When we talk about “As You Go” we usually mention “As You Go” shopping, “As You Go” to work, “As You Go” to school, and the like. But what happens if you have a life threatening illness? Will you still be BOLD and share the Gospel?
We have a monthly prayer meeting on the third Monday of each month. As the meeting was concluding last week, I checked my email to find this message from Jeff Gibbs (please note that this is shared with Jeff’s full permission):
Jeff Gibbs here. I’ve been a supporter for a while and have talked with you in the past about doing a webcast training at our church, Calvary Chapel Cardunal in Algonquin, IL. I would still like to do this, but I had some unexpected news this week. I’m a very healthy guy and after about 6 weeks of being sick I went to the doctor. He did some blood tests and I was informed that I have Acute Myeloid Leukemia. Shock to say the least. I’m 52, wife and three kids and a new grandbaby as well. I was rushed to the hospital and will be here for aggressive chemo and 4-5 weeks of recovery in the hospital. Unfortunately, my tracts were stacking up, so I asked her to bring them all to the hospital. Here’s my favor… can you send me at least 100 of the new “Thank You” tracts. These are perfect to give out to every one of the staff here that comes into my room. My contact info is below and I will be sure to send some support soon. If you are interested, I’m also going to copy my first blog about my experience finding out this news. Thanks so much and God bless,
I was saddened and encouraged to read this email. Saddened to hear how this broken world has affected another man of God. But, encouraged that his focus is on beating the cancer and sharing the Gospel with everyone he comes into contact with.
The day after receiving the email, I sent not only the 100 Thank You tracts he asked for, but an extra hundred and a a few hundred other tracts! Please keep Jeff in prayer for his healing and for his witness!
I hope you’ll continue reading below where he details his ride to the hospital and the first couple of days there and some of the conversations that he had as he has shared the Gospel.
The following was included in the email that Jeff sent me:
An Update on My Medical Condition, Saturday, April 19, 2014
I wanted to let everyone know that I was given some very unexpected news on Tuesday, April 15. After being sick for about 6 weeks with a sore throat, fever, and general fatigue that just would not go away, I went back to the family doctor. This time he did some blood tests and then called me the next day with the news… “You need to get to the hospital immediately as your blood work shows you have Leukemia”. Well, what do you do with that? The amazing thing is that I don’t remember being shocked or mad, but felt the “peace that surpasses understanding” that could only be from the Lord. So Julie and I headed off to Sherman Hospital for some blood work and a bone marrow biopsy (not too fun J) to confirm what type of Leukemia it was. It turned out to be Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) which means that it comes on quickly and has to do with my bone marrow producing too many white blood cells (that fight infections) that are not maturing and sort of clogging my system. Eventually, they would kind of take over and keep my body from making enough red blood cells (that carry oxygen) and platelet cells (that help with blood clotting). Which is one of the reasons that I was getting tired and felt winded easily. While I did have a supernatural peace, I admit it was a very emotional experience with lots of tears and hugs with Julie, Nicole, Stephen (by phone) and Jonathan. I can’t imagine walking through this without the Lord and my loving family.
Anyway, it was determined that the best place to go was Northwestern Memorial in Chicago to be under Dr. Jessica Altman, who is the Leukemia “guru” of the Midwest. I felt even more at peace when a family friend, who is a doctor also, suggested the same person. So even though, I still felt like I could have driven there myself, the protocol is to be ambulanced. So I figured that the Lord wanted me to share the gospel with the EMT, who had to sit right by me for the hour drive to Chicago. The sad thing is that here is a 26 year old young man without a clue about the Lord or His word. And I know in our culture today there are many like him. Well, the Lord “opened the door” and he learned a lot about the Bible, Jesus, the 10 commandments and what he needed to do to have eternal life. While he didn’t accept the Lord, he was definitely interested and asked many questions. It is definitely one of the best feelings when you get an opportunity like that! After checking in to my very nice “hotel room” on the 14th floor at Northwestern, there were echo grams, x-rays and blood tests, which I admit make me very queasy. In fact, I didn’t know I had that much blood to give J. On Wednesday, they put in a “pic line”, which is basically a tube that runs from your upper arm through a vein almost to your heart. They can leave this in for months and can then just hook up to the tubes to either put stuff in or draw blood out without poking me. ..Yeah!
Thursday and Friday were kind of quite as we waited for the test results that would tell us exactly what kind of AML in terms of risk factor and whether I would qualify for a national clinical trial that could offer a couple of other treatment options. Here’s the scoop… There is a standard Chemo treatment that they use for AML, which is called 7 plus 3, which is 7 days of two different chemo drugs and a 4-5 week hospital stay as your immune system builds back up. This is followed by more tests and a possible bone marrow transplant. However, in the clinical trial there are two additional options: one is the same 7 plus 3, but at a higher dose and the other has the higher dose plus an additional drug. Both of these options are a little more aggressive and will result in more side effects. But they also have at least a better chance of accomplishing the goal of remission. In addition, they said that they felt since I am “young” (I like these guys ;-)) and healthy, that I would be able to handle it. The interesting thing is that you do not know ahead of time which one of the three options will be randomly selected for you.
So last night (Good Friday) they informed me that I was in a medium risk situation, I did qualify for the clinical trial and that I they would like a decision the next day. Immediately I felt that the Lord wanted me to choose the clinical trial for a couple of reasons. First because I know that God is in control of everything, as the Bible says “the lot is cast into the lap, but it’s every decision is from the Lord” (Proverbs16:33). Also because I know He loves me and promises me that “All things work together for good to those who love the Lord, to those who are the called, according to His purposes” (Romans 8:28). So the thought of putting this decision squarely in the Lord’s hands was a real “no brainer”, because He alone knows the best treatment that I should have.
In the meantime, Julie, the kids and friends have been real “troupers” making the long trek downtown to this hospital to visit and hangout. Stephen (who is doing some training in Yuma, AZ) has been calling daily and Nicole even brought my new little pride and joy… Mila, to visit grandpa (I’m sorry, but “grandpa” that still sounds weird to me ) In addition, while the food here is pretty good, I have been treated to Gino’s Pizza and The Cheesecake Factory which are just around the corner! Also, the doctors, nurses and other staff here are very friendly, knowledgeable and all around awesome! A couple of my nurses are true believers and we have had some great conversations. The others, I’ll be working on
So this morning the team of doctors came to my room (which they do every morning) for my decision on the clinical trial. First of all, I let them know that I’m a Christian who believes that the Lord is in complete control of my life and that I felt blessed to be in this hospital with the best doctors and nurses available. And that whether they knew it or not, that God had blessed them with their medical talents and abilities to accomplish His will and bless other people. And because I know that there are no “accidents” with the Lord and that He alone knows what the best treatment would be for me, that I’m going with the clinical trial and let Him decide. So the plan now is another bone marrow biopsy on Monday and starting one of the three treatments on Tuesday. I also told the doctors that I was praying for a miraculous healing and that it was a definite possibility… But if He wanted to use the doctors that was fine with me too. In the meantime, while writing this, I got into a great conversation and shared the gospel with a nurse who told me he was Buddhist when I asked if he was going to church this weekend. The weird thing is, while I admit this is a little scary, I’m actually sort of excited about the adventure ahead as I know the Lord is going to be with me and accomplish His plan through this trial.
“I will love You, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I will call upon the Lord who is worthy to be praised; So shall I be saved from my enemies.” Psalm 18:1-3
Thanks for your prayers and words of encouragement. More to follow…