When two growths were found on his brain, Andy Percey’s future became uncertain. But God brought the Baptist minister through, and the giant of fear was conquered
It started as a series of headaches. In April 2021, just as the second lockdown was easing, Baptist minister Andy Percey, then 37, was experiencing some discomfort. “I just feel a bit weird,” he told his wife, Bex, as he retired to bed one afternoon.
As he laid down and felt numbness on his left side, fear bubbled to the surface. Andy’s father and sister had both died young from strokes. He knew the warning signs.
“If you’re worried, you should ring 111,” said Bex. A few minutes later, Andy’s worst fears were realised. After hearing his symptoms, the operator told him: “We’re sending an ambulance. It’ll be there in five minutes.”
Upon arrival, the medics quietly told Bex that Andy was potentially having a stroke. “She had to phone my mum and tell her that another one of her kids was going through this,” Andy remembers.
During the upheaval, the couple’s six-year-old son, Leo, drew a picture. It showed Andy lying in an ambulance with an angel hovering above him – a drawing Andy would treasure during his time in hospital.
The next day, the doctors had good news. The test results showed Andy hadn’t had a stroke after all. “But…” The word hung uncomfortably in the air: “We’ve found two growths on your brain.”
The decision was taken to discharge Andy and monitor the growths, which were expected to be benign.
Something’s not right
As the weeks went by, Andy was still experiencing headaches. He requested another scan, but doctors were “adamant” he shouldn’t worry. But Andy was worried. “In the end I just badgered them,” he admits. Finally, just before Christmas 2021, he told his doctor: “I don’t care what you have to tell the consultant. Just tell them that they need to do the scan.” Three days later, he received a referral to the neurosurgeon.
When the results arrived, Andy’s worst fears were realised. In six months, the larger of the two tumours had grown by 20 per cent, and was eroding the back of his skull, causing his headaches.
Surgery was scheduled. The position of the tumour – right next to his brain’s main artery – added a layer of complexity. “If they nicked or interfered with that artery at all, it would be game over,” Andy explains.
Faith over fear
Undergoing a seven-hour operation to remove a tumour the size of an egg was a daunting prospect, but Andy experienced a sense of peace in the weeks leading up to it. “We felt quite calm as a family. We prayed a lot. We decided to just keep trusting and not worry.”
In the car, he’d listen to ‘Goliath’ by Lucy Grimble on repeat. “That song became really significant for me, because it says: ‘In the deepest struggle / In the face of great defeat / My unfair advantage is that Jesus stands with me.’”
Andy’s church rallied around the family too, dropping gift baskets round and organising a prayer rota during Andy’s operation. The Sunday before his surgery, Andy told his congregation: “My life, and all that I am, is in his hands. And there is no safer place for me to be.”
Facing the giant
But just ten minutes before his surgery, Andy’s confidence in God was shattered as fear unexpectedly gripped him. Am I going to see my wife and my son again? he worried. “My dad died when I was three, so I knew what it was like to be without a father. I didn’t want that for my son.”
In the middle of overwhelming fear, Andy turned to scripture. “I was pacing up and down, reciting Psalm 23: ‘The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures…’ over and over.”
The ‘giant’ I was facing was not the tumours, it was fear
When he awoke and was told the lump had been successfully removed, he was overcome with emotion. “I remember being transferred to intensive care. I’d been hoping for some sense of God’s presence with me. But during that time, I really couldn’t feel the Lord. I remember saying: ‘I can’t feel you. But I know that you’re here.’ I needed to speak that into my own heart and soul. Even though I couldn’t feel his presence, I knew his promise to never leave me was iron clad.”
Physical and emotional recovery took time, and the second tumour is still being carefully monitored. But through it all, Andy’s faith has deepened. “The ‘giant’ I was facing was not the tumours, it was fear! And over these past few years, God has been helping me to conquer [that] in his strength.
“The Lord doesn’t have to prove anything to me, but he has proved his faithfulness,” he says. “Even in those moments where fear is at its greatest – and those ten minutes before the operation were the most afraid I’d ever been in my life – God was there, standing beside me, fighting that battle with me and for me. That doesn’t mean fear won’t try and rear its head again at some point, but I have the confidence to know the God who was with me in that trial is the one who will be with me in any trials I face in the future as well.”
Andy Percey is the author of After God’s Heart: Life lessons from King David (Authentic Media)