Multiple Sclerosis came visiting in the summer of 1964 followed by stage 4 cancer in the fall of 2005. Overcoming one deadly disease is sufficient for a lifetime but overcoming two teaches lessons that can only be learned by those who experience it. This is my story of how these two deadly killers clawed there way into my life, sang a brief death song and retreated back into the darkness from which they came.
I was a happy go lucky sophomore in high school when I found myself asking my mom, “What is Multiple Sclerosis?” The day started out like so many other average days in the life of a teenager, I woke up to the voice of my mother yelling get up or your going to be late for school! Waking up to her voice was worse than an alarm clock but hearing that shrill was all the motivation I needed to jump out of bed and get a move on it. I was never early to my first class but rarely late, I guess you could call it right on time without a minute to spare. The tardy bell usually rang just as I plopped down in my school-desk.
It was a particularly hot day as classes ended and I changed into my baseball uniform for practice. Once we were all out on the field we started our usual warmup drills of running, playing catch, and chasing fly balls. I was playing catch when suddenly everything in my life changed in a blink of an eye. I could no longer focus on the ball thrown toward me. My vision evaporated in an instant. My coach thought the heat was the problem and sent me home to rest. I only lived about two blocks from the high school and by the time I got home my equilibrium had vanished. I literally stumbled down our narrow hallway leading to my bedroom like a drunk man.
My mother called the family doctor and he told her to keep me in bed and he would stop by the house that evening and check on me. Yes, in those days doctor's still make house calls. I remember him giving me an exam and setting up an appointment for me to see a neurologist. That evening my condition grew worse. I began to drool out the side of my mouth uncontrollably and when I tried talking my voice sounded like a vinyl record playing on slow speed.
The next day I saw the neurologist who did many tests and finally decided to do a spinal tap. To make a long story short the diagnosis still lingers after all these years. “Son you have Multiple Sclerosis. Now as a teenager I had no idea what MS was but by the look on my mom and dad's face I knew it wasn't a good thing.
I was brought up a Christian and was baptized at the age of twelve. My parents kept everything positive and it wasn't until years later that I learned what a deadly disease I had. I also learned how the whole church had been praying and fasting for my healing.
Multiple Sclerosis is a slow moving disease that affects your motor functions, it progressively eats away at the central nervous system until you find yourself using a cane to move around, then a wheelchair, and finally you find all of your motor functions gone. I found out that it was possible for the symptoms to disappear for a while and then return with a vengeance after taking some time off.
I had been confined to bed for about two weeks when all of sudden my vision returned. I slowly got out of bed and for the first time in that two week period I stood straight without losing my equilibrium. I walked into the living room to greet my mom and the celebration began.
Many thought that I was only in a period of remission and wondered if the the disease would follow it's normal pattern and return? However, my mom, friends, and church members knew that their prayers had been answered. It has now been 50 years without any symptom ever reappearing. God had clearly granted me healing through His mercy and grace, but there is more to this story.
I went on to graduate from high school in 1966 just as the Vietnam war was making headlines. During this time they were still drafting young men into the service. I had this bright idea to gather together all my friends and go down to the recruiting office and join the Army. If we joined rather than waiting to be drafted the Army would guarantee that we could go through boot camp with our friends. They called it the buddy system.
We all went down to join up and everyone of my friends made it through the screening process except me. They would not give me a physical pass to join because of my MS diagnosis. I watched as my friends went off to war. Ironically one year later I received a letter in the mail from the Selective Service Committee informing me that I had been drafted and was to report to the selective service office for my physical entrance exam.
I was irate to say the least, The Army would not let me join with my friends but now they wanted to draft me! The letter stated that if I had any condition that would prevent me from serving to bring it with me at the time of my physical. When my draft day arrived I marched down to the recruiting center with my doctors diagnosis in hand. Everywhere I looked was colored lines and men were moving around like confused monkeys on crack trying to find the corresponding color line they were to follow as the recruiters barked out, “Follow the red line!” Then I'd hear another one yell out, “Follow the blue line!”
I checked in at the front desk and told them that I had been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, I got a perplexed look from the recruiter and was told to follow the yellow line. I soon discovered why the line was yellow. I found myself in line with a bunch of weirdo's trying to get out of the service. The yellow line led straight to the psychiatrist.
