A God Who Can Heal Your Body, Soul And Mind, Part VII

god healsIn this blog I will finally share how God healed my body of cancer. At the age of thirty-one I was given two years to live because renal cell cancer had spread aggressively through my body with multiple tumors in each lung. God is all-powerful and in this instance He did what doctors could not do – He healed me. I hope you enjoy reading about: A VISIT FROM GOD.

I took the information concerning Dr. Cerfolio that my friend, Pam Campbell, gave me to my primary cancer physician, Dr. David Stout. Dr. Stout called me in a few days and was ecstatic. Dr. Cerfolio was featured in several of the leading medical journals and his treatment for lung cancer was revolutionary. We hastily secured an appointment with Dr. Cerfolio at the Kirkland Clinic which is affiliated with the University of Alabama Birmingham Medical Center. They ran their own catscans and battery of tests and the diagnosis was the same. The renal cell cancer had spread with both of my lungs having numerous tumors. In layman’s terms, Dr. Cerfolio’s treatment involved multiple surgeries on my lungs, first the left then the right. He would remove the tumor without cutting away much of the lung. This procedure, called the pneumonotomy technique, certainly would leave cancer cells and the tumors would recur in the lungs which would then be followed by more surgeries. This procedure could extend my life as many as ten years. Again, unless medical advancements made a breakthrough I was still terminal and I faced the prospect of having multiple lung surgeries every year or so but everyone in my family was ecstatic over this opportunity.

Upon returning to my church, Corinth Baptist in Magee, MS, I shared this wonderful news with my church family. They were overjoyed and promised to give me as much time as I needed to recover from my upcoming surgery and any surgeries in the future. A date was set for the surgery on my left lung, Monday, November 29, 1999. As a pastor I was busy lining up others to fill my responsibilities. I would be out of the pulpit the Sunday before the surgery and probably two Sundays following my surgery. Corinth Baptist Church scheduled a prayer meeting on Sunday night, November 21, 1999. Large rocking chairs were sat in the front of the church for our comfort and hundreds of people came by laying hands on Cheryl and myself praying for a healing. One very special brother came by and whispered in my ear, “God is going to cut the snake’s head off. You are not going to die, remember the dream.”   (See part IV of this series about the dream click here)  I was not sure if I would be healed or not but I had faith God could heal me. I never gave up hope. That dream was special but God’s Holy Word is all I needed to be assured God could heal. One night prior to my original trip to Birmingham to see Dr. Cerfolio I was awakened by something on my arm. I had gone to sleep holding Cheryl and in the middle of the night tears were rolling down her face and onto my arm that was underneath her. This was the first time I witnessed her crying over the disease that gripped my body. I asked her why she was up in the middle of the night crying and her answer amazed me. Cheryl replied she had not cried in front of me because I had enough on me without worrying about her. She had done all her crying after I had gone to bed as not to burden me. She is to this day the strongest woman I have ever met. I asked her directly, “Don’t you believe God can heal me?” She said, “Yes, I believe He can but He needs to hurry if He is going to.” Well after this very special prayer meeting on November 21 God was about to speed things up. I remember after that prayer meeting that Paul Craft, a deacon at Corinth, suggested I have another catscan run for he was convinced God had healed me.

On Monday night, November 22 things changed. Cheryl and I went through all our daily routine with surgery the following Monday, cancer and death never far from our minds. That night we turned in after a normal day and Cheryl went right to sleep. After prayer and slipping off to sleep I woke up startled. It was evident something was happening. I know God is omnipresent. There is no place on the earth that is not in the presence of God. However, that night God’s presence was manifest in our bedroom in a way I have never experienced before and sadly never again. I was paralyzed with fear. I lay there still as I could without opening my eyes. I am reminded of Revelation 1:17 when John saw his vision of Jesus. The Bible says he fell at Jesus’ feet like a dead man. He was paralyzed with fear and this John had leaned on the Lord’s chest as Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper. He knew Jesus intimately. As I lay there afraid to open my eyes God supernaturally healed me of cancer. I didn’t see a light and I didn’t have a warm feeling over my body but I sensed I was made whole.

