Isaiah 12: 4-5 says “Thank the Lord! Praise his name! Tell the nations what he has done. Let them know how mighty he is! Sing to the Lord, for he has done wonderful things. Make known his praise around the world.”
In October of 2006 our friend Keith Gilbert was diagnosed with stage four esophageal cancer. The following February he died. One of Keith’s main symptoms was reflux.
Fast forward to June, this summer, my husband, Pat scheduled is 50-year-old checkup. Since Pat had had reflux in the past and he was encouraged by Keith and his wife, Jeanie, to be scoped, so Pat asked for a doctor that could do an endoscopy at the same time as his colonoscopy. We received that phone call June 19th that we all fear. Cancer was found. He had a 1.5 mm nodule at the juncture of his stomach and esophagus. We were in complete shock. Things were moving fast so we had to tell the kids. The boys were leaving for church camp in a few days and our daughter was at college. We called a family meeting and told the kids. That had to be one of the worst experiences that Pat and I had ever endured.
The next step was that Pat was scheduled for a procedure with sonogram eight days later. Everything seems to be a waiting game with cancer. The blessing here was that the boys were at camp which was a huge distraction and were with friends. It was also good because Pat and I literally sit in our living room staring and crying. Looking back Pat can now see why there was a wait. It made Pat and I pray and seek the scripture for comfort.
Thursday night prior to Pat’s procedure, five Godly men came anointed and prayed over Pat and it was the most beautiful scene I have ever seen. Pat was ready and he was at peace and all the faith that God was in control.
The test was done as outpatient the next day. They were not able to remove the nodule as it was too close to the muscle. It did indicate that it was a stage one or two.
The next step was to see a surgeon and an oncologist. We met with Dr. Lin, the surgeon, who explained the procedure called an esophagectomy. His recommendation was surgery and then followed by chemo and/or radiation if needed. The blessing here was that Dr. Lin was one of the only surgeons in this area who specialized in going through the neck instead of breaking open the chest cavity. He rarely sees patients who have found the cancer this early. Another miracle. Surgery was scheduled for August 5th.
Our next visit was with the oncologist who then recommended chemo/radiation first followed by surgery. What were we to do? The oncologist and surgeon couldn’t agree after discussion, so they turned over the decision to be made by the Tumor Board at Harris Hospital. In the meantime, Pat and I were calling all to pray for discernment and wisdom in making this huge decision. I did not have a peace with the oncologist or facility so we tried to find another oncologist. After two closed doors with recommended oncologists, we found Dr. Ross. He agreed with the surgeon that he should have surgery first as Pat was an exception because of the early finding of the cancer and that he was young. Please note that the oncologist never presented our case to the oncologist, so God was behind the steering wheel in making this decision. A decision that we were in complete peace.
August 5th arrived and Pat’s surgery was three hours. Dr. Lin felt that the surgery went well and he removed five to six inches of his esophagus and two inches of his stomach. Pat was in the hospital ten days. The pathology report came back that It was indeed stage one and the cancer was found at the very earliest stage you could find it. A miracle. Dr. Lin felt that Pat did not need any further treatment such as chemo/radiation. The stay in the hospital and the recovery at home has been a tough one. Pat has had all kinds of struggles in learning to eat again. His struggling with depression was also a new experience, and the one thing that was the hardest for me.
Our visit with the oncologist was last week. This I felt would be the biggest decision that we might have to make chemo or no chemo? Pat felt he would probably need it as we were going to an oncologist…they of course are going to sell their cars! Right? No. He said that it was not needed and that he would follow him closely for the next five years. We were ecstatic.
I just gave you the summary in five minutes of how it all played out. What I have not mentioned are all of the blessings, miracles and gifts that God has given our family. May I list a few: That Pat chose to have an endoscopy and find stage one cancer and not need chemo is a miracle in itself. To hear my husband say that he thanked God for his cancer. Coworkers of Pat’s have confessed to him that they were believers and were praying for him. That our life group was created nine months prior to this so that they could carry us, love us and support us. That I had spent 20 hours creating my blog which was for fun that could actually serve a good purpose of keeping friends and family in the loop of Pat’s journey. To receive the cards, food, letters, emails and texts of people praying and loving on us. To hear my 14 year-old son say that his faith is stronger and that he is closer to God since his dad had cancer. To realize that what is truly important in this world. To be a part of God’s miracles and recognizing them as miracles.
Personally, I discovered that God will equip you, but not one minute before you need it. Also, I remember in the hospital sharing with one of my friends that I felt absolute joy in the midst of all of this. And, I remember several said that they were praying for me to have peace and no fear. That is exactly how I felt.
Pat, the kids and I are still held firmly in his grip!