Thursday, November 14, 2013

Choosing to Be Thankful for a Brain Tumor

“I choose to look at that brain tumor as
 the greatest gift I could have ever gotten …”

          During the 1984 Winter Olympics, my bride of less than a year wanted to watch figure skating.
          I skipped whatever favorite show competed for that time slot and released the remote into her hands. I’m pretty sure I groused a bit.
          For crying out loud, it was … just … figure skating.
          When Scott Hamilton slid onto the ice, I grew mildly intrigued. When he won Olympic gold while skating to “Walk This Way,” I was hooked.
          I laughed at his antics and gasped at his signature backflip. And I fell in love with figure skating.
          Almost 30 years later, I recently showed clips of Scott Hamilton to a group of teenagers. I wasn’t sure they’d find him as incredible and fun as I did. In fact, I feared a figure skating clip of Scott Hamilton would get a groan, and I’d be tagged as the out of touch geezer.
          But I needed that clip to demonstrate what an incredible athlete he’d been in the 80’s and 90’s. I needed it before I showed him talking about his health issues.
          The kids cut up and horsed around as they gathered around to watch the video. Then they watched him slide, glide, twirl, flirt, and flip. They laughed. They gasped. And in the end, they enjoyed Scott Hamilton and … figure skating.
          The routine captured all the joy and pleasure Scott Hamilton brought to the ice.
          Exactly what I’d hoped would happen.
          It gave the context of what followed—Scott sharing about his health struggles as a child with a mysterious illness that stunted his growth, the loss of his mother to cancer, a fight with testicular cancer, and the eventual discovery of a brain tumor.
          The latter had been with him from birth. He mused about what his life would have been like without the tumor, if he’d grown to be a taller man, if he’d not, due to the childhood illness, ever been exposed to ice skating.
          That’s when he made this statement. “I choose to look at that brain tumor as the greatest gift I could have ever gotten … because it made everything else possible.”
Link to the whole video:

T. Neal Tarver has served churches in Texas and Wisconsin. He, his wife Ellen, and son Daniel lived and worked for three years as missionaries in the Russian Far East. Tom speaks enough Russian to both converse and confuse.

In 2011, Tom was selected as a semi-finalist in the American Christian Fiction Writers’ Genesis contest. He’s also been a two-time winner of MBT’s “Make Every Word Count Flash Fiction” contest. He has written articles for the local newspaper and an international mission magazine. His debut novel, Dark Eyes, Deep Eyes, is available through WestBow Press, Amazon, BARNES & NOBLE, and other retail outlets.
He currently serves as an associate pastor and writes from his home in Wimberley, Texas. He also writes about Christian community at A Curious Band of Others (

Tom has spoken in churches across America, and in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.


Caroline said...

Love, love figure skating! What a wonderful attitude. A true champion.

Linda Rondeau said...

thanks for sharing this Tom. Powerful.

Gail Kittleson said...

Great post, Tom. Will share!!


Carol said...

What a wonderful story. May I share it on my website - ? Thanks, Carol Howell - Best Selling Author of LET'S TALK DEMENTIA - A Caregiver's Guide

Linda Robinson said...

I, too, love figure skating...AND Scott Hamilton. Good post, Tom. I'll share.

J.B. DiNizo said...

Thanks for this wonderful blog. There was a story on last night's news featuring a young father, faced with brain cancer, who was living his life to the fullest.

Claude Nougat said...

Happy to share...What an amazing story!

TNeal said...

Thank you all for your wonderful words. Of course, feel free to share. It's Scott's story and it is powerful.