A few nights ago my wife, Cheryl, brought out some medical records of mine from years ago. We read through those pages remembering both the worst and best of times. Most everyone who knows me has some knowledge of the fact that in 1997 I was diagnosed with renal cell cancer. Over the next two years the cancer spread and doctors pronounced the cancer in my body was incurable and my life would succumb to this disease. God graciously supernaturally healed me of cancer and now in 2015 I am somewhat a picture of health. As I read those pages my heart was stirred to share the good news that God can still heal all of us. I am going to write a few blogs detailing the events surrounding my battle with cancer and the subsequent healing.
PART I: “It Happened In An Instant.”
On Tuesday morning August 19, 1997 I woke up shortly before 5:00 a.m. It did not take long before I realized something was terribly wrong. In the bathroom I passed nothing but pure blood and a tremendous amount at that. The sight of the blood almost made me faint. After gaining my composure and feeling no pain I shared what was going on with Cheryl and told her to get a shower and get dressed. We didn’t have to be in a hurry because I was in no pain but we had to go to the hospital – something was wrong, bad wrong.
The lack of pain ended while I was in the shower. I have never felt such pain in my life before or since. It felt as if someone had taken a fire poker and stuck it in my right side and it went to my belly button. I was pastoring in a small community, McLain, MS, about an hour from the hospital. I crawled into Cheryl’s bathroom screaming for her to get dressed. With wet hair and tossed on clothes we left for Hattiesburg, MS and Forrest General Hospital. In August of 1997 Ms. Cheryl and I were 29 years old, we had been married approximately 7 years and she was 9 months pregnant with our first child. Cheryl throwing caution to the wind drove near the 100 mph mark while I screamed. I remember rolling the window down and holding my head out screaming. I remember laying in the floorboard of the car crying to Jesus. I was sure death was imminent.
Arriving at the hospital around 6:00 a.m. we found few people in the emergency room. Seeing I was in bad shape they rushed me to the back and immediately gave me something for the pain. I have no idea what they gave me the first time for the pain but IT WAS GREAT. After the pain eased they began running tests on me. Everyone was sure that I was suffering from kidney stones and was just acting like a big baby. I will be honest, I was excited about becoming a dad and was so in love with Cheryl for carrying my son that I felt terrible about getting sick while she was expecting to deliver at any moment. I am sure we were a sight, she worried and fussing over me and me worried and fussing over her – once my pain was eased. The plan was to take care of the kidney stones and get me well to tend to my bride and the baby when he came.
That plan changed around 10:00 a.m. when I was introduced to David Stout, M.D. in urology. He poked his head into my cubicle and asked where Cheryl was. Someone had told him Cheryl was due to have a baby any day. She had gone to get something to eat at my insistence. Dr. Stout said they had found a tumor the size of an orange in my right kidney and they were going to run a couple of tests to determine for certain if it was cancer. He then told me, “Dwight, (no one has my permission to call me Dwight) it is cancer. The tests are a necessary protocol but they will reveal you have renal cell cancer. If Cheryl is alone with you here you need to get in touch with someone to be with her when I come back in a few hours and tell you guys it is cancer.” I called Cheryl’s sister, Gail Lott, asking her to come be with Cheryl. There was some bad news coming. They rushed me away for a morning of tests.
Shortly after lunch Dr. Stout returned to my cubicle. There with Cheryl and Gail at my head and Dr. Stout at the foot of my bed he shared the news I knew was coming – I was diagnosed with renal cell caner, kidney cancer. The information kind of runs together once you hear those words but I remember hearing Dr. Stout making the following statements.
1) We are going to admit you to make sure the cancer is contained. I am sure it is because your kidneys are contained in a sac and this makes metastasizing a slow process.
2) The pain you have been feeling is the tumor has eaten through the wall in your kidney and filled your urinary tract with scabs. We will need to keep you in the hospital to manage that pain.
3) We will take your kidney out Friday if everything checks out like I think it will.
4) There is a 90% chance this will cure you. 90% of the time if you remove the kidney containing the tumor it is a cure. For this reason if you are going to have cancer this is a good one to have, however, if it does reoccur then the odds of survival drop from 90% to 50%.
I was young and stupid and wanted to appear spiritual. I told Dr. Stout if I lived or died I was a child of God and I was looking forward to going to heaven. I welcomed death and was not afraid of death at all. I quoted him a Scripture being certain I had impressed him with my strength and spirituality.
In part II I will share how a stranger became my friend.