21 Jan Our 6 Miracle Day Story and some of the things I’ve learned since….
A few years ago, we had what we now call our “6 Miracle Day.”
On the anniversary of that day… I like to re-post this story.
So… just for those who don’t know the story… here’s a walkthrough of the miracles.
On Christmas Eve of 1997, we got a call from Mel’s doctor confirming the very bad and scary news. In fact, the doctor called in tears as she read the report to me detailing how Melissa had been diagnosed with cancer and that it was spreading rapidly.
I was speechless but then had the dubious task of driving to the Pier One that Melissa (my amazing wife) managed in Billings, MT to tell her the news. (LOVE to our Pier One family! You guys were incredible that day and always!)
On that snowy Christmas Eve… we then went home to cry, pray and start making phone calls to specialists around the country to discuss next steps. We landed on a world-renowned specialist in Salt Lake City. Due to the type of cancer, all the doctors agreed that a full hysterectomy was the only option to save Mel. That was tough news for us because we’d just started talking about having kids and Mel was only 27. BUT that was the best option so we moved forward and scheduled the surgery. We also started to ask for prayer from our friends and family. We didn’t know it at the time but those requests literally went around the world (and that was before Facebook and Twitter!!)!
Then it came to our trip to Salt Lake City for the surgery AND this series of miracles.
The schedule was that we’d fly down (from Billings on Wednesday), have our 15-minute pre-op visit with the doctor on Thursday and then have the surgery on Friday. Then we’d be in SLC for anywhere from a week up to possibly a month… depending on the results.
So… it began.
Miracle 1 –
We got the Billings airport early… and apparently… so did the other passengers. Because (and this is the ONLY time I’ve ever had this happen in all the times that I’ve flown) the airline announced, “We’ve got everyone here… so we’re going to leave early.”
And so yeah… we wound up flying out an HOUR early and arriving at our gate in SLC more than an hour before we were scheduled to land.
Miracle 2 –
Enterprise got us our rental car in SLC in about 8 minutes (I’d say this one could be a mix of miracle and good customer service. Go Enterprise!)
As we were sitting in the rental car at the airport a full hour earlier than we’d even planned to be on the ground… I got the “nudge” to take our huge pile of charts and stuff over to the specialist’s office. We’d never actually met the doctor and we were scheduled to see him the next day but I just wanted to find his office in the labyrinth of medical buildings.
Since we landed early we headed to his office.
Miracle 3 –
We arrived at the doctor’s office and introduced ourselves to the receptionist. I just let her know that we were stopping by to drop Mel’s charts off and explained that we had an appointment the next day.
She said, “That’s weird. We never get cancellations but we just had one. Would you want to see the doctor this afternoon and then have the day off tomorrow?” We looked at each other… shrugged and said, “sure.”
So after a few minutes, they took us back to an exam room. Mel was exhausted so she plunked down in a chair on the side of the room. The only space left for me was to sit on the exam table… so up I went. Now this specialist was an oncologist / gynecologist and we’d never met him. When he walked in the room he saw me and didn’t see Melissa who was hidden by the door. He looked at me and with a straight face and without skipping a beat… he said, “Hey we don’t do weenies here.”
Then he saw Mel and said, “Oh.”
We all laughed… (and Mel and I instantly fell in love with him.)
His name was Dr. Gary Johnson. We started to connect and just talk. Honestly, it was supposed to be a 10 to 15-minute discussion of what the next few days and weeks were going to look like (surgery… hospital stays… future visits to SLC)
But then… the doctor did something he wasn’t planning on doing. He started another battery of tests. Now, this wasn’t called for. Mel had been tested every way imaginable… but that day… he just decided to start some tests again.
As he did another miracle started to play out.
Miracle 4 –
He ran the gauntlet of tests and then wound up sticking his head back in the room and said, “Get ready and then come to my office. My nurse will show you the way.” Then… just as quick… he was gone. We didn’t know what to think… whether the news was bad or good. But sure enough… Mel got ready and then Dr. Johnson’s nurse escorted us down to his office. We sat there for what seemed like hours but it was only probably 15 minutes. Finally, he came in and sat down on the other side of his huge doctor’s desk.
He leaned forward and said, “It seems like you guys would like to have some kids.” I remember thinking, “That might just be the cruelest thing a person could say right now.” But then he continued.
He said, “It appears that we’ve had a miracle. Now the cancer isn’t gone but it has regressed. I can’t explain that regression but because it has happened, it opens up an opportunity that we didn’t think we had. There is a procedure that would allow us to potentially remove the cancer. It’s somewhat risky and it may not work. My partner is the only person I would trust to do this procedure and he’s leaving for a 4-week trip to Russia tomorrow. The reason why I asked you to wait for me is that I caught him as he was leaving the office. I told him about your case, the regression and my recommendation that he do the surgery. He agreed to it. We have our own surgical suite and they are preparing that now. If you want to do try it… we’ll go ahead with this procedure today. If it works we’ll know right away. It’s a bit risky but it might just save your ability to have children. What do you say?”
