{Story6} I have a brain tumor

Through the month of March, we’ve had a guest series called “This is my story, this is my song.” There were personal journeys of hope, victory, courage, and redemption that you needed to hear! I know, I know, it’s April… but I have another ONE!

This series has been too much fun! We can’t stop… we won’t stop… (Eek! I’m sounding like Miley Cyrus.) I (Heather) can’t wait for you to meet Preston! He’s the first male appearing on our blog! {insert applause machine.} Psh—this blog’s not just for females anyway. I’m so thankful he agreed to share some of his journey with you. I met Preston years and years ago when he was hired as the photographer at the university where I was employed. He is so personable and joyful! Once you’ve met Preston, you won’t forget him! So nine years later, when our paths crossed again, I was ecstatic to learn that he and his wife were becoming a part of our Lifepoint Church family.

When I was praying about who should share in our series, his name kept coming to mind. The first five stories in our series were stories where each person shared things from their past—hard things—but they made it to the other side—up the mountain—so to speak. Preston is not necessarily on the “other side,” he’s walking THROUGH it! He and his wife, Traci, have been beautiful examples to me of worshiping Jesus even when circumstances are hard.

We’re praying that this will encourage those who may be in the valley walking… or maybe crawling… through it.

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I have a brain tumor

by Preston Dial

I have a brain tumor. Gets your attention, doesn’t it? It certainly got my attention when I found out in late 2004. My wife, Traci, and I had been married for 4 years and everything was headed in the right direction. We were happily married, attending a wonderful church. We had good friends, a nice home, good jobs, 401ks and a good financial plan for the future. We were on the road to reaching that American dream! I can remember thinking: “God has certainly blessed me.”

That leads up to the big day that changed everything. Some would say for the worse, and honestly, there were times that I felt that way as well.

At the time, I had a successful and well-respected wedding and portrait photography business. I was at my home office, and as I was talking on the phone with my brother-in-law, Alec, my left arm that was holding the phone to my ear suddenly straightened out without me telling it to do so! All I remember at that point was saying to Alec, “I think I’m having a stroke.” Then what felt like a heavy black veil, pulled over my eyes. I had lost all sense of time and can remember when Traci found me I kept looking at her in a fuzzy way. An ambulance escorted me to the ER. A CAT scan showed a golf-ball sized mass in my brain. My surgeon was able to remove 99% of it and I was left with only minor deficits.

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During the time in the hospital, we were visited by more friends and family than I can remember. We were also so blessed by the huge outpouring of love and prayers from people we didn’t even know.

After the surgery, I did have some issues with my fine motor skills on my left side. In fact, when we followed up with my surgeon a few weeks later, he was relieved to see that I was able to squeeze his fingers, because there was a strong possibility of paralysis on my left side due to the location of the tumor.

After the dust settled from surgery and the medical bills started coming in, we realized my insurance was inadequate. A large portion of the medical bills would have to come from our own pockets! We emptied out our 401ks and had no idea where the rest would come from. In addition, I was now considered uninsurable.

The oncologist informed us that the mass was a rare non-cancerous tumor and that the typical survival time was 10 years. The next course of action was thirty-five radiation treatments.

Radiation is a very strange thing. You can’t feel it entering your body at all, however, it is certainly affecting you. I remember as they bolted my shoulders and head to the table with a hard plastic mesh thing so I would not move, I said, “Ok, God, here we go.” I had so many thoughts running through my head as I lay still on that radiation table.

After the first month of treatments my hair started falling out. So I just started shaving my head every day—and still do (which is okay, I’ve been told that I look good bald.) A few weeks later I started to feel the negative effects of the radiation. I was treated with was a small beam of high-intensity radiation. This was shot at me from several angles. The beam goes all the way through and out the other side of my head. The theory is that tumor cells are not as resilient as normal healthy cells and although the healthy cells are receiving the same amount of radiation, the healthy cell will rebuild and the tumor cells will not. Sounds good in theory, but it can really mess you up until your healthy cells can regenerate. In addition, the radiation can give you a major sun burn and that’s exactly what I got. It was some kind of radiation poisoning. It first started on my head and then moved to my face. It was excruciatingly painful. It also itched horribly. The overall experience was so bad that one night, Traci woke up and found me in the kitchen just standing there in complete anguish because I did not know what to do to make the itching and burning go away. She ended up taking me to the emergency room where I was treated.

Life moved on. I was able to get back to work with my photography business. And in just a few more months we were expecting our first child.

We were beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. We had been able to set up affordable payments with the hospital and I had secured adequate insurance through the Missouri Health Pool. I had some minor issues with my fine motor skills, but I was so thankful that it was not worse. With the exception of our 3-month routine MRIs, our life was back to normal.

