It was one year ago today, Groundhog Day, February 2, 2017. For the previous three months I had been struggling with sharp pain in my left hip. It felt like a pulled muscle and my doctor was treating it as a strained groin muscle. But I had reached the point where walking, shifting in a chair, even getting out of bed had become an exercise in extreme pain. Not only was the pain taking a toll on me physically, but it was also wearing me down emotionally.
So on the Wednesday prior to Groundhog Day, I was in to see my Dr for what must have been seventh or eighth time in three months. (I probably had not been to the Doctor that many times in the last 10 years). He took another X-ray, took blood for the labwork, and went on to my job at the BGCO. About 24 hours later, on my way to work I got the call…
“Bob, you have prostate cancer, and it has metastized to your hip. I’m so sorry.”
It is amazing how one word can change your life.
I continued on my way to work and walked, well limped, into my office and got on the computer. Lots of men have prostate cancer and live a long life, I told myself. I was hopeful. There are medications for this and I’ll take a pill once a day and be just fine. The medical world has advanced a long way and I”ll be okay. But after searching metastized prostate cancer into the computer’s search engine, I was stunned! Incurable.Low survivor rate. I felt hopeless, broken, and realized I was in the fight of my life… and the odds were that I was going to lose the fight within a year.
Six days later I found myself in the urologist’s office with my wife Tracy. He took another sample and sent it to the lab. My PSA had increased over 300 points in one week. Bone and CT scans revealed that the cancer was moving fast. I remember going to bed each night in the darkness, and wondering if I would wake up in the morning. One week later Tracy and I were in the office of an oncologist, Dr. Jess Armor. Man I love this guy! We talked for an hour. And finally, after three weeks of labs, scans, X-Rays, and much much much prayer… we had a plan.
My first trip for chemo
Three weeks after my diagnosis, I started chemo (Taxatere). A chemo visit starts with a trip to the lab to give blood, followed by a visit with my oncologist. We visited a while, he explained what we were doing and what I could expect, and then, just as I was about to stand to limp over to the infusion center for my first chemo treatment, Dr. Armor reached out, put his hand on my knee, looked me straight in the eye with a smile on his face and said, “Now, let’s get you better!” Those simple five words gave me something I had not felt in a month – HOPE was on the way!
I do not know how I could have kept my head up without the incredible encouragement and support of my family. My wife Tracy has been a rock. Always there. Always steady. Any pressure or nervousness she may have felt she never showed. She has been with me at every appointment with Dr. Armor. My two kids, Zach and Mary Kathryn, have also been steady as can be. Fortunately, they are more like their mother than myself. For at least three months, I got a daily text from my Dad. Scripture verses, godly comments from wonderful authors (Dad apparently likes Max Lucado and Vance Havner), and sometimes just a personal word of encouragement and prayer. I would wake up every morning eager to see what my Dad had sent me that day. My brother and two sisters have sent text messages, made phone calls, and sent notes. I am not in this battle alone!
As Tracy and I made our way to the infustion center, there to greet us was one of my favorite people, a friend of mine Kent Wilkinson. Kent joined Tracy and I, sat through 3 or 4 of the six chemo treatments with us, would take us out to eat afterwards, and checked on me often. As word of the cancer spread, I began receiving phone calls, text messages, emails, notes, and prayer-grams from friends, acquaintances, and people from all over the place. “Friend” is something we take for granted sometimes without truly understanding its meaning.
Right before my first chemo treatment, a group of men and women from my church, Edmond’s First Baptist; arrived on a cold Saturday morning with work gloves on. Because of my decreasing mobility, it had become difficult to do the little things that need to be done to keep up a wooded one acre lot. The work that needed to be done was piling up and my friend and hunting buddy Allan Piatt had organized a work crew from our church. I am talking a work crew… close to 40 men and women who spent the day cutting down dead trees, raking leaves, picking up sticks and twigs all over the lot, and cleaning the pool. Since my diagnosis, I have never attended a church service that I did not have several people ask me how I was doing.
And I must mention my dad’s church… the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Lubbock, Texas. These saints pray for me often, and just as important, have taken care of my Mom and Dad. Thank you CPC!
The Beej (aka – The Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma)
Apart from my family, the first people I notified about my cancer was my boss and team leader, James Swain; and our wonderful executive director, Dr. Anthony Jordan. The support from the Equipping Team that I belong to at the Beej (as some of our millennial employees affectionately refer to it) has been tremendous, but the support from the entire organization has been inspiring. And by entire organization, I mean not just the folks with whom I have the priilege of working alongside at 3800 N. May Avenue, but the partnership of 1,800 churches as well. It is awesome to be part of this caring brother/sister-hood of people.
From my very first chemo treatment to the last one, I would take 5-6 pocket crosses I had made in my woodshop and hand them out to other people who were also receiving chemo. I never had anyone refuse to take one and I usually had a moment of prayer with each person. I am making about 20 more pocket crosses to give to Dr. Armor to give give away to some of his patients.
God’s Grace is Sufficient
I began poring through God’s Word. I needed comfort and I prayed for healing. I began not just reading, but poring over, highlighting and studying the Bible like I never have before. I don’t know, maybe I was preparing for the final exam. But any explanation I share about the comfort and love of my heavenly Father would not do Him justice. I am so thankful to know that God is not just watching over me. No, He is walking right beside me as I go through this experience. His Holy Spirit is filling me. His Son has saved, is saving, and will save me into eternity! When that day comes when my expiration date occurs, cancer will not have the final victory. No, no, no my friends… through God’s grace power, I will rise victorious over cancer and death because of my faith in my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Where am I now?
After one year, my PSA has fallen almost 2,000 points to the mid 3.0’s. My monthly visit to the lab to give blood consistently reports my CBC and metabolic panel readings are all in normal zones. God is good! I am thankful that I no longer have any pain in my left hip, and it has returned to about 85% mobility. I feel good, I’ve put back all of the weight I lost (close to 30 pounds). A pastor friend and fellow PSc survivor told me that I had a forest fire, and now I have embers to watch. The fight is not over and never will be for me. I begin every day with this simple prayer…
Thank you Lord, for yet one more day to live!