The following morning I waited for daylight to share this news with a special prayer partner. I made my way to the office of my friend and church member, Charlene Loyd. I shared with her that God had visited me and I was certain everything was going to be fine. I told her that morning to write this date on her calendar, Tuesday, November 23, 1999. On this date I told her I was not going to die of cancer and I would be pastoring in ten years and I would be better than ever. Charlene seemed to be at a loss for words as I shared with her my experience. I must confess that I did make a mistake at this time. I feel I sinned against God even. In my heart I knew to ask Dr. Cerfolio for another catscan but I didn’t. Paul Craft had told me to ask for another one. God was leading me to ask for another one but I never did. I went to Birmingham on Sunday, November 28, 1999 to have surgery the next morning but I knew God had already cut the head off this snake in one way or another.

I checked in on Monday, November 29, 1999 at 5:00 a.m. and soon was rushed to surgery. This hospital was different from the others where I had surgery. They rolled me into the operating room awake. I witnessed saws and blades and a little beam they called an operating table that I was told to lay on. I hung off all four sides of this table. I was a little groggy from the nerve medicine I was given but everything appeared to be stainless steel in this room. Dr. Cerfolio would do around eight surgeries this day and he would not speak to any family member until the end of the day when all surgeries were complete. We were told not to expect to speak to the doctor until later in the evening. I woke in my room with everyone shouting. My wife, mom, brother, step-father, in-laws, pastors who made the trip, church members were all gathered around my bed gawking at me waiting for me to open my eyes. Cheryl blurted out that the tumors were gone when Dr. Cerfolio opened you up for surgery. Soon Dr. Cerfolio showed up at my door in the middle of the day. He wanted to tell me that he had held my left lung in his hands and there were no tumors and God had healed me from cancer. My first thought was, “What about the right lung?” He said and I quote, “I don’t believe God would heal one of your lungs and leave the other one diseased.” As I began the process of recovering from this surgery and it was very painful I had two thoughts: 1) God is awesome, He has healed me. 2) Why didn’t I get the catscan done so I would not have to be in such pain. Dr. Cerfolio scheduled a catscan for me in a few weeks to give me enough time to recover from the surgery. I remember my step-father, Bud Davis, and I went to Birmingham for this catscan alone for some reason. Dr. Cerfolio put up two sets of catscans. The first was preop and it revealed seven tumors in the two lungs. The second was postop and the tumors were gone. Dr. Robert Cerfolio, Dr. David Stout, Dr. Ralph Abraham and Dr. Alphonso Willis all told me to my face this was a documented miracle. The medical field calls it spontaneous remission. Believers know better.

I will share one more short blog about this miracle sharing a few of my thoughts about this happening to me.

A God Who Can Heal Your Body, Soul And Mind , Part VI

prayer imageIn this blog I share the incredible power of prayer that God’s people possess. At the age of thirty-one I was given two years to live. Doctors pronounced the cancer in my body as terminal and began walking me through the process of coming to grips with my death. As this death sentence was pronounced something amazing happened. What should have been the worst days of my life became the most special days in my life because of Christians who love and pray for one another. I hope you enjoy reading: PRAYER CHANGED ME BEFORE I WAS HEALED.

I sat in Dr. Willis’ office as he shared with me the bleak outlook. When you have as many tumors in your lungs as I had surgery is not an option and at that time there was no drug treatment that showed any promise for curing renal cell cancer. Dr. Willis was speaking about the end of my life and what he would do to keep me comfortable. He mentioned some experimental treatment if I was interested in helping to find a cure for renal cell cancer. I asked if there was any chance these treatments may cure me. Dr. Willis is a believer and shared with me, “Preacher, just as Isaiah told Hezekiah, you need to get your house in order. Unless God performs a miracle you will not see your son start school.” I honestly would have been a Guinea pig if I signed up for the experimental treatments.  Cheryl and I left Dr. Willis’ office that afternoon headed 45 miles north to our home in Magee. We had to tell our families. We had to tell Corinth Baptist Church. We rode in silence most of the way home. Finally, I asked her permission to attend an event that night where I was scheduled to preach. Cheryl knew I wanted to live life as normal as I could and preaching is as normal as it gets for me so she told me she really wanted to be alone and my preaching that night would give her that chance. I shared with the host pastor, Clark Stewart (no kin), before the service my diagnosis. I asked him not to say anything because it might take away from the service. That night a few men were born again at the conclusion of our event. At the end of the service Clark shared I was sick and all the men, one by one stood to pray over me. It was a very emotional time, one I would experience several times over the next few weeks.

