By SHERRY PRATT
My miraculous cancer journey
I never thought I would get cancer. After all, I was healthy. But I did get a cancer diagnosis — a rare blood cancer called MDS (myelodysplastic syndrome) that affected my red blood cells (hemoglobin).
At first, I was scared, mad, confused and in denial. But I knew that God was still in the miracle business, and I began to strengthen my faith by staying in His Word.
Every day, all day, I began to say a silent prayer: “Thank You, Jesus, for my healing.” I read 101 Bible verses about healing. I put these verses in frames all over my home, plus pictures of healthy red blood cells, so I would see them all the time.
When I was first diagnosed in August 2014, my hemoglobin was in the 9s (normal is 12-18). I was given various drug therapies to help raise my hemoglobin. But they didn’t work, and by August 2016 my levels had dropped into the 7s.
Then it was suggested that I begin a new drug therapy called VIDAZA, not a cure but a crutch, and take it for five years. I was 62 when this would begin, and in five years I might be even sicker.
I was scheduled to begin VIDAZA on Monday, August 29, 2016. The Wednesday before, a friend asked if I had thought about the Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA). Frustrated at the whole situation, I just told her no, that I started VIDAZA the next week, and left it at that. But I had an uneasy feeling about the new drug plan.
On August 26, I wrote in my devotion journal: “This diagnosis is a bump in the road. More like the road is washed away and really must be repaired. I am so grateful that I can trust God to handle all of this for me. I think sometimes I can do this on my own, but I cannot. I cast all my cares to Him and cling to Him for dear life.” That afternoon, I was taking a nap and woke up to a CTCA commercial on TV. Something tugged at my heart and I called the number. It was the first of many miracles God would bestow on me during the next year.
The next morning I conferred with my siblings and they all agreed I should go to CTCA in Zion, Illinois, for another opinion. I faxed a letter telling my local doctor my decision.
On September 12, 2016, my husband and I were at CTCA for the first time. My devotional that morning had said, “Today you are marked for a miracle.”
When I first met with my CTCA doctor, he explained my disease at length, then looked at me and paused. I was going to ask, “What would you do if I were your mother?” But he beat me to it. He said, “If you were my mother, I would prepare for a stem cell transplant so you can have many more years of quality life.”
Chills ran down my spine. Little did I know, the standard of care at CTCA is called the Mother Standard. Everyone — doctors, nurses, janitors, food service workers — treats you as if you were their mother. They also use an integrative approach: You are assigned a naturopathic doctor, a physical therapist, a counselor, a minister and a full-time nutritionist along with your doctors.
My fourth week at CTCA, my devotion was entitled “The Cure” — God knows how to treat the brokenhearted patient, the anxious patient, the scared patient. He is the cure.
By this time, I had met with the head of the stem cell unit and he said he wanted to test my younger sister, Sonya, just to see if she might be a match for my stem cells. She was 55, six years younger than I. He warned me there was only a 25 percent chance she would be a match.
On November 3, my devotion was entitled “Anointed Vessels.” I learned an example of the tangible transfer of God’s anointing, where the lame and sick were placed in the street so Peter’s shadow would fall on them as he passed. Just his shadow transferred God’s healing.
On that day, we were told Sonya was a match for my stem cells.
God knew when he created Sonya (our family’s “accident” baby) in our mother’s womb that He would use her stem cells to sustain my life. With God there are no accidents.
I entered the hospital on December 27, 2016, for conditioning chemo. My devotional that week was about how God delights in blessing you with miracles. I prayed the Lord’s Prayer, read my healing verses and declared, “Thank You, Jesus, for my healing” repeatedly through this time.
At 9 p.m. January 3, 2017, I received 7.6 million of Sonya’s cells. But the whole process would take 100 days.
The next 24 days were a little rough at times. I was weak but had to get up and walk every day. Sometimes I had as many as 12 IV bags on my pole as I slowly scuffled up and down that hall in the stem cell unit. Many days I was dizzy and exhausted, but with every step I would say, “Thank You, Jesus, for my healing.”
I read my 101 verses every day and said the Lord’s Prayer several times a day to get through any discomfort. It worked. It kept me calm.
I was discharged from the hospital on January 24 and remained in a condo-style room for the rest of my 100 days. I had daily blood testing. I walked, went to physical therapy, colored a lot, read and rested.
I came back to Mississippi on April 12, 2017.
As happy as I was to be home, it added a new layer of anxiety. I couldn’t grab a nurse or doctor, or have someone making sure my surroundings were clean. (You learn a million things about picking up germs when you go through a transplant.)
At first, I had to get my blood tested in Chicago weekly, then monthly, and now, every six months. Today I am off all medications, working toward more flexibility in my body and walking 30 minutes a day.
My advice for you is, don’t wait for adversity to strengthen your faith. Being in God’s word daily will strengthen you to trust Him for whatever you face.
I firmly believe God placed me at CTCA to strengthen my faith and to share my story with you and others.
Sherry lives in Ridgeland and has written a book titled “Faith Over Fear: My Journey Through a Bone Marrow Transplant,” available on Amazon.com.