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Co-workers rally behind team member with a brain tumor

An instrument technician at Arnold Air Force      Base, Gary Bise, returned to work Jan. 28 after being away from the job for months recovering from a brain tumor. “I’m blessed in so many ways,” he said. “Every day I come to a job I love.” (U.S. Air Force photo by Brad Hicks)

An instrument technician at Arnold Air Force Base, Gary Bise, returned to work Jan. 28 after being away from the job for months recovering from a brain tumor. “I’m blessed in so many ways,” he said. “Every day I come to a job I love.” (U.S. Air Force photo by Brad Hicks)

ARNOLD AIR FORCE BASE, Tenn. -- When Gary Bise, an instrument technician with the Test Operations and Sustainment contractor, first started experiencing headaches, he didn’t think much about it.

But then his vision started to change. He was having trouble texting and seeing the numbers on his cell phone. On Aug. 14 of last year, he learned those headaches and vision problems were caused by a brain tumor growing near his optic nerve.

“The first time I heard it I was thinking about how my family would take it – my wife and daughter,” Bise said. “I worried about my daughter because she was 14. I didn’t really tell anyone outside of family, but my wife did. She shared and people started praying. I felt the prayer going up.”

Bise was in the hospital for 17 days and then had another 30 days of radiation. He was out of work for months. Although he says he wasn’t in much pain, one of the toughest parts of the whole ordeal was being patient and letting his body heal.

“I think you have to prepare yourself mentally that this is going to take time,” he said. “I couldn’t drive myself anywhere and I had to learn to walk again. I had to get my balance and the confidence to move on my own. Once you start taking the first steps it builds confidence.”

Throughout his absence from work, he talks about all the support he received. His co-workers called to check on him, stopped by to visit, asked for updates and continued telling him they were praying for him. Family and friends were there to help in any way they could.

“I am so thankful for my family, friends, the company I work for and the people I work with,” he said. “They all made this experience so much easier with their encouragement. People I knew and some I didn’t know wanted progress reports it seemed like daily.”

As more co-workers learned about Bise’s tumor, they wanted to do something, so his AEDC family collected $595 dollars and gave it to his wife.
Bise said he was surprised. Even though he has donated money when other people have been sick or out for an extended period of time, he says it didn’t cross his mind that one day he would be a recipient and how helpful it would be.

Since he couldn’t drive after the surgery, he asked his wife to take him to Sunday school. He had only been home from the hospital for a couple of days. Before they left for church, he noticed water on the floor and when he investigated a little more, saw the gas water heater was leaking. He says they didn’t even need to get out the checkbook; the new water heater would be paid for using the money raised by his co-workers at AEDC. The cost was $600.

“We only needed $5 more to pay the bill. That was the Lord at work. Now every time I walk by that water heater, I think about the guys and gals at work.”

Having a brain tumor is terrible, but Bise says he saw others in much worse shape than he was during his stay in the hospital.

“There were people at Centennial (hospital) in a lot of pain and with tubes in them; I didn’t have any of that. I sometimes wondered if they were fortunate enough to have the support that I did.”

The doctors successfully removed 98 percent of Bise’s tumor and they used radiation on the remaining 2 percent. No one would know this man had a tumor less than six months ago if it weren’t for the scar on the back of his head.

When Bise returned to work, he told his craft supervisor he wanted to speak to his teammates in a Toolbox Meeting to thank them for all they had done and tell them what a blessing they’d been to him during this difficult time.

“I wanted to tell them personally how much I appreciated all they have done for me and my family,” he said.

“I’m blessed in so many ways. Every day I come to a job I love; our group management out here takes good care of us, and I’m surrounded by friends. The work is interesting and I feel like I am part of something much bigger.”

Bise has been laid off twice since he started at AEDC in 2008. He’s taken other jobs during that time, but he always returns to AEDC when an opportunity presents itself.

“After you have worked at a place like this (AEDC), it is hard to go back to working on the same piece of equipment every day like you would in a factory. Those people do good work, but at AEDC you have a chance to learn so many different things.
“I’ve kind of made this home,” he said. “I was told by many folks there just aren’t many places like this, and it didn’t take me long to figure out what they were talking about… what a special place it is.”

Asked if he had advice for anyone else who is going through a major ordeal, health or otherwise, his answer is simple. “Start praying early; turn it over to the Lord and follow what He has for you; He will lift you up and bring you through it… maybe not in the way you expect, but He has a plan.”