Helouise Matzelle, nicknamed “Halo,” the daughter of a Surinamese father and a German mother, grew up in Seattle with her parents and her younger brother, Henk; lived an ordinary, happy teenage life; and attended the University of Washington, where she met her future husband and eventually settled with him in Seattle and raised three children. “Life was busyness, blessings, and excitement,” she writes in her engaging nonfiction debut. “I had a beautiful home, a great husband, incredible children, and a cute dog named Grace.” That quick inventory leaves out her Christian faith, which she also possessed in abundance during these days of happiness and which would become far more important to her when her peaceful life was suddenly brought to a “complete and terrifying halt” by the diagnosis of a rare brain tumor. She’d had some temporary and troubling signs—auditory hallucinations, a metallic taste in her mouth, etc.—but the actual medical reason catches her and her family completely by surprise (she very movingly recounts the moment when she and her husband gathered the children around the kitchen table to break the news; she notes a little wistfully that “typically we sat there to share a meal, play games, tell stories, and laugh”). As is typical in such severe cases as this (her tumor was quite large), there was no time to waste: Almost immediately after her diagnosis, she underwent the complicated, delicate surgery designed to save her life (the book’s descriptions of medical procedures are straightforward and gripping). Throughout her ordeal, Matzelle’s religious faith sustained and guided her—this is as much a religious memoir as a medical one—and she attributes her survival and recovery to God as much as to her neurosurgeon and her loving family. Christian readers will find in these pages a powerful testament to the power of faith in dark times, and even agnostics will be uplifted by the joie de vivre of this remarkable woman.
A medical emergency combines with a spiritual journey in this memorable account.