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.
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.