When you are dying of cancer everyone wants to help you. It is amazing how news used to spread so fast before Facebook. I got cards, calls and notes literally from all over the world  with people wishing me well and sharing their prayers. One thing I got tired of quick was everywhere I went someone knew a doctor I needed to see or a miracle cure for cancer. I shared with my secretary, Robin Prestwood, that I was tired of the nonsense. I would take no more calls from anyone that was not in my immediate or church family. I wanted to pastor, be a good husband and dad until God took me to glory. I didn’t have time to listen to people tell me to drink tea made from shark cartilage or inhale the smoke of burning Haitian fern trees for a cure of cancer.  My church was numb, their young pastor was dying and he was leaving behind a wife and an 18 month old son. I had to be strong, show no fear and assure them God was in control. I now had to trust what I had told them about God when they were faced with trouble. They were worried about me and as their pastor I was worried about them. I remember one day visiting a church member, Billy Ray Hankins, who was a builder/entrepreneur. I showed Billy Ray a set of plans for a home. I told Billy Ray how much money Cheryl and I had plus I was going to get $150,000 from a life insurance policy when I died. I asked Billy Ray if he would build this house for $150,000 on our property in Lamar County for Cheryl and Micah once I died. He never batted an eye and responded, “Preacher, Cheryl is going to need that money. I give you my word I will build this house for her and Micah and pay for everything if anything happens to you but I do not want to talk about you dying.” I love Billy Ray Hankins, who today is in glory, and his widow, Donna. What a gesture by this brother!

There were dozens of prayer meetings on my behalf, however, a few of them have impacted my life forever. The pastors in my association called a pastors only prayer meeting for me at the associational office. My goodness they prayed. Charles Ray Burnham laid on his belly with his face on my feet weeping to God that He might heal me. This is the only time I have seen anyone laying prostrate while praying for me. A retired pastor, Bro. Billy Guest, who was one of my church members and had pastored Corinth for nearly 25 years prayed, “God, this is Billy, I am praying for my pastor. He is a young man with a wife and son. God I am old and used up. Will you please take the cancer from my pastor and put in me so he can live and I can die. I am ready to see you and Bro. Dean has so much to live for.” I have no words to describe my feelings for Billy Guest? This prayer meeting is etched in my mind. What love these precious brothers poured out on me. I am not worthy of such friends.

A second prayer meeting happened in private. One of our missionaries was stateside and had attended the event I spoke at for Clark Stewart. This man came to my house one day when I really was sick and not feeling well at all. He asked where the cancer was. I replied, “My cancer started in my kidney and is now in both lungs.” He told me never to say “my cancer” again. He said there is power in words and you do not want to own or possess this cancer. I’m not sure I agreed with all his theology but if you read through the previous five blogs I never referred to the cancer that was in my body as my cancer. I have never once done that again since the day I met this missionary. He then prayed over me like no one I ever heard. He said something to the effect of, “Jesus you told us to speak to mountains and they would be thrown into the sea. I don’t understand all that means but I speak to this cancer and order it to be gone just as you told us to in Mark 11.” I was amazed at this man’s prayer. He prayed as if he believed in the authority that God’s Word says Christians have.

One final prayer meeting I want to share with you was a prayer that a friend of mine, Barry Curtrer, heard his son pray one night as Barry stood in the doorway of Brandon’s bedroom listening to his young son Brandon pray. I had preached a couple revivals for Barry and his son was special to me. Brandon prayed a prayer of a child, “God please help Bro. Dean not to die.” Tears well in my eyes every time I think of Brandon praying this simple prayer for me.

