On April 6, 2001, I was diagnosed with a brain tumor. My initial reaction was not one of surprise but relief, because all the symptoms I had been experiencing finally had an explanation. For weeks, I had been suffering from headaches, double vision, and dizziness that caused me to tilt my head and generally feel uncomfortable; I was nauseous and very tired. Surgery was scheduled for the next Friday, April 13th, my most lucky day, and the tumor was fully resected by my wonderful neurosurgeon, Dr. Hudgins. I wasn’t out of the woods yet because the pathology report indicated I had medulloblastoma , a malignant tumor that would require significantly more treatment.
Amidst all of this, I remember the love and support all around me. My aunts flew in from Virginia and my mother, father, and sister couldn’t have been gentler. Over the next few weeks, my grandparents flew in to help. I also remember sleeping next to my beloved dog, and though in pain, felt quite at ease. The months that followed would see me through six weeks of radiation followed by over a year of chemotherapy.
My relationship with God and the importance of life grew during that period. I came to see who my true friends were. The O’Donnell, Brady, and Maloney families were the best examples. Every day I woke up, thanking God, not knowing, at least halfway through treatment when I felt at my lowest, whether there would be another. It was not easy, but I know without question that the phrase, “God never gives you more than you can handle,” is true.
High school had its ups and downs as I entered Marist as a 7th grader just after finishing my treatment. I had two very kind homeroom teachers, Mr. Fecas and Ms. Robicheaux. They helped me through the year, always giving me words of encouragement. At times it was difficult to fit in because I didn’t feel comfortable participating in the more physical activities for which my body was ill-equipped. School was tough but rewarding; after calling my parents from the nurse’s office the first week of school, I went home and had a very matter-of-fact conversation with them about whether I was ready to attend such an institution. No one would blame me if I headed back to the very easy middle school I had been attending, but I had to choose to commit. The decision was a difficult one, but I chose to stay, mustering the strength and embracing new challenges to conquer.
Throughout those years, I learned that instead of playing baseball, I could play golf. Instead of swimming and scuba diving, I could fish. I continued to enjoy life despite what many people would view as significant setbacks.
Everything became easier as I healed with time. By my senior year, I was greatly enjoying life and even started a ping-pong club. At this point I was torn between wanting to enter the research field or becoming a priest. I decided to attend Georgia Tech, in the Honors program, to see where my heart was calling me.
After a lot of studying and extra effort, I am finishing my third year of college. Over the last year, I became sure of God’s calling to the priesthood. Wanting to remain at Georgia Tech because of the great education it offers and the fun and friendship I enjoy there, my current plan is to graduate in the spring of 2012, then enter the seminary. God continues to guide my way and help me remember to be thankful for every day.