“You have cancer.” The phrase drops grown men to their knees. Lives change forever at the utterance of these words. But hope remains for a Christian receiving the same diagnosis.
Believers know God never fails. They know Christ paid the penalty for sins when He died on the cross. They know He rose again and reigns with God right now in heaven. They eagerly await His return and the establishment of His kingdom. These ordinary people gain extraordinary strength by trusting in the Lord’s faithfulness.
Doctors gave Gary Jones the diagnosis of cancer in March of 2004. The devastating news rocked his world and changed his outlook. He never anticipated the impact of that moment.
In 2003 Jones, a Master Sergeant with the Army National Guard, deployed with 24 other men from his battalion in support of Operation Noble Eagle III. The assignment landed him in San Antonio, Texas for a year of homeland defense.
Gary began experiencing intestinal problems during his deployment. The military’s medical elite ran countless tests to determine the cause of the issues. They arrived at the conclusion that he suffered from Irritable Bowel Syndrome, but one test remained.
A colonoscopy revealed a much more serious condition. Jones had stage 3B rectal cancer, a half stage shy of terminal. Doctors encouraged him to get his affairs in order. They expected his death to come before Christmas that year.
Jones and his wife, Lisa, considered their treatment options. The doctors encouraged intense radiation and chemotherapy and explained that not treating the disease would cause his death in a few short months. That news solidified their decision.
“I looked over at Lisa and couldn’t even imagine what would happen to my family. We decided this was not a good option to take.”
The next several days proved extraordinarily difficult. Jones continually played out his funeral in his mind. Eating and sleeping lost their meaning.
“I remember one night just breaking down and I kept asking, ‘Why me?’ What had I done? Then it was back to going over my funeral again,” said Jones.
Rest finally came a few days later after Gary, Lisa, their son, and Gary’s mother knelt to pray together. A great peace flooded his soul as he remembered God’s power and faithfulness.
“I was still scared and not sure what would happen, but I was at peace. I knew in my heart that whatever God allowed to happen would be what was best for my family,” he said.
After an expedited transfer back to Oklahoma, Jones met with the team of physicians handling his case. The treatments began immediately and included 24-hour chemotherapy every weekday and 3 doses of radiation every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
“Cancer doesn’t grow on weekends!” Dr. McMinn, oncologist, joked with Jones as he outlined the treatment plan.
Jones continued this rigorous weekly routine for six weeks. Doctors hoped this would shrink the tumor to a more manageable size before performing surgery. They planned to conduct the operation one month after the completion of the treatments.
“Subway’s Jared or Jenny Craig can’t hold a candle to chemo,” laughed Jones. “I lost 61 pounds the first two months.”
The surgery took place in June. Doctors informed Lisa of its success and commented on the size of the tumor. The tumor no longer existed, only a footprint indicating its previous location.
Jones began a second round of chemotherapy shortly after the surgery. This preventative medication caused many complications. Dr. McMinn stopped the treatments after Jones experienced a deadly drop in blood pressure, potassium, iron, and white blood cells.
“You shouldn’t be alive,” one nurse commented after three failed attempts to obtain a blood pressure reading. Many other nurses later commented on their own skepticism of ever seeing him alive again.
Jones grew in strength and endurance as he began the healing process. His body slowly began readjusting to this new life. Jones received his first “Cancer free” test result in December of 2004 – the month doctor’s initially said he would not live to see.
“God was at work every minute of every day and still is,” commented Jones. “It has been six years now that I have been cancer free.”
Jones cherishes those reminders of the victory he found in the midst of his struggle. He keeps an inspirational card Lisa gave him during that time nearby. It serves as an encouragement to him on the hard days.
“It is always close to remind me what I have been through and that God and my family were there with me. They were holding my hand and never let go,” said Jones.
His three scars also tell of God’s grace in hard times.
“These are battle scars that remind me of my battle with cancer,” said Jones. “I see them and feel them each day and it amazes me that God is able to not only create the human body in such delicate and intricate detail, but that He is also able to provide individuals with the knowledge to repair what He has built.”
Jones now sees God’s work all around him every day. This one traumatic event changed his life and the lives of those around him forever.
“I have to admit I sometimes forget to look for Him when ‘life’ gets me down,” says Jones. “But then He sends someone into my life who needs to hear my testimony, and I remember what He did for me.”
“I am truly blessed beyond measure,” he continues. “My prayer is that God uses me to encourage and strengthen the faith of others who are going through similar difficulties in life.”