Some of the guys standing on that yellow line with me were wearing lipstick and dressed in women clothing, some were ranting and talking to themselves, some were barking like dogs, anything to get out of the service. I watched them enter the Psychiatrist's office acting crazy and come out cussing that they had been drafted! None of the crazies were given a get out of the service pass from the Psychiatrist. They were all drafted in spite of their obsessions.
I finally got my turn and took a chair in front of the Psychiatrist's desk. He took one look at me and said, “You look pretty normal! What is your problem?” I smiled and said, “I really don't have a problem. You see sir I tried to join the army two years ago and was told I couldn't join because of my MS diagnosis.”I handed him my Doctors report. He read it, looked at me, read it again, and then took out a rubber stamp and slammed it down on my paperwork. He handed it back to me and said, “follow the blue line and give this to them.” I looked at my paperwork and there in big red letters was stamped 4F. I was officially out of the service due to my medical condition.
I have often wondered if God orchestrated my Multiple Sclerosis in order to keep me out of the Vietnam war? Many of my friends never returned and there was a good possibility I might have never made it home either.
I wish I could say that the wonder of my life had matched up with the wonder of God's healing miracle but the truth is I was a young teenager without enough spiritual wisdom to understand this supernatural event I had just experienced. I thanked Jesus and promptly returned to a life of serving and pleasing myself. As time passed and the miracle faded I became comfortable with Christianity as long as it did not interfere with the way I wanted to live my life. I went skipping down life's byways and pathways until 2005 when I collided with another deadly killer, stage 4 cancer.
It has been forty one years since my encounter with Multiple Sclerosis. I had raised a family and at 58 I was beginning to think about retiring. However, all was not well in my world. I was having a hard time keeping food down and my energy level was fading. I had gone to several doctors and none of them could find much wrong with me. My Colonoscopy proved to be cancer free and yet I continued on a downward spiral. Further blood test's showed that I was anemic and doctors thought I might have an inflammation of the colon but all test's proved negative. My stools began showing traces of blood and after several months of testing doctors decided to check my small bowl. I was scheduled for an MRI and the results were devastating. The MRI showed I had stage 4 cancer of the small bowel. The cancer had spread into my lymph nodes---The report read: “Invasive, well-differentiated adenocarcinoma of the small intestine.”
I was quickly scheduled for surgery and in August of 2005 I was wheeled into the surgery room for a resection of my small intestines. The plan was to cut out the cancerous section of the small bowel and then resection the bowel back together. The surgery proved successful and after many weeks of recovery I was scheduled to see an oncologist who would introduce me into the second phase of my treatment, the chemotherapy world.
After much thought and prayer I decided I would fore-go the chemotherapy. Needless to say this decision did not go over well with the oncologist. I'll never forget our initial meeting. My wife and I sat down to discuss my treatment plan with the doctor and his nurse. After a little bit of small talk he reviewed my surgery records and stated. “I think we should begin chemotherapy treatment immediately since the cancer has already spread to your lymph nodes.” I asked what my chances were after completing the chemotherapy treatment, He said, “You have a 331/3 chance to live three years, a 331/3 chance to live five years, and a 331/3 chance to make a full recovery.” My reply, “Those odds suck!”
I might as well have committed the unpardonable sin when I told him I didn't think I would be partaking of his Chemo cocktail at this time. His eyes glazed over and he gave his nurse that look. You know the one, “Did you just hear what this nut said!” He looked back at me and said, “Without the Chemotherapy your chances of even living three years are very slim.”
My reply.“Can I ask you one question?”
“Sure,” He said.
“Did a lack of Chemotherapy cause my cancer?” I saw the confusion in his eyes as he looked over at his nurse and he said.
“No a lack of Chemo did not cause your cancer.”
I then said. “Well for now I'll take my chances without Chemotherapy. Maybe I'll change my mind down the road but for now I'll pass on Chemo treatment.”
He flatly said, “It'll be to late down the road.”
I explained that I was a Christian and really had no fear of death. His response. “Are you married?”
“Yes,” I replied. “Well, don't you think you are being a little selfish by not caring if you live or die?”
I assured him that I wanted to live and then explained how the Lord had healed me of Multiple Sclerosis when I was younger. I told him that I felt the Lord had my back on this one too.
