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Brooklyn's Battle

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” Romans 12:12, what does this mean? When I read these words I think about all the people who are diagnosed with horrible diseases, sicknesses, or life threatening challenges, yet still are joyful and keep hoping for the best, especially the children. I have the privilege of knowing one such girl.

I first met Brooklyn at a church function years ago. Then I heard about her being diagnosed with a brain tumor through church, when the church prayed for her.

She was having migraines, which turned out to be hereditary, falling asleep in her school classes quite a lot, which was affecting her grades and also not sleeping well at night. These things and other symptoms caused her family to take her to a doctor. Plus she had a history of becoming sick easily, so her family was worried and wanted her to be examined thoroughly. At first the doctors mistakenly thought she had only a brain lesion. But after doing some more testing they soon realized that it was actually a brain tumor. Brooklyn was diagnosed with a brain tumor at the young age of fourteen and was forced to spend her fifteenth birthday within the white hospital walls.

Brooklyn's mother broke the news to her, and the doctor confirmed it. Brooklyn was somewhat shocked, but not so scared. As she put it, “I tend to have strange things happen to me… and, I had always wanted an adventure so I was not too frightened.” This was a new and unprepared for realization that slid into her life. “I always thought these things happened to someone else. But, l am someone else, to someone else.” Brooklyn's family and friends each handled the situation differently. There were many mixed emotions of fear, worry and sadness… as you could only expect. Everyone was on their toes, hoping and praying for the best. Brooklyn's mom was, as Brooklyn put it, “the epitome of anxiousness.” Her stepmother appeared to be sad and frightened, her Dad was “as my father always is; sure it would work out fine” and her step dad was also sad. Brooklyn's friends varied in responses, some were calm, only replying “ok” when they were told the news and others freaked out a bit. “My friends were nervous about it. But, I have the bad habit of scaring them anyways and being the unpredictable one. I was sick all of the time so it did not come as a big surprise.” Brooklyn's boyfriend was extremely scared, “more so than most of my friends I believe.” All too soon Brooklyn found herself in the hospital, ready for brain surgery.

After Brooklyn's brain surgery, she lay in the hospital for a week, delusional and having weird hallucinations while suffering with intense pain. Many strange things dissolved into color before her eyes. She couldn’t recognize anyone and almost lost her vision completely… She was then given an antibiotic, for a life threatening infection, which almost killed her “that still makes me sick sometimes.” Soon after, they performed another brain surgery to take out the parts of the tumor that didn’t get removed with the first surgery and to place a drain. After the second surgery and drain Brooklyn could see again and her head felt better. By this time she was retaining 29 liters of fluid, her colon had swelled to 20 times its size. She could not move. Eating or drinking was completely out of the picture for her. She was on IV fluids, taking tons of pain medication, was swollen everywhere, was in an isolation room with a full-time nurse assigned to her. Brooklyn stayed in this condition for approximately 28 days during which time she could not eat or drink anything. “No water to even moisten my mouth.” After this time period, Brooklyn was better, she could eat again, but was still on IV fluids and quite swollen.

Prior to her surgery, Brooklyn had promised several people, including her mother and boyfriend that she would not die. That promise kept her going through her incredibly difficult and tedious struggle. “I had promised Michael (bf) [boyfriend] I would not die, but all I wanted was for him to say it was okay if I let go. I spent what seemed like an eternity just concentrating on drawing each breath while in complete agony, simply not to make him heartbroken by dying.” At times the physical struggle was so great that Brooklyn wished she could die and even took this out on her boyfriend. “For a while after getting out of the hospital I would yell at him at random times for not letting me die. Still I do, but it is no longer a yell of pain but a whispered question.” But, now she is glad to be alive and cherishes every day.

The surgery didn’t change Brooklyn; she’s still Brooklyn. However, like everything in life, we are affected by who our lives touch, the situations we are placed in, and our surroundings. So, how it effected her did. She was depressed for a while after and didn’t know what to do. Everything seemed to be taken from her, what else was there to live for? “Everyone has little boxes they put themselves into, the box of being a homeschooler or not, the box of what you are expected to look like, ect [sik]. I had a box for being an artist, for being the good kid, for always being happy… a box that compartmentalized every single aspect of my life. Then, they were all torn from me and so was everything about me. My looks, gone. My talent for art, I could barely hold a pencil. Being happy, heh, I was stuck in a room with no windows and no clock… Yeah depressed does not begin to sum it up. I was guilty for having survived and I wanted out of it. Everything I had to describe myself was gone, and it was horrible. All that was left was my core, raw, bleeding and guilty.” Then the light shined through as it always will, eventually. She saw how much there still was, how much there was still to live for and how much she still had. “But then I realized how much room it gave me to grow. Faith is faith and it did not necessarily make mine stronger, it did however shape it, and give it a path.”

I inquired of Brooklyn “If you could, would you choose to go back in time and not ever have a brain tumor?” Her response: “I would never go back. Ever, ever, ever. One reason is that I understand how much I love people. I understand that death is not the worst thing that could happen. I know what I want now and I am not afraid to go and get it, even if it makes people unhappy. I was so afraid to do that before. I value life and how short it is more as well.” After asking Brooklyn how she thought this changed her plans for the future, she replied: ”Changed what I am going to do about my life, and how I am going to get there. As I said I realized I do not have to make everyone happy. I also realized it really is not about being successful, as long as I make the world a better place, I am successful.”

I asked what Romans 12:12 meant to her, this is how she responded: “Well as I said to my pastor when he visited me in the middle of this, “God is good.” And he replied as we always do at church “All the time.” So of course I said “And all the time?” and he replied, “God is good.” It is just a good attitude to have. You know I do not believe God says, “Oh…she looks like she could use some agonizing pain today.” Or that He says, “Well, she had 1,259 prayers so she shall be saved but that kid only had 1,258 sooo… I do however believe He does turn out everything for good. Everything bad in my life has ended up helping or preparing me for something, in some way. So yes, it means to be joyful that it will turn out for good, but you can be sad sometimes, just try not to dwell on it. Be patient because it may seem like a long time to you, but in the span of your lifetime it is probably not that long. Pray for guidance or for God to show you the big picture, of how He will turn it out for good.”

Sometimes we don’t understand why bad things happen, especially to good people. It’s all because of evil. But no matter what, “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” God can help us overcome the hardships of life, and use struggles to help us grow and learn. If Brooklyn had let this hardship overcome her, stayed depressed, lost hope and God, thinking that everything was lost…where would she be now? Because of evil, there will always be hardships until heaven, but that doesn’t mean we have to let them push us down. We decide if we will let them teach, shape and grow us or not. With God anything can be turned for good. God is our strength, hope, refuge and ever present help. If Brooklyn had let herself slip away into no hope and become lost thinking everything was lost, then everything would have been lost. “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” Romans 12:12 (NIV).

Brooklyn is still recovering and is glad to be alive. She regained her ability to hold a pencil back, loves drawing and art just as much as ever, is a normal teenager with up days and down days, and is constantly growing in God and Faith.



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