We find out early, before Friday’s appointment with the oncologist. Dave has had chemo on Monday and felt terrible afterwards. Tuesday he’s had his CT scan, the big one that tells if the cancer has grown or not. At this point, it’s Wednesday, and we’re seeing the surgeon, before the oncologist on Friday. We know the results from the CT scan may already be available. “Brace yourself, in case they have the results,” I say. “Ready?”
Dave simply says, “Yes.”
And suddenly it’s happening. It’s all laid out. The words are too big and confusing, to try and explain here, but it’s plain as day: The chemo didn’t work. Basically, the cancer didn’t spread, but the ugly cancer is all still there in Dave’s stomach and colon, including the signet rings in the intestine. Literature and experience everywhere says: NO one comes back from it. The surgeon agrees. It’s about buying time…. but the patient pays the price.
There are some new lesions. And some have grown larger. My heart falls into my stomach. It’s a face slap, a bee sting, and a gut punch all at once. Dave quietly says, “I knew it would be this way.” He’s calm. It’s not sarcasm. It’s not self-pity mode. It’s factual, matter-of-fact mode. It’s God’s been telling me, preparing me, mode. Acceptance.
I sit there numb, as he tells the surgeon what he’s told me, “I don’t want any more chemo.” And why would he? It didn’t work. Chemo makes you miserable, and it steals every ounce of your energy. There are awful side effects. We discuss some options, and one includes an intensive, invasive surgery… with even more chemo. Dave says he can’t do it; won’t do it. And I know his beaten, broken body has had enough pain and suffering.
We leave the appointment, and it’s weird, but we decide to go to lunch. Something normal. I have tears in the car, and tears at the restaurant table. I feel like throwing up. But I force myself to eat, because I think I’ll actually vomit if I don’t eat, since I feel a migraine coming. When I do swallow a small piece of chicken, it feels like a rock stuck in my throat. We lock eyes across the table. His hazel eyes look golden, large, and far away. He’s somewhere else… in another world. And, I think he must be thinking what he already has told me, “I want to be with Jesus.”
“They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified” (Jn. 17: 16-19 NIV).
I’ve said I’d post a shorter update this time, but I didn’t expect these results. Many people have mentioned they can’t imagine what we’re going through. I can barely process the grievous news myself. I don’t want to write about it: the plans, the future, telling my 12-year-old daughter; which I have finally done, and she’s dealt bravely with the sad news.
I will say that I’m bewildered, angry, stressed, anxious, sad, sorrowful, and so much more. In my mind, Dave is supposed “ring the bell” at the cancer center, like the other cancer patients who symbolically celebrate that they have completed their last chemo treatment, and are now good to go. But, even though I feel I’m in quicksand, I know that victory in Jesus is still greater than ringing that bell! “But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15: 57 NIV).
Thursday is an extremely depressing day, but my adult twin sons know the news; and it’s comforting to have these two amazing men I love, by my side. My sister and best friend send encouraging messages which lift my spirits. They offer to talk and listen, but also respectfully understand that I just can’t right now. I’ve delayed telling Dave’s sister, until Friday evening, though she’s part of my triple life line. She’s battled cancer too, and we want her to enjoy her honeymoon as much as possible.
It’s Friday now, and we’ve finally seen the oncologist. He’s a really good guy; the kind who offers hope at the worst times, who really listens to both of us, and is willing to put things into play right now. Did the chemo not work? Did it help at all? The oncologist mentions that there was never a scan done after Dave’s intensive surgery in March. Because of the surgery, Dave had to wait a whole month to start chemo. Some of the growth may have happened during that time. Of course it did… after all, it’s a deadly, aggressive, fast-moving, rare, cruel cancer. The oncologist tells us if Dave hadn’t done chemo, he’d be dead by now.
Though it appears the chemo has kept the cancer from spreading to other organs, the oncologist admits that one lesion is particularly large; and it leads him to believe Dave hasn’t responded as well to this particular type of chemo. He goes over other options. We discuss a specialist a friend recommended early on. We find that Dave’s oncologist actually trained in Baltimore with the specialist’s partner, so he knows the team very well. This team also performs the surgery Dave’s surgeon mentioned, which happens to be the one my best friend texted me about only the day before. It’s a 16 hour surgery, where the abdomen is “bathed in chemo.”
I feel a glimmer of hope. But Dave’s jaw is set. His head is turning bright red. I’m distressed, but I can also understand his frustration. The new options will still not cure the cancer; they can only offer time. Dave’s not interested. I am. At the same time, I don’t want him to suffer.
The oncologist wants to treat Dave, but is respectful of our need to process and pray about everything. He offers to meet with us in a week. Next week is off-chemo week anyway, which helps me feel better. The oncologist says he will pray for Dave too. He’s written all the crazy medical terms I can’t spell onto the thin roll-out paper which covers the patient table. Before we leave, I tear off that section, fold it up, and toss it in my bag.
There are options, but none are a cure. They only extend the life span; and of course at the expense of the patient’s quality of life. There’s basically a treatment road, and a hospice road; and the latter choice bruises the pit of my stomach. We have more praying to do, some experts to talk to, and decisions to make. If your loved one chose the shorter path to Heaven, would you cut him off from the path? I couldn’t do that. I want more time. We need prayers for wisdom, God’s guidance, and strength through Jesus!
