Singing praises after surviving a massive brain tumor

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 28 November 2013 at 12:00 am

Photo by Tom Rivers – Todd and Becky Wolford are pictured outside their home on West State Street in Albion on Wednesday. The couple worked in ministry together for about two decades with Mr. Wolford serving as a pastor and his wife the worship leader.

ALBION – Eight years ago on Thanksgiving, Becky Wolford was recovering from brain surgery. A massive softball-sized tumor had been removed from her brain a couple weeks before the holiday.

Wolford would have a skull piece inserted on her shaven head, and that skull piece would lead to infection and more surgery on Dec. 13, 2005.

She would suffer through deep depression, memory loss and anger in the months and years that followed. But Wolford said the ordeal has made her a better person with battle-tested faith.

“I have more sensitivity,” she said. “I feel things more now for people when they are going through something difficult.”

Wolford, 52, is now a college student with a goal of becoming a crisis counselor. She has written a book about her battle with cancer and her recovery. She will have a book-signing for “Trusted To Go Through” on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Bindings Bookstore, 28 West Bank St., Albion.

Wolford and her husband Todd moved to Albion with their four children 14 years ago. They bought a big house in the village on West State Street. They moved to Albion drawn to a house that was cheap with a decent size lawn.

At the time, Todd was pastor of Victory Full Assembly of God church in Akron. Becky was the worship leader, singing contemporary Christian music and praise songs.

Becky has been singing in church since she was a little girl. She has performed at Darien Lake for Kingdom Bound, a Christian festival. She and her husband were a team, with Todd delivering a message from the pulpit and Becky leading congregations in singing.

When the tumor was detected on the left side of her brain, doctors said if she survived, she might not be able to sing again.

The cover of Becky Wolford’s book shows the scan of the tumor in her brain.

“The tumor was the worst size and it was in the worst place,” she said Wednesday at her home.

Doctors feared she wouldn’t be able to see, and her speech, math skills and memory would all be disrupted because of the invasive surgery.

Wolford had the tumor removed at the Cleveland Clinic. Doctors did an experimental surgery, cutting open the back of her head to go in between the halves of her brain. That approach proved a success.

Wolford, about six weeks after the surgery, sang a solo at the Batavia Assembly of God church.

It would be five years, however, until she could sing without looking at notes. Wolford said still struggles with her short-term memory.

But that hasn’t kept her from singing on a stage in public. She is part of the worship band at the Albion Free Methodist Church.

Her husband is now a full-time teacher at Lyndonville Central School, teaching business and technology. He is a pulpit supply preacher, filling in at churches when the regular pastor is on vacation. His wife will often join him at the churches, and sing for the congregations.

Wolford has home-schooled the couple’s four children, ages 17 to 30. She said she finally feels like herself from a decade ago, about two years before she had the tumor removed. Wolford suspects it was growing in her brain for years.

“I had headaches, but I thought it was stress,” she said. “I was tired a lot. I was so exhausted.”

Her energy has returned. She has taken up biking, joining her husband on bike rides on the canal and around Albion.

She is studying crisis counseling through Liberty University, and she hopes her book will encourage people at a crossroads. She titled the book, “Trusted To Go Through,” believing God will not forsake the faithful in a crisis

“We Christians don’t always have it easy,” she said. “This is the real world. It’s not Heaven. There are some things that we’re called to go through.”

For more on the book, click here.