As I’ve been thinking about what’s transpired with Abigail, one thing keeps coming to mind. You know when you look back on life and can see God’s hand orchestrating events and outcomes? You don’t see it or feel it in the moment, but at some point it clicks – Oh, yes God, that was you. This was so dramatic that it clicked very quickly for us. I can see where God’s blessing and protection was over Abigail, even when we were walking through what we thought was the worst case scenario. But contrary (very very contrary) to what we all thought initially, this tumor/whatever it is (yes, we are still waiting on an official diagnosis from pathology) was the best case scenario for Abigail’s life. What I thought was absolutely the worst case scenario was actually the best case scenario. The fact that they found this in utero at 30 wks was best case scenario. The fact that she’s missing a good chunk of the left side of her brain was best case scenario. The fact that where there should have been brain was a ton of fluid was best case scenario. Obviously, the fact that it wasn’t malignant and has totally stumped the pathologists was best case scenario. I think this because here she is, looking all cute, with no glaring issues. No residual effects from having a massive mass and fluid pretty much filling the left side of her skull. Remember when we got the email back from our first initial contact with Boston Children’s Hospital? The neuro oncologist was very concerned about the “extensive brain damage” that may have already been done due to the crazy amount of stress on her brain. And here she is. Wide eyed and full of personality. Without any indication of any kind of brain damage.
Google “fetal brain tumor” and you will find almost nothing positive about survival. Masses found in utero are typically very, very bad with little chance of survival. However, in Abigail’s case, this thing forming so early, destroying her brain in the developing stages, actually gave her a chance to re-route all of her neurological pathways to the right side of her brain or whatever remains on the left. Children’s brains are so malleable, if something isn’t right, it can just go somewhere else and they can regain function. Based on her MRI scans, she should have significant issues. Movement, vision, cognition should all impaired. If she were an adult, she would be severely limited. If alive at all. But she’s not. Best case scenario.
Problems can also come up because you typically have to dig through brain tissue to get to the tumor to remove it. Very scary. That could case all sorts of unintentional brain damage. Our surgeon told us he didn’t have to touch her brain tissue. There was so much fluid, blood and cysts that was surrounding the solid mass that he could access it without touching any of her existing brain. Never cut into any brain tissue! That’s incredible. He actually went through one of the cysts, right up next to her skull, to get to the tumor. So basically, without being too gross, he cut open her skull and instead of seeing brain, saw all this fluid and was able to go through that and scoop out the solid part. This was also why her surgery was so much shorter than anticipated. No slowly tiptoeing around brain tissues trying to cause the least amount of damage. Shorter surgery equals less time intubated, less risk for infection, less blood loss, etc. meaning overall faster, easier recovery. I envision that all of that stuff was cushioning the mass. Which looked incredibly awful on MRI, very much not survivable, contributing to the terrible prognosis we were given. But turns out, I feel like those big black holes that looked so awful on her MRI images were actually protecting Abigail. Protecting her future and granting her the highest level of function possible. Once again, best case scenario.
I can see God’s hand in all of this, from the beginning until now. As I re-live the struggle to understand what was happening and why, I now hear him saying, “See, I got this! I know. You don’t, and that’s ok. I know beauty will always rise from the mess. You may not see it immediately, but either here or in eternity, you will see and understand.” I read Job 38 a lot, through the uncertainty, because it gave me comfort to know that God has always been there. And I was not. So, like I’ve said many times, what do I know? Basically, after all Job’s moaning and groaning and questioning God (but for good reason because the guy went through a lot!), God speaks and begins to question Job.
4 “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
Tell me, if you understand.
5 Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!”
16 “Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea
or walked in the recesses of the deep?
17 Have the gates of death been shown to you?
Have you seen the gates of the deepest darkness?
18 Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth?
Tell me, if you know all this.”
I love that God puts me in my place here. “Where were you?”, He says. And I say, “I don’t know.” And He replies, “Exactly.” I’ve read this over and over. It helps me accept that I don’t know what’s behind the curtain of our circumstances, and to stop trying to control everything. There’s always more that what we can see and understand. Like all we encounter is the top of the iceberg, God only knows what’s under the water. It absolutely baffles me that He knew this outcome, that we walked through this, so certain we knew what would happen, but we didn’t. And the doctors didn’t. It also helps me accept that I cannot understand why Abigail’s story is a story of praise and joy and many, many others are not. But God knows what we do not. He knows the good that will eventually flow from the grief. He can answer the “why?”. He is sovereign. For His perfect and unknown reasons, God protected Abigail’s life here on this earth. And I am forever grateful.