Currently I sit in a cabin at the Hope Cancer Retreat in Splendora, Texas. We have been here little more than a week. Many of our friends and family have prayed, cared, called, and helped in so many ways. We are so thankful. We want to explain how our journey led us here. We want to testify to the Lord’s work in our lives. We want also alert you about Steve’s current needs.
In October of 2015, we traveled to the International Conference on Missions, to share at Deaf Church in Richmond, VA, and then to Washington D. C. to see our Capitol and to visit dear Andy Lobaugh and see Gallaudet University. While on that trip, Steve began having some numbness in his toes. He had just started chiropractic care a couple of weeks earlier. We were perplexed, but when we returned we continued chiropractic care. X-Rays were taken that showed that Steve had some lower disks at the bottom of his spine that was bone upon bone. He has very small discs between his vertebrae. Steve had a lot of pain over the following months. Our chiropractor was excellent, but I urged Steve to go for further testing. Steve chose to just persevere, thinking that his pain was due to his small or virtually missing discs in his spine.
On New Year’s Eve, we went to a Christian fellowship at the Parkers’ Home, some of our dear friends who live in McKinney, Texas. On New Year’s Eve, everyone rallied together to pray for Steve’s healing as he would struggle with bouts of pain. Steve is a diligent worker so over the course of 2016, he has worked very hard, but had many challenging bouts with excruciating pain. In spite of his pain, he has accomplished much. 2016 has been a very special year of prayer. We have prayed and worked consistently towards our Expressions of Emmanuel trip to Las Vegas which will be July 4 to 9. Daily Las Vegas has been in our prayers, thoughts, and a part of our daily workload. God surely has showed Himself faithful as we prayed for at least 25 to 35 workers, and God gave us 44. God can and does more than we can ask or imagine. Our prayer cry for the year (inspired by Mark Batterson’s books) is “Lord, please do something big, unpredictable, and uncontrollable that brings spiritual and physical healing.” We have believed God would answer this. We have seen faithful provision for Las Vegas. We have more to do and prepare before July 4th, but we believe that God will accomplish it. Please pray that God will provide, lead, protect, and bring about a revival like that of the Day of Pentecost. God also brought us so many wonderful interns this year in the spring and summer: Lilly, Samantha, Kaylin, Michael, Andy, Kendra, Hayley, Autumn, Bekah, and Jolene. Our children, Andres, Selah, and Cloudi have also all had some great accomplishments this year. Andres graduated from cosmetology school. Selah kept her high GPA grade award for the third year. Selah also was chosen to do a Focus on the Family internship this summer. Cloudi completed the first phase of massage school with an A+. We are so thankful!
In May, Steve’s pain increased greatly, so he was willing to try the help of a Christian acupuncturist on May 16 and 18th. He noticed no lasting benefit. On May 17th, we had some of our local Christian elders come and pray. Our faith soared. The pain lessened, but we sensed God leading that we needed to act upon on prayers and seek out more help. On May 19th after the urging of Pastor David Bradley, I was blessed to quickly get an appointment to see an orthopedic surgeon and to get an MRI for that very afternoon. We planned to attend Andres’ graduation, but the MRI was so late that we missed it. We were thankful that Selah, Cloudi, Andy, and Kendra were able to go and cheer for Andres. On May 23rd, Hayley Chapman arrived from Alaska. Steve had spent some time teaching Kendra and Andy about editing. He then had only the P.M of the 23rd, the A. M. of the 24th to teach Hayley because……… on May 24th, we went to get our MRI results. The doctor was very concerned because they found a mass the size of a squashed tangerine on Steve’s lower back. We were told to go quickly to the hospital. We came home to inform Cloudi and the interns. Steve taught the interns a little more about editing before we left for the hospital. His pain was so great, that we needed to go to the hospital. The emergency also found the mass and immediately hospitalized him. From May 24th to June 2nd (10 Days), we stayed in the McKinney hospital. They did many scans and tests, and on Selah’s 21st birthday (June 1st), the doctor told us that Steve had Stage 4 Adenocarcinoma. (Non-smoker’s lung cancer). We had MANY praying. The doctor in McKinney told us that we should begin radiation and chemotherapy soon to make Steve feel better (palliative purposes), but not to cure him. I have been right by his side ever since this began. I only went home twice during those 10 days to check on my daughters and the interns, and to gather clothing, supplements, and needed documentation. The McKinney hospital was gracious to us as our low income allowed us not to have to pay for the hospital stay. But we will be billed for every doctor and medical professional who served us. During my time with Steve in the hospital, I began researching all kinds of supplements, natural treatments, and kinds of conventional medicine that could be used to help him. EVERYONE’S prayers were and are our strength. I called many wise people (some with medical background) and