Zack Wilson at CTCA - Zion, IL
Ok so it's April fools and I know everyone has been playing pranks today and that's fine but I want to take a minute to get serious with everyone. As most of you know my wife Danelle Brasher Wilson has been battling brain cancer since late November. We found out she had a brain tumor the week before thanksgiving. We were told the tumor was around 4 1/2 to 5 centimeters when they found it. We tried to have biopsy surgery on three separate occasions and something came up each time. She and I both took this as signs from God to be patient and to trust in him. She had a brain surgery on December the 11th in which the dr was able to only resect 30% of the mass. We anxiously awaited the pathology report to tell us if it was cancerous or not and three days later we were hit with the news that she had a grade 4'glioblastoma multiforme. This news was devastating to us as this is a virtually incurable cancer with very low survival rates. We spoke with our dr at home and were pretty much told there isnt anything we can really do for you but keep you comfortable and await the inevitable. Shortly after surgery her health began to decline and she was bound to a wheelchair and walker to get around. We were awaiting treatment to begin at the west clinic in Memphis when a facebook friend Paul Pounders contacted me and said man I have someone you really need to speak with. He then put me in contact with a mr Rick Barneswhom is a four year brain cancer survivor. Mr rick and myself spoke for hours on the phone about his experience with cancer treatment centers of America in zion Illinois. My wife and I have always been spiritual people so when hearing where this center was located I immediately knew the name zion and it's biblical references. Mr Rick told me that all the doctors there were strong Christian individuals and couldn't find one negative thing about his whole exp with them. I told mr Rick that I appreciated his time and encouraging words and pondered the idea of maybe visiting the ctca. I spoke with Danelle about it for several days and decided we should call and see what we could find out. So the Sunday afternoon before Christmas which was the day before the west clinic wanted us to come in for radiation and chemo we called them. We were very pleased to find out that they accepted our insurance and had a center in tulsa ok which is only a couple hours from Danielle's aunt Cindy Palmer so we decided we would go there for our consultation because neither one of us like snow and Cindy would be close enough to come check on us. So we were set or so I thought. Monday evening mr Rick contacted me and said that God had put it on his heart to call and check on me and the wife. We spoke for a few minutes and then I told him that we decided to go to the Ctca in tulsa. He said that is an awesome center as well but for some reason God has put us together and while he was staying up in Chicago for his treatment he did a walk of Jericho around the hospitial campus and God spoke to him in a dream and said that if you do this walk of Jericho I will preform a miraculous healing at this center and that maybe Danelle was supposed to be the miracle. I got to thinking about it deeply and told him that yes I also believe God has a plan for everyone of us and there had to be a reason we were put together and that I would call CTCA the following morning and change locations. The next morning came and I called and changed our location without a problem. Later that day our preacher and deacons came by the house to pray with us and we talked and had fellowship for a few hours and spoke of zion. They left and I settle back in to complete some orders from my website where a gentleman by the name of craig bricco had ordered some gunpowder a few days before. Upon going through his order looking for his shipping address I noticed his address was in no other than zion Illinois. Upon Google mapping his address his gun shop was less than 100 yards from the cancer center. My wife and I were both floored. God was truly talking to us and we knew we needed to listen. So we flew up to Zion that Friday which was the day after Christmas to have a consult. The drs there did a new mri since we hadn't had a new one since surgery and had found that her tumor had exploded with new growth and was now approaching the 7cm mark. We were stunned. How could a tumor that was 4 1/2 to 5 cm and had 30% removed less than two weeks ago doubled in size? The drs there told us that it's very aggressive and that we need to act quickly and wanted us to go home get packed and return immediately for treatment. We agreed and hopped a flight back home and returned four days later for our six week session of treatment. We were both scared and fearful of our outcome and going into the unknown. Four days into treatment Danelle was able to go without the walker but I was still pushing her in a wheel chair through the hospitial. Two weeks into treatment she was able to get rid of the wheel chair all together. Along the way during our six week stay we heard testimony after testimony from other patients that were given little to no time at all to live by their drs at home and each and everyone of them would sing gods praises and tell us how God had done miracles in their lives with their cancers. We have met numerous people who should have passed away years ago who are still here living and breathing and enjoying life to its fullest. We have befriended several people like Gina Penzo and Rick Penzo who were here undergoing treatment the same time we were. Gina was only given a few months to live from her dr at home and decided she would give Ctca a try. She went through 7 weeks of treatment and justi couple weeks ago was given the big news that her body is totally cancer free. We have also met Tricia Ceryak who was battling cancer and wasn't given much hope at home. Well guess what Tricia is a coupe,treatments away from being cancer free herself. We also met another couple Lisa Atria Justice and her finance Robert who also were given excellent news yesterday. So today was our big day we have been at home for the last six weeks awaiting the time we can come back and get updates. We went in for scans this morning and met with our surgeons. Our surgeons said that surgery at this point was not our best move which crushed Danelle and myself. The dr saw we were upset and said hold on there is no need for tears I have good news. He then proceeded to tell us that the treatment was working. The tumor is shrinking and is smaller now than when it was found originally. Her tumor has shrunk to only 4.2 cm and appears,to be dead in the center. He is worried that going in with his scalpel could leave Danelle injured so he doesn't want to do that. He then told us that the tumor appears to still be shrinking and if we could get it to shrink to 3cm he could use the gamma knife which is a non invasive tool,that could eliminate 99.9 percent of the tumor without harming her. Talk about God working miracles, we were floored at the news. We both started praying and thanking God for him holding us in his hands and showing us that all things are possible through him. We are both humbled beyond words but want to share this good news with everyone. We are not completely out of the woods yet but are well on the way of being healed. I would like to thank all the friends and prayer warriors whom have taken the time to pray for us or to speak with us about God and our battle. I would like to encourage anyone who reads this who doesn't know our lord and savior and wants to to message me and I'll be glad to speak with you about him. We give God all the glory and I leave you with this verse.