He replied. “Well, I guess we'll see about that one.” I agreed to come in for a blood test every six months which would show us if the cancer had returned. I faithfully showed up for each blood test and each time the test was negative for cancer. At the end of three years the doctor came into the room I was waiting in with a big smile on his face and said. “I guess you made the right decision not to have Chemotherapy, all your tests have been negative and I don't think you need to come back anymore.”
It has been nine years since my bout with stage 4 cancer and I'm still cancer free and healthy. My doctor who was agnostic at the time I saw him eventually became a Christian and wrote a book based on the Godly faith of his patients. He stated in his book that it was the faith of his patients that changed his life. We serve a powerful God who works out his plan in each and every life in mysterious ways. After surviving these two deadly diseases I've come to a few conclusion's on life that I would like to share.
First, We need to remind ourselves that there is no such thing as just another normal day. I went to bed feeling fine one night and the next day I was sick and on a downward slide until doctors discovered I had cancer. Once I was diagnosed with cancer all my plans for securing a better future came to an abrupt stop and defeating cancer became my main objective. Robert Burns said, “The best laid schemes o' mice and men often go astray.” Jesus warned us about concentrating on building bigger and better lives in this world through accumulating things. “You fool!” This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself? This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God. Luke 12:18-21.
Since my healing I've tried to spend less time looking for what I want out of life and more time concentrating on what God wants in my life. When it comes right down to it, I have very little say in what happens in my life. I didn't give Multiple Sclerosis or caner permission to invade my life, no one asked me if I wanted to come into this world and I don't have much say in when or how my life will end.
There is really only one critical decision I have to make in this life. Will I give my life over to Jesus or Satan. If I give my life over to God than He is in control and nothing can come into my life without his permission. There will be times when I might feel as worthless as a shattered violin but God has a way of restringing our broken lives so that once again we will produce wonderful heavenly music that will glorify our Savior.
Second, I knew that my battle with cancer was won before I ever prayed for healing. Now before someone reading this thinks the above statement is obnoxiously pious let me explain. If God allowed cancer to end my life here on earth I would be in heaven (absent from the body, at home with the
Lord. 2 Corinthians 5:8.) I would be healed from cancer for there is no cancer in heaven. Whether I was healed on earth or in heaven didn't matter to me. God was in charge of my life and either way He chose to answer my prayers I would be free from cancer. In my case God choose to heal my earthly body and I thank Him daily for His healing daily.
I was not healed because I was a superior Christian or had more faith than other Christians who have died from cancer. Godly people get sick and die everyday, Some die very young and others live to a ripe old age. The point I'm trying to make is that all things work together for good to those who love the Lord. Romans 8:28. Those who get healed remain a while longer on this earth as servant's to God, those who don't get healed find themselves in heaven and I think that would qualify as: “all things work together for good to those who love the Lord.”
Third, God is more concerned about our hearts than about our healing. If our hearts are not right our healing is meaningless. Jesus tells the story of ten lepers he healed in Luke 17:11-17. Ten were healed but only one came back to thank and give praise to God. The story starts out with all ten lepers shouting out to Jesus for healing. All ten had faith in Jesus, they knew He could heal them. Jesus had mercy on them and told them to go to the priests and as all ten turned and headed toward the priest's all ten were instantly healed. When they found themselves healed only one returned to thank Jesus.
Why did only one out of nine return to Jesus? May I suggest that he was the only one out of the ten whose heart was right toward God. He not only rejoiced in the healing but he remembered the healer. The other nine rejoiced in the healing and the healing itself took center stage over the healer. Having overcome two major diseases in my life I know how easy it is to rejoice in the healing and in time forget the healer.
I stand as one grateful to the Lord for all He has done in my life. I write this as a testimony to the love and grace of God. My hope is that I will always trust in Adonai with all my heart; and that I will never rely on my own understanding as I travel through this world on my way to heaven. (Proverbs 3:5)
My prayer is that we rejoice in Jesus, rejoice in his healing, rejoice in his teaching's, rejoice in his miracles, but never forget that our greatest need in this life is not for another healing but for better hearts. Our healing will fade away as age catches up with us but our hearts will be the only thing that will follow us into eternity. Even so come Lord Jesus.
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