the real agents of grace and mercy and healing in the hospital setting are the nurses.
Todd & Karen Bitzer - I'll never forget going to the mailbox and finding an envelope with a check in it from Todd & Karen. That check arrived at just the right time and kept us afloat. We love the Bitzers and thank God for their friendship and generosity towards us.
All these people are our heroes.