I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me
Adeline Fallon’s Story
The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety. Psalm 18:2
I am very Blessed, I have so much emotional support from my family, church family and co- workers. I remember getting the news, and this was the first time I have ever been brought to my knees, "Mrs. Fallon, you have cancer." As soon as those words were finally out in the open I called family and friends asking for prayers. One of my co-workers called me up and said, "Al, if I have to drive you, you are going to the Cancer Treatment Centers of America." Frank was so insistent that I did make that call and I did become a patient of CTCA. On the last day of work Frank gave me a present, "Jesus calling." That little devotional is so wonderful and speaks to my heart. I remember during this time I read in Jesus calling, "You can either thank me or cuss me, but you can't do both." From that day forward I began waking up with a grateful heart, "Thank-you so much for Blessing me with another day...thank-you for the beautiful music the birds are singing....thank you for creation...."
I travelled to CTCA and the doctors performed so many tests on me and it was diagnosed stage 4 estrogen positive breast cancer that traveled into the bones. The doctor said, I am putting you on Letrozole and one shot in the stomach when you come to CTCA. I asked about surgery but she said she would advise against any surgery at this time. She continued "You are treatable but not curable." I thought, "Okay, that doesn't sound too good." But the up side was that I didn't need chemo either. In my room that night, during devotionals a inner voice spoke, "I am going to turn your illness into a Blessing." I was so taken aback I yelled, "Say what?"
God has picked up the shattered pieces of my illness and made me whole. Yes, I have cancer but cancer doesn't have me. One prayer I constantly pray is "Lord teach me to laugh again but never let me forget the times I cried." God has been faithful and I began to pray "God how can I help you today?" Before long while at the Cancer center this young lady with three kids began to sob in the dinner line. I left my tray where it was and went over to her and just hugged her and yes, I held on to her for dear life. She cried, 'I just got done with chemo, I have chemo fog, and how can I take care of my babies when I can't take care of myself?" WE Stood there hugging, two strangers, and both of us crying. Not long after that incident, I was outside by the pond where I spotted a woman smoking a cigarette and she looked so sad. I went up to her and said, "Ma'am I don't know your story, I just want you to know I am praying for you." She gave me a bear hug and cried, "They just put a feeding tube in my husband, he is 45 and I am bringing him home to die. Life wasn't suppose to be like this." We just clung on to each other.
I have also been shown so much kindness because of cancer. I was in Chicago Thanksgiving and a car was taking me to the airport. Somehow, a mishap happened and I was dropped off at the wrong terminal. I began to panic and ask for directions but somehow I kept on getting more and more lost, it was like I was in a maze. Then I reached Delta's terminal and asked one of the employees for directions and he explained, "You take the tram to terminal 1 and then you take the elevator..." He said, "What's wrong ma'am you look as white as a ghost." I cried, "I've got less than an hour to get to my flight, I am exhausted and I am coming from the Cancer Center." He looked at me and asked, "You have cancer?" I just nodded. He went to the counter and called for a wheelchair and the employees wheeled me to my terminal and to my flight with ten minutes to spare. I was in tears as I thought, "God always takes care of his kids, even at the airport." A kind stranger...
I am not dying of this illness, not yet anyway. I am being Blessed beyond measure. I think how I stay so positive is that God continues to use me to help other people. And God has shown me that I need to stay connected to him 24/7. I now understand what "praying without ceasing means." I have a bad day, I take it to the Lord...I have a good day, I take it to the Lord. Only one time I said to God, "I love you but right now I am not speaking to you." That was the day that I came to realize that I would have to go on disability. One thing is for sure it is not I that stays positive but the one who lives in me. All Glory goes to God.
Helping others be overcomers with the Lords help is so much better and healthier than dwelling on the little c. And this has become my constant prayer, "Lord, teach me to laugh again but never ever let me forget the times I cried.
Cancer has never been about me, but about what God can do in the middle of a storm. This is Gods story, his love story. Very soon am attempting on beginning a support and bible study, "Cancer and Faith."
And as always, run c run...
"The Godbys are always there when me or my wife have needed them. They have helped us in ways I can't even begin to explain, in spite of what they are personally going through. They are truly the hands and feet of Jesus for cancer patients and anyone who needs their help." Rod T. CO
My name is Johnnie P. Mock. This July 31st 2015, if the Lord graciously allows me, I will turn 63 years old. I have Pancreatic Cancer. As of today I am a 31 month survivor. Cancer is something that happens to somebody else, it doesn’t happen to me, right! Isn’t that how most of us look at cancer? Well I did. If you will grant me a little of your time I would like to share with you my story, My Cancer Journey!
As stated already, it has been 31 months since I was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer, but I feel it’s necessary to turn the clock back a few years earlier so you can meet this man I am writing about. The photo on the right is me, taken at Christmas time 2009. I weighed 260 pounds. As you can imagine I was not the picture of a healthy man. I believe I was taking a total of 10 medications daily, in an attempt to keep my blood pressure under control. And then on one of my many doctor visits, my doctor informed me that I had now become a type 2 diabetic and prescribed to me yet another medication. While I don’t remember the name of the medication for this diabetes, I do remember how my body reacted to it. Whenever I would take this medication I would get dizzy to the point of nearly passing out. Well I didn’t like this at all. I contacted my doctor and told him I could not take this medication! His response to me was, “You have no choice, take the medicine or get healthy.” In turn I answered him and said, “Let me work on healthy.” And so it began. I had struggled with my weight most of my adult life and knew most everything I had tried ultimately failed, but this time would be different. Diets don’t work, but a lifestyle change (eating habits) and a regular workout routine do and that became my new normal. I am not going to tell you it was easy because it was NOT! Junk foods goodbye, couch potato – move out… healthy food in appropriate portions and 5 to 6 day a week workouts at the gym became my new norm. Now I shared this part of my life to show you what I consider I am made of. I worked hard and I do mean very hard at eating right and exercising daily, even on those many days I didn’t feel like it, which were many in the beginning. But eventually it paid off. About 2 years later I went from a 260 pound man with several health problems to this… a 190 pound man, who had beat his high blood pressure and his type 2 diabetes. I went from a 48 inch waist to a 32 – 34 inch waist. From wearing 2 XL and XL shirts to small and medium shirts.
