The tumors that changed my life

I’ve gotten a lot of questions about my faith lately, and since this blog suddenly caught a more personal vibe, I figured maybe it’s time to share it with you all. But first, I’ll have to tell you about the incidents that led me to become a believer in the first place.

The Beginning
It all started when I was ten, and one morning woke up with the worst stomach pain I had ever experienced. After two weeks with flu-like symptoms, I was finally hospitalized, but the doctors had no clue what was wrong with me until they did an ultrasound of my stomach, and that’s when they found them — three cystic tumors on my liver. And yes, they were huge (the largest one was 8cm / 3 inches!)

I was immediately transferred to a bigger hospital; and test results were sent to specialists in London and Paris, yet none of them had ever seen tumors like these before. The symptoms looked like the ones associated with the parasite Echinococcus Multilocularis, but this had never previously been seen in a patient in Norway.

Source: emedicine.medscape.com

Removing the tumors surgically was not an option because if the parasites spread outside the cysts it would have killed me, so I was put on strong IV-antibiotics while the doctors were waiting to see what else could be done. Every second day I had to get new scans and ultrasounds to track the development of the cysts, but there was no trace of any recovery.heal1

Two Months Later
Almost two months had passed and I had lost one-third of my bodyweight. I could no longer walk upright, I had started to lose my hair, and we were running out of time.

One day, the doctors told my parents to be prepared for what they had feared for so long  — if I didn’t get better soon, “the situation may not have the outcome we are hoping for.”

One Saturday night in October that same fall, I have a vague memory of doctors rushing into my room, attaching me to all different kinds of wires and instruments. I was drifting in and out of consciousness, and I only remember bits and pieces from that night. The next morning I was told that my pulse and blood pressure had been so low they had to monitor me all night. That was the first time I was actually worried. Isn’t it weird how kids never see the seriousness in their situation?

The Black Book
In the mean time, people prayed. My grandparents’ church prayed, some of the members there even contacted a church here in the US, and they prayed. Everybody prayed for my recovery. I didn’t know anything about that, but a fun-fact is that I actually got this strong urge to read in the Bible during that time. I even insisted my parents took me to a bookstore near the hospital so I could buy a black leather Bible. I could barely walk, but I needed that specific Bible, so, off we went.

In between every change of IV-fluids, scans and blood work, I read. It must’ve looked a little weird; a 10-year-old girl reading, underlining and taking notes from the Bible for hours every day…  The nurses never commented on it, but they always made sure my favorite stuffed animal and my Bible was on my bed whenever I returned from the scans.

img_5589
My handwriting as a 10-year-old. “This Bible belongs to Maria Elisabet Lavelle. Autumn 2005.”

“Do you see what I see?”
Anyway, let’s keep the storyline straight here: I had my usual ultrasound and MRI scan on a Friday — still no sign of recovery. The Monday after, I was scheduled for a new ultrasound. I hated ultrasounds more than anything, because that’s how they first discovered the tumors.

With x-rays, MRIs and CAT scans you don’t see the doctors’ immediate reaction, but with an ultrasound you’re desperately trying to read their face as they glide the cold, gel-covered instrument across your skin. When they find something, you can tell — and that Monday morning we could definitely tell something was up.

The doctor’s face froze and she just said “something happened here.” My dad tried to ask her what exactly had “happened,” because we were, of course, expecting the worst, but she just left the room. I started crying, and the next minutes felt like four eternities.

Then she came back with two other doctors. She turned away from us and asked them: “Do you see what I see? What happened here?”

——————–          ——————–          ——————–

So, what did happen?
Well, only God knows, and I mean that the literal way. The doctors couldn’t explain it, I still can’t wrap my head around it — but the tumors were gone.

The new images showed hints of scar tissue and the “shell” of what had once been tumors, but they were gone. My CRP-levels (used to measure inflammation) had dropped from 140 to 4 out of nowhere, and besides the fact that I was incredibly malnourished, I felt fine. Actually, I felt so good that my dad and I decided to take the gondola to Ulriken, a mountain top I had seen through my hospital-window every day for weeks.

Photo: Studentbergen.no
Ulriken in Bergen. Photo: Studentbergen.no

The following day, the doctors decided to perform a laparoscopic surgery to get a biopsy, but they didn’t find anything, and I was released from the hospital two days later.

Some of you are probably thinking that I must have left out some essential details here, or that this sounds very unlikely, and I don’t judge you. I actually find it pretty hard to believe it myself, and I even had to confirm every single sentence with my parents before publishing this. I don’t need to understand “how” or “why,” because the fact that three tumors disappeared over a weekend is good enough for me.

After
Do I believe it was a miracle? Definitely.

Would I have been a believer even without that experience? Maybe. But I certainly wouldn’t have put my everything into living my life for God, had it not been for that. Besides, I probably wouldn’t even have been around to tell anyone about it, but let’s not go there.

It was actually during my stay at the hospital that I first realized I wanted to become a film director, but that’s a topic for another post.

Also, maybe I should correct the headline, because the tumors didn’t change my life — God did.

When I returned to my hometown, my younger sister and her friends were thrilled that I brought real (needleless) syringes for them to play with, and they insisted I taught them everything about “hospital life,” which certainly brought our doctor-games to a new level of realism. I guess that was a nice way for us to process everything that happened, too.

heal2
First week back home. I had lost so much weight I almost looked younger than my 7-year-old “patient” on the floor, but I was healthy, and that’s what mattered.

So there you have it. If you didn’t already know, I’m a proud believer in Jesus, and I’m forever thankful I got a new chance in this life.

Have a blessed day,
Maria

Photo: Naras Prameswari
Photo: Naras Prameswari

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