Matt: I was on edge that cancer was even on the list of possible reasons for a paralyzed vocal cord. It sounded crazy to say out loud and unbelievable to friends when they heard me say it. The ENT ordered a Computerized Tomography Scan (CT) to rule out anything so serious. There was a good chance I had a virus or simple environmental stress to work through and the voice would return.
The CT scan itself went well and only took 20 minutes. Afterward I stopped at the store to grab some comfort food for breakfast: donuts, sausages, and chocolate milk. After only an hour or two the ENT called and asked me to meet him downtown to go over my CT results later that afternoon. Annie and I took Ramsay for a walk before going to the appointment, but I knew the results were not going to be what I wanted to hear.
Upon walking in the room, the doctor’s face and tone were alarmed and urgent. He told me how sorry he was that he had terrible news. I had cancer.
I’ve forgotten his exact words, because everything after his diagnosis seemed like it was in another language, or like he was talking to someone else. Someone who had done terrible things with their life, or were full of harmful vices, or had mistreated themselves their entire life and taken for granted God’s beautiful gifts. He said I had multiple lesions spread throughout both lungs, with an unusual concentration in my right lung that was quite large. The cancer had metastasized to my liver, several lymph nodes, and even reached my brain. The vocal cord was impacted by a swollen lymph node along a nerve somewhere in my throat or chest.
There was no possible way that this was real. Instead of New Year’s resolutions to be excited about, I was placed at the base of what felt like an insurmountable mountain. He asked what questions I had. I wanted to ask what I do about this, but that wouldn’t come from the established medical world for another month.
My raw fear was matched only by my confusion as how something so widespread had no detectable symptoms apart from my voice. MRIs were ordered and meetings with a pulmonologist (lung doctor) were scheduled. The pulmonologist would be coordinating things from here. As of this writing I have been living outside my own body since the diagnosis. Fear took me to all manner of what-if scenarios and I left the ENTs office with my head spinning.
I drove home. We made dinner. Stunned silence gave way to sheer wailing before God. I have no words for how shattered I felt, how frightening the initial diagnosis, how little hope I felt, and how isolated I felt. I didn’t feel angry. I felt confused and I didn’t have a plan. I had been reduced to a single thread, hanging onto my God.
After dinner I called my bonus/step-mother-in-law who, by God’s grace, has healed cancer through diet choices and alternative treatments. I asked for prayer as well as what resources she would recommend. Much more on diet in the coming posts, but in short, gone are the days of donuts (sugar), sausages (processed meats), and chocolate milk (more sugar, dairy). James 2:26 says ‘…faith without works is dead’ and I intend to walk out my healing process in faith that one of God’s tools will be real, natural foods. Foods that Western Medicine is only beginning to include with integrated treatment plans. Foods that have known cancer fighting properties when consumed over time, at therapeutic doses. For the curious, you can learn more at https://www.chrisbeatcancer.com/, or watch either of these documentaries: Forks Over Knives, or Game Changers. In the same way that Job had no way of knowing the timeline of his healing and restoration, I do not know how long my journey will be. Making a drastic dietary change and including a few specific foods was at least something I could do. Following the footsteps of other faith-centered cancer survivors was all the convincing I need to get started.
Through disbelief, I knew I needed to start getting the word out. I told my family and a few others. Sharing my new reality brought even more unanswered questions. The last phone call I made that morning was to the lead pastor at the church we are a part of. James 5:14-15 instructs “Is anyone among you ill? He should summon the elders of the church, and they should pray for him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick and the Lord will raise him up — and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.” The pastor put out the word, the elders were coming to our house later that night for prayer.
So many powerful prayers and declarations were made that night. Annie and I both felt loved, supported, and encouraged. Roughly a year ago Annie and I attended a night of prophetic word at church. The visiting prophet spoke specific words to certain individuals who had agreed ahead of time to fast, pray, and prepare. I had simply attended to worship in the Spirit and be a part of the night. Before the final prophet was done for the night, he looked around the room and pointed at me. He said that God was stretching me, and increasing my capacity for Him. During the night of prayer with the elders, I recalled that prophetic word and everyone agreed that God does not allow trials to fall upon His people in vain. (James 1:2-4). I have a journey to walk, but it will not be alone, and God will accomplish His purposes even though I can’t see or understand them.
A Note From Annie:
I tided the house that day in anticipation of these guests–also I tidy as a way to process and organize my inner-world. My thoughts swirled as I swept and occasionally picked up something to put away. The thoughts that came often were about being a horse owner (very costly in both time and money) in light of this diagnosis–I’m going to have to sell.
“I didn’t ask this of you.”
The thought dropped into my mind and completely halted the runaway train that had carried my thoughts. God spoke to me words of truth while I had been inventing lies for myself. New thoughts of hope, promise, faith, future, mission, and purpose arose–I praised the Father for what He was planning to do.
I read recently that praise is the act of faith that comes before a victory (https://heartofworship7.com/2017/05/06/praise-confuses-the-enemy/). One of my pastors said on this night of prayer for healing, “The enemy’s strategy is so stupid; he tries to use things to drive us away from the Lord that in fact drive us to cling more tightly to Him.” Reminds me of Genesis 50:20 20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people[b] should be kept alive, as they are today.
We prayed for healing, yes, and we also praised the Lord for His goodness yet to be revealed.
Matt: Our church provides and encourages folks to get prayer at the conclusion of each service. After church I went to the front with Annie to receive prayer by two women of God with giftings of the Holy Spirit. One of the women, who possesses the gift of prophecy and had no prior knowledge of my diagnosis, said to me ‘Matt, God wanted me to tell you, you have faith, expect Him to move.’