When there is something worth fighting for I can be and am persistent and will not give in OR give up! Another reason I shared this little part of my life is this is the physical shape I was in when my health began its downward spiral, which ultimately became my diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. I believe I was in the best physical shape I had ever been.
Around January 2012 I began having stomach discomfort while working out, mostly cramping and upset or sour stomach. I took the normal remedies like we all do to fix it, Tums, Mylanta, Pepto, which gave me temporary relief. As it got worse I went to my doctor and he began prescribing different medications to treat my symptoms. Nothing seemed to work well or for very long. So I was set up with the local hospital to have an ultrasound on my Gall Bladder and another Gall Bladder test. The ultrasound found no problems (no gall stones) but the other test, a HIDA scan showed that my gall bladder was only working at 26%. I believe 36% is the lowest normal reading. So an appointment was made with the local surgeon to have my gall bladder removed. Simple right? No!!! The surgeon said I did not have what he referred to as “textbook symptoms” so he was not convinced that my gall bladder needed removal. He ordered a few more tests, a CT Scan and a Colonoscopy before considering gall bladder removal. Well the tests and Colonoscopy were fine, the CT Scan showed a growth on my left kidney but nothing to cause the pain I was having. The surgeon said he did not want to take out my gall bladder because he didn’t think it was the problem. I returned to my family doctor because the pain was getting worse. He called the surgeon and basically told him that if he would not remove my gall bladder we would go to another surgeon. 3 days later my gall bladder was removed and the pain went away – completely.
Great right? Well not really. The pain was replaced with not being able to eat and keep food in me. It would go straight through, along with a different kind of pain. This went on for about 4 to 6 months. It was passed off as my body not getting adjusted to not having a gall bladder but it would get better. Over this time period I lost about 60 pounds, down to 155 pounds. You remember the growth they found on my left kidney during the CT Scan? Well I was sent to an Urologist. He looked at the CT Scan and determined that a needle biopsy could not be performed because the growth was on top of the left kidney, nestled up under the spleen, could not be reached safely. He told me they would check it again in 6 months, and, even if it was cancer it wouldn’t grow very much.
So 6 months passes, I have lost the 60 pounds mentioned earlier and am getting weaker with each passing day. Work outs stopped for obvious reasons. Another CT Scan was performed and the growth had increased in size .5 centimeters. The Urologist was now concerned and immediately ordered a PET Scan the following week. The results of the PET Scan showed the growth on my kidney to be a benign cyst and nothing to be worried about, however, the PET Scan revealed that the lymph nodes around my pancreas were enlarged! It took the doctor about 4 weeks to get me an appointment with the local cancer clinic in Birmingham, Alabama, about 75 miles from home. The first visit was for the oncologist to meet me and do an examination. Now this is a teaching hospital, so when I had my appointment there were about 15 people in the examination room, poking and prodding me. The oncologist talked to the other people in the room but barely spoke to me directly. They drew a lot of blood that day. A couple weeks later I was scheduled to return for an endoscopic biopsy. When I came out of the anesthesia the young doctor who performed the biopsy came into the room where my wife and I were waiting. I was still feeling the effects of the drugs administered to perform the procedure. His words to us were “Well you’ve got cancer!” Deep down inside of me I had suspected that was what they were looking for and, as much as I didn’t want it to be, that is what they found. Without looking up I asked him, “Can we cut it out?” His response was “No… any other questions?” That was the end of our meeting.
On the way home, I made the phone calls to inform my family of the findings. Of course everyone was shocked at the news. My mother told me that she had been watching TV all day and every time she would change the channel this commercial would play about a Cancer Hospital and she said “You need to call them.” She told me several times before we hung up that I needed to call them. Well you know when Mama tells you to do something… YOU DO IT!!!! Well at least with my Mama you do.
I called them that next day. Talked with a wonderful man, Marty Marks, who helped us get everything necessary together to make the trip to Zion, Illinois for a 3 to 5 day evaluation. We arrived at O’Hare International Airport, were picked by a man with a white stretch limo that carried us to the hotel where we would be stay at during my evaluation. We got to bed but didn’t sleep well because of the many thoughts racing through our minds. What was going to happen? What were they going to do? Is this the beginning of the end? You know all those unanswered questions we all have in our minds. Let me just say this, we got up for day one of our appointments. It was confusing and scary and there were uncertainties and oh so many questions to get answers to. To say they are thorough at the Cancer Treatment Center of America would be an understatement. There was not one aspect of me and my health that was not addressed. And at the end of my 3 to 5 day evaluation, which actually lasted 9 days my Oncologist, Dr. Ashwin Sheelvanth sat my wife and myself down and we talked about me and my cancer and what they would like to do to treat it. We looked at my scans, while Dr. Sheelvanth showed us the tumor and how they would treated it and what he thought the outcome would be. At the end of our meeting he said go home and consider everything he had told us and let them know what we wanted to do. My response was, “We have already discussed it and if this is our best course of action, when can we begin?” His response was, “Right now!” And, with that I began my cancer treatment one hour after this meeting. Oh, you might find this amusing. I asked Dr. Sheelvanth a question I believe most people diagnosed with cancer want an answer to. “How long do I have?” He paused for a moment then looked me in the eye and said, “I am sorry, I don’t know… When you were born they did not put an expiration date on you.” How true! This marked the beginning of my cancer journey.
Let me tell you it took me maybe 4 to 6 weeks before I could even talk to anyone about my cancer without becoming very emotional and breaking down in tears. I think most of us look at a cancer diagnosis as an automatic death sentence. Well it used to be that way, but science has come a long way since then and survival rates have gotten much better, however it is still a deadly disease. This part of my journey is, I believe, the most important part, as it molded me into who I am today.
