{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!

{Story2} Burying your baby

Through the month of March, we’re going to do a series called “This is my story, this is my song.” There are personal journeys of hope, victory, courage, and redemption that you need to hear!

The story you are about to read is incredible! I (Heather) met Sarah a little over a year ago. You know how sometimes you meet someone and your friendship takes off? That’s what happened with us—a deep friendship emerged so effortlessly. I have no doubt, God had our paths collide. [Not only are we friends, but we also have a side business together called Story Designs {by S & H} – after you’re done reading… check out the pretty things we make!]

I can’t wait for you to hear from her! I’ve been praying for THIS MOMENT since she first shared some of her journey with me over coffee! Our kids were off destroying the play room as we were wiping tears and smiling over God’s fierce love for us. I KNOW this is going to bless your socks off!

I’m happy to introduce you to Sarah…

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by Sarah Lombardi

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust him,
How I’ve proved him o’er and o’er
Jesus, Jesus, Precious Jesus!
O for Grace to trust him more

I have been singing that song all my life, but it wasn’t until this year that I began to understand the joy and fullness of putting my complete trust in Him.

Five years ago, on March 29th, I went into labor with our second child. We were very excited about welcoming our baby BOY into the family! Earlier that week the doctor told me it could be any day. I was 37 weeks and full term! We gathered our bags and headed to the hospital. I remember feeling an overwhelming sense of fear as we drove in. I prayed silently for peace, and as I prayed, it was like I already knew.

Shortly after we arrived, the nurses got me in a room and started hooking me up to monitors. The nurse could see that I was having close contractions, but she was having trouble finding baby. I continued to pray. After what felt like an eternity, she called in the doctor to do an ultrasound. The on-call doctor wheeled in the sonogram machine and placed it right on Miles. It was very clear—Miles had his hands raised and was still. No heartbeat. Just still. The doctor said, “You see this,” pointing to the screen. “This is his heart and its not beating.”

My world… our world… came crashing down.

Tears came.

All I could do was weep.

My husband and I held one another and wept.

After my surgery they brought in Miles Daniel for me to hold. He was in a bassinet, wrapped in a blanket. They had dressed him in a little hat and a zip-up sleeper. He was perfect. Just beautiful. Miles weighed exactly 4 pounds, so he was little, but oh so perfect. I held him and cried. I just starred at him “asleep” in my arms. I took in every detail because I didn’t want this moment to end.

Baby Miles

Baby Miles

After the funeral and all the family had gone, it seemed like life had to move forward… but I wasn’t ready to move forward. I prayed day and night, “Lord give me faith to trust this is Your will in my life.”

It’s been a process. It’s been a fight. Grieving takes a toll on you physically, emotionally, and spiritually. But as seconds turned into hours, and hours to days, and days to months, and now months to years; through it all the Lord has shown me (and continues to show me) how much HE loves US.

Every step of this journey He. Has. Loved. ME!

HE loved this broken momma who had lost ALL of her joy in the Lord.

HE loved this sad wife who became a negative and selfish spouse.

HE loved me and extravagantly poured His love into my heart—healing me bit by bit.

He showed His love through our family, our church family and friends. He took a mother with a broken heart and made her into a mother with a prayerful heart. The Lord has given me a compassion for the hurting, the weary, and the brokenhearted. He has mended our marriage—taking two hurting, selfish people, and showing us how to live and thrive inside a Christ centered, loving marriage.

These five years have been full of tears, but we have begun to see His beauty rising from our ashes. He brought JOY back into my heart and a song:

‘Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus
Just to take him at his word
Just to rest upon his promise
Just to know thus saith The Lord

I realized how sweet it truly is to put my trust in Him and to believe what His Word tells me. Not just to hear it—but BELIEVE it! Jeremiah 29:11-13 says, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will hear you. You will seek Me and find Me, when you seek Me with all your heart.’” I began to put my trust back in Him—my Lord, my Savior! I gave Him my whole heart and my life that was broken and bruised… He has healed it!

Exactly two years after we lost Miles Daniel, the Lord blessed us with our third child—our son, Jones Abraham. Jones was born premature at barely 31 weeks. The Lord knew. He knit him together and knew exactly the day he would be born.

