AVM Survivors Network

Remembering that recovery from my AVM crash

Remembering is something that was not easy for me when I had
my AVM bleed. My short term memory was almost totally shot, and in a
way that was not a bad thing. Am just happy that in time it returned to me.

I am today remembering the time soon after the operation to remove my AVM from
my brain. For a time it did not look good for my recovery, and my wife told her
co-workers, at work, how bad off I was. The secretary for the group was making plans
for my … what some would call a wake. Of course this would be after my death.
Wife told me about this wake some weeks later when I was doing better. I told her
that there would now be a long wait for that wake! But I was not sorry for messing up their plans. I had been hoping for perhaps another five years of life, but it has now been more than 17 years. I would not have bet on that, but it happened.

Thank you, God.


Great to hear from you John! I love the post, and we’re very happy you messed up the plans! Take Care, John.



I was in a state of contemplation at Easter, as one of our dear AVM members lost his father a year previous and was agonising over the anniversary, to the extent that I Googled his dad.

One of the things I found was a lovely little chapel talk that he gave – his last lesson, in fact – on 3 November 2017. In that talk he describes several brushes with cancer and in I think exactly the same way as you, the general astonishment at his progress after each bout.

The talk is here:

I particularly love his celebration of long life. He had serious bouts of cancer aged 35, 47 and 53 and a bout of skin cancer (which he considered minor) too. Quite reasonably, he became rather morose and considered that he would not live a long life, probably die before his parents, probably never live long enough to see retirement and wouldn’t hit 65. As it happened, he hit 80, completely against his expectations.

“Don’t ever let anybody tell you it’s not good to get old.”
Rev. Dr. Howard Vanderwell

So… we should be encouraged by these things. We should perhaps be encouraged by Howie’s faith: that God had other things in mind for him, the same as he does for you and me: not least that the words we write or the videos we record might touch another person even after we have passed away.

I hope this is a helpful thing to share.

Very best wishes,


Very sadly, Dr Vanderwell passed away from pancreatic cancer a few months later, as I say, just before Easter 2018.

Thank you for the very interesting write about Dr. Vanderwell!
Yes, I guess that he would understand how I feel about living much longer
than forecast. I expect that I also understand some about how he felt.
God bless him!

Yours in faith,

1 Like


I forgot to say that to appreciate his thoughts, you need to follow the link I gave and then play the video.

It makes me think we should never lose hope. Thank you for sharing your story of good hope.

Best wishes always,


Memory is a very tricky thing. I had my bleed in 1973 and was living with my Dad. After a month in the hospital I went to live with my Mom. Now, all these years later I live about 6 blocks from the home I shared with Dad.I just cannot remember the address or find the house. I guess trees grow and it has been a very long time. There are other memories that slowly came back and some not at all.My bleed was on my left lobe. No wake for you for a very long time, John P!!!

Thank you, 1973caram!
Yes, memory is very tricky, and allusive. I will never remember the days of pain
when I slowly survived my brain operation, but my short term memory of the present
has been improving slowly for 17 years. The other day I wondered where I had
left my keys for the house, and car. I said to myself “Think about it stupid!”, and then
I remembered placing them in an unlikely spot, in the medicine cabinet in my bath room. I looked, and there they were. Slowly I learn to function again. By now
I expect my memory to be close to average for my age.

Best to you, 1973caram, and no wake for you either any time soon!

Best to you also Richard!




Thank you. For 53 years, I was fortunate to be that guy’s son. But please call him Howie or Howard - he never was one to be caught up in titles.

I can’t tell you how many times since he has gone home to Glory where I’m struggling with some part or another of this AVM and it’s aftermath and i think, “Man, I really wish I could talk to Dad about that.”

Oh and he hit 80, but he almost made it to 81. 2 weeks before his birthday, complications from the radiation treatments from previous cancer along with the chemo from the current bout of it - that’s what took him home.

You talk about making a difference, even after we are gone, my Dad wrote a number of books - including a devotional called Proven Promises taken out of his multiple bouts with the “C” word. Shameless plug - if you want to purchase one, it is $5.95 plus shipping and 100% of the profit will go into the Dr. Howard Vanderwell Memorial Fund at Calvin Seminary - where he taught until 2 weeks before his death - to provide scholarships for young generations to raise up the pastors that the church needs.

Okay, shameless plug over, feel free to resume your previously scheduled day. And Richard - thank you. As a family, we continue to be amazed at the way Dad’s ministry continues on even after God called him home.

Want to know more about this or other books that he wrote? Feel free to contact me. Or whatever, just contact me anyway…



I think I called him every combination! But it’s a lovely, thoughtful talk that has the power to encourage any of us at times of deep concern over how long we have left or at a time that anyone gets a terminal prognosis of any kind, if we only believe.

I don’t happen to believe these days but you never know, I might change my mind.
Meanwhile, I’m happy to share out what love I can. Very happy to have shared that story and great to read John’s positive message, too.

Love all,



It has been 17 years since my AVM ruptured and I thank God with all my heart! It was a long hard trip but I am doing well now. Love all too and God Bless, Mary


It has been 17 years for you also?
I am happy for you. I didn’t expect to survive 2002,
much less last this long! Thanks to God for both of us, and
the other survivors as well!

Not too much longer till I hit the 20 years ago mark. Makes me laugh but then a little bit of a shiver how long ago this started.


Congratulations to John_O!

Twenty years! Some of my “second life” was better than my “first life”!
Was this the same for you?
Best to you!


Well I remembered life was a lot more simple before everything happened but I was just 9 years old. Was 15 days after my 10th birthday when my rupture happened. Talk about a bad late birthday present. Ended up having 4 surgeries. Life was a little crazy from 2000 to 2002. I’ll always have my struggles with my short term memory loss but my physical health is great. Only minor problems I have physically are I have bad right peripheral vision and one funny one is my right foot. I’m not as balanced when standing on one foot with it. Also another funny but frustrating thing is I can bend my left toes but can’t do a thing with my right toes.


In OT they made me try to pick up marbles with my right toes. After much trying I was finally able to do it.

Same. They tried to make me pick up marbles with my right toes. They did electrical shock therapy on my right foot to make it function again. Looking back the years 2000 to 2006 I had what I call the toe Wars. Since I couldn’t really do much with my right toes and I kept doing sports such as track, and golf that is a lot of walking. I kept getting a ingrown toenails on my right foot. Finally found a toe doctor that did a surgery and made it where my toe was impossible to become ingrown. Haven’t had one since.