Many of you don’t know but at one time, about 25 years ago, I was a preacher, in that I pastored a church for 8 years. Near the end of those 8 years a situation saw my life changing, a marriage dissolving, a church harassing their former pastor to the point where I said, “If this is how you are I don’t need you anymore.” I turned away from church and God for 25 years. And then one day God sought me out. I didn’t know it at the time but He had a job for me to do. I was not attending church anywhere. I was just diagnosed with cancer. I was scared, lost, and without hope. God set it up to get me back where I needed to be. He put a person into my life to gently guide me back into fold. I have, a now very good friend I won’t mention by name, but she was extremely instrumental in getting me back into God’s good favor. She, like me HAD pancreatic cancer, and beat it. I am not sure why she singled me out, well of course I know why. Because that is what God wanted. Anyway she began to invite me to attend church services where she went. The first few times she mentioned it I thanked her but didn’t see that happening. Well as time went on and cancer became more and more real in my life I noticed something lacking in me. So one Sunday morning I woke up early, contacted her and asked what time church services were. She told me and I said I was thinking about visiting. Well I did visit that morning and I am not sure what it was, but when I entered the building there was such a calming peace that overtook me, like being covered by a warm fuzzy blanket. It made me feel like everything was going to be ok. During that first visit I was lead to the altar and the pastor and congregation gathered around me, the pastor anointed my forehead with oil and the whole church laid hands on me and prayed for me and my healing. Well I began attending services there regularly. My attitude began changing, my faith began to grow again and I began to look at life differently.
My visits to the Cancer Center also began to take on a new meaning for me. I remembered the first time my wife and I were there and feeling overwhelmed at what we were facing. I decided that it didn’t have to be that way. I would take it upon myself to do whatever I could to help others ease into their cancer journey. I have been told I never meet a stranger. I have no trouble at all talking to anyone about anything. I guess it is how I was raised.
I understand that some of you reading this will not understand or believe what I am describing and that is ok but, I sincerely believe that God had a plan for me and my life. He wanted to me help people struggling with their cancer diagnosis and all that follows. I did not choose this task nor would I have willingly volunteered for it, but God laid it at my feet and said I need you to do this for me. It was at that point I could not say no! God prepared me, like He did the apostle Paul, when Paul said “I am made all things to all men that I might by all means save some.” 1 Cor 9:22. I know how people with cancer feel because I too feel and have felt it too. I know the fear, the anger, the denial, the hopelessness, the “what have I done wrong in my life to cause this”. I have had to learn how to meet this head-on and deal with it in a positive way and overcome it in my journey. Allowing God into my life has given me strength to deal with whatever cancer has thrown into my path.
As I have already stated, I use every opportunity while in Zion for my appointments, to seek out and encourage anyone I meet that has a need. I find folks in need in the waiting rooms, in the Bistro, in the hallways, in the elevators, on the shuttle buses to and from the hotels, in the hotel lobbies, in the limo to and from the airport. I even have some employees, who know what I do, seek me out and ask if I have time to visit with someone they know who could use a friend or needs encouragement. You know, folks like us, that are going through our own personal cancer battle, can get through to others struggling because we understand the emotional roller coaster ride and have learned how to handle it. That is what I try to share with others. Maybe a year after I began my own personal crusade to help my friends battling cancer I was asked why I hadn’t joined Cancer Fighters? So that is what I did. I went down to where Cancer Fighters was set up by the Big Fish Tank. There I met Angela Broker, a very caring individual. I told her I was there to join Cancer Fighters and she asked me my name. I told her and her response was, “Oh so you are him!” It seems my name had come up in several conversations with some employees and patients and what I was doing helping and encouraging folks I would meet.
I mentioned a little ways back that this was something that God asked me to do. Let me explain. I never heard a voice instructing me, or at least I don’t think I heard one. There was no dream or burning bush or anything like that, however, one Sunday morning in church we had a visiting speaker. Someone I had never met before and of course they didn’t know me either. Well to make a long story short, in the middle of their message, they stopped, singled me out and announced to the whole congregation that I was going to be part of a Great Hospital Ministry. This person did not know I had cancer, they did not know I was traveling to Zion for treatment and while in Zion devoting my free time to encouraging others. That was all I needed to hear to know that what I was/am doing is from one greater than I.
On another occasion I was stopped after church services by one of the members. She told me that God had visited her with a message for me. The message was that the devil was trying to kill me and had tried 3 times but for me to not fear. God was not going to allow the devil to interfere with the work that He had for me to do. I thought about what she told me and was able to identify the 3 occasions….
A motorcycle accident when I was in my late teens. I was a passenger when the driver ran a stop sign…. I bounced off the side of the car that hit us, right in front of the tire.
Secondly, while serving in the Air Force in the early 70s I contracted Spinal Meningitis. By the time the doctors figured out what I had it was quite advanced. They put me in isolation and gave me 24 hours to live. With mega doses of penicillin I recovered.
And thirdly, now I am battling cancer. That makes 3. The devil wanted to remove me from this work but God, through my friend at church told me that the devil was not going to succeed because He had work for me to do. Again, I know there are some that don’t believe things like this and that is ok, but I believe it and that is what keeps me pressing forward.
My life is so full of opportunity to help others now. It’s like opportunity seeks me out instead of the other way around. And that is ok with me. I believe that God will not allow anything to come upon you that you cannot handle. His word tells us that. “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” Phil 4:13.
We are stronger than we gives ourselves credit for. We just have to trust in God and He will show us just how strong we can be. I tell folks recently diagnosed with cancer that they have been given a rare gift. They look at me with a puzzled expression when I tell them that. How many people do you know that go to bed at night and never wake up? Or are killed in an accident, without warning? People diagnosed with cancer have been given a wake up call, if you wish to call it that. We have been given a chance to reflect back on our lives and fix anything we find that needs fixing, whether it be relationships, priorities, whatever is not as it should be. Therein is the gift. Cancer has allowed me to get my priorities straight. Relationships are more important now. I try to tell the people I care about just how I feel about them and often, because we never know when we will be called home. I also try to live each and every day as if it were my last because No One is promised tomorrow. Sometimes, when I meet someone who has recently been told they have cancer I see fear in their eyes, which is very normal. I lean in and say, “I am going to let you in on a little secret, None of us are getting out of this world alive!!!!!” Of course there is a shock factor involved, but it does stop them in their tracks. You can see them processing what I just said to them, and, for most it’s like a light just came on! It is as if that huge cloud hanging over them begins to break apart and they get it. Yes they have cancer, now what is the guy going to tell me. They are now ready to be encouraged. Although we know we are not going to live forever, we seem to live as if we are. We just need to get in touch with our reality and then we can begin fighting.
