Praying for Elizabeth

As I sit down to write this column, my niece has just been wheeled into surgery to remove a brain tumor. The operation is supposed to last four hours. For three weeks, Liz had been suffering from excruciating headaches. Two days ago, her husband finally convinced her to go to the doctor where the CT scan showed two metastatic masses on her brain. Her mother flew from Kansas to St. George yesterday. My brother, who hasn’t been able to fly since his involvement in the Iraqi war, is driving through Wolf Creek Pass. Liz’s husband has set up a family group text to keep us all posted. If the surgery is successful, and she heals well, the doctors will use radiation to dissolve the second, smaller tumor. My notes about Americus Vespucius Greer, Ted’s great-great grandfather, are piled on the recliner next to my computer, but today I can’t seem to focus on anyone, but Liz.
I’ve known Elizabeth, of course, ever since she made her entry onto planet earth and into our family. When she was in the second grade, my brother and his wife decided they wanted to raise their three children in a small Utah town. Tom, a police officer, looked on a Utah map and chose two possibilities: St. George and Blanding, vowing to move to the town which offered him a position first. One of our high school friends and his family had already made the exodus to St. George, so that seemed the most likely option, but Blanding won by offering him a job first.
By then, I’d left our hometown, married, and had a little boy of my own. I was teaching at Emporia State University as an adjunct with a very busy life, but I felt bereft when my big brother and his family moved so far away. My mom traveled with Tom, Karalee, and their family to help them settle in the strange, new territory, but neither my brother nor mom felt it was strange at all. I blame that on all the Westerns they consumed, especially Zane Grey’s and Louis L’Amour’s books. My brother loved the canyons, the mountains, and even the alpine desert and told me he’d always known he’d move to a place like this someday. My mom said she felt like she’d come home.
Fast forward two years, and my marriage to a police detective had fallen apart. I wanted to move near Tom and his family, so my son would have a good role model. However, Blanding was small, and I was in love with academia. Tom scouted for possible jobs and discovered an infant college. I applied for the English as a Second Language position, funded for three years by a grant. I’d never taught ESL, but after a long interview by an intimidating panel of professionals, I was offered the job.
I taught international students that summer at ESU to gain experience with second language learners and moved with my mom, little brother, and son in August. Although my teaching load was heavy, we spent a lot of time with Tom and his family, camping, picnicking, and exploring the area. Almost before we knew it, Elizabeth had grown into a stunning and compassionate young woman.
Her husband says Liz is an angel. He’s not alone in thinking that, but his angel has grit. She’s participated in numerous Iron Man competitions, triathlons, marathons, and Spartan races with a myriad of medals to prove her endurance. Two years ago, she was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer. She underwent a double mastectomy, radiation, and chemo. Even without hair or eyebrows, she looked gorgeous, but she was so exhausted she could hardly lift her hand off the recliner where she spent most of her days. Despite the exhaustion, nausea, and other grueling side effects, she was determined to live for her family, but once when I visited her, she confided she’d done something that took more courage and inner strength than all her races combined—she had surrendered to divine will.
The doctors finally declared her cancer free. She took a jubilation photo with her doctors, nurses, and husband, and as soon as she could, she again took up her training regimen. Since then, she and her family have been enjoying life to the fullest until the headaches struck. She wrote on her pre-surgery Facebook post, “I’ve beat cancer before, I can beat this again. You’ve all been such a great support system for me, and I’m going to need your prayers and love again. I love you all so much! We’ve got this!”
The surgery took four-and-a-half hours instead of the expected four. As I watched the clock and my anxiety mounted, I stayed occupied by writing, dusting, and fixing dinner. Her husband reported her first words to the surgeon upon awakening were, “Yay, I’m alive!”
I’m not the only one who cried.
I believe in prayer, and the more people praying, the greater the effect, but I also believe in surrendering to divine will. That act of surrender is the absolute hardest thing to do in the world, but, paradoxically, it’s where heavenly power resides.
When the doctor finally admitted her husband into the recovery room, he texted us pictures of Liz attached to all kinds of monitors, but smiling her beautiful Liz smile that could knock the socks off a panda. We’re grateful, very grateful, and we’re still praying for Elizabeth.

San Juan Record

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