- (Photo: Reuters/Jason Reed)
Jerome Harrison was a running back for the Detroit Lions in 2011, with plans of rejoining the Philadelphia Eagles. However, his life took a major detour when he was diagnosed with a brain tumor, and his prior ambitions were quickly put on hold.
After undergoing surgery, tackling complications and fighting depression, Harrison is now recovering from his tumor removal procedure and is beginning to recognize God's hand in his ordeal.
In a recent MLive.com report, Harrison has described what he felt when a doctor told him that he had a growth behind one of his eyes.
"The first thing I said was, 'Am I going to die?' He started laughing and said I had some swelling behind my eye. I'm thinking the only thing behind my eye is my brain. He showed me the picture of the CAT scan," the athlete recalled. "He was like, 'Do you see that big white thing?' That's not supposed to be there."
Once Harrison came to grips with the fact that his surgery could be fatal, the football player had to break the news to his wife, Michelle.
Michelle also spoke to MLive.com and explained about the nonchalant manner in which her husband broke the news of his possibly fatal tumor and need for surgery.
"He tells me it's just something in my head they got to pop out. They'll pop it out and we'll be good to go. We'll have the rest of the season to relax and then back at it," Michelle recalled her husband telling her during a night out on a dinner date. "I ask what is it that they have to pop out of your head. He says, 'Just this little thing in the back they have to pop out.'"
Michelle was six months pregnant with the Harrisons' second child at the time, and was plunged into the deeply stressful situation. Her husband lost the ability to walk, talk and even blink at one point, and he was forced to have his eyelids taped shut to retain moisture in his eyes. However, she now testifies that she held onto her faith during the five months her husband was stuck in the hospital receiving treatment for his potentially life-threatening condition.
"It was like an origami game where they had to cut small pieces, pull out pieces; small pieces, pull out pieces. Veins are like hairs. If you touch it, you affect some part of the body. If you cut it, it's dead," Michelle described about her husband's condition. "Because of the tumor being on his brain stem, it further complicated pulling it out."
Although Michelle was told there was a risk that her husband may never wake up after the procedure to remove his tumor, he was able to do so in six minutes. However, he suffered complications after the surgery.
"Because of those complications, he was having MRI and CAT scans every three hours. It was right next to the infirmary where they burn dead bodies," Michelle told MLive.com. "He told me this three months ago because he's remembering stuff. He would blink the whole time and say I'm not dead."
Harrison has even admitted that in the darkest moments of the past year he felt like dying. He recalls wanting to push his wife away from the dark situation, and felt she should leave him to avoid further pain.
"At that time, I did (want to die)," he said. "I just didn't want her to expect me to be there and I wasn't. Even though I knew I was fighting a good fight, I didn't want my wife to expect me to be there."
Still, Michelle remained devoted to her husband and never left his side. Their family pulled together, and her mother moved into the family home to help take care of the children.
Looking back at his ordeal, Harrison now testifies that he sees it as God's miracle, and as an answer to his prayers.
"I used to always pray to God for a miracle," Jerome said. "He did give it to me, but it wasn't what I wanted. I wanted to just get up and play with the kids. I wanted to be normal. But it also allowed my mother-in-law to come help with the kids. That allowed my wife to stay with me. You pray for things, but personally, you don't always know what you're praying about."
Harrison has now undergone about 90 percent of his recovery, and has even made such good progress that he has been sent home from hospital seven months ahead of when the doctors initially had predicted. Looking back, the football player is seeing God's presence through his ordeal.
"I was praying for something else, but this is what God gave me," Harrison told MLive.com. "At the time, you want to help yourself. Now that I look back at it, that's what God gave me."
At the time of his diagnosis Detroit had agreed to trade Harrison back to Philadelphia, but the deal was contingent upon the running back passing a physical examination. That obviously was not possible, and so to this day he remains on the Detroit books. However, it is uncertain whether he will ever be able to return to the football field.
"I'm very okay (with not playing football again)," Harrison said. "But can I? I'm stubborn."