Josh Irby

Live from Sarajevo

Megan’s Story (part two)

This is the second part of a three-part story. You probably want to read part one of Megan’s story before continuing.

Alone in Zurich

Megan (on the right) last year with a friend.

Megan (on the right) last year with a friend.

Following her summer in Sarajevo, Megan planned a semester of study abroad in Zurich, where her family lived before moving to California when she was 14. On the way from Bosnia to Switzerland, however, she began to experience symptoms that were different from the withdrawal attacks she faced all summer. On arriving in Zurich, she went directly to a specialist for an examination.

Upon hearing her symptoms, the doctor’s expression changed. “We will do a CT scan to confirm this, but it does not look good. It is time to say goodbye. From what you have told me, you don’t have a long time to live—maybe a month or two.” The CT scan showed that the parasite had moved to her brain and now covered 90% of it.

She prayed, “God if this is what you have for me, then I want to accept this. Just help me make the most of the time that you have given me.”

The doctor wanted Megan to stay in the hospital for treatment, but she was resistant. She promised the doctor to drive to the hospital every day if needed, but she would not spend her last months in a hospital. That afternoon, Megan took the bus and train—alone—back to her brother’s apartment where she was staying. Later, she called her parents on Skype to let them know the news. The hardest part was telling her little sisters over the computer from nine time zones away. She couldn’t hug them or comfort them. She was alone in Switzerland with only two months left to live.

But Megan was not lonely. “I felt like it was something God wanted me to go through, just He and I. Every day I made myself get up and drive the hour and a half to the hospital. God was with me. That was the coolest thing I ever experienced—being so alone and yet never feeling alone.

During the daily infusions, her arms would cramp up—her muscles couldn’t take it. So every thirty minutes the doctor would come in to change it. Whenever he walked in, Megan smiled at him. “I was really sick, but I was also filled with joy. I felt like I was truly where God wanted me to be at that time. I wasn’t walking around feeling sorry for myself.”

One day the doctor said, “You know Megan, I don’t know how you do it. You always have a smile on your face. I told you that you are dying and you still have a reason to smile. You are always here encouraging everyone.” She smiled and stayed silent. “I am not a man of faith, but if I was, I would definitely want what you have.”

For Megan, that comment, made all the pain worth it.

Two months into the treatment, a CT scan revealed that the parasite had become inactive. With toxoplasmosis, once the parasite reaches the brain, it remains until it eventually kills the host. The medication can slow down the parasite’s growth, but nothing can make it become inactive. The doctor told Megan he had never seen anything like it.

“You know doctor, this is what I call a miracle.”

The doctor replied, “Well Megan, I’m doctor. I don’t believe in miracles.” Then he glanced around to see if anyone was looking, leaned in and whispered, “But, you know, I think I believe in them now.”

One Final Semester

For the next two years, Megan was relatively healthy. She worked two more summers in Sarajevo, continued towards graduation at San Diego State, and awoke thankful every morning.

Two days before her 22nd birthday, Megan sat down for a cup of coffee with my wife and I at our home in Sarajevo and she told us her story. I was amazed at her faithful walk with God. I was also saddened by the latest news.

Two months earlier, in June, the symptoms began again—inability to keep food down, shortness of breath, nosebleeds that lasted for days, vomiting of blood. She flew to Zurich and discovered that the parasite had reactivated and spread to her lungs. The doctors put her on a new treatment, but they are not hopeful. Megan is the youngest person they have ever seen with this disease.

During our conversation, Megan told me about her plans for the future. She was flying out the following day to go to Zurich for more tests, then soon after to San Diego to complete her final semester. She already had a job lined up after graduation—working with the Swiss Ministry of Defense. Her doctors think she is crazy. “Why are you planning so far ahead?” Megan’s response, “I am praying for the Lord to keep me around for that long. I will see what he has planned for my life.”

Megan did, in fact, make it to her graduation. The nosebleeds did not stop her from passing her final exams. Last week, she received her diploma.

She continues to give to God the gift she promised three years ago—the gift of her worries. She sees God’s plan behind the horrible circumstances of her life. However much life God gives to her, she will live it with a purpose.

In her own words: “Every night I go to bed, I have a reason to be grateful. Every morning when I wake up, I am thankful for another day. This has opened my eyes. Every moment is a gift from God—that is why I want to live a life with a purpose. I want God to take me to places where I can have an impact for Him.”

Megan found a purpose in life that propels her forward through the worst circumstances. I find that too often I make excuses. How about you?

Let me know what you think or leave a message for Megan in the comments below.

Read part three. Megan answers some questions about what she has learned through her experience.

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