For we walk by
faith and not by sight
2 Corinthians 5:7
T H E G U R U
by Linda Castleberry Thomas and Nancy Ann Allen
The first neurosurgeon I visited said I needed a "guru" and that there weren't any in this part of the country. His suggestion was that I seek consults in Phoenix, Little Rock, Pittsburgh, or somewhere in Florida.
The risks involved possible loss of sight in one or both eyes, partial or complete loss of cognition, or even stroke to mention a few. I thanked him for his time and candor as he admitted that he wasn't the surgeon for me.
My 3 cm. meningioma was located on the right optic nerve, the pituitary gland, and the carotid artery. All I could do was leave it in God's capable hands, continuing my search.
The next neurosurgeon on my list was Dr. Paul C. Francel of OU Medical Center, right here in Oklahoma City. Although, according to the first neurosurgeon there was no one in this area capable, I decided to proceed with my plan to consult with Dr. Francel. He had been referred to me by a colleague who had done research on Parkinson's Disease via the internet. She said he was on the cutting edge of neurosurgery and had made quite a name for himself.
On February 16, 2001, Mom, a friend, and I went for my 2:00 p.m. appointment with Dr. Francel. He spent two and a half hours with us. In that time I learned of many of his professional accomplishments, was given detailed answers to my two typed pages of questions, and was assured he could successfully remove my tumor with minimal risk.
As he examined me, he asked about the scar on my neck. Mom spoke up and said, "Well, Linda's a cancer survivor." He looked solemnly at me and asked, "What are you doing here?" I was thrown for a few seconds. Then, I smiled and said, "I'm here by the GRACE of GOD." That's when we began witnessing. My spirit was lifted to know that this man openly gives all the Glory and credit to God.
I left the appointment with feelings of relief and renewed hope. I spent the next couple of days praying to make the right decision. I was contacted on Monday by his office. At that time, I asked if there were any current or former patients who I could contact for references. I was given three names. One of those names was Arnold Allen.
I called Arnold Allen and left a message. My call was returned by Nancy, his wife. Nancy spoke with my mother. I later spoke with Arnold and Nancy, myself. I also met another patient of Dr. Francel's. Finally, I made arrangements to have Dr. Francel perform my surgery.
On March 21, 2001, my meningioma was successfully, 100% removed.
To date, there has been no tumor regrowth. Praise the Lord!
Not only did I find my 'guru,' Dr. Francel, but I found an 'angel' of a friend in Nancy Allen!
REJOICE IN THE LORD ALWAYS
...AGAIN I SAY REJOICE!
...AGAIN I SAY REJOICE!
Me (Linda) left and Dr. Paul Francel right my hero and miracle worker
March 21, 2011 marks 14 years ago when God, again, brought me through. I had a brain tumor, a very serious illness and through this I was healed and brought closer to the Lord.
I don't know how far-reaching this goes/went, however, that illness allowed (and still does) me to witness to others with health issues about HIS healing power!
I am lifting up my heart and spirit to the Lord and would like you to do the same along with me.
I am grateful to each of you who experienced this with me. Many of you traveled long distances to be with me during this time. Your support, concern, cards, gifts, meals, prayers, visits, monetary gifts, rides, go-fers and all else is still not forgotten. God has enormously blessed me to have family and friends in the form of each of you.
The tumor was tightly wrapped around my right optic nerve, severely traumatizing it. As a result, I have no sight in my right eye.I learned so many lessons through this experience. Just to mention one in particular, I have a whole new meaning to 2 Corinthians 5:7 "For we walk by faith and not by sight." I already knew the figurative meaning, now I know the literal meaning. As a result of losing vision, I've been granted a heightened spiritual awareness.
Please continue to keep me in your prayers and love me. His praises shall continually be in my mouth!
More About Linda by Nancy Allen
Linda is a gifted speech therapist working with children and is also a talented pianist. She is active in her church and plays the piano there. Linda is a powerful Christian. She is constantly inspiring me in the faith. She picks me up when I am down. Linda is a treasured friend and a lovely person. I am richly blessed for knowing her.
Linda recently told me, "Although I lost my physical sight in my right eye, I've gained something far more important...my spiritual sight!" "Also, He has revealed to me part of my purpose for my life...to be a witness for Him...to tell my story to others...to be an encourager and to intercede in prayer for others, particularly for physical healing." I love that! It is so beautiful--just like Linda!
Linda at Crowns Tea for Black History Month in Norman 2012 (Left) and 2017 (Right)
March 21, 2001, the 16 year anniversary of my being "tumor free!" My 3cm meningioma (benign brain tumor) was sucessfully removed via God's healing power as he guided Dr. Paul Francel through this risky, surgical procedure.
March 21, 2011 update: At her 10 year anniversary of her brain surgery she is doing fantastic.
March 21, 2012 update: Linda continues to do well and still works full time with children as a speech therapist. She is such a remarkable woman!
March 21, 2013 update: Praise God, Linda is still doing well and continues her work with children and their speech problems. She is very active in her church and plays the piano there. She recently rode a camel at the Medieval Fair in Norman this year and that isn't the first time she rode a camel. She rode one in Egypt by the pyramids one time. She loves to go on cruises with her family. She is amazing and definitely lives life to the fullest. I am so blessed to have met and become friends with Linda.
