FAITH: the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1, KJV)
ORLANDO “PRETTYBOY” WATSON • SURVIVOR • LYMPHOMA
“I realized the most important thing in life is my spirituality & my family” Diagnosed • 2006
MINEKA CRESWELL • SURVIVOR • BREAST CANCER “My daughters gave me the stregnth to fight back & win!” Diagnosed • 2008
BRIDGET MARZETTE-BENDER • SURVIVOR • BREAST CANCER “I’m not dying from cancer-- I’m living with it, Truly Living” Diagnosed • January 2005
APRIL SIMPSON • SURVIVOR • BRAIN TUMOR
“Strength comes from when you face a challenge unexpectedly. I have felt the power of healing and maintained strength through it all” Live life to the fullest and keep god first”
Diagnosed • October 2010
VIRDOMAE GRIFFIN • DECEASED • RENAL CELL CANCER •
“She opens her mouth with wisdom, and loving instruction is on her tongue” July 24, 1952-October 22, 1999
April Simpson Life Through The Eyes Of A Survivor Words by: Seven L Maxwell Photography: Lawrence Bryant Clothing Provided By: Zeizo
very woman has a moment of clarity—that moment when she reclaims control of her life and redirects her focus. At 31-years-of-age, Fox 2 News reporter, April Simpson was enjoying a carefree life in her prime. With no husband or children to share her focus, she cultivated her career and prepared for a promising profession as a news anchor for St. Louis’s number one morning news station. “Everything was great. Life was just—great. I love what I do. We’re doing great at Channel 2,” begins an emotional Simpson, pausing to reflect on life prior to receiving the news that would send her life in a new direction. “I’m just trying to think of how it was before then. Now it’s so hard to think of how it used to be. I’ve gotten so used to living with this. But life was good,” she reassured. Simpson was secretly a source of support for a fellow coworker who was previously diagnosed with a tumor. She proudly recalled accompanying her colleague to hospital visits for MRIs and other care. Without knowledge, as she was an angel to a friend in need; she would soon discover they shared a similar story. “I kept having bad headaches for nearly a year. I kept going to the doctor and I was diagnosed with a sinus infection three times in 2010. I kept thinking ‘something just isn’t right’. I thought I was having an aneurism or something.” Simpson continued, “I would go to the doctor, and they’d say, ‘sinus infection’ and give me antibiotics, but the antibiotics didn’t work. I was taking everything. Nothing worked. “I think it was August of last year, my left eye became blurry. I really didn’t think much about it because my other eye was so strong and I was functioning so well. Then one day, I was off from work. I went to the eye doctor and they ran every test possible.” Simpson added, “I was there for nearly two hours before the doctors said, ‘I think you need to get an MRI’.” Quietly and contently, Simpson recalled the moment that forever changed her life. “I went down to St. John’s Hospital in the emergency room getting an MRI. I was sitting alone when two doctors came in. I knew by the looks on their faces that it was something bad, but I never thought…” Simpson continued, “I initially thought when I was at the eye doctor, ‘do you think it’s a tumor’—but I laughed it off.” “The doctors came in and they sat down on the bed with me. I kept bracing myself, wondering, what could it be?” Simpson bravely recalls, “I still didn’t realize—I didn’t think—it was a tumor hidden.” As Simpson recalled the words expressed from the doctor, her eyes told a tale through the trails of her tears. She knew this situation was serious, but at that second, it was all too surreal. “We went and looked at the x-ray. It was BIG”. The doctors agreed as they informed Simpson of the severity of the situation. Because her brain’s sever swelling, doctors wanted to conduct emergency surgery immediately”. After having the doctors call her mom who calmly processed the prognosis, Simpson called her boss whose raced to be by her side. “I was in shock. They said I have to have surgery, but we have to get the swelling from your brain first, so they put me on a ton of medications to get the swelling down.” “Two weeks later is when I had the surgery”. “I don’t think I realized the extent of how bad it was. I didn’t know, and I don’t think they wanted to tell me”. Simpson continued, “It was bad. They brought in one of the top neurosurgeons in the country, and it wasn’t until after the fact that I found out how serious it was”. “I had a twelve-hour surgery and they told my mother I may not make it.” Tearfully recalling the strength of her mother, Darlene, during this ordeal; Simpson’s tears reflected pride as she subtly hinted that her mother’s strength helped her to keep holding on. With her mother came the rest of the family; standing strong as their daughter, aunt, and sister underwent a struggle like she never imagined. Simpson recalls a moment where she was undergoing a tearful ordeal when her father started to shed tears. “To see my father cry—that’s what got me.” “My dad is a Vietnam Veteran, so I’ve never seen him cry”. “I can remember being in the hospital crying because it hurt so bad. I was in so much pain, my dad started crying”. She revealed, “I said I don’t ever want to see him cry again, so I just stopped. I endured all that pain because I didn’t want to see anyone else in pain. “I refused to cry. Even when they were rolling me away, I was laughing and joking, but on the inside I was like….[makes a face to show she was terrified].
“I didn’t realize how serious it was. They briefed my mom. A twelve-hour surgery is crazy.” She continued, “ I just thought I had to get through it, but I wrote out my will and all this stuff because when you hear brain tumor, you think, ‘I’m going to die’. I didn’t know.” Diagnosed with an aggressive—stage-three—meningioma; Simpson would have to undergo six-weeks of radiation to remove what remained—yet through it all, she and her family remained prayerful. Determined not to let life escape her without a fight, Simpson took to the internet to share her story first-hand with the world. “Initially it was supposed to be for my family if I didn’t make it and for me if I didn’t remember things.” It was through Facebook that she sat at her computer and explained the details of her ordeal. What started off as a means to communicate with frantic family members who received a more dire diagnosis through the grapevine than what the doctors initially gave; became a Facebook favorite, igniting a powerful prayer chain where the Saints called out to the Savior in Simpson’s name. Simpson credits the power of prayer as the reason for her recovery. “What shocked me most of all was how many people were praying for me.” She admitted, “It was really amazing. I didn’t think that many people cared”. “It was very difficult, and if I didn’t have that type of support, it would have been a lot worse”. “The toughest part is not knowing what’s going to happen next. It may come back, we don’t know. I’m just taking life one day at a time”. Simpson is most grateful for the bond which has strengthened in her family. She smiled as she spoke of how much closer she and her three sisters have become; while she lit up when speaking of her only brother. However, the most significant change this has brought to the Simpson family is her father’s newfound expression of his love. “He never used to say, ‘I love you’—until now. He says it every day now and it’s amazing!” She tearfully exclaims. “I don’t think I’ll ever be myself again. I’m still April, but I want to travel more. Before I was only focused on my career. Now I’m ready to live”. Simpson is successfully starting to readjust to life after an outstanding ordeal. She’s back at work broadcasting her beauty from within. She’s working on completing her Master’s degree; determined to keep on track her goals in life. This time she has more to celebrate. She’s started April’s Angels at www.AprilsAngelsFoundation.com with a mission to help people with brain tumors and their families get through the mental, physical and emotional toll it takes on them. Offering simple advice to others who are experiencing this and any other obstacle, Simpson reminds them to, “Stay prayerful and keep God first.” At the time this article was written, it has been four months since Simpson’s surgery, and nearly one month since her last radiation treatment. Awaiting the results of a pending MRI to reveal the results, Simpson is praying for a positive prognosis. For now she’s enjoying life one day at a time. Today she has life. Left with scars from the surgery and varied vision in her left eye; Simpson is reminded that she shares the soul of a survivor—and her story continues….Stay tuned.
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