Grace and Care from Heaven
David and Susan Wang are a couple, and both survivors of cancer. After being trained four years ago, they participated in Herald Cancer Care. In the past four years, despite the recurrence of David's cancer, the couple still did not stop caring for their cancer-stricken friends. It is true that God is real and alive in them. Here are their encouraging testimonies.
Herald Cancer Care Coordinator Ernest Lam
I was born and raised in Tainan City, Taiwan. My father was a civil servant. He did not make enough to feed the whole family of 10. My mother used to take my dad's salary when he got it the 1st of each month to pay off debts. What remained was only enough for half the month. Then they would go into debt again. So week after week, it was very hard to make ends meet. At that time, my grandmother lived out in the Yunlin countryside on a farm with a rice mill. During our summer and winter vacations, my mother would bring some of us kids to visit her and enjoy the countryside, and we would go back home carrying lots of food. This helped to ease the shortage at home. My grandmother passed away the year when I graduated from elementary school and my mother took us back for the funeral. In the funeral procession, my mother found more than a dozen elderly strangers holding a white cloth on a bamboo pole and reading the words of the deceased. When she asked them, she realized that they were all beggars from around the area. As long as they came to beg, grandmother gave them something to eat as well as a bag of rice, telling them to not go begging on rainy days, and cook and eat that rice instead. Grandma did not want people to know, but now her kind deeds became the talk of the town. This incident impressed me very much. Since then, being frugal and helpful, joyful in giving and doing good, has been the most important values in my life.
After I graduated from college and finished compulsory military services, I started working in Kaohsiung at an oil refinery. I got married, had kids, