In January of this year, I started to feel a mild stomach ache that seemed to come and go. I wrote it off as indigestion, constipation, or just stress.
In March, I went to my general doctor and she took some blood work that came back that I was anemic. I immediately googled Anemia, and went down the list of symptoms and kept saying yep, that’s me.
My doctor sent me for an ultrasound that didn’t find anything abnormal so she set up an appointment for me to see a gastroenterologist. I was then scheduled for a colonoscopy. During this procedure, the doctor found a fist-sized mass in my colon that he assumed was cancer. He called the next day and told us that it was indeed cancer.
Hearing that you have cancer is hard. We spent the next several days crying and mourning the news but trusting that God had a plan in this. Sarah has stood with me in this and has trusted the Lord in it. She is one of God's greatest gifts to me and I have been so grateful for her. She went with me to the colonoscopy and hasn't missed a doctor's appointment with me since.
We also had an amazing prayer time with family and friends from church at our house after we heard the news. You could feel the presence of the Lord among us.
Our next appointment was with an oncologist. We were able to get a CT scan before our appointment so the oncologist could set up a game plan. He said the first step was surgery and then chemotherapy after that. We started asking friends to recommend the best surgeon for this surgery. The same name kept coming up. We met with the surgeon a little over a week later and he scheduled surgery for the following week.
On April 15th, I had surgery to remove my ascending colon(and the mass inside). The surgeon also removed 36 lymph nodes around where the mass was. We were in the hospital for 5 days. When the pathology came back, it was stage 3 and showed there was cancer in one of the lymph nodes closest to the tumor.
Family and friends have served us so well in this season. My sister, Laurianne started a meal train for us for when we got home from the hospital. We felt the Lord's providence in friends and family bringing meals for 3 weeks. Several people paid for a chef to prepare healthy meals. One of the professors at Belmont even paid for a week for the chef to come! We have felt so loved.
Another evidence of the grace of God: 3 days before surgery, we found out about a documentary called The Truth about Cancer. It was a 9-night documentary broadcast only online. I watched three nights at home and continued watching on my phone in the hospital. The purpose of it was to show that there are other really effective ways to fight cancer than chemotherapy and radiation. I learned about so many ways to fight cancer that are natural. I learn about several supplements that I am now taking. I also found a website called chrisbeatcancer.com. Chris is a Christian and had my same cancer(but worse) and has been cancer free and healthy for 12 years without doing chemotherapy. He has blogged his whole journey. I learned the power of a plant based/whole grain diet.
We feel like the Lord directed our path to fight this cancer or the return of cancer with nutrition. At our first appointment post-surgery, we were given the general numbers for recurrence of stage 3 colon cancer which was 40%. It seemed scary because our oncologist was recommending chemotherapy. I pulled up a list of side effects of the chemotherapy drug that he was suggesting and it was a LONG list of things that I know that everyone who faces cancer wrestles with. At a follow-up appointment, we informed our oncologist of our decision to fight it with nutrition and supplements. We were so grateful that he seemed to respect and understand our decision. Before we left, he entered my cancer markers(stage, number of lymph nodes, etc.) into a Sloan Kettering Cancer Research Hospital database for colon cancer. Sarah and I were so encouraged with the numbers. The chance of recurrence over 5 years is 20% and over 10 years is 27% and that's if I didn't change my diet at all. If I chose to do chemotherapy, it would only split those numbers in half.
I am almost 7 weeks out from surgery and recovering well. I am juicing at least 5 pounds of carrots every day. It's supposed to be REALLY good for fighting cancer. I have lost some weight due to the anemia and the surgery. It has been challenging to gain any of the weight back on this diet. Most of my muscles have atrophied but I am starting to workout a bit.
Most of my conversations right now are about cancer and diet. The diet is super challenging. I want steak. I want a cherry limeade from Sonic. What I get to eat is broccoli and such:) Sarah and I are both ready for it all to be a secondary conversation.
I know God has a plan for this for my good and for him to be glorified. We've seen Him work already and look forward to seeing all the ways he uses this. For now, I have started writing again. I am really enjoying it and seem to have much to write about.
If you are interested, here are the 4 emails we sent to family and close friends with updates as we were walking through it:
Sent on March 26th:
This isn’t a fun email to write, but let us start by saying that we know that for those who love God all things work together for good. We trust that He is up to something much bigger than we can comprehend right now.
Chad had a colonoscopy on Wednesday due to some stomach issues he’s been having for the last few months. They found a mass in his colon that we were told on Thursday evening is cancerous. It’s been a hard few days, but we feel God holding us. We are still wrapping our minds around everything, so our words here may not be very eloquent.