I often hear people fighting cancer complain about how the treatment makes them feel. For those I have 2 things to say, (1) Treatment and its various unpleasant side effects are not forever. They are only for a season or period of time. And (2) Did you wake up this morning? If you did then it is a good day - period! During my cancer journey I have had to stop treatment on one occasion due to a rare side effect I developed from one of my chemos. The drug caused my brain to swell. Something that was very rare, but it happened to me. 3 months without chemo allowed the swelling to go down and then we resumed treatment, with a different drug, more harsh but without that side effect. On another occasion my chemo treatment caused both my platelets and my white blood cells to become almost non-existent. It is called Neutropenia and is very dangerous if not caught and treated. I was put into isolation and given huge doses of anti-bionics and platelet transfusions and the dreaded Neupogen shot, which is much more harsh than the Neulasta injection, but it causes the white blood cells to reproduce quickly.
I am currently on what Dr. Sheelvanth refers to as a “Chemo Holiday.” My CT Scans have shown no change in the 2 plus years I have been treated, with the exception of a 15% reduction in the size of my tumor during one scan. I have been enjoying my 3 month time frame away from chemo (I am on my 2nd one currently). I am scheduled to return to Zion for another CT Scan April 7 – 9 and if the scans show no change I am sure I will be sent home for yet another 3 month chemo holiday, my 3rd in a row! This allows me time to work on getting used to my “New Normal” which is not the way I was before cancer, but I am still alive. It also allows me to continue seeking out and encouraging others in their personal cancer journeys.
Let me leave you with this. Your cancer journey will be what you decide it will be. It can be a living hell or you can accept that it is and live your life In Spite of Cancer….. I tell people “I Have Cancer, BUT Cancer Does NOT Have Me!” The single most important thing to remember is that a Positive Attitude is Essential in your cancer battle. Stay positive at all cost. The immune system works better when you have a positive attitude. You will feel better and those around you will feel better too when you are positive. No one has to battle cancer alone! Some choose to, but you don’t have to. I recently dyed my beard Purple to help bring awareness to Pancreatic Cancer. I have made it my goal for the remaining time of my life to try and educate people about Pancreatic Cancer and to encourage any and all who need encouragement while battling this demon. Keep God close in your life. Pray often, for I often hear people fighting cancer complain about how the treatment makes them feel. For those I have 2 things to say, (1) Treatment and its various unpleasant side effects are not forever. They are only for a season or period of time. And (2) Did you wake up this morning? If you did then it is a good day - period! During my cancer journey I have had to stop strength, healing, peace, comfort, opportunity to help others. And don’t ever forget to thank Him for each and every day you wake up.
Please feel free to contact me anytime if there may be something I can do to help you in your cancer journey.
Johnnie Tazz Mock
My phone rang. I did not recognize the phone number, but decided to answer it anyway. All I remember is the word “cancer.” I asked the doctor “if I should be freaking out.” Surely there was a mistake, I thought. The first month was a blur. I was mad at God, but at the same time I knew He was with me every step of the way. There were times I yelled at God, but He took it and even carried me when I thought I could not continue, He carried me.
What followed was a fury of scans, tests, doctors, and my life as I knew it was gone. God was there every step of the way though. That was April 2011. I was diagnosed with carcinoid cancer. This is a rare type of cancer that is slow growing and no cure is available. I had never heard of it, including my family and friends. At this time, I knew I had two choices: give up or fight with God and my family and friends on my side. I decided to fight. I love kids, which is a good thing since I am a teacher. I wanted to still try to leave my fingerprints on those little ones. In addition, I want to be a grandma. (I wish my children would get on that!) Ha!
My treatment plan was really a plan to try to slow the tumors down and hopefully prevent new tumors from growing. This required me to receive a shot of a drug called sandostatin. I continue to receive this shot even now. What happens next is still to be decided, but I am still alive and fighting.
So many blessings have come my way because of cancer. I know it sounds funny. It is true. I have met so many people who have come into my life! The Godby’s are an example of people who have come along side me. They encourage, support, cry, laugh, and love me. They enhance my life. I have learned to depend upon God. My relationship with Him has grown.
I know that cancer is just a word. It does not define me, but it has changed me for the better. I still have fears concerning tests and treatments, and of course what the future may hold. I know that I am not alone on this journey for it really does take “a village.” Together we can be courageous and fight!e your paragraph here.
The Millers' Damascus Road Journey
Billy Miller and Jill Funderburg were married in 1962 and celebrated over 50 years of marriage. The first seven years of marriage were very trying and filled with turmoil. Through God’s Grace on November 9, 1969 Billy had a “Road to Damascus” experience similar to the Apostle Paul. He was saved and called to preach just as the Apostle Paul was, and at that instant he became a totally different person. In 1971 Rev. Miller was ordained and he and Jill began a full-time ministry of service to the Lord. Upon graduation from Arlington Baptist College the couple and three daughters set out for the Seattle, Washington area for Home Mission work. God has used Billy and Jill in numerous churches and ministries in Texas, New Mexico, California, Washington, Idaho, Georgia and Colorado winning souls, ministering to the sick, Sunday school education, and church planting. God has richly blessed the Miller’s with not only their three beautiful daughters, but 7 Grandchildren, and 6 Great-Grandchildren, all of which are healthy!