May 20, 2013 update: Linda was extremely lucky and blessed to have just missed the May 20 EF-5 tornado that destroyed a large section of Moore, Oklahoma. She was working in a school in Moore near the path of the tornado and a co-worker filmed the tornado going by. She was originally going to be assigned to Plaza Towers the school that had the fatalities, but the supervisor changed it to another school. I am so thankful that Linda was not in Plaza Towers when it was leveled by the tornado.
March 21, 2014 update: Linda continues to do great and help children full time with their speech difficulties. She continues to amaze and inspire me in the faith. She is a very dear friend and sister in Christ.
March 21, 2015 update: Feeling thankful, especially today! March 21, 2001, was a major life event for me. I underwent a very risky, delicate brain surgery. This was a surgery that some physicians said couldn't be done. Of course, I knew that God was in control. Thanks to Him, using Dr. Paul Francel, I am alive today, fully functioning, with an opportunity to serve the Lord daily! I will never forget the support of family and friends during this trying time in my life! Prayers, gifts, visits, food, trips to medical appointments and love are unmatched! Thanks to all who were instrumental in my recovery and healing! I made new friends Nancy Ann Allen, Arnold Allen, and cherish the existing friends even more (CeeJay CeeJay Gordon, Mary Womack, Linda Combs, Irma Houston, Angela Houston Mustin and dozens more). Special love and shout out to my precious, Noelle Ford and my phenomenal mother, Blanche Castleberry, who put her life on hold for 4 months and go through every step of the process with me. Fourteen years later, I am tumor free, happy, blessed and highly favored of the Lord!!!
March 21, 2016 update: Fifteen years ago today was a day of healing and deliverance. Today I reflect on God's grace, mercy, healing, and love that surrounded me and continues to surround me. I am still tumor free! Some said it couldn't be done...BUT GOD!!! I am grateful to family, friends, acquaintances, loved ones, a physician who believed with me, supported me with love, financial blessings, words of encouragement, prayers, acts of kindness, etc. that will never be forgotten!
Dr. Francel, whose skillful, God guided hands removed that ugly tumor, Mom, Noelle, Mary, Etta, Maggie M. Maynard, Charlotte, Penny Walker, Linda Combs, Community Missionary Baptist Church, Pastor Gaines, Adrianne Gaines, Quinn Gordon Green and dozens of others who gave your time, love and concern. I love you and hold you close to my heart! I can't begin to name everyone...just know that God has shown favor in you and blessed me through each of you! My dear friend, Nancy Ann Allen, whom, had I not gone through this trying ordeal I would not have met you...Remember friends that all things work together for God to them that love the Lord and are called according to His purposes! Love you!!! Linda Castleberry Ford
June 11, 2016 - Married the love of my life, Bruce Thomas, in Cincinnati, Ohio at our beautiful wedding. Thanks Dr. Francel for making that possible!!! See some pictures below.
March 21, 2017 update:
March 21, 2001, the 16 year anniversary of my being "tumor free!" My 3 cm. meningioima (benign brain tumor) was successfully removed via God's healing power as he guided Dr. Paul Francel through this risky, surgical procedure.
I look back and remember the peeps who supported me spiritually, physically, emotionally, financially and I continue to be more than grateful for you being in my life. I am grateful for the support of Community Missionary Baptist Church of Norman, Oklahoma, its pastor and first lady, Pastor Richard Gaines and Adrianne Gaines , Mary Womack, CeeJay Gordon, Nancy Ann Allen and Arnold Allen, Linda Combs, Nia Noelle, Jeannie Holt Harris, Carrie Holt (RIH, Sweet Nurse/friend!) and my wonderful mother, Blanche Castleberry, who put her life on hold for 4 months to be with me and take care of me through this process! There are many, many more who may not be named.
Above, Right - Linda's mom Blanche, Linda, and daughter Noelle
Mr. and Mrs. Bruce Thomas
Mr. and Mrs. Bruce Thomas
Linda and Bruce Reception Pictures
Courtyard Marriott Hotel, Norman, OK
August 7, 2016
The Happy Couple - Linda and Bruce
Linda and Bruce - Beautiful Reception Serving Table - Close up of the Cake
Arnold and Nancy Allen with Linda Thomas (left)
Linda with helpers at the reception - Thanks so much--great job!!
Dr. Francel is now retired from medical practice, and
after studying for the ministry, graduated from seminary
August 24, 2012 and is doing the Lord's work.
He is now Assistant Minister to Pastor Mark Borseth at the
Resurrection Lutheran Church in Yukon, Oklahoma.
He and his wife enjoy performing at the Yukon Czech Festival in their native costumes. He wrote a book and it may be made into a movie about his parents' experiences and escape from communism in Czechoslovakia during World War II and immigration to the U.S.
Dr. Francel is also one of the head persons involved in getting the
Piedmont Park Project built in Piedmont, Oklahoma.
God bless you and good luck Dr. Francel!
We are all so proud of you!