Post Author: Riverside Church

At Riverside we are on a journey to help people get to know Jesus and grow as his followers across Birmingham and beyond. Whoever you are, whatever you believe, you're so welcome in this community.
October 9, 2023
A Riverside Story | Olivia



Experiencing The Unexpected

Hello, my name is Olivia. I’ve just felt recently that I should share a bit of the journey that I’ve been on in the last couple of years. I was basically living life normally, working full-time. I have two little boys. In July 2017, while getting ready for work one morning, I had a seizure. I’d never had one before. I was in really good health, so it was completely unexpected. I was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance, and over time, they did some scans and tests. Even though initially it was more like, Oh, maybe it’s probably a one-off. It turned out that unfortunately, it was a brain tumour. I was diagnosed with a brain tumour, an astrocyte tumour. It was quite a shock to say the least. I had surgery in January 2019. They managed to take out a bit of it, just over half of it, but they couldn’t take out everything because of the impact on my functionality. So it’s in the part of the brain that controls movement on the right side of my body.

But after the surgery, I was really fine. I recovered, went back to work full-time, still looking after my boys. Everything was fine. And then in August 2022, so during the summer, I’d just been a bit tired. I’d had a scan previously in May that they said it looks like the tumour is growing again. But I wasn’t having any symptoms, I was fine. I was a bit tired and there was a lot happening. Basically, in the kitchen I had a leak that ended up with my kitchen ceiling collapsing. Thankfully, nobody was hurt. But it was just a bit of a stressful time then. But I went on holiday at the start of September, and I felt really relaxed and really happy. I had that time off with my boys. When I came back I was at work, I had been at work for a week by this time, when all of a sudden, on the 15th of September, I had multiple seizures while at work. I was working from home. Thankfully, my brother was around on a visit and he called the ambulance and I was rushed to the hospital and they figured that it was the tumours that had grown a bit and was causing the seizures. I was in the hospital for a bit of discharge, but unfortunately, I’ve continued to have the seizures since I’ve been home.


A Challenging Journey; The Value Of Community

Now it’s been, needless to say, it’s been quite a challenging journey. But I think what has really blown me away over this period is the love I’ve experienced. So many people, I don’t even want to start naming names because I might forget, but people have basically just in a time where it would have been so easy to doubt God’s love, people have been so loving, so kind, just sorting out meals for me and the boys. A group of moms from my son’s school just set up this rota to pick the boys up and drop them at school because I couldn’t really walk long distances. Church family have been amazing. I just felt really supported and loved. And even though I should have probably been so upset about the situation, I wasn’t as upset as I thought I would be. I think for me, one thing I’ve really learned about all this is the value of community, the value of being part of that Church community, wherever we find ourselves really being part of that community and also the difference that little kind acts have made to me and can make to anybody else in a similar situation.

I remember one day my neighbour came, just knocked on the door, my neighbour across the street, just knocked on the door and said, I don’t know what’s going on and you don’t need to tell me if you don’t want to. But I have noticed that you’ve not been coming out lately and people have been coming to take the boys to school and bring them home. This is my number. I live literally across street from you. Call me in the middle of the night if you need anything. I am right here. And just little things like that. Just knowing that if anything happened, I had that support. So many people. To just name one of them I call Chris my very good mother, but she really helps so many people, honestly. Just being there, I can’t even start to name people taking me to the hospital for my radiotherapy appointments, which I’m currently doing because I’ve now had to start radiotherapy and we’ll be doing chemotherapy after. I guess in the midst of all this, over this period, I’ve always now known that I’ve had this tumour for about five years, so it’s not new. But I think in the midst of this, I think for me, one thing that I really felt, which sounds a bit tryte, but that life really is short, unfortunately, brain tumours don’t have great statistics.


Experiencing God’s Presence

Now it depends on the tumour and I hope that I’m fortunate. But the thing is at the end of the day, nobody knows, there are no guarantees. But I’ve really learnt living. I’ve just really felt committed and determined to live a life in service to God with whatever time I had. I think also learning to trust, it’s been a daily journey. But sometimes I remember the first day I had my radiotherapy session, and I had been so nervous prior to starting this session. I didn’t even want to do the treatment. I was really nervous about the side effects and how I would feel. I remember just lying there and then they make these masks like a mold that they put over your head. So you have to stay really still while the radiation beams are directed at the tumor. I just remember feeling this peace, felt like God’s presence with me, and I just felt so calm. I didn’t think I would feel that calm because I had been so nervous, but I genuinely felt that calm. Since then, I’ve never been worried and this staff have been incredibly lovely. Part of me is like, obviously as Christians, I believe in healing, but I also know that it doesn’t always happen for everybody.