Upon retirement from the ministry Billy went back to school and became a double licensed Embalmer and Funeral Director. Rev. Miller served as head embalmer for one of the largest death service companies in the world and was over the embalming for 9 funeral homes in the Austin, Texas area. It was during this time that he began to experience health problems. The first one was his heart which required open heart surgery to replace the aortic valve and a para-cardia peel.
In 2003 the couple moved to a small central Texas rural community. Since that time Billy has continued to experience additional health problems and in recent years he has been diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis which led to his retirement from the death service industry.
In 2012 he received a diagnosis of early stages Parkinson’s disease. He is determined to continue to minister to people in any capacity God leads. He and Jill are active in a small rural church near their home where she serves as the leader of the Prayer Warriors ministry, and he serves by helping with their Cancer Care Group.
God has blessed the couple in so many ways that it would fill a book trying to write them all down. However, they do not feel that the Lord is through using or blessing them. Billy and Jill look forward to working with and ministering to the Executive Board members, Staff and all of the patients and family members that God sends to Rehoboth Springs Ranch in the future. It is their sincere and heartfelt prayer that God will bless you and your family with healing, strength, and blessings as you look to Him as your Source.
Hi My name is Debbie Blanchard and I am 56 yrs old. My story of Multiple Sclerosis begins in 1995. Our family had just moved from Long Beach, California to Colorado Springs, Colorado. My children were 5 and 7 years old and it was a pretty stressful move. I began developing numbness in my feet which slowly progressed within a few months to my rib cage. I was losing the strength in my legs and my balance and coordination were regressing. I had been going to the Dr., who was doing many tests which all turned out negative including an MRI of my lower spine. I was beginning to think I was going crazy as all the tests were coming back negative. I had been speaking to a friend who lives in California who has MS and one of her main symptoms was a “shock” down her back when she would lean her head forward and I was having those same symptoms.
I next began losing the vision in my right eye so the Dr. sent me to an ophthalmologist who said I had optic neuritis and sent me to have an MRI of my brain. When I went to have the MRI I had the same tech that had done the last MRI and he told me that he knew they should have done my brain the first time as he knew that it was MS due to my symptoms. The MRI showed possible MS and a spot on the optic nerve. I then began 5 days of high dose IV steroids which helped a small bit.
As time went on I changed neurologists and had a spinal tap which showed the myelin was being “eaten” away which happens in MS. I went thru more does of IV steroids and then began an injectable drug called Avonex which is injected into the muscle once a week. I was on this drug for about 14 years and I had been doing really well without having a “relapse” since 1998, so I decided to wean myself off the Avonex.
I also believed I had been healed from relapses as I had been prayed for. So I went off the Avonex and have not had any progression for a few years. My Dr. was a little surprised that I had gone off the drug and did MRI’s to make sure I did not have any progression in my brain.
So far I have been doing well. I just came back from a 2 week mission trip to India and had only a small problem with 100 degree temps and 100 % humidity!
Billy Godby’s story began in February, 2007 while he was living in the Dallas- Fort Worth area at the age of forty-five, when his wife insisted he go to their family doctor for a physical. However what she didn’t tell him was that two weeks prior to him going to the appointment she had made, she herself had gone to a divorce attorney’s office for a different kind of an appointment. She was about to file for a divorce for the second time in their twenty-five year turbulent marriage.
They had two college age boys and their youngest son was about to graduate high school when the final diagnosis came after Billy had undergone a surgical biopsy. Then the results and the dreaded news, none of which the family wanted to hear, especially his wife, Shereice. She was headed to divorce court and was not up to the job at hand to deal with, or so she thought.
They were seated in the doctor’s personal office to hear the results of the testing that he had done a week before. As the doctor walked into the room and sat behind a very large, expensive desk, the feeling in the room was so heavy, one could hardly breathe. The look on his face pretty much said it all. Then he began to confirm what they had been fearful of. “Yep, I was right, Billy, you have stage four prostate cancer.”
At that moment, the air was sucked right out of the room! No one in the family spoke and the silence was deafening! Their oldest son, B.J., leaned forward with tears rolling down his face and began to cry uncontrollably but quietly so not to make the atmosphere any worse. Billy didn’t move or speak. Not a word! Nothing came out of his mouth. He barely even blinked, but the look on Shereice’s face said it all! Her blood pressure must have been rising extremely fast as she had such a look of anger, shock and frustration on her face as she tried to compose herself enough to talk to the doctor.
“So what are you saying to us?” “What does this mean?” “How long does he have?” Were a few of the questions she began to mutter out. The next words the doctor spoke were so incredibly piercing that it was a wonder anyone could walk out of the room!
The doctor began, “I was right, thirteen of the fifteen samples from the lymph nodes we took were positive for cancer. He is in stage four and might have up to two years at the most to live if he’s lucky.” This conversation was taking place as if Billy was a piece of furniture or décor in the room or was absent for the conversation. It was simply deplorable. The way the family was “herded” into the doctor’s personal office; the way he was totally unprepared for the meeting as he asked his assistant to seat the Godbys as she was already in the process of doing so; the way the “death sentence” was presented to their family; and the lack of caring, concern or compassion throughout the entire process from start to finish the whole three months Billy was his patient!
Then Shereice got her famous “look” on her face as she dug her high-heeled stiletto sandals into the doctor’s expensive carpeting, and so it began…. “Dr. L., are you a Christian?” she questioned. To which the doctor quickly responded a sharp, “no, I’m a Jew”. Then it was once again her turn,… “good, so am I and so was my Papa; are you a Christian Jew?” She asked. Again, sharply he responded, “no, I’m Jewish.”
At this point, Shereice felt her spirit being energized and rising up on the inside of her as she began to speak to him again… “Well let me tell you something Dr. L., we KNOW the Great Physician and you are DEFINITLY NOT Him! Because if you’re a “good Jew”, then you know the Old Testament and the book of Isaiah in chapter 53:5 where it says, “by his stripes we were healed.” Billy doesn’t have an expiration date tattooed on his butt or on the bottom of his foot, so you do NOT get to decide how long he has to live, nor do you get to say that to us! If it takes MY last dying breath and my knees are so bloody that I can’t walk because I’ve been on them so much praying for this man, he IS healed and he is NOT dying from cancer or ANYTHING related to it or anything else for that matter! Jesus is coming to fly us home!” she declared.
