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    Editor's Note:
    The Jeff in "Jeff's Story" is one of WebMD's most trusted medical reporters; he is also the survivor of a life-threatening medical condition. Jeff Levine shares his amazing story, from the shocking diagnosis to an emotional recovery, in a special four-part series.

    Facing the Greatest Fear [Part 3]

    "The Edge ... There is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over."

    -- Hunter S. Thompson, author

    It was a real-life medical nightmare. The wrong decision could cost me my life.

    TO SAY THAT I had a weight on my mind last November is an understatement. The orange-sized tumor continued to grow [see Part 1] on the left side of my brain. Although it was not cancer, I struggled with the shock of diagnosis and the fear of surgery. I knew that if I didn't get rid of this mass, it would kill me.

    So surgery to have it removed [see Part 2] was set for Nov. 20 at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. Yet even as I prepared to go, I was haunted by doubt. Was there an alternative to brain surgery? As operation day became imminent, it seemed more terrifying by the minute.

    Frightening thoughts took hold of me. What if I were paralyzed or lost vision? Some neurological complication was always possible.

    Just before we were to go to the hospital, I told my family I wanted another week to think it over. My wife, Susan, and our two boys, Zachary and Nicholas, were devastated. They responded with tears of frustration, since they felt surgery was my only hope. In desperation, my father, in town from Denver, and Susan suggested I call my surgeon Dr. Henry Brem for advice.

    "Your anxieties will only be worse if you wait for a week," he told me.

    It was logic I couldn't refute, and it helped overcome the fear I was experiencing. Finally, I felt, I was ready to face this procedure.