Sarah and Baby Jones

Sarah and Baby Jones

I held my precious, Jones, on the EXACT day we lost Miles, two years earlier. “The Lord gives and takes away…” {Job 1:21}

After naming Jones we found out the meaning of his name: “Jehovah has shown favor.”

For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life; weeping may endure for a night but joy comes in the morning. {Psalm 30:5}

We have questions without answers. There are days that I imagine the five of us sitting around the dinner table. I wonder what Miles’s laugh would sound like or how his arms would feel around me. There will be a day that I experience his giggles and his hugs, but until then, the arms of Christ envelop me. His arms are big enough, strong enough, and firm enough to strengthen this momma for the road ahead. He alone holds me together.

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On this road of suffering, I have learned to trust Him. Simply trust. His ways are greater and far better for me! It has been five years and THIS week we will place a stone at Miles’s grave. This year has been a year of freedom and of letting go of heartache. I am ready. WE are ready! “Lord, I trust you!” This stone isn’t for Miles—he is with our Savior! I imagine him dancing along the shore, hand in hand with Jesus! This stone is for mom and dad. We are placing this stone as a reminder: Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning!

I will forever sing:

I’m so glad I learned to trust thee,
Precious Jesus, Savior, friend.
And I know that thou art with me
Will be with me to the end.

♦♦♦♦♦

If you are new to this blog, check out our STORY and how God taught us about rising from our ashes—not to merely survive, but to dance!

Go here to learn more about the book: Dancing On My Ashes.

If you have questions about God or how you can come to know Him—go here!

Feel free to subscribe to our blog, we’d love for you to stop by again and again!

E-Book Sale: Dancing On My Ashes

b59b9-domacoverThrough the month of November, we are selling the e-book version of our book, Dancing On My Ashes, for a special price! Our publisher gave us a price break and we’d like to pass it on to you! Soooo, you can purchase the e-book version of Dancing On My Ashes from us (using our paypal link) for $5! {Our publisher sells it for $13.99, and Amazon sells it for $9.99!}

If you’ve already purchased a copy of our book, but you’ve always thought you’d like to buy one for so-and-so, this is the PERFECT opportunity! No pressure over here, we just want to pass along this price break. We are confident that it will find its way into the right hands at the right time. God continues to blow us away by the incredible testimonies we hear of God working in hearts, minds, and souls. May His good news go forth!

Thankful for what God is doing and has done with our story, which is truly His Story of redemption, hope, grace, and unfailing love! (If you have no idea what our book is about, you can go here and read a bit of our story OR you can watch our short video.)

{Note: After purchase, you will receive an email from us that includes instructions on how to download your e-book! We’ll get that to you as soon as we can!}

SALE ENDS NOVEMBER 30, 2013, at MIDNIGHT.

Here’s where you need to go:

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Dancing On My Ashes only $8!

coverOur publisher gave us a price break and we’d like to pass it on to you! For the next TWO weeks (sale ends 8.9.13) you can purchase the paperback version of Dancing On My Ashes from us (using our paypal link) for $8! Our publisher sells it for $16.99, so this deal (for all you math peeps) is more than 50% OFF!

If you’ve already purchased one, but you’ve always thought you’d like to buy a copy for so-and-so, this is the PERFECT opportunity! No pressure over here, we just want to pass along this price break. We are confident that it will find its way into the right hands at the right time. God continues to blow us away by the incredible testimonies we hear of God working in hearts, minds, and souls. May His good news go forth!

Thankful for what God is doing and has done with our story, which is truly His Story of redemption, hope, grace, and unfailing love! (If you have no idea what our book is about, you can go here and read a bit of our story OR you can watch our short video.)

Here’s where you need to go:

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*FOR PURCHASING MULTIPLES: If you want to buy multiple copies, feel free to contact Heather via email (hgilion@lifepointozark.com) so you don’t have to pay shipping on each book you’d like to order.

(Sale ends August 9, 2013)

Dancing On My Ashes is a true story that details the painful passage of two young widows out of the ashes and into their dance with the Almighty God.

When tragedy strikes, we often discover that we have been living with a false sense of who God is and begin asking questions like, Can Christ heal my wounds? Can He really take the ashes of my life and make them a source of beauty? Dancing On My Ashes is a call to stop living wounded and accept the presence of God’s hand in our lives. Are you ready to dance?