A New Normal

By Tom Regan

In April of 2015 I transitioned from being Northshore’s pastor of young adults to Imprint Church, which was launched out of Northshore in October 2012. I was hired to eventually start a new church out of Imprint. On Father’s Day in 2015, after just two months with Imprint, I strummed the final chord on my guitar while leading the singing on Sunday morning. That was the last thing I remembered before “coming to” in an ambulance on the way to the Evergreen Hospital Emergency Room. I awoke to the sound of a paramedic’s voice booming against my ear drums. My wife, Lindsay, was by my side and I felt wretched. Confused, I ripped the straps off of me and sat up, only to be laid back down and re-strapped. I pulled at the straps and pleaded with the paramedic to let me get up. The ride was probably ten minutes, but it felt like an eternity.

Later, I was told that back at the church, I had strummed the final chord on my guitar, then collapsed face down with a grand mal seizure. I was told it was quite a scene. I’m glad I don’t remember it. To this day I sometimes have to fight through anxiety when I get on stage.

Darren leaned over the foot of the bed and placed both hands on my knees and prayed while we all cried. That would be the first of many tears.

After a CT scan, the ER doctor was kind and upfront. He said, “We see something on your scan that’s very concerning. There’s a large mass on your right frontal lobe.”

A brain tumor. The air left the room.

After the ER doctor broke the news to me, Lindsay, and Darren (my good friend and Imprint’s lead pastor), he left the room. A brain tumor? The first thing on my mind was my three young daughters. My face broke its usual shape and I began to weep hard. Darren leaned over the foot of the bed and placed both hands on my knees and prayed while we all cried. That would be the first of many tears.

A neurosurgeon made room in his surgery schedule for me that week. Word traveled very fast and immediately a flood of God’s grace came our way in the form of prayers, expressions of support, meals, and finances. God used our time of weakness and desperation to pour out His sufficient grace.

Three days later I rolled into surgery. It was the longest and hardest eight hours of Lindsay’s life while she waited for the surgeon to come out after the operation. She worried I might not be the same.

It was a massive discouragement to learn that the surgeon wasn’t able to remove all of the tumor, as some of it resides on critical brain tissue.

I woke up in the ICU, parched and nauseated, with a blood drain-tube coming out of my head. For several days in the hospital, with my brain and body assaulted by surgery, I was living in a dark wasteland—the valley of the shadow of death. I’d never felt desolation of soul like that. But I found refuge while I thought about the fact that Jesus, by laying down his life for me, experienced the ultimate desolation of His soul on the cross, paying for my sins, in order to bring me into relationship with God.

The biopsy revealed a grade-two cancerous brain tumor. The first operation removed the bulk of the tumor, but some remained and therefore I needed a second surgery. So for the second time in five months I went under the knife again, this time down at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

It was a massive discouragement to learn that the surgeon wasn’t able to remove all of the tumor, as some of it resides on critical brain tissue.

I underwent brain radiation treatment last summer and am currently on a six-month chemo regimen, which is fortunately more tolerable than some chemotherapies. There’s no cure for brain cancer, and remission is not a word that’s ever used. Instead, doctors use the words “manage” and “hope for stability” (i.e., no growth). I will need an MRI every few months to monitor my brain. Meanwhile, we pray for the complete eradication of the cancer, as God is able to do whatever He wants.

My desire is to preach the gospel and make disciples of Jesus with the days and grace God gives me.

I’ve prayed to the Lord many times to take this from me, but given the presence of the tumor, the answer comes back, “My grace is sufficient for you.” And that’s proven true daily. Will this cancer grow again, as it certainly could? I don’t know. But I fix my mind on the promise that whatever happens, His strength will be enough to carry me through my weakness and I trust that the “LORD will fulfill His purpose for me” (Psalm 138:8).

By God’s grace I have all my normal neurological functioning intact. After much prayer, discussion, and having had my hands in full-time pastoral ministry for a year now, Lindsay and I, along with Imprint’s elder board, feel God’s confirmation to continue with the original plan for me to lead the launch of a new church sometime in the near future somewhere on the eastside. My desire is to preach the gospel and make disciples of Jesus with the days and grace God gives me.

The apostle Paul experienced a painful affliction and prayed passionately to Jesus three times to take it away. But Jesus said to him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect through weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). Know that in whatever you’re going through, you can simultaneously be weak in your suffering and experience the power of Christ in your life if you will trust in Him. It’s only in your weakness that you can experience His incredible strength in your life.

 


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3 Comments
  • Tom Cossette
    Posted at 06:42h, 27 January Reply

    Tom,
    Thank you for sharing your story and relentlessly pursuing souls with feet fitted with the readiness of the gospel of Christ. Your words and actions are an encouraging demonstration to all of us what abiding faith in God’s goodness looks like in the midst of terrible loss and dark threats on this side of eternity.
    The grace of the Lord Jesus, the love of God the Father, and fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you and Lindsay and your girls always.

  • Marcia Gladwish
    Posted at 16:29h, 26 January Reply

    I’m so thankful to have Tom as one of my pastors. He is truly a shepherd who is following hard after Jesus and is taking us with him.

  • Gregg Eilers
    Posted at 15:00h, 26 January Reply

    As a cancer survivor myself you are right on. Amen brother! Be strong!

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