We have scans on Tuesday and then an appointment with an oncologist on Wednesday. We will know more after the Wednesday appointment. We are praying for complete healing and asking that you would join us. Also, Chad continues to have stomach pain, and I would appreciate prayers for his pain to subside so that he can get more rest during the nights.
We know that God will be glorified through this. I was praying the week before the colonoscopy (a little anxious about everything) and listening to the Lord, He reminded me to be steadfast and that He gives us firm ground to stand on—we do not need to be shaken. Thursday night, we were up most of the night because of Chad’s stomach pain. I read scripture to him for a while—starting with Psalm 139 and ending with Psalm 143 with this verse again speaking to us about the level ground our Father gives us to stand on.
"Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground! For your name’s sake, O Lord, preserve my life!”
We appreciate your prayers and love you all! We’ll keep you posted.
Chad, Sarah and Livy
Sent on March 31st:
First and foremost, we want to acknowledge and give praise to our Father in Heaven who gives us firm ground to stand on and whose mercies are new each morning. We don’t wake up in despair but with a sense of hope for our future. He is giving us peace to walk through thru the days—and only through him we are laughing a lot—it really is good medicine!
This past week as I was reading 2 Chronicles 20, and thinking about being in battle. In this specific battle, the Lord speaks to His people saying “Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s.” Then God went on to give them specific instructions for how they were to approach the battle. The people were obedient and followed God’s instruction into battle—marching toward their enemy singing His praises. I’ll let you read the rest of the story—it’s really good!
Last night, the Lord laid on me to put on the full armor of God. And this morning, my verse of the day [thru my Bible app] was Ephesians 6:11. I went today and read the entire chapter. I was reminded that our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against evil and the schemes of the devil. As Chad and I were talking today, we realized we are in two battles, batting this sickness and also battling against any despair, and hopelessness. In God’s great kindness, this is not our battle, but God’s. We feel he is conquering it for us daily and that we have a constant hope and joy!
And we feel and covet your prayers. We can’t thank you all enough, but will keep trying! And thank you for all your notes—I know I haven’t responded, but they do keep us going. The last week has given us a deeper picture of what God had for His body. We want to continue to invite the Lord into this situation and invite you to join us. So, here is where we are today...
Chad had a CT scan on Tuesday and yesterday morning we met with the oncologist. With only the CT scan and not the PET scan, we didn’t anticipate as much information as we received. From the CT scan, the oncologist shared that he believes this is stage III colon cancer and that there wasn’t any evidence of cancer in the liver or other organs! We literally praised God out loud in the doctor’s office. If you would have asked us three weeks ago if we would have praised the Lord hearing that we had stage III colon cancer, I would have said you were crazy.
Chad was able to get intravenous iron which should help his anemia. We are grateful for him to start getting more energy and feeling like himself again. The doctor also prescribed some pain medication until we get the mass out. My parents took Livy for the night and Chad and I both got a great night’s rest!
So, next week, we will do a PET scan, possibly get another iron infusion and meet with the surgeon.
Here are some specific things you can pray for us:
- For Chad’s complete healing
- Chad’s pain would continue to subside
- Chad would respond to the iron infusions quickly
- That we would continue to have peace
- I would like to meet with the surgeon before Thursday, we would really like this specific surgeon (Bill Polk)
- Peace in the days that we are waiting on something
- Chad would like you to pray for me
We love you all and continue to give thanks for you!
Trusting and singing His praises,
Chad, Sarah and Livy
Sent on April 9th:
First things first, we serve an awesome Father who gives us unexplainable peace when we set our minds on Him.
When we were in the midst of our story of adopting Livy [which seemed like an impossible feat that she would be ours], He continued to remind us of His goodness and constant presence. We were bringing her home from the hospital and still had about 21 days before she would be our daughter in the eyes of the state of Tennessee. Our minds and hearts were spinning a bit in anticipation of day 21. Stopped at a red light, the car license plate in front of us read PRV3:5-6.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your path.
The truth is that God knew she was our daughter since the beginning of time. He made a beautiful, adventurous story around getting her to us. And what seemed impossible to us—that we could have this perfect little gift, He uses to bring glory to Himself. To anyone who needs to hear that right now, we know that God can make a way when things seem to be impossible. The Lord continues to remind us that this really comes down to one question — Do we trust Him? Even in the things we can’t comprehend or never desire to face, do you trust Him?
Chad had his PET scan on Wednesday morning. Thursday we met with the oncologist in the morning to get the scan results and also get another round of intravenous iron. Just a reminder that last week, the CT scan showed the tumor in the colon and swollen lymph nodes in the colon area, but in no other organs. Given this the oncologist believed it was stage 3 with cancer in the tumor and surrounding lymph nodes. The Lord surprised us all—from the PET scan there was no evidence of cancer in the lymph nodes! Chad and I both praised God and broke down crying and laughing in the office. I wasn’t looking at the doctor because literally I was weeping joyfully with my face in my hands, but Chad said even the doc was tearing up. I believe God is healing Chad! Thank you for your prayers for healing and please continue to stand with us in this.