I think I’ve had my low days. What I’ve done recently is I’ve listened to a lot of worship music and sometimes I’ll sing along and sometimes I feel really inspired by the lyrics. But I remember listening, there’s a song by Don Moen that is quite popularised, called ‘I am the God That Healeth Thee’. There’s a version where he speaks a little bit at the start and he says, “Nobody listening to me today would doubt that if God walked into your room and touched you, you would be healed”. Sometimes I would listen to that and feel like, Amen, yes. Then there will be other times I would listen to it and feel like, yeah, my door is literally open. Why doesn’t he walk in? And even if my door wasn’t open, he can walk through doors and he can walk through walls. So why doesn’t he heal me? But at the end of it, I think I’ve come to realise that I can trust him. The things I was worried about, like how will I do the school run, how will I make meals? God has sorted out every single thing way better than I could have ever done.


Learning How To Better Offer Support

My kids are probably getting to school earlier these days than when I used to take them! [laugh]. But God has sorted out every single thing. I’ve never lacked food, my kids have never missed school. They’ve always had somebody. They’ve had people just been around them, taking them onto the cinema and all that. People have been so kind. I remember another thing this has taught me, I guess, is how to better offer support. I found that when people suggest things, it makes it easier than just saying, Oh, if there’s anything I can do, because then I don’t feel like I’m imposing if you’re the one that suggested something.


Learning To Trust In God

At the end of the day, I’m learning to trust God. I’m learning to be patient, and I’m learning that even if… I think for me, the hardest thing at the end of this was what if I don’t survive it? What if the treatment doesn’t work? For me, while I really sometimes find comfort in the scripture that to live is Christ, to die is gain (Philippians: chapter 1, verse 21). So when we are there that Christians, we have that hope. I’ve never been afraid of dying, but I have been concerned for my kids because they’re quite young, they’re only nine and seven. And I’ve thought, well, I don’t mind if it’s just me, but I don’t want to leave my kid. And I think recently what I’ve just felt in my heart is God saying, you know what? I love them more than you love them!. And I’ve just felt to trust him that no matter what, they are going to be okay.


Showing Love; We Can All Shine In Our Communities

I really want to encourage people to really shine in our communities, in showing love. It doesn’t have to be something big. And sometimes we are not physically able to, but we can always pray for people. And I think we should really never underestimate just showing a simple act of kindness. Just every single person that has taken my child to school, made a milk, whatever they’ve done, has made me less worried. That’s been one less thing for me to worry about, and it’s made such a difference. I really want to say thank you to everyone, and I would also encourage us to be part of our communities.

I lead the Alpha Course quite a bit, and it was actually an emotional journey. Obviously, I had to go off work during this and a couple of other things I was involved in. I was a charity trustee, I had to temporarily step down. It was quite an emotional thing to stop all these things I was doing. But there’s also something. When I’ve led the Alpha course with Harry, there’s something he talks about head knowledge and heart knowledge, and usually in reference to knowing God. For me, I guess in my head, and I had preached about this value of community, so I had head knowledge of community, but now I think I have heart knowledge of how valuable it is. And wherever that community is, whether it’s a church community, whether it’s your street, whether it’s your school workplace, whatever, honestly, it can be such a lifeline. I would really encourage us to be part of that.



Alpha: Explore Faith

If you would like to know more about the Christian Faith at Riverside we regularly run the Alpha Course. This is a brilliant opportunity to learn more about the Christian faith in a relaxed and friendly environment. You may have questions like:

What is the meaning of life?
What happens when we die?
Is Jesus Christ relevant to my life and the world today?
How do we deal with guilt?

To find out more please visit the Alpha Page on our website or contact us. We would love to hear from you.

Get Involved

Would you like to better shine in your commuity by showing love? We encourage you to explore the skills and abilities that God has given you by joining one of the many Teams at Riverside or by checking out our ‘Strength Finder Resources’. Simply click the ‘Register Interest’ button on our Teams Page today.





Riverside is a church made up of people from a diversity of backgrounds and experiences all with one thing in common, our discovery of God and his amazing love. 

We are on a journey together to ‘help people get to know Jesus and grow as his followers’. 

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