When you go through a life-threatening event, you start to look at life differently. You realize how fragile and short life really is. You also quickly learn it’s not the material things that are important, but the relationships with people in your life. Of course, as a Christian, I saw how God could use my experience to witness to others who needed encouragement.

Even though my tumor had been 99% removed, there was a strong chance that it would rear its ugly head back into our lives again. Two kids and almost five years later, the tumor returned. This time there were new chemotherapy drugs available, so in the spring of 2009, I started chemo.

During that following 6 months, I still ran my business. That whole summer wedding season was a blur. I was constantly exhausted and in survival mode.

I was stable for almost 6 months and then a MRI showed more growth. We really started to feel the stress and burden of how my health was affecting our lives. Another year of stronger chemo was suggested. I knew that there was no way that I could operate my studio while going through more chemo. After much prayer and council, we decided I would have to shut down the studio. This was really hard for me.

I began a new job selling timeshares in Branson. It went really well and things seemed to be headed in the right direction. I loved my job, the people I worked with and the families I got to meet. I was typically home by 3 p.m. so the hours were not long. It all seemed like such an answer to prayer.

This chemo round was much harder and affected me very differently, I started getting very weak and shaky; you could even hear it in my voice. I would get sick in the morning and middle of the night, I also started to get neuropathy in my fingers and toes (numbness and pins and needles). I was amazed at how God kept my spirits up and still used me. But ultimately, my sales started to drop and in November of 2010, I was let go.

For the first time in my married life, I had no idea how I would support my family. At this point we were almost completely broke. I was so sick from the chemo, and confused about why God had opened this door and then did not bless me in the way I thought He would. This was one of the lowest points of my life. We were totally reliant on God’s provision.

And God provided.

Not in the way we expected. But He provided. He provided everything we needed through family and Christian brothers and sisters. It was overwhelming. It was humbling. It was a great time of learning and leaning. A friend in the local wedding industry planned a fundraiser for my family and raised enough money for our living expenses for 6 months! We would get random calls from our church to let us know that there had been an anonymous envelope dropped by the office with our names on it. We would open the envelopes to find several hundreds of dollars in them. Another day would come with a call from a friend whose wife’s workplace wanted to give our kids a great Christmas. They delivered several toys and other gifts to our house. It was an amazing blessing. On one hand it was humiliating, but on the other, God allowed us to witness firsthand how He provides by using others to meet our needs.

I was approved for disability and Traci, after staying at home since the kids were born, went back to work. This was not “our plan” of how we wanted to raise our family and this is not how we expected God to provide. It was not our preferred way, but this is how He has provided for us.

I have exhausted my radiation and chemo options and we have decided to pursue more natural options. As it stands now, I am tentatively scheduled for another surgery in early May pending the results of my next MRI.

Having to deal with this tumor for the last 10 years has certainly changed our lives. I can honestly say that it has brought me closer to my saving God, family and friends. It has been full of many uphill battles but also too many joys to count. I can bear witness that God has sustained me and my family. However, it is over the last few years I feel God has used me the most. He has given me a great peace that no matter what happens to me, everything will be taken care of and this has allowed me to be a witness to so many others.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. James 1:2-3

Praise be to my great God in Heaven!

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The Dial family: Preston and Traci along with their children, Emma and Max

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Join with us as we pray for complete healing for Preston! God is able!

If you are new to this blog, follow Holly and Heather by clicking the “follow” button at the top of the screen!

Read up on their story: here!

And read why they wrote Dancing On My Ashes.

If you want to know more about who God is go here!
I hope you’ve been encouraged today!
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12 thoughts on “{Story6} I have a brain tumor

  1. Pingback: {Story6} I have a brain tumor | Dancing On My Ashes | OverwhelmedByJoy

  2. Thanks for posting, my nephew. You have an amazing story to tell/share. God will use it for HIS Glory. You have agreed to be HIS witness as HIS child….I love you and your family precious one! Jesus LOVES you SO MUCH!! Aunt Donna

  3. Thanks for sharing this story. It is a blessing and an encouragement. Prayers, Preston for you and your family and for God’s will. I wish you the best.

    • Lori, thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment! You can be praying for him TODAY… he actually had brain surgery THIS morning! I’m still waiting to hear how everything went. But he went in confident that God was with him.

  4. Preston is a friend of ours and was also our wedding photographer. But we’ve lost touch with him over the years. I knew only part of his story, so it was good to hear the details of God’s faithfulness. Thank you for sharing it!

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