So, what does this mean for now. This is VERY hopeful news and final staging will happen post surgery.
Our second appointment we had on Thursday was with the surgeon. We met with Bill Polk that afternoon and are so grateful he is our surgeon. Surgery is scheduled for Friday morning at Centennial and our stay in the hospital will be 3-4 days. He will take out the mass as well as the surrounding lymph nodes. Those lymph nodes will be tested to see if there is any cancer at the molecular level that the PET scan may not have picked up. This is when we will know if it is Stage 2 or Stage 3 officially. Yes, that’s right, with this new news it could be Stage 2 which would have a significant impact on the road ahead. Stage 2 would possibly mean no chemotherapy. I know everyone is probably aware of the side effects (both long and short term) of chemo. One of the side effects that would especially be difficult for Chad with the type of chemo they use on colon cancer is neuropathy (which is the numbness in the fingers). Here’s the thing though—we know our God can do anything and that He is a good God, so we don’t have to fear the road ahead.
We want you all to know that we praise God for you! We can’t thank you enough for standing with our family, for praying, for mowing our lawn, for making us dinner, for the texts, the calls, the cards, for cleaning our house, for taking care of Livy, for helping us organize, for making recommendations, for connecting us to the right people at the right time, for offering to sit with us at the doctor, for listening, for showing up, for texting scripture regularly, for books and diet tips, for praising with us, for being strong for us, and for believing with us. I could go on… God is using you all to bless us deeply.
Here are some specific prayer requests for this week:
- First, please praise Him for all He has done when you think of us
- Chad’s complete healing
- Chad’s pain to continue to subside
- Praise God the iron is working—he is feeling so much more energy
- There are a lot of things to do for surgery prep—ability to carry those things out well
- Pray for the surgeon Bill Polk—pray specifically for the surgery, and also for a blessing on him
- Pray that all cancer is removed in the surgery
- That we would continue to have peace that is unexplainable
You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trust in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.
— Isaiah 26 : 3-4
Keeping our minds stayed on Him,
Chad, Sarah and Livy
Sent on April 19th:
We know that nothing catches our God off guard. He holds everything. Through difficult trials, He’s always comforted me with Colossians 1: 16-17 which is one of my favorite verses. "For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”
He’s been before this the entire time and we can trust He is continuing to work things together for good.
Just a quick update to the last several days. Chad had surgery on Friday. Surgery went well—we are so grateful for our surgeon and the entire team of caregivers here at Centennial. Chad is up and walking around several times a day. And yesterday, his colon woke up—I won’t go into detail about that, but you get the picture! We were hoping to go home today, but he ran a temperature last night, and that gave the doctor pause. Dr. Polk shared the pathology report with us this morning. He had shared right after surgery (on Friday) that he removed the tumor + several lymph nodes and nothing surrounding showed evidence of spread. As you recall, a few weeks back, the CT scan showed swollen lymph nodes surrounding the colon, leading the oncologist to believe perhaps it was in the colon + surrounding lymph nodes. The PET scan (the following week) didn’t show evidence of cancer in the lymph nodes—which was fantastic news. It’s typical in this surgery for them to take out lymph nodes and test them. Since the lymph nodes were swollen, but didn’t show evidence of cancer, Dr. Polk said he wanted to be on the safe side and test a higher number of lymph nodes at the molecular level. He tested 36—and 1 out of 36 came back cancerous. So, not the news we had hoped for—we were hoping to get the ‘all clear’ report. We were a bit disappointed to hear that news - which seems normal. We know in Isaiah that Jesus was a man who knew sorrows and grief, so even in this we can know our Father deeper. We are praising God—we still aren’t living in fear. We believe there is a reason that God showed us that lymph node—we'll keep seeking Him to direct our path—He has a great adventure for us all.
I continue to believe that God is healing Chad. Thank you for your prayers!
Here are some specific prayer requests for this week:
- First, please praise Him for all He has done and is doing when you think of us
- Chad’s complete healing
- Pray for Livy—she’s had a wheezing cough that we are trying to get ahead of
- Chad’s pain to continue to subside and his incisions to continue to heal as we go home
- Give thanks for our surgeon Bill Polk and entire medical team
- Pray for a man named Jay (him and his wife are walking the same road as us)
- Pray that we would continue to have no fear
- Pray that God continues to direct our path; that we would be obedient to the path and why the Lord is sending us to these places. That we would carry light and joy with us into every place we would walk.
We thank God for YOU and couldn’t do this journey without you all! We love you.
He’s holding us together,
Chad, Sarah and Livy