All of these prayers God heard and he began to work in a great way. First of all, I can tell you I was never afraid, worried, angry or sad. God’s presence was amazing. I was ready to die and doing a good job of living a normal life and at the same time was convinced God could heal me. This is the result of prayer and the power of God. The prayers of  the saints and God’s presence had changed me even before God healed me. God was going to do even more however,  He was working! One day Robin, my secretary, called me while I was eating lunch with a group of pastors. She apologized for sharing with me another cure that had come to our office for cancer but this one was different. A lady named Pam Campbell, a childhood friend from my hometown, called and had the name of doctor who might could help me. Robin gave me Pam’s number. It is time to confess. When I was a young teenage boy Pam Campbell was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen in my life. Any male around my age, even a preacher, will return Pam’s call. I broke my rule not to listen to anymore cures that people had for the cancer in my body and returned Pam’s call.  She was a prayer coordinator for a church in Louisiana and had gotten my name and details for prayer. She had a friend whose father had the exact same diagnoses as I did and there was a doctor, Dr. Robert Cerfolio, at the University of Alabama Birmingham who could extend my life. The fact that Pam Campbell came across my prayer request while in Louisiana and had a friend whose father had the exact same diagnosis as me and was able to speak to me is surely the providential hand of God.

This sets the stage for one final prayer meeting, a visit from God and a surprised surgeon.

A God Who Can Heal Your Body, Soul And Mind, Part V

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Micah and Dean a couple months before cancer returns

In this blog I will continue to chronicle how my life was impacted by three bouts with renal cell cancer, doctors giving me the prognosis the cancer was terminal and God supernaturally healing me of this cancer. In this blog I will share of cancer’s return to my life and my:

“GETTING A GRIP ON DEATH.”

For 18 months everything was well with my health, my family and ministry. Beginning in August of 1997 when Dr. Stout removed my right kidney I tried to live a normal life. There was a new normal for me in that every three months I had to go for check-ups. The check-ups alternated between catscans one time and ultrasounds the next. I preferred the ultrasounds; the doctors preferred the catscans. The contrast in catscans is not good for your kidneys and with me now having one kidney Dr. Stout preferred I only have two catscans a year. I didn’t mind because I honestly despised the barium I had to drink for the catscans. It seemed every other week it was time for the catscan and that awful drink. Everyone who provided healthcare for me at Hattiesburg Clinic was phenomenal. Dr. Stout, his staff, the lab staff, the imaging staff all have been so good to me through the years.

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Micah Dean

In the months following the cancer I was engulfed in life full speed. I was pastoring a great church and we were in the middle of a building project. I was a husband and a new dad. These changes in my life changed the way I lived my life. In the early years of my marriage Cheryl and I enjoyed different things. This was never an issue for us because we each did our own thing. I pastored churches that afforded me the freedom to play a lot of golf and do some fishing. Often on the weekends I would travel to different dirt tracks and enjoy late-model dirt track racing. Cheryl was not interested in golf, racing or fishing. She enjoyed returning to Purvis to visit with her family every chance she got. After Micah was born my desire to do those things all but disappeared.  I became a serious student of the Bible and my greatest joy was being a family man. Cheryl and I made plans to have another child and expand our family.

Those plans were put on hold in February of 1999 when Dr. Stout called me and told me I needed to come into his office for a  conversation. He had always called me on my cell phone with the results of my scans. The cancer had returned. When renal cell cancer spreads it most often will spread to the lung just above the kidney it originated in. This was the case with me. The tumor was about the size of a quarter and was in my right lung. A good Hebrew, Ralph Abraham was scheduled to do a wedge resection to remove a pie shape wedge of my right lung and thus removing the tumor and hopefully any cancer cells around the tumor. The odds of the cancer originally recurring were only 10%. Because the cancer had recurred the odds this cancer would now kill me was 50/50.

