Minnesota woman finds confidence in faith amid brain cancer
WINONA, Minn. (AP) — It came out of nowhere.
Amy Woodard felt nauseous. Her vision blurred in one eye. She knew what she wanted to say, but the words wouldn’t come out.
It was April 4, and the Winona resident was at work at the Ridgeway Community School.
She sat down. After a few minutes, her words came back. She called her husband and went home. She thought it was the flu.
It was a tumor on her brain.
It’s been a hard journey for Amy and her family since April. But what’s lifted Amy up and carried her through the hardship has been her faith — which she feels is 10 times stronger than it ever has been because of the life changing news.
“Yea this sucks that this is the way that it is, but that’s life,” Woodard said. “I do have a great feeling that the Lord is with me.”
A fundraiser to help Amy and her family — which includes husband Chris and three young children — was recently held at the Witoka Bar.
After getting home from work, Amy pushed against her husband’s suggestions to go the emergency room. She just wanted to take a nap.
And the nap did make her feel better. But Amy’s mom and dad weren’t convinced and after both echoing the same statement as her husband, she gave in and headed to the doctor.
They did a CT scan.
“They said there was something showing that’s on her brain,” Woodard’s sister Mindy Schroeder said.
The next day they did an MRI.
That’s when Amy’s life changed — not because of the news, but because of a decision Amy made while she was in there, the Winona Daily News reported.
“I decided I’m just going to talk to God this whole time,” Woodard said during a phone interview.
It most certainly helped.
“I came out just a total different person,” Woodard said. “I know I’m going to be fine.”
After the MRI and a later biopsy, doctors discovered the tumor was a form of glioma — a tumor that occurs on the brain or spinal cord that is extremely aggressive and requires even more aggressive treatment.
That meant brain surgery followed by radiation and chemotherapy — the latter of which Woodard is still going through.
A little more than month after feeling that wave of nausea, it was time for Woodard’s brain surgery — while she was awake.
“She had to talk the whole way through,” Schroeder said.
Since the tumor was on her left temporal lobe near her speech center, Mayo Clinic doctors needed to make sure they didn’t cut too far and alter Woodard’s ability to speak.
So while she was lying on her right side and completely conscious, doctors made their way through her skull and pressed on areas of her brain while Woodard tried to identify and describe pictures she was being shown so they knew where they could cut.
“That did hurt,” Woodard said with a slight laugh.
She remembers hearing a specific sound.
“Like a saw,” she said.
She remembers hearing something else.
“Music,” she laughed. “We were singing together.”
With a heart full of faith and willingness to sing with strangers as a tumor was being cut from her brain, Woodard made it through the surgery. Doctors were able to remove 80 percent of the tumor, Schroeder said. The other 20 percent would have to be removed through chemotherapy and radiation.
Even with Woodard’s faith, it’s not been easy on the family.
“I’m a nurse,” Schroeder said. “Throughout this whole thing I’ve been more scared about this than her. I believe in God too, but I just struggle knowing her diagnosis.”
As Woodard recovered right after the surgery, she was asked to do a few tasks that would help them determine how her brain is functioning after the surgery.
“They said to cover her right eye and she covered her left,” Schroeder said. “They said to close her eyes as tight as she could and she opened them wide.”
She kept saying the same thing over and over.
“What if she doesn’t come out of this?” Schroeder thought at the time. “What if she can’t express herself? What if he cut around the area too close?”
It has not been easy on Woodard’s three children either. It’s certainly has been made harder by the recent passing of their grandma from E. coli.
“My oldest is 9 years old, so he’s the one that it’s been a lot harder on,” Woodard said. “And it’s even harder now that grandma just passed away.”
Woodard said that she and her husband are doing everything they can to support their children and keep the conversation open.
“We just do the best we can as husband and wife and give them lots of love,” she said.
They’ll soon find out if the tumor has shrunk from the treatments of chemo and radiation.
In the meantime, Woodard and her close family have been on vacation together north of Brainerd. They’ve been tubing, sitting in the sun and doing lots of fishing.
“I have a lot left in life to do,” Woodard said with confidence. “I am not scared. I have a lot of faith over fear.”
Information from: Winona Daily News, http://www.winonadailynews.com