In June 2019 I was diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic melanoma. I decided to share my story and experiences here so that friends and those who are simply curious can get a glimpse into my journey through this. I hope God will heal me. I expect God to heal me. But whether He does or doesn’t, I promise to be honest and transparent, in hopes that other will benefit from this difficult and rich season of my life.
I caught a virus at the end of the CCHF Conference on the last day of March. It settled into my chest, and along with fever, I had a nagging cough. The fever broke after 5 days or so, but the cough persisted. After 2 weeks, my primary care doc sent me for an xray to see if it was pneumonia. The x-ray showed no pneumonia, but something else on my lung that could have been scar tissue. That led to a CT scan, which showed a large mass on the bottom of the lung; so the radiologist recommended a PET scan. The insurance company initially declined to cover the PET scan, and the fight to get it approved delayed the scan for a month. Finally on the 3rd week in May I got the PET scan.
My primary care doc called me to tell me that the PET scan showed a 2-1/2” tumor on my right lung, a 1” tumor on my left lung, and tumors elsewhere, too. Two days later the oncologist looked at the scans and told us he was 99.9% sure that I had non-small-cell lung cancer, stage 4 - tumors in both lungs, in the nodes around the lung, some suspicious spots on my liver, and worst of all, tumors in the mediastinum - the area between the lungs. There is nothing they can do about those, and cancer spreads rapidly when it gets there. Death sentence.
That was a tough day “Tt’s bad. It’s in both lungs. It’s aggressive.” We left the oncologist’s office to grab some lunch at a Perkins restaurant. The server was on her first day, and we were her first solo customers. I burst into tears when she asked for my drink order. Poor kid. I will share more about my reaction in another blog. But that was a tough day.
The following week they did a needle biopsy of my lung. (It was not painless like they said, but it was bearable.) The tissue was sent to a pathology lab, and I was diagnosed with stage IV metastatic melanoma - not lung cancer! (Smart oncologists who see 10,000 scans like this one” and who are “99.9% sure” can be wrong!) Once they found out that I had melanoma they ordered an MRI. PET scans are great for finding cancer in the body, but not the brain. Melanoma is notorious for metastasizing in the brain. On June 6, I had my MRI, which showed 3 tumors. Fortunately all are small - the largest is 3/4”, another is the size of a pea, and a 3rd is the size of a B.B.
I have no liesions on my skin, and no symptoms (the cough went away and was related to the virus, not the cancer). My blood work is normal. There is no primary cancer, even though it is definitely melanoma. (5% of melanomas are “non-cutaneous” like mine.) It is a miracle that they found it. I have tumors in my brain, lungs, liver, and in lymph nodes throughout my chest and mediastinum. I got my official diagnosis on June 10 during our 2nd visit with the oncologist.
If you are willing to pray for me, Keep reading…
I am asking God to heal me, completely and thoroughly, and to give me 7 more years of fruitful ministry. (I will share why another time in the blog.) Please pray for my complete healing. Here is our 3-prong plan of attack.
Prayer and healing ministry. Even with the medical and radiation bit, it won’t be enough. it is going to require God to demonstrate his miraculous power in my body. He has done it before, and I have seen Him do it many times in others. We are not relying on ourselves but on God. If He will heal me, I want Him to. I am asking specifically and exclusively for a cancer-free body and 7 more years of fruitful ministry.
Diet and Health. I have switched to a plant-based diet. I will be doing a raw vegan diet for at least 90 days, with a goal to make my body as internally healthy as I can, boost my immune system to overpower the cancer, and make my body an inhospitable place for cancer to thrive. I will share about the diet piece in another blog.
On July 1, I will have focused radiation (SRS, or “cyber-knife”) on the tumors in my brain. They say they can kill them all with 1 appointment in 1 day. Yippee! It won’t cure my cancer, but it will keep the brain tumors at bay, which may buy some time.
After the radiation on my brain tumor, the goal will be to amp up my immune system to fight the cancer. They will do tests, and if the tumors are the same or worse, then I will go on immunotherapy – a 30 minute IV administered once every three weeks. If the tumors are smaller or fewer, we will stick with the natural therapy that I am doing with the diet.
Risk is low in all of these treatment options. And side effects are expected to be mild with both the radiation and immunotherapy. I should be able to get on with life, work, travel if I need to, etc. Eating well and juicing can’t hurt. It might even boost my immune system enough to make the immunotherapy unnecessary. We will see. I love my job, and work is life-giving to me.
All this might work, and it might not. I am clear in how I am praying, but I am happy to trust God. He is good, and his boundaries have always fallen in pleasant places for me. I have followed Him almost 47 years. The road is sometimes marked with suffering, but always with joy. We are joyful in all of this. It is hard for someone who has not walked through something like this to understand. Believe me, He is faithful and kind. I told Victoria that I feel ‘suspended' in God’s grace and favor. Children are praying for me to be healed. My neighbors are praying for me. People I have not seen in 7 or 8 years are praying for me daily. It is wonderful and humbling and overwhelming. I want 7 more years of fruitful ministry; but every beat of my heart is fulfilled if he is exalted.
Thanks for praying. Please don’t stop. Please feel free to reach out with any questions or encouragement.
Victoria and I believe that God has given us this verse as a promise and a guide during this season:
2 Corinthians 1:8-11:
“I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, of the hardships that we have experienced…We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many."