The surgery and hospital stay were routine and uneventful. Dr. Abraham and the staff at Forrest General again were so very good to me. I must confess that following the surgery I became emotional. As before with my previous stay in the hospital I had hundreds of visitors. I shared with them all the same thing, “Please pray for me that I can live long enough to raise my son.” The prospect of Micah growing up without his dad in his life was troubling to me.

One afternoon I found myself alone in my hospital room so I took advantage of that time to do some reading. In my reading plan I was reading through the book of Job. How appropriate was that! I prayed before I read and prayed again, “God, please let me live long enough to raise my son.” As I read through Job I came to Job 13:15, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.” I did not hear God speak an audible voice but His precious Word penetrated my heart. It was crystal clear to me what God was saying, “Dean, every time you tell someone you need to live long enough to raise Micah you are saying you don’t trust me. I have a plan for Cheryl and Micah and it revolves around me not you.” I can honestly say I have never prayed again that I live long enough to raise my sons. I have learned that if God were to take my life I can trust Him with everything I have and that includes Cheryl and Micah and now Joel.

The recovery from the lung surgery was difficult. My ribs were split in order to access the diseased lung. This is not something I got over in a day or two. However, in a couple of weeks I was pastoring, preaching and being a husband/dad just like normal. Everything was normal for only nine months this time. In November of 1999 Dr. Stout found renal cell cancer in my body for the third time. This time there were multiple tumors in my right lung and now multiple tumors in my left. At the time, though it may have changed now, surgery was the only option for renal cell cancer. There was no chemo or radiation therapy. With the number of tumors in both lungs it would be impossible to remove the tumors for I would not have enough lung capacity remaining to live. Dr. Abraham was the first to say surgery was not an option and the outlook was terminal. Dr. Stout shared this news with me. I could tell he was devastated. He introduced me to an oncologist, Dr. Willis, who would be responsible for seeing me through to the end of my life. Two years would be the average amount of time someone with this condition would live. It could be as short as eighteen months or as long as five years but the average was two years. Dr. Willis described how it would be at the end of my life and promised to keep me comfortable.

In my next blog I will share of prayer meetings and the night God healed me of cancer.

A God Who Can Heal Your Body, Soul And Mind, Part IV

fear notIn this post I continue to chronicle  God’s supernatural healing me of cancer. Soon enough I would hear the opinion of several doctors that my life was coming to an end. In the next couple of posts I will chronicle how God healed my body. In this post I want to share with you: LIVING IN FEAR AS A BELIEVER.

On Thursday, August 28, 1997 I was discharged from the hospital having just had my right kidney removed and my wife delivering our first born son, Micah. The recovery process at McLain was such a sweet experience. First Baptist Church of McLain took care of our every need. With Cheryl recovering from a cesarean and me recovering from having my kidney removed our house was full of loving church members who cared for our every need. They cooked meals, doted over Micah and cared for Cheryl and me with great love. I have often said I love God but it is easy for me to love Him because He has been so good to me. I am eternally thankful for my church family at McLain. I love you and think of you often. As the days turned into weeks and my life became a little more normal I gradually became active. One day Cheryl found me in the back yard hitting golf balls with a pitching wedge. Her reaction was if you bust those staples loose I will let you bleed to death and don’t cry to me tonight if you are hurting. My Florence Nightingale!!!!

As my life returned to normal something strange began to happen inside of me that I had never experienced before. I found myself living with fear. I can’t speak about living with heart disease or with Parkinson’s disease, however, living with cancer I began to notice any unusual pain that I developed. If my joints hurt I was afraid cancer had returned and was in my bones. When I experienced dizziness I assumed I had a brain tumor. Not long after becoming active I began passing a small amount of blood. I was terrified; the cancer in my body was discovered when I began passing blood. There was a harmless explanation for the  blood this time. As I became active scar tissue resulting from the catheter after surgery tore and bled a little. However, until I heard this explanation I was afraid. God’s children are not to live in fear. Isaiah 41:10 says, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” I have read there are 365 verses in the Bible instructing believers not to fear – one for each day of the year. I was living in fear but I hid it well. Every three months I would go for a catscan or an ultrasound. For a few hours every three months I was terrified of what the results might be. Worry is an insult to God. As believers when we worry we are saying to God our problems are bigger and more powerful than He is. Most of the time I was normal, by that I mean I was not afraid. However, every three months as I waited for Dr. Stout to give me the results I was afraid. Every once in a while I would wake with a new pain and fear would grip me for a while. I was committed to being brave for Cheryl and our new baby but the truth is I had fear. The sensation of fear did not last long and was not always present but when I was afraid I felt like a phony. Why was I afraid, did I not trust God?