sought the Lord about what to do. For 8 days, Steve was unable to have a bowel movement due to the pressure of the mass on the bottom of his spine. We were very concerned. As I was praying, God reminded my heart to not listen to Man’s report as the final verdict. Yes, I respect and appreciate every medical professional that we have met on this journey, but God reminded me that He is the one who is ultimately in control. I made it my goal to talk to every medical professional about Steve’s condition… gathering facts and letting them know of our faith and trust in Jesus. The doctors said that the biopsy from the sacral mass showed lung cancer, but this was very confusing to even the doctors as Steve had only one small 8 mm spot in his lung that really did not look like a tumor. The only other place that they found a mass was the large one on his spine. So, I sensed God leading to go to the premier Cancer center, MD Anderson. So we were released from the McKinney Hospital and our friends, the Reeses drove us to Houston to find help with the pain, challenge with the bowels, and the cancer. We left McKinney and headed to Houston during rainstorms on our 10th Wedding Anniversary. My anniversary gift was that Steve was hospitalized at MD Anderson. With much emotion, we left Selah and Cloudi. Both of the girls along with the interns were faithfully serving. Selah had driven us to the first doctor appointment. We had her 21st Birthday party with friends in the hospital so that she could be near her Papa. We instructed Selah to still go on her internship with Focus on the Family. Cloudi also joined Selah for a short visit in Colorado right before Selah’s internship started. Andy Lobaugh drove Selah’s car for her to Colorado, so that she would not be exhausted at the start of her internship. Our dear friends, Laura Skinner and family, and Sherry Lococo came to help lead the internship program for us in June while we seek the best medical care. All of the interns are heroes too as they worked diligently to finish DVDs for production to be shipped to Las Vegas for the DeafNation outreach. It was emotional to leave our girls and our interns, but we knew that God had provided a way and led us to go to MD Anderson. We had our medical records sent, but MD Anderson did even more testing. Immediately MD Anderson helped Steve’s digestive system to be relieved and to become regular. MD Anderson decided to do even another biopsy, because both hospitals agreed this did NOT “look like” lung cancer. They also discovered some small blood clots in Steve’s lungs, so he was offered a clinical study so that he will receive an anticoagulant medication for free for one year. We praise the Lord for this, but we will need to pay for the doctor visits and tests. Steve was again inspected thoroughly and he became stable, so MD Anderson released him on June 8th to await the results for his second biopsy. Our friends, the Alexanders, came to pick us up to stay at their home one night and then to take us to the Hope Cancer Retreat in Splendora. It has been a peaceful place of rest and healing. The owners generously loaned us their car to go to the store and to church as well.
On June 16th, Selah’s (and our) DCC (Dallas Christian College) friend, (who lives in Houston) Erica Yarbrough, gave us a ride from Splendora to Houston and back to receive the test results. The doctor confirmed that Steve had Stage 4 Non-Smoker’s lung cancer (Adenocarcinoma). The doctor was still encouraged and shocked that the cancer is only seen in the small place on the lung and the large mass at the end of the spine. (With only a few suspicious tiny places in the mid-section of the spine). The doctor informed us that the biopsy was being sent off for further evaluation to see if the cancer showed signs of DNA mutations. The doctor said that this testing should take three for four weeks. We shared with the doctor the long list of supplemental products that we were using to fight cancer. Since the large mass had grown 1 cm in the month, we decided to pursue radiation because it would enable us to shrink the tumors and also still take many of the homeopathic cancer fighting supplements. This was the third time that we were offered radiation. Each time, we sensed a caution about taking it, since radiation can be good, but it also destroys good cells as well. Under the circumstances since the tumor had grown 1 cm, we felt we needed to proceed with radiation. The doctor said that they would set up appointments for this next week, but due to the fact that we are Self Pay patients, without insurance, the office said that we would have to pay next week’s appointments and scans in full before we could be scheduled. I began pursuing all kinds of assistance. We sought temporary disability insurance, but because Steve worked full-time as a volunteer for Expressions of Emmanuel (7 seven), he did not have enough credit in Social Security for the last 10 years. (It did not matter that he had a total of 20 years of full-time work into Social Security, it was all based on the last 10 years) We sought assistance from all the Cancer agencies, but they only help those who have insurance. The Christian sharing program could not help us with upfront costs or these many expenses. So every second after the appointment on June 16 and 17th, I called searched, prayed, and considered what we could do to get help so that he could begin treatment next week.
