Overcome by Gratitude

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by Jami Keller

“I have a mass in my brain.”

Marla said this with tears brimming in her eyes that were filled with fear. All I could do was cry with her, and struggle to keep my knees from buckling underneath me in this moment that filled me with the icy fingers of fear.

Everyone is doing their best. Well, almost everyone. And those that are not are living in a shadow of hurt and hate. I won’t spend any time on the shadow today, most of us know it when we see it or are tempted to be selfish, hurtful or mean.

As you read in the last issue, my wife, Marla, and I just went through a real scare that resulted in an emergency Brain Surgery. She was admitted on Wednesday (July 27), had surgery on Thursday, and came home Sunday.

Over the past 12 weeks we have learned how families and communities win together, beating the odds against all that is wrong in the world. We learned that we have to be willing to ride through some rough emotional territory, and be willing to listen to the pain.

Marla is one of those amazing people that has a light in her that people are drawn. Not only does she sing like an angel she has spent her life going after deep wounds in herself and others in order to heal. She is a “maximizer” and when she leaves a position it takes three people to do what she did, seemingly with minimal effort. This has happened several times.

About two years ago Marla started complaining that she was tired more often than she felt was “right.” In true Marla fashion she started improving our diet and led us to upgrade our exercise program. Little did we know that this extreme fatigue was directly related to a ever increasing hemangioblastoma (benign brain tumor).

For ten weeks before finally taking Marla to the ER she was experiencing severe dizziness and nausea that consistently led to extreme vomiting. It came on the heels of some family members having a flu with similar symptoms. But by week ten, after hair and blood tests, physical therapy, chiropractor visits, homeopathic oils, tinctures and some vitamins, the joke about being one flu away from her ideal weight wasn’t funny anymore.

My parents came to town for a visit. And their visit is important because we have worked on healing this relationship. And they played a role in making sure that Marla got to the ER. Turns out family, and family of choice, is the basic building block for community victories.

Around this time, Marla had two of the best days she had experienced for more than eight weeks. Marla and I were hoping that the treatments were working for the diagnosed “inner ear infection.” My parents made sure that I would be taking her to the emergency room right away.

The first test was an MRI that shockingly revealed a 2 x 2 inch fluid sac that had been leaking from a two centimeter cyst. The good news was that the cyst as very near the surface of her brain in the very back of her head, in the cerebellum, and the surgeon who was assigned to Marla’s case is a Navy Seal who decided to become a surgeon with a post doctoral degree in neurology. My confidence in a positive outcome for Marla increased dramatically discovering that he is very respected by every other medical staff member we had encountered to that point.

I want to say something about fear at this point because this was scary. Really scary. After the initial tears Marla and I shared following her diagnosis I realized I could not break down. I had to focus on her care and make some tough decisions, and advocate for her care. I teach people about how to be aware of their “modes” and to be sure that these modes are helping them and their community. And while I did fair at this, I realize now there is much room for me to improve. It seems that there is always more to learn…

The surgery was delayed because the previous surgeries went longer than expected and Marla symptoms were getting much worse, the two nurses that were working closely with her and fought hard to keep her stable before the delayed surgery could take place. It was here that I noticed that these two were working inside a system that can be a royal pain in the ass. Healthcare has it’s challenges and in a health crises where life, death, and brain function are on the line I could see the results of people doing there best.

The surgery went amazingly well, and Marla has a spectacular outcome. The Sunday after the Thursday Surgery the surgeon’s Nurse Practitioner told us “We are used to more complicated brain surgery, and yours was easy so we are sending you home.”

Wow. We were blessed with such good results. The many people sending their love and prayers were so appreciated. The team of people that worked hard to get this result were each amazing and we are grateful to each of them.

We are very aware this is outcome was just one option, and considering the others sends shivers down my spine. We are left with some very powerful take aways. Here they are:

  1. Value the people you love, and make sure that you make clear your heart for them, consistently.
  2. Value friendships that are building community, and build boundaries for any relationship that shows signs of mistrust. (Boundaries are a topic that we discus HERE.)
  3. Having the hard conversations with those closest to you is the best thing you could ever do. Learning how to have those conversations is the most important investment we have ever made.
  4. Teaching these things is our life purpose, and it is time to leverage forward for communities to overcome the fear and hurt that often creates more fear and hurt. Are you ready to lead your community to this place? Let’s talk.
  5. Learn to engage in gratitude every day, multiple times a day.


And I am overcome with gratitude. First that Marla could clean up my words in this smooth format. And from there my heart is set on fire because of the number and weight of the things that are so wonderful they humble me. There are so many people who have reached out to help and support us during this very stressful, crazy time. And so many who support the work Marla and I do. For this, we are forever grateful. We are so proud to help so many and have our part in the success of other people. Are you ready for freedom, peace and joy in spades? See Forgiveness Coaching below…


This is what clients are saying about Forgiveness Coaching:

“These guys are the real deal! Your life will change.” ~Amy Beth

“Passion Provokers was very helpful when I had no idea what to do with my relationship. Their tools lead to a very empowered outcome. I highly recommend their process to everyone.” ~Biba

“They provide a method to solve relationship problem that works when you follow it.” ~Tim