Her next question was directed to Billy, “are you done here because I am definitely done!” she stated with such authority. However, she wasn’t quite done with Doctor L. As they stood up to leave she declared with such power, “we WILL be calling you every single year until Jesus comes back, because you’re going to find Jesus, because like I said, he’s already healed, it’s just a matter of which day you Dr. L get notified!” she exclaimed as she walked out of the door with her family in tow.
Shereice, who by this time had quickly decided that divorce was now completely out of the picture, thought about how could she leave him like that? She wanted to leave on HER terms, not like this. She wanted to have the joy and pleasure of seeing his face as she left for the last time, not remember his if Dr. L was right. So many emotions; so much stress, and yet so few answers.
Telling Billy’s family was probably the hardest thing for the couple to do. A few minutes after the appointment they had already set up a time to give the results to his mother and sister. That time had arrived. Billy’s mom did not receive the news well, as this was the second time one of her two sons had received a cancer diagnosis. She herself was a type two diabetic, a double amputee in a wheel chair living in an assisted living facility in the Denver area and not in very good health. Within three months of Billy’s diagnosis, she was gone. It was extremely devastating news to the family once again.
Making the decision of where to go for treatment was the next big question and had to be made fast since the cancer was doubling every few days. Billy put even more stress on his wife and told her she was going to have to decide where he was to go and tell him what to do because he trusted her so much and didn’t know where to begin to find somewhere to go.
She felt so constrained and as if her hands were handcuffed so tightly she might never get them undone. She had always been the “Miss Fix It” for the family, all of their friends and for all of her clients as a Realtor, so it seemed natural for him to expect her to do it again. But this time was different, she was so scared and had no idea herself where to start. She only knew it was time to pray, and pray like never before.
Shereice’s parents came to Dallas from Austin to help with making that choice. Of all people God chose to use to give them direction, God picked her dad. Billy and her dad didn’t get along very well over the years, so it was a bit awkward and uncomfortable for Billy.
Mr. Miller began to give very strict instructions for her to take Billy to the Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She didn’t pay much attention to his direction and he once again sternly insisted that was where they should go. So later that week, she called and their lives have never been the same since.
They were flown to Tulsa after speaking with the oncology specialist Sharon Langham, who verified their insurance and made all of and paid for their flights and hotel arrangements for them. She made it so easy and painless for them. When they arrived at the Center after being picked up in a white limousine, they were treated with such respect, dignity and compassion, unlike what they experienced at Dr. L.’s office each time.
After arriving on a Sunday evening, May 18, 2007, they had the results of all of the tests and scans Billy had undergone on Tuesday morning. They discussed the treatment plan choices, made the decision to move forward with treatment and were back home in Dallas later that afternoon.
Billy was determined he was not dying or going through what his twenty year old brother, Timmy went through when he fought cancer, and lost his battle three weeks before his twenty-first birthday. After the first treatment, his numbers started going down and after two more, they were all in the “normal” or below range. He was then in remission for eighteen months.
When the numbers became to climb and a small knot showed up on the side of Billy’s neck, he went back into treatment. However this time, he was going to the Chicago facility of Cancer Treatment Center of America due to insurance mandates. A new place, a new doctor and staff and farther away from their boys. The family had just moved to Denver a few months before and so reluctantly and heavy hearts, they went. They have not regretted it for a minute because they know that God has a good plan and a purpose for their lives and He makes all things work out for their good in every situation.
It has been quite a journey these past almost eight years. Since beginning on this journey, Billy has been in and out of treatment and remission four times. The doctors are all amazed that Billy is still here after all of these years because medically speaking, he was very far down, and shouldn’t still be alive. But The Godbys are very strong believers in God, the cross and the power of the blood of Jesus and tell everyone, everywhere they go, about what all three of those have done in their lives.
They are so thankful for “the gift of cancer”. It has totally transformed their lives. It has saved their marriage; brought them, their boys and their families closer; they now have two daughter-in-laws and five of the most precious “little sugars” that they just love and adore as grandparents; they renewed their wedding vows at an all out wedding ceremony and reception on Billy's birthday, June 23,2013; they have met some of their best friends as a result of Billy’s diagnosis; they have moved to Denver and began a ministry that they had no idea that God had planned for them that will make a real and significant difference to this world; and most importantly, they have a deep, strong and meaningful relationship with God that they never knew they could have or would have if they would have stayed in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. God is a good God and He is good all the time; even in the midst of the storms of life. They hope that their story will touch you and impress on you that God is with you and if He has blessed them, and has taken such good care of them, God will do it for you too. Blessings and best wishes on your journey. The Godby family is praying for you.
My name is Angelina Talkington. I am twenty seven years old, and a mother of three beautiful blessings, my little girls. I’m here to tell my story to Courageous Care about my diagnosis.
In the summer of 2013 I was going through a rough patch in my life, within that summer I started to experience a sharp pain in my left breast that would come and go. As time went on, the pain got sharper. My body was telling me something wasn't right.
So I went in to have it checked out and the doctors examined me then told me I had clogged milk duck, and to take the antibiotics and If I didn't notice change to come back in for further exams. My pain just kept increasing. I had not notice anything getting better, so I went back to the doctors and they gave me more antibiotics. They told me it was a stronger antibiotic and if that did not help, to come back in and they may have to drain fluid out from within my breast. Over time I took antibiotics as prescribed, but the pain was still there. Then just that moment, it strikes back again but sharper. But the thought of going back to doctors to have it drained just did not sound pleasing at all! But I knew I had to do something and fast! I reached out to family and friends and told them what was going on and my worries and concerns, from that point I took their advice and did some research, then went and got a second opinion.