So many of you have prayed and fasted, and gathered prayer warriors all over America, and in other countries as well. We’re so grateful, I can’t even express how much. And… as awful as we feel, we want you to know… we have lots of unanswered questions, but we still believe in God, and we still love Jesus.
Perhaps the miracle is simply Dave’s broken body being fully restored in Heaven. Hopefully we witness the miracle of unsaved people coming to Christ; and for those who have turned away, to repent, and come back to Jesus. I still want to hold on to a sliver of hope, that Jesus will miraculously heal him without chemo to show unbelievers Jesus really does heal on earth. I know he can still heal Dave.
But our God is also a merciful God; and He knows Heaven is way beyond better than life here on earth; more than we can ever comprehend. “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows— was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell” (2 Cor. 12: 2-4 NIV).
I’ve also been thinking… that Dave is very, very tired; and that I made him a promise I would not allow him to suffer and endure endless treatments filled with pain and suffering. I plan on keeping my promise. And I’ve been thinking… No matter what, we will all die some day. We don’t know when. But we Christian Believers know where we’re headed… to our eternal home in Heaven… because Jesus loves us, and we’ve accepted his gift of salvation. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (Jn. 3:16 NIV).
If you want to see Dave again, or your Christian loved ones who’ve gone before you; you can. Admit you’re a sinner (we all are) ask for forgiveness, and give your heart to Jesus. You will be filled with the Holy Spirit, your spiritual eyes will be opened, and you’ll be able to understand why we have the faith we do. “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Rom. 10: 9 NIV).
For those who think it works for us, but isn’t your “thing;” Jesus is for everyone. He’s the one and only way to Heaven, so why not find out now, before it’s too late? No one lives forever, so what then? There are famines, diseases, and freak accidents. There is a horrific war going on in Ukraine. Yet, we who believe, know that God is good, regardless of our circumstances. We choose Heaven over Hell; eternal joy over eternal suffering; and God’s guidance, grace, and mercy while we live here in here on earth in a dark, crumbling, fallen world. “ ‘My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (Jn. 17: 20-21).
Dave has had a long-time dream to create a tee shirt business, but the cancer has made it more urgent. First he designed some for himself, and received many positive responses while wearing the shirts in public. Dave wore the shirts to chemo, which sparked conversations with other Christian Believers; both patients and healthcare workers. I wore them to the hospital and on errands. Strangers came up to me, saying, “I like your shirt!” and, “That’s a great shirt!” Friends, family, and strangers were asking us where they could get one, but Dave had created them with our son Nick’s help; the tees couldn’t be bought in any store… until now. Nick has built our website: strengththroughjesus.com; and we’re launching it right now!
Dave’s wish has been to launch our Strength Through Jesus t-shirt website, and his cancer scan results, at the same time. It’s even more important now, to share how we’ve leaned on strength through Jesus to make it through each day. We’ve designed tee shirts, hoodies, and sweatshirts. We’ll also be adding more designs and products with a variety of Christian messages.
We will be giving ten percent of each purchase to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, which provides free health care to families of children with cancer. We make a small profit on each item, which will help our family with medical bills and other needs, as we continue to navigate our way through Dave’s cancer.
Our mission is to comfort those with cancer and lead others to Jesus Christ; hoping that our story will help others lean on Strength Through Jesus. Thank you for any and all support; especially your prayers and love. We will continue to send updates, on how we’re dealing with cancer by leaning on strength through Jesus. “I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me” (Phil 4: 13 NKJV).
Please continue to pray for our family during this unbelievably painful trial of suffering. As Jesus suffered, we suffer with him; yet we reap the rewards he received as well: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Col. 3: 23-24).
We appreciate all gifts you’ve given us: meals, outings, visits, texts, calls, care packages, gift cards, sharing of our story and prayer requests, your prayers, fasting, encouragement, and every act of love. You continue to be the hands and feet of Jesus. You know who you are. You will also reap your rewards in Heaven. We are grateful for you, and we love you so much! “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Gal. 6: 9-10).
Please stay in communication with our family. We need our brothers and sisters in Christ, and our family and friends; more than ever. We hope you will share our story and our Strength Through Jesus t-shirt line. I’ll also provide a separate social media post, for just the website. It’s not about making money, though we’re excited to make a charitable donation. We just want people to understand strength through Jesus, and the joy of coming to know him.
We want to live out our purpose on earth, whether it’s long or short. Since diagnosed with cancer, Dave has found the silver lining: his purpose; to let God’s glory shine through him, and bring lost people to Jesus. I’m humbly honored to be his wife, life partner, and mother of our three precious children; and have the privilege of loving him through this journey on earth… all the way to the end… and the Great Blue Beyond.
“I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. ‘Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world” (Jn. 17: 22-24).
Dave’s Testimony All stories are in order by date; scroll to the bottom to read in order.
1st Post on Dave’s Testimony – when it began: contains all links in order, and extra related links.
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In Christ, Angela Royse Pelleman