by Tim Miller
The most fateful tragedies in life rarely happen to you. Your neighbor’s house catches on fire, not yours. Your friend’s mother gets diagnosed with cancer, not your own. For most people, the momentous instant in life happens to someone else.
For Cedarville soccer player Creslyn Van Dyck, an inauspicious occasion actually happened to her, rather than a classmate’s distant relative. Last fall, Van Dyck began feeling woefully ill and was diagnosed with a brain tumor.
“I didn’t know if I was ever going to play soccer again,” Van Dyck said.
As her freshman season as a Cedarville women’s soccer player waned, Van Dyck’s symptoms started. While at first she was told it was just the flu, Van Dyck knew something more was off.
On Oct. 29, 2016, Van Dyck totaled just eight minutes in the final game of the season. Van Dyck said she attempted to play but felt dizzy and struggled to run. She was pulled early in the match and began to wonder if her flu-like symptoms were something more serious.
A week of rigorous tests paired with unrelenting migraines kept Van Dyck in the hospital. During this time she found out about a swelling mass that was pressing against her brain.
Joy White, wife of Cedarville University President Dr. Thomas White, arranged for Van Dyck and her family to stay in the resident director apartment in Johnson Hall during this period. Van Dyck expressed gratitude to White for constantly doing what she could to keep Van Dyck and her family comfortable.
The course of treatment was supposed to be a form of radiation called gamma knife surgery. The procedure is as close to non-invasive as it gets for brain surgery, so Van Dyck didn’t feel all that worried.
Van Dyck, a native of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, traveled home with her family for the surgery. On the way, Van Dyck again was afflicted with unabated migraines. The family was forced to stop at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
Upon arrival, Van Dyck learned the tumor was more serious than first interpreted. The tumor had aggressively attacked her body, and a more invasive and aggressive surgery needed to be performed.
“It was definitely a lot scarier then, since I didn’t realize how serious it was at first,” Van Dyck said. “I remember sitting there and the neurosurgeon explained that the tumor had grown within a week to the point that it was blocking off my spinal fluid.”
Van Dyck was told that she needed a craniotomy. Without the operation, doctors told Van Dyck and her family that she would die.
Back at Cedarville, women’s soccer assistant coach Brianne Barnes continually collected slivers of new information from Van Dyck. Barnes was with Van Dyck through the entire process, and Van Dyck said Barnes was central in each stage.
Barnes learned the news of the more serious diagnosis, and it was her undertaking to relay the news to Van Dyck’s teammates. During one of the team’s scheduled Bible studies, Barnes, who didn’t typically go to the studies, showed up to deliver the news.
“It was not a pleasant experience to tell the girls,” Barnes said. “We found out that this is a serious surgery and that we’d have to step up the timeline and do it right away.”
Stephanie Cradduck and Grace Miorelli, who are teammates of Van Dyck, were close to her through the entire trial. The two said they were enamored with Van Dyck’s ability to be faithful to God and that it allowed the team to grow.
“We were all shocked at first,” Miorelli said. “We weren’t expecting something huge like that to happen to her. But I think it brought us closer together. It just shows God’s provision and sovereignty.”
On Nov. 17, Van Dyck had brain surgery. Upon waking up, Van Dyck was able to talk and read. She seemed to have avoided any immediate complications. Less than a week after the surgery, Van Dyck was able to walk up a flight of stairs with relative ease, and her doctors cleared her to go home.
The three-hour drive from Pittsburgh to Harrisburg proved grueling for Van Dyck. The part of her brain that was affected by the tumor was unable to handle the long car ride, and she began vomiting when she arrived home.
Van Dyck revisited the hospital, this time in Hershey. Tests revealed that nothing was damaged, but she was kept in the hospital to continue the recovery process. Van Dyck was then allowed to go home the day before Thanksgiving.
From there, Van Dyck completed physical therapy in hopes of getting back to her previous form. She was cleared to return to soccer for this season.
“It’s just been really neat to see how God has restored my body,” Van Dyck said. “I’m taking classes fairly normal and I feel pretty good.”
Van Dyck took incompletes on all her classes for the fall 2016 semester but finished them all and got entirely caught up by the end of the spring semester.
The sophomore is now fully active for Cedarville’s women’s soccer team. She’s played at least 60 minutes in each match as of Oct. 1. Less than a year ago, Van Dyck’s playing days were no longer guaranteed. Her doctor couldn’t promise she would make it back on the field.
“It’s such a gift that can be taken at any moment,” Van Dyck said. “So just going out in every practice or game and being thankful for the opportunity I have transfers to other girls.”
The paramount moments in life can call for either a greater reliance on God or an inclination to bury the ordeal in some form other than Him. Van Dyck allowed adversity to further showcase her faith in God’s glory.
“It turned out to be a great opportunity to show her love,” Cradduck said. “She was in a really tough place but God’s faithful in all things and that’s something she hooked on to.”
On the field, Van Dyck has been a key donor to the Lady Jackets’ season. She serves as one of the team’s captains and is an everyday starter.
“She’s a smart individual and she’s really fun to play with,” Miorelli said. “She can control the game really well.”
Van Dyck’s brain surgery has also brought a new attitude to the team. Barnes said kicking a ball is no more than just a game and that there’s much more to life than piling up accolades on the field.
“Having your teammate go through something life changing has been able to bring a good balance that shows there’s more to life than just soccer,” Barnes said. “This is someone who just had brain surgery and could have very well died and in context of that, whether or not we win or lose games is not very important.”
Brain surgery is one of the most daunting hazards people can face. She allowed her faith to become stronger and changed her team’s culture when she easily could’ve put up a wall and shut out the world.
“God gives you the amount of grace you need in the situations you’re faced with,” Van Dyck said. “I’ve just learned how faithful God is and how constant He is.”
Tim Miller is a sophomore marketing major and sports editor for Cedars. He enjoys having a baby face, sipping Dunkin Donuts coffee and striving to be the optimal combination of Dwight Schrute and Ron Swanson.