A Lehigh Acres woman, known for her beautiful voice, one which reaches beautiful high tones, says if it wasn't for the prayer of literally hundreds of people on Facebook and members of her church and her friends and many who didn't even know her, she wouldn't be alive today.
Mary Swords, 52, who has endured a debilitating disease of three types of arthritis and fibromyalgia, was noticing that she was not able to sing out the high notes when she praised God through her singing at her church - Word For The World Christian Fellowship, at 205 Joel Blvd.
The mother of a teen son and her husband, Mike, are devout Christians and she is the church choir director. She has a background in music and that was her major in college.
"I went on a new medication and I began to notice that when I sang, I couldn't bring out the high notes. It was pretty scary. I couldn't really sing an octive above middle C. My vocal chords seemed as if they were raw," Swords said.
She said she had symptoms that would not go away, headaches and coughing so hard that she said she had to lean against a wall for relief.
"I called a doctor friend and he recommended that I go to the ER at Cleveland Clinic in Weston, near Ft. Lauderdale, and get checked out.
Swords said she was given a CAT scan of her head within an hour, the whole neurological team was in the room and said I had a tumor and I was given steroids to relieved the fluid around the brain.
"It was at the base of my neck and was the size of a golf ball, pressing up against my skull where there is no give," Swords said. "They called it Meningioma and it was a benign growth and it was so big and in a bad place like in the left side corner of my brain stem."
Meningiomas are a diverse set of tumors arising from the meninges, the membranous layers surrounding the central nervous system. They arise from the arachnoid "cap" cells of the arachnoid villi in the meninges. Theyare usually benign in nature; however, a small percentage are malignant.
She was diagnosed Aug. 31 - a Saturday - and Tuesday they performed surgery and told she would be in ICU for two to four days and five to seven days in a room with possible rehabilitation.
"This is when everyone was praying for me. My husband and son were with me all through it. There were people on Facebook praying and people at the church and their friends. And I was praying to God and he answered our prayers," she said.
"There is no doubt that God healed me,"?she said.
Swords said she surprised the doctors because following the surgery she spent less time in ICU than they told her and less time in a room and does not need rehabilitation.
"That was God's work. God brought me through it and praise him for it," she said. "I prayed to God to take my tumor."
A favorite song with the words "I hold you in my hand ... I have not forgotten you, referring to God, was played over and over on her laptop in the hospital.
"Why God chooses to heal some and not others is something I don't know. It's my job to pray and his job to heal," she said.
The surgery took five hours and they told me it was a miracle that it was removed and I was in the hospital for only a short time. I came home on Friday evening. I have about 20 stitches and the tumor was near my brain stem which was causing my vocal chords not to work properly, and now I just have some soreness from the surgery. Otherwise I am great," she said.
Swords said she has been helped by so many people and she admitted she was an independent person, but she believes she would rob people of a blessing if she didn't accept their help.
Her husband, Mike, owns SDS Accounting in Lehigh.
"We are a very close family and we believe very much that God answers prayers and in this case, there is no doubt that he did ... with the hundreds all praying for me during my surgery," she said.
She still is battling arthritis and fibromyalgia and uses a wheelchair sometimes to get around.
"But I am not confined to the wheelchair, but it is there if I need it," she said.