At 3 p.m. on June 16th, I received a call from the MD Anderson Physician’s Assistant (PA) who said that they received the DNA Mutation Test back AMAZINGLY early, and that it identified that Steve had cancer fueled by a DNA mutation. She joyfully explained that Steve could take two pills a day and that these medicines would attack the cancer inside the body, but not harm his good cells at all. She said that he would recover and be able to live a normal life with a normal life span. WHAT A MIRACLE! I got off the phone… and jumped up and down saying “PRAISE GOD… STEVE, you are going to live!” Then the PA told me that we still could not get the appointment to get the prescription medicine next week without paying for all the bills. The doctor also wants a PET scan and Brain Scan to be done next week. The challenge??? Next week’s bills will cost approximately $16,000 dollars! Steve and I then became concerned about the cost of the medicine. So we called the pharmacy to ask the price, we were told that ONE MONTH’S Supply would cost $24, OOO. Steve will need to take this for the rest of his life. I prayed and called our EOE advisory council member, Janie Huff, who is a pharmaceutical rep. I asked her if her company made the medicine. She told me that they did not, but she gave me Pfizer’s contact information as they make the drug. Pfizer has a program that gifts specialty medicines to uninsured people. I called and explained about our income, and they said that if we completed the application with the Doctor’s help and prescription that we would qualify for the free medication. Praise the Lord!!! Our challenge is that we cannot get the prescription from the doctor without our appointment at MD Anderson. It is absolutely necessary that we have the appointment, but it would be great to get the scans as well as the doctor is advising it. Please pray.
I talked John Sands, who is our volunteer CPA forwarding agent with Expressions of Emmanuel, and he said that it would be fine to set up a benevolent medical fund for Steve. If the Lord directs you to give, please donate by going to our website and using a credit card to donate. Steve has a very rare condition, but praise the Lord if we can get this medicine, he will be able to live a normal healthy life span. I love him beyond words, so any help that you can give will be appreciated. If you don’t know Steve, I assure you that you are supporting a humble mighty man of God. He wants to serve the Lord among the Deaf community for many more years. We thank you for your help. We see God’s answers to prayer throughout our journey. Please keep praying. There are so many that helped us in so many ways… I could NEVER begin to list you all and all that you have done… praying, giving, and serving! WE thank you! You can also send special gifts to Expressions of Emmanuel P. O. Box 62 Ector, Texas 75439. We will have five hematology appointments a year and an oncology appointment and scans every two months. It is wonderful that most of the treatment will be handled daily by two simple pills. The appointments at MD Anderson are costly, but we have seen that God has used their excellence to bring a new opportunity for life for Steve. We will not have to go often, but we will need their care. If the Lord enables and directs you to give with our New Website it is really easy to donate. To donate on the web go to expressionsofemmanuel.com click on the “donation” at the upper left hand corner. You can use PayPal, VISA, Master Card, and, Discovery, and American Express. Go to bottom of page and on the “memo Line” please put what it is for: example “benevolent medical fund for Steve” feel free to give either way, but we pray that many can share online at our website. This will enable us to go to this very important appointment to get the prescription so that we get it to the pharmaceutical company and get him on even a stronger road to recovery. We bought many supplements to aid in his healing. We will continue on with all that will not conflict with this drug. We are so thankful and encouraged that this medicine will not harm him, but set his DNA aright! We must keep praying. I have been reminded that ONLY GOD is the healer, but He uses many means to bring healing!
Unless the LORD builds the house,
the builders labor in vain.
Unless the LORD watches over the city,
the guards stand watch in vain.
God is indeed healing Steve! Praise the Lord also that God has raised up a team to serve in Las Vegas. I (Vonda) am planning on going. If Steve feels like it, he will go and just work for a couple of hours and then go to rest in his room. If he still too weak, then he will stay home with Cloudi caring for him. Please continue to pray for Steve’s healing and for this outreach trip. I know God is bringing physical and spiritual healing! In the midst of these difficult times, we have drawn close to Jesus, the Shepherd’s side, and have enjoyed God’s love even in the challenge! To God be the GLORY! Thanks for all your prayers. I am sorry that I have not been able to report or to respond to many of your questions and calls, as I have been so busy praying and fighting for Steve’s best! HOLY HUGS! We LOVE YOU!
GOD BLESS YOU!
Vonda & Steve
Expressions of Emmanuel