August 13, 2017
“Cassie! Wake up!” Brandon yelled at his wife. It was the middle of the night when he was jolted awake by the bed violently shaking. Cassie was lying face down in her pillow, stiff as her body seized uncontrollably.
She was unresponsive, when she suddenly sat straight up. She was looking directly at Brandon, but it was as if she was seeing straight through him. She wouldn’t respond to any of his questions. Panicked, Brandon dialed 911.
Cassie slowly started to come back. As paramedics surrounded her, she didn’t know what was going on. Why were they here? Dazed and confused, she couldn’t recall the last few moments of her life.
Throughout all the commotion, Cassie and Brandon’s three-year-old son, Hayden, sleepily stumbled out of his bedroom. One of the firefighters greeted Hayden in the living room and they immediately became friends. They played trains as the firefighter tried his best to distract Hayden away from the events unfolding in his parent’s bedroom.
The paramedics transported Cassie to OSF St. Joseph in Bloomington, Illinois where a CT scan was performed. Brandon and Cassie anxiously awaited the results in the small hospital room. When they heard a soft knock on the door, they knew either good or bad news waited on the other side.
The doctor asked Brandon to step out of the room so he may speak with him privately. The doctor explained the results: Cassie had a brain tumor that was likely cancerous. “Brain tumor” and “cancer” echoed in Brandon’s mind…it were as if he was living in a nightmare, praying to be pinched awake.
Brandon felt like collapsing as his legs became unsteady. Shocked, he staggered back to Cassie’s room on, what seemed like, the longest walk of his life.
The moment Cassie saw Brandon’s face, she knew it wasn’t good. The doctor delivered the news. Stunned, Cassie tried her best to console her husband as they cried together.
“Everything is going to be okay,” Cassie repeated aloud. “We will move forward from here.”
“It isn’t a tumor,” the doctor told Cassie and Brandon with a relieved expression on his face.
A heavy burden was lifted from their shoulders. It had been four hours since they were told Cassie had a cancerous brain tumor. Since then, neurosurgeons closely analyzed Cassie’s results and discovered something entirely different. Cassie had a cavernoma: a cluster of abnormal blood vessels, typically found on the brain or spinal cord. For Cassie, it was located on her brain. It bled some, which caused her to have a seizure.
The cavernoma was basically a ticking time bomb…if left untreated, it could cause death or long-term complications. But, if treated, there would be a 70% chance of Cassie walking away without any complications or another reoccurrence.
Just a few hours prior, Cassie saw her life flash before her eyes. Being a nurse, she naturally assumed the worst and thought she would die from the brain tumor. In her profession, she’s exposed to tragic stories and outcomes every day. But now, Cassie felt like she was one of the lucky ones; like she had been given a second chance.
The doctors kept Cassie overnight for monitoring. As soon as she was released the next day, she contacted the neurosurgeon she wanted to perform the operation. And just like that, her brain surgery was scheduled for a short few weeks away.
The time in between was difficult. Cassie returned to work as much as she could. Since she could have another seizure, she wasn’t able to drive. The 40-minute commute from her home in Bloomington-Normal to OSF in Peoria made it difficult for her to get to and from work. But God blessed her with many people who offered to give her rides. Some were friends and family, while others started as strangers and became friends after the time spent together in the car.
When she was at the hospital, the surgery taunted her as she knew she’d soon be a patient in the same place where she so often tended to others. The roles would be reversed. And even at home, she couldn’t find rest. The silence seemed haunting as thoughts of the unknown echoed in her mind. But through it all, she tried her best to stay positive.
Deep down inside, she knew it would be okay and that God was looking over her. Her rosary gave her comfort; she and Brandon prayed it without fail every night. And she was humbled by the amount of support and prayers she received from family and friends.
Cassie knew prayer was all she needed.
The high-pitched sound of a baby’s cry was like sweet music to Cassie’s ears.
Cassie stood by her sister, Kayla, as she gave birth to her first child, making Cassie a first-time aunt. Cade was born on February 5, 2015—just shy of a week before Cassie’s surgery. Cade was like a diamond in the rough. He gave Cassie joy and hope during a really difficult time. She could focus her attention and energy on this sweet child, and distract her mind away from the surgery that awaited her.
