This is a story of the power of prayer, God’s healing power, and the power of love.
After 18 years as a technical writer and field engineer for a major aerospace company, I found myself in Sacramento, California. My wife, Maria, and I began attending a small church near our home, and I became very involved in the music ministry, and we both served as officers of our denominational executive board.
My work, however, was not satisfying and downright boring. I had been transferred to the Sacramento area from Southern California. Shortly after arriving, I was told the slot I was to fill had been eliminated. However, I was assured by my boss, “Don’t worry. We’ll find something for you to do.”
After 18 months of boredom, a friend at the church suggested I look into becoming a real estate agent. I took his advice, passed the test, and received my license in January 1979. I listed a home on my first day, and I loved it.
My first year, I was given the honor of Rookie of the Year. Desiring to achieve more, I worked seven days a week, 14 to 16 hours a day to achieve my company’s top producer award competing against 250 agents. I was hooked. But, I had no time for God; I dropped out of the choir and did not pursue any further service within our denomination or the church.
My trophies became my god. I was given accolades and respect from my fellow agents, and I never gave credit to God for how he had blessed me. I didn’t need God anymore.
My wife, Maria, and I formed our own company in 1981, and had our grand opening in July of that year. We were both excited about our fledgling real estate enterprise and life was good . . . or so it seemed at that time.
In September 1981 while I was showing property to a buyer, I felt a sharp pain in my left leg as I was getting back into my car. The pain was so severe I could barely drive home. I went to the clinic the next morning to have it checked out. After a brief exam, I was told I had probably pulled a muscle and should stay off the leg for awhile and let it heal. But the pain became more intense. Finally, I insisted on a more complete exam and blood tests.
The next day, we received a call from the hospital. There was something “abnormal” in my blood test, and I was asked to come in and see the chief oncologist at the hospital for further testing. I still remember the ride to the hospital. I had to lay in the back seat with my leg extended as I was writhing in extreme pain.
At the hospital, the doctor performed a painful bone marrow test to confirm his diagnosis. The test showed positively that I had an extremely rare form of leukemia, called “hairy cell leukemia.” I was given 6 to 12 months live. I was only 43 years old. My wife and I could not believe it. Just months before, we were prospering and seemingly happy, . . . and now, I was facing the end of my life. The thought of leaving my wife, my children and my family was unbearable.
I was admitted to the hospital for an immediate removal of my spleen. The spleen had swollen to the size of a football due to the storage of so many cancerous leukemia cells. Two weeks after the surgery, I was released to return home.
During the time I was in the hospital, our home closed escrow. Maria had to find a rental, pack all our household items, move to a new place, unpack and arrange all of our possessions at the new place in only nine days! During that time, she came to see me every day, a feat that still amazes me today.
During the next several months, Maria ran the business while I recuperated. She often went to the library to find research papers and books written by the foremost medical experts in the world. We spent three weeks in Mexico at the clinic of Dr. Contreras where we learned the effects of stress, diet, and environmental factors in various types of cancers and leukemia. At that time, conventional medicine viewed this type of thinking as “quackery.” Today, however, the links between degenerative diseases and immune system breakdown is considered scientifically provable.
Upon my return from Mexico, I felt better for a short time, but then my condition grew more severe. I found myself back in the hospital with extremely low blood counts and a strange spot on my lung. After several transfusions and medications prescribed by my doctor, we were told there was nothing more conventional medical science could do for me. I was told to go home, prepare myself for death, and get my affairs in order.
We refused to accept the prognosis, and we affirmed that God not man would determine how long I would live. We asked for prayer from the congregation and the elders came to our home. They anointed me with oil as the Bible teaches in the book of James.
Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. James 5:14-16 (NIV).
While being anointed with oil, I was unable to get up . . . all I could do was lie on the floor. After they left, I specifically prayed that if God would not take me home yet, I would serve him again and rededicate myself to his service. God now had my attention. I realized that what really matters in life is what you do for Him, not the amount of money earned or how many contests or trophies were achieved. I waited for God to answer my plea for healing and for His forgiveness in turning away from Him.