In December of 1997 I became the pastor of Corinth Baptist Church in Magee, MS. This church is very special to Cheryl and me. We both feel that God sent us to every church we have pastored so we could minister to them but we both feel God sent us to Corinth so they could minister to us. What I was about to experience and endure I could not imagine experiencing anywhere but Corinth. First of all, on the whole this church was made up of incredibly spiritually mature people. It did not take me long to realize I would have to grow in the Lord or resign as their pastor. As I settled into my new pastorate I soon learned this was a praying church. When people in our community or church family became ill this church would organize prayer meetings in the homes of the sick or even in the hospital. It is an incredible experience to see a line of people out the front door of a home and into the yard waiting to pray for someone.   God honored the prayers of these Corinthians again and again. It was here that I became a serious student of the Word. I had no choice.

Not long after I moved to Corinth I had the scariest dream I have ever had. Seventeen years later it is still vivid. In this dream I had resigned from First McLain and went to various homes to say my goodbyes before moving to Corinth. In the dream, one home I visited was Bo and Yvonne Moody. They asked me to come into the basement of their home because they had a gift to give me. Once in the basement and having received the gift we noticed the most frightening snake you could imagine. It was huge, not long but thick,  with a large head, red eyes and long fangs. In the dream, I ran from the house, threw Micah in the car and Cheryl and I jumped in and sped away. Still in the dream, I was now in my front yard at the parsonage in Magee with Cheryl working in a flower bed and Micah sitting in a stroller in the shade of a tree. As we worked we noticed this same hideous snake coming up our driveway. In the dream,  I grabbed a hoe and chopped its head off protecting Cheryl and Micah. This dream was so frightening I honestly woke trembling.

The Sunday following the dream we had a men’s breakfast at the church. I shared in conversation around the table about my nightmare. No one seemed to be impressed with the intensity of this dream. The next morning a man in the church came by my office. He asked me never to tell anyone but he felt God had given him the interpretation of some dreams and God had given him the interpretation of my dream. I will keep his identity concealed as he desires. I must say I thought he might have been a little nuts as he began telling me this. His interpretation meant nothing to me that day but soon enough it would mean a tremendous amount. His interpretation was, “The snake represents the cancer you had in McLain. It followed you from McLain symbolizing it will return. Your cutting the head off symbolizes God will cure this cancer this time. Bro. Dean, the cancer will return but it will die, not you.” Now you have to remember I was healthy at this time and doctors were 90% sure this cancer would not return. I didn’t know what to think of this precious brother’s words at that time but soon enough I thought about them constantly.

Joel prophesied in the last days God would pour His Spirit out on all flesh and as a result young men will see visions and old men will dream dreams. Peter quotes that prophecy in Acts 2:17-21 when some accused the disciples of being drunk when they received the Holy Spirit. Peter does not say Joel’s prophecy is fulfilled at Pentecost for Joel’s prophecy is for the nation of Israel during the tribulation. However, Peter is saying on Pentecost something similar to what Joel prophesied about is occurring as a result of the Holy Spirit’s coming. Throughout the Old Testament God spoke through dreams. In the tribulation God will speak through dreams. I am convinced God speaks to us in the church age through His holy Word. We need nothing else. However, I know of one man who had an interpretation for one of my dreams that came to pass exactly as he said it would. By the way, I have come to learn the love of God does not guarantee you will never be afraid again but it does guarantee you will have victory over those fears.

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Corinth Baptist Church, Magee                                 
First Baptist Church, McLain
First Baptist Church, McLain

 

In my next post I will discuss the return of cancer – twice.