Hope that Does Not Disappoint | Surviving a Brain Tumor

Welcome to Real Life. What will tomorrow bring? A phone call or a doctor’s report can change our world in an instant. Though life is uncertain, God is not. He is our firm foundation, an ever-present hope regardless of what tomorrow brings. 

“What is that?” I gasped at the large mass on the MRI image. 

“It’s a brain tumor,” my best friend Helen calmly replied. 

Helen's MRI
A brain tumor! I was stunned. I didn’t know whether to scream, cry, or pray. Not wanting to upset her, I held back my emotions. How could she be so calm? 

Then Helen told her story. She was suffering from weird headaches. Once she almost blacked out at work. Her physician scheduled an MRI. It revealed the brain tumor. 

For an entire week, Helen had not told a soul. She needed time to sort through her own strong emotions, before dealing with ours. She also wanted more information before sharing the news. After meeting with a surgeon, she learned that the tumor was large - one and a half inches long. But, it was slow-growing and encapsulated. The specific type of cancer would not be known until after surgery. 

My friend had stopped by on her way to the airport. She was leaving for a vacation. We prayed together. And afterwards, she left. As I watched her car pull out of my driveway, I fell to my knees and wept. The emotions I had held back came pouring out, “Oh, God, why Helen? I can’t lose her. Please, Lord, heal her.” Two acquaintances had recently died from brain tumors. Would she be next? For thirty years, we’d been best friends. I could not imagine life without her. 

Helen had planned her vacation months before the diagnosis. It was a blessed week of carefree days before months of battling cancer. She biked around Lake Tahoe, camped in Yosemite, and toured San Francisco. While there she emailed, saying she savored it all “with clearer eyes and a sense of wonder for the beauty of nature and the gift of breath. This tumor is not a mistake or an accident. I don’t know why I have it, but I do know this: God is good. He loves me. He is in control and he has a purpose.” She attached a video of herself skydiving. (Skydiving! Can you believe it?) Watching it, I knew Helen was free - free of worry and fear - held securely in her Father’s arms. (See “Helen’s Skydiving Adventure.”)

Once she returned, the surgery was scheduled for later that month. Oddly enough, despite Helen’s strong faith, she never asked God to miraculously remove the tumor. Somehow she just knew she was supposed to have brain surgery. Yet, God gave her an assurance that all would be well. This enveloped Helen in a quiet peace. 

I envied her peace. I was still struggling with the whole situation. Brain surgery is super-serious. She could die. Her personality could be drastically altered. I kept asking God, “Why Helen?” 

One day I heard him answer, “Do you trust me, Peggi? It’s for her benefit.”  What? How could cancer be for her benefit? 

“…suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts” (Romans 5:3-5 NIV)

Surgery day arrived. A prayer vigil descended on the Cleveland Clinic. It was a long, complex operation. Late in the evening, I called to check on my friend. To my surprise, she was able to speak. “Hey, buddy,” she whispered. They were the two most beautiful words I ever heard. Helen had survivedpersonality intact. 

From my perspective, her recovery was miraculously quick. Three weeks postoperative, she no longer needed medication. Three months later, she hosted her daughter’s wedding. But from Helen’s perspective, recovery was slow and arduous. Months later, she still experienced lapses in memory and disconnected thoughts. We never noticed. Only Helen knew. Even this, she met with good humor. She called brain surgery a “Get Out of Jail Free” card, a handy excuse for any misstep in word or deed. Eventually even the memory and thought issues subsided. 

Her biopsy results gave a life expectancy of two to ten years. They expect the tumor to grow back. Yet Helen’s faith is not in the medical community, but in God. In her words, “I am so very thankful God loves me and promises never to leave or forsake me. With those promises, I can heal and not worry about my future.” 

Me and Helen
August 28, 2012 was the fifth anniversary of Helen’s brain surgery. She remains cancer-free. This fall, she began classes at Akron University to be a surgical technician. On September 4, her first grandchild was born. Helen’s hope in God has not been disappointed… and neither has her best friend’s.


  1. My Dear Peggi,
    When I say your article has touched me, I mean just that, it touched me. You already know that I am a Bible seeker, which means for me there is not one corner of the Bible that remains unturned for me. I combed it with a fine tooth comb and come out usually with beautiful, faithful, verses that hold within them promises for my life. Two months ago Romans 5 and exactly those verses with suffering produces, perseverance, perseverance, character and character, hope and hope does disappoint were given to me. They are verses that make sense out of the storm chaos that I face when, I don't understand. So, it is so nice to read this article and see these verses working in Helen's life. Four weeks ago, someone gave me another scripture from the book of Joshua. Joshua 1:5 where God told Joshua I will never leave you nor forsake you. I see that happening in Helen's life and I can only say, keep on walking in those promises Helen. I wish her continued restoration as she walks out the promises of God given to her.
    Once again thank you for this beautiful uplift.

  2. Hi Patricia,
    God always answers prayer, though not always as we expect! But, he is good and wise and trustworthy. And as you reminded me in Joshua, he'll never leave or forsake us!

    I am always encouraged by your comments, Patricia. Thank you. ~ They are truly a gift!


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