God was at work through several events. Maria, again with the tenacity and determination of a fighter, was able to negotiate a complete disability retirement package from my former employer with a small pension and full health coverage. This meant I could go to any doctor or specialist instead of being limited to one health provider. We also obtained a consultation with the chief oncologist at the Sacramento Medical Center who in turn arranged a meeting with Dr. Harvey Golumb at the University of Chicago Cancer Research Center. We had read many of Dr. Golumb’s research papers and advanced therapies on “hairy cell leukemia.” This type of leukemia represented less than ½ of one percent of all the types of leukemia.
I had been running a temperature of 99o to 100 o for a solid 3 months. During a chest x-ray, a spot on my lung was found. Our first thought was that the cancer had spread to my lung. There was no time to waste, my blood counts were dropping and coming dangerously close to life threatening levels.
When I boarded the plane to Chicago, my fever was around 100 o to 101 o. When I arrived in Chicago in June of 1982, my fever had suddenly disappeared! At that time, I could not explain why, but I know the reason now.
Dr. Golumb and his staff were handling approximately 100 cases of hairy cell leukemia a year while most oncologists see 10 or less cases in their entire career. He was on the cutting edge of treatments for my disease and was recognized as one of the foremost experts in the world in hairy cell leukemia. Dr. Golumb gave me hope instead of telling me to go home and die. He was very concerned about the spot on the lung, which now was the size of a quarter. Since the fever had disappeared, he did not do surgery to remove the lung.
After starting on Dr. Golumb’s program, I returned home. As soon as I returned home, the fever returned. If I had been running a temperature when he examined me he would have ordered an operation to remove the infected section of my left lung. God broke the fever during those three days in Chicago, and spared my lung. What a miracle!
Dr. Golumb made it clear that it would take 2 to 3 months before the medication would begin to take effect. It would work slowly but progressively until the leukemia cells could be destroyed and allow normal cells to begin to grow. My bone marrow was “packed” with cancerous hairy cells.
Shortly after my return from Chicago, my condition deteriorated again. I was readmitted to a private hospital and using a procedure called a broncoscopy the growth in my lung was positively diagnosed, as aspergillus’s, a deadly opportunistic fungus. There was only one medication that would save me from this deadly killer: amphetericyn, a poison that had to be administered intravenously and in gradually larger amounts due to its toxicity. In order to kill the invader, the food supply for the fungus had to be poisoned.
I ran temperatures of 105o and had to lie on a special ice bed that was designed to keep my fever from going higher. I remember the bone rattling chills that would come between my peaks of high fevers. My blood was drawn three times a day and my counts were still dropping. Because of the danger of infection, I was placed in isolation. The nurses allowed Maria to stay with me at night. She never stopped loving and caring for me, encouraging me, and giving me hope. I was at death’s door. I didn’t know how much longer I could hold on. I could only sleep for very brief periods for fear that I would die in my sleep. Somehow I knew that if I could see the light of day, I would live another day.
One Sunday morning in September of 1982 at about 6:30 AM, I was looking out my window when I felt a presence in the room. It surrounded me, and a feeling of peace came over me. At that moment, I knew God was saying, “You’re going to be OK.” It was nothing I had ever felt before. Tears of joy filled my eyes, and I turned to Maria and asked if she felt that. Maria was just waking at that time, and said she felt God’s awesome power in a special way.
At 7:00 AM, the nurse came in for my first blood draw of the day. The results were back in an hour. All my counts had improved for the first time in two months. I was anxious for my second blood draw in the afternoon and the results showed another increase in my counts. From then on my blood tests continued to improve, and the growth in my lung started to disappear. After two weeks, I left the hospital and my condition continued to improve.
When I returned to my church everyone who had prayed for me was so happy to see me. I rejoined the choir and sang again for the first time in over two years. My stamina continued to improve with every passing month. I began teaching again and gave my testimony several times.
God had spared my life! That was September of 1982, and I thank Him for all the wonderful things that I have experienced of His love, mercy and goodness since that time. My blood counts are now perfectly normal. A bone marrow test done over 10 years ago showed no signs of hairy cell leukemia. It’s as if it never happened. My doctor oncologist said he had no knowledge of anyone making such a complete recovery from this disease.
Each new day is a gift from God. I am reminded daily when I awake that I have a promise to keep. He healed me, and I must keep my word to Him and be available to serve Him in whatever way He called me. He certainly kept His promise to me.
‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’ . . . For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jer. 33:3; 29:11 (NIV).
True joy is experienced when we use our talents and gifts for God. When we serve and worship God, we are fulfilling our ultimate purpose and reason for being here.