As the days passed and surgery inched closer, Cassie stayed composed. She was nervous but ready. And then, the long-awaited day arrived. At the hospital, the nurses prepped Cassie. They shaved a few small areas on her head to place incision marker prior to surgery. After an MRI, it was time.
Family kissed her goodbye before rolling her back to surgery. This was just the beginning of an agonizing waiting game. As the doctors were hard at work, family waited anxiously as the next 4 hours seemed to creep by.
Trying their best to calm anxious nerves, Cassie’s mother in-law and sister-in law decided to take a walk. They stumbled across a small chapel that was getting ready to have mass, and decided they could use some time with God. They attended and felt overcome by the Holy Spirit. This particular chapel hardly ever had mass, but it were as if God knew Cassie’s family needed it. It was essentially placed in the right place at the right time, and it served an incredible purpose.
By the grace of God, Cassie made it safely out of surgery. Though surgery was over, her journey was not yet complete. Now, it was time for healing. An evening following her procedure, she had 6 partial seizures, which was likely to occur due to the stress and inflammation from the procedure. After more medicine, Cassie’s seizures subsided, and she could now focus on healing—emotionally and physically.
Showing off her scar.
Cassie firmly believes that everything happens for a reason. And this experience was no exception. Before this happened, Cassie and Brandon had been struggling with infertility. They longed to have a baby, but they understand why it didn’t happen when they wanted it to. Between the seizures and the high stress put on Cassie’s body, the baby’s health and life could have been in danger.
Cassie also believes that people are placed in your life for a specific purpose.
After Cassie fully recovered, she was working a lot of overtime to save for a trip to Disney World (they were going to live it up!). While she was working an irregular night shift, she was admitting a patient who had just been diagnosed with a brain tumor. For Cassie, this hit close to home.
She entered the patient’s room to find him and his wife crying. The wife was delivering the news over the phone, when a surgeon’s name was brought up who had been in the same group as Cassie’s brain surgeon. There was doubt in the wife’s voice over what to do and their next step. Overhearing this, Cassie felt called to share her experience.
After telling them more about her situation and how much she trusted the surgeon, they were beyond grateful. Cassie checked on them the next day, but that was the last she heard of them. She tried hunting them down, but she was unable to find them.
Cassie told her family how this patient and situation hit home. She was excited to have the opportunity to draw something good out of her difficult situation to help another and hopefully bring hope.
A few months later, Cassie received a phone call from her sister, Kayla. Cassie’s patient was the UPS deliverer for Kayla’s work. They stopped in one day and were passionately telling Kayla about this red-haired nurse from the ER who gave them so much hope. Through this encounter, they were able to reconnect, and have been in touch ever since.
Today, Cassie often wonders why she was given a second chance when others aren’t as lucky. At times, she feels guilty and unworthy of this amazing gift. And Cassie wasn’t the only one fighting a fierce battle for healing.
After Cassie’s first seizure, Brandon couldn’t sleep for months…every time she would move, he’d wake her up to make sure she was okay. And Hayden was terrified if the entire family wasn’t home together at night. But this journey has given them a newfound appreciation for their lives. They recognize the incredible value in every breath they breathe.
Life is unpredictable. Sometimes, we’re standing in an open pasture with beautiful rolling hills that go on as far as the eye can see. And, other times, a mountain appears out of thin air, blocking our view of what we believe our life should be. Our plans are often compromised by God’s greater good. At the time, it may not seem good, but in the end, it becomes clear why things happened the way they did. Because once you climb your way to the peak of the mountain, you have an even better view than before with a whole new perspective and appreciation for life.
“Despite what you think you need and what you think is right for your life, God always knows what’s best. We may not get answers, but I know He’s always watching out for us. Going through something like this brings to the forefront that God has a purpose for everyone. I feel as though I was given a second chance. This life experience has helped me to see and feel God and His love so deeply, and for that I will be forever grateful and continue to seek God’s purpose for me.”
Love Heals is an ongoing initiative that shares real-life encounters with God’s healing power. If you would like to share your story of God’s grace and love, please contact us. We would like to sincerely thank every individual who has participated in this endeavor! May God continue to bless you with courage, love, and healing.