I was dumbfounded… honestly. So much so that I didn’t know what to say. Mel didn’t know what to say either but she literally jumped across his desk and hugged him.
I just remember him saying, “I’d take that as a yes.”
(By the way… Dr. Johnson later told us that if he hadn’t caught his partner, Dr. Townsend, he would have gone ahead with the hysterectomy.)
Miracle 5 –
Dr. Duane Townsend was getting ready to scrub in when I met him. He was fun and excited about the story. He told me “Listen, I love what’s happening with you kid’s story. Don’t worry. We’re going to get this cancer.” Later he even promised to personally come up to Billings to work with us if we needed it. But with me scrubbed in and at Mel’s side… Dr. Johnson and Dr. Townsend worked the next miracle.
They went ahead with the procedure and it was a success. Instead of staying in the hospital for weeks, we were actually able to return home to Billings just a few days later.
Within the week, we received the pathology report that showed they had gotten all the cancer. Their recommendation was after a month… try to get pregnant.
Miracle 6 –
Within 6 weeks we were pregnant with our oldest son.
Yeah… six miracles.
There’s a lot of questions a story like this turns up… too many to mention.
But from having a number of years to reflect on this… I know that I’ve learned a few things.
1 – I believe that God didn’t give Mel the cancer to get our attention BUT I do believe He redeemed an incredibly tough experience to draw us close.
2 – I have to admit that… at the time… I really didn’t believe in miracles. I thought God could comfort us… but I didn’t know He could really pull off a miracle… let alone six. Now… after this set of miracles and a number of freakishly cool miracle stories that have happened since… I not only know that God can move in incredibly cool ways… but that He is doing it all the time.
3 – I now believe that God could have wiped the cancer away in an instant… but there is a part of me that believes that He did it via a series of six miracles just so I didn’t miss it. Plus, I’m blown away by how God is not limited to OUR understanding. I would have never… in a million years… come up with this sequence of events.
BUT He’s not limited by anything (including our understanding)… so He can move in ways we’ve never even conceived… and often does!
4 – I’ll admit I still have questions about how God works. I’ll say that I’m incredibly grateful and humbled that our prayers were answered. And, I’m still often moved to tears of gratitude for this story… and the many stories of other answered prayers we’ve been able to experience in our lives.
At the same time, I’ll say there have been times when I’ve gotten pretty mad at… and frustrated with… God for other prayers that went seemingly unanswered… or went completely different than I’d hoped.
Heck, I’m guessing that there are some who will read this story and feel pangs of hurt or frustration… because of losing someone special or having something go very different than you’d hoped. And if that’s you… know that I’m with you and I’m so sorry for your loss.
I will say this. I’ve learned that aspects of a relationship with God are a mystery. I don’t know if that will bring you comfort at all… and I don’t say it to be dismissive of your hurt. I don’t know what you’re wrestling with… and I can only imagine what you’re up against. I’ll just say that over the years… I’ve experienced some really tough setbacks and surprise blows. And even though I was initially frustrated with God… I found that He either brought me comfort as I went through these situations… and/or He worked through the challenges to bring some surprise blessings on the other side.
Again, I don’t say this to dismiss the pain or the hurt in some pollyanna or “sappy movie” sort of way. I just say it to encourage you to keep talking with God about what you’re up against and what you’re experiencing… EVEN IF YOU’RE MAD at Him. He’s big enough to handle it and I guarantee He wants to bring you some comfort and talk with you about it… no matter what.
5 – Lastly… I wanted to share something that hit me a few years later.
It was when I was thinking about Jesus and His teaching about the Lords Prayer.
In the original language… Jesus didn’t say “Our Father…”
When He was teaching the disciples (and us) how to pray, He used a much more intimate name for God.
He said, “Abba…” which translates more accurately to “Daddy.”
So… Jesus was saying that we could pray… and talk to God intimately.
So… again… something about the “6 miracles” story that didn’t hit me until years later was the doctor who stopped and did more testing the day he wasn’t supposed to… the doctor who arranged for us to have the surgery that wasn’t supposed to happen… the doctor that stood alongside Dr. Townsend every step of the way of the surgery… yeah… that doctor.
Well… his name was “Gary Johnson.”
Here’s the thing… that’s Melissa’s dad’s name too.
See… in the end… I think God just worked an extra little miracle in to remind us that “Daddy took care of it.”
I don’t know. I might be a little weird. But that makes me tear up just about every time I think of it.
Hope this helps you to believe just a bit more today.
Cuz… God does love us tremendously… whether we believe in prayer, miracles or any of it.
Thanks for asking.