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June 24, 2014 | 04:41 PMGENEVA — Rex Wilkinson has written music before.
A retired middle school music teacher, Wilkinson often wrote graduation songs as his students moved to high school.
Since 2011, his songs have become more personal.
“While I was in the ICU, I felt this call to tell my story,” Wilkinson said.
The story he readily shares starts the day before Thanksgiving in 2011. Wilkinson said he thought he might have depression. His friends and family told him he wasn’t acting like himself.
“I was in the shower and felt really dizzy,” he said. “I ended up fainting, and I was out for a few seconds. My doctor told me to go to the emergency room, where I had a CAT scan.”
The scan showed Wilkinson had a golf-ball-sized brain tumor.
Wilkinson documented his journey from the shower through treatment to recovery, with music and story. He’s performed the stories and music a few times, and now he’s coming to the Chapel on the Hill.
“I was completely shocked,” Wilkinson said. “Shortly after that, my reaction was to pray, and that’s what I’ve been doing the whole journey since then.”
The tumor was removed at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, but Wilkinson’s troubles didn’t end.
“The area where the staples were started bleeding,” he said. “(The doctors) went back in and cleaned out an infection. I was on antibiotics for six months. In the summer of 2012, I noticed bleeding again.”
Doctors removed part of his skull, cleaned it and replaced it. The infection returned.
“They (eventually) replaced the bone flap with a composite piece,” Wilkinson said.
He then completed rounds of chemotherapy for about a year.
“Since then, I’ve gone in about every three months for blood tests and an MRI,” he said. “They’re just monitoring the status.”
Now, Wilkinson is using his fight with and treatment of the cancer as a way to give hope to others in similar situations.
“I wrote the narrative while I was recovering,” he said. “My wife and daughter helped with the editing.”
His wife, Carol, cries when she hears him tell the story.
“It’s been well-received,” Wilkinson said. “I hope that people will be inspired and uplifted. My wife cries every time. My daughter has cried.”
Carol, and Wilkinson’s daughters, Amy and Elizabeth, are also part of the performance.
“I’ve presented this as a talk at church, but I wanted to try other venues,” he said.
Now, it’s nine of his original songs, three of which were written while he was in recovery, and Wilkinson sharing the journey from the slip in the shower to now.
“Since the cancer diagnosis, I’ve really realized how God is present everywhere,” he said. “That’s really what this performance is about. One of the songs, titled ‘Let God be God,’ really encapsulates the entire story in one song.”
Wilkinson and Carol were both teachers in the Chicago suburbs.
After 34 years, they retired and live in downtown Chicago, but Wilkinson said he’s spent most of his weekends in the Lake Geneva area. During the summer, he plays piano on Wednesday and Sunday nights at the Mars Resort on Lake Como.