I went to Saint Anthony North and expressed my symptoms and how nothing was helping. From then, they ran an ultrasound, and told me they were going to refer me to have a mammogram done. My worries became even more frightening, but I knew I had to do something quick. My mammogram was done October of 2013, and it did show abnormality. The next approach was to have a biopsy. The imaging from the biopsy did have proven carcinoma correspondents showing 3.5 centimeter tumor mass in my left Breast that had spread to my left axillary lymph node 2.1 cm in size. From that point, I was then referred to surgical breast cancer doctor for continue treatment.
I was HER2 positive. If left untreated, the growing tumor in my left breast could advance fast,. So the treatment plan was, Chemotherapy and Herceptin, then surgery, then radiation. I also had a genetic testing done for family history of cancer that came back negative. My diagnosis and the stage it was at, was unknown as to how I got it.
As my medication list got longer, besides chemotherapy, I was given the following medications: Docetaxel and carboplatin every three weeks; Trastuzumals weekly, supported with Neulasta shots. Even though my areas were being treated properly, my side effects from the medications were making me really sick and weak. I had limitations from loss of appetite, hair loss, early stages of menopausal symptoms, nausea and vomiting, menstrual irregularities, and very low platelet counts causing bleeding of my nose regularly.
I knew I was doing everything in my power even though I felt as if I was dying from the inside out. I had to fight more than ever and not just for myself but for my daughters too. Chemotherapy was every three weeks, an hour long that began November 12, and completed tentatively February 25, 2014. The Herceptin was once a week, and took about half hour each treatment that began November 12, 2014 and completed December 9, 2014. The Neulasta shots were every 3 weeks, for three months.
I choose to do a double mastectomy with lymph node removal because my chances were less than one percent of reoccurrence. On March of 2014, two weeks after surgery, I had my surgical drains removed. At my follow up appointment they told me the cancer was gone! The pathology report had shown there were no more tumors, and everything was a success. The medicine worked how it should have, however there were little clusters left over from surgery but they were so small doctors couldn't even pull it up on microscope to even determine if they were active floating cancer cells or not. That however was not a good answer to me. So the next option was radiation therapy, and yes I took it!
June of 2014 I began radiation for six weeks, every day for thirty minute sessions, I finished radiation successfully in July of 2014. I was finishing treatment on course. The reconstruction was my last and final step! And honestly after everything I been through this was my last concern. I just wanted to be done. I did not want to feel sick, I wanted my energy back and the outside of myself became less important to me then how I felt from the inside. But I knew this was just the icing on cake. Even though it requires more surgery, if I had been older at my age, my surgery where I had the breast removed, would have been my last because I didn't want to be poked anymore I had my plastic surgery September 16, 2014 just weeks before my birthday. To say the least I am just happy that I am alive! And yes they may be fake, but my reals ones tried to kill me. My name is Angelina I am now 28 years old and this is my survival story! And if I can inspire anyone battling cancer I hope I have!
Cindy Ellis' Story
My breast cancer journey began in June 2012 when I received a phone call that I needed a follow-up mammogram and ultrasound after a routine annual mammogram in May 2012. Then, on July 20, 2012, I received the call that every woman fears...."Cindy, you have Infiltrating Lobular Carcinoma breast cancer." I was 53 years old.
Within a week I met with my surgeon and decided to have a double mastectomy. As I waited for my surgery date to arrive I found myself questioning "why me.....hasn't our family been through enough?" My youngest brother, Timmy, died from Burkett's Lymphoma, a very rare cancer, at the age of 20. My middle brother, Billy, was diagnosed with stage 4 prostate cancer at 45 and shortly after that my dad was diagnosed with colon cancer. Thankfully they are both cancer survivors.
And then I received a call from the radiology department. The radiologist said she needed to introduce herself and share something with me. Upon reviewing the first mammogram, everything appeared to be normal and filed the films away. But a small voice was whispering "take a second look at Cindy's films". It was then that she spotted the cancer. I told her the voice she heard was my Heavenly Father. She confirmed if she would not have taken the second look and I went a year for my annual routine check up I could have been in serious trouble. I knew, from that moment on, why not me? God had a plan for my life and my journey...." With God all things are possible".
On September 27, 2012, I had a double mastectomy. The waiting room was full of my family and friends. Their support has been truly amazing. Prayers were answered as on the fourth day following my surgery my oncologist called me with the news that it was stage 1.....all of the cancer had been removed.....no chemotherapy or radiation was needed. For the next two years I had several reconstructive surgeries. I will need one more procedure and everything will be completed.
God is so great! This has been an amazing journey. God is so great! This has been an amazing journey. God has blessed me with a loving dad and step mom, an amazing husband, two beautiful daughters, a wonderful son-in-law, and in February 2015 my first grandbabies (twins) are due to be born. Together in Him we will fight the good fight.
"Shereice was there for me any time I needed her. It didn't matter if I called at 5:00 in the morning, or at all hours of the night. She still anwered my calls. She came and stayed with me for hour after hour for the last few days of my husband's life. She was so kind and spent the night and was even there when my husband took his last breaths. I'll never forget the kindness that they showed to me and my family during the long months we went through our journey." Donna T. CO
My name is Michelle.
I was diagnosed 18 years ago. I had numerous surgeries to remove the carcinoma cancer I was diagnosed with. After multiple surgeries, I was cancer free within 6 months.
The only real challenge that I had was when during the third surgery, I had a nerve damaged and lost feeling and use on one side that after a few weeks, but returned back to normal.
"Thank you so much for all you've done to help me and my family. Having breast cancer has been so hard . I don't know what we would've done without you. You and Billy are such a blessing to everyone." Angie S. T. CO
Testimonials from our guests and families we have assisted, are such a blessing to C.C.F.F. We are very humbled by the families who are willing to take the time to share their experiences with us.
We have posted a few here and hope they give you some idea of who we are and the kind of difference we strive to make in each person's life that we are privileged to visit us at Rehoboth Springs Ranch through Courageous Care Family Foundation, Inc. (These are their stories, the way they wrote or quoted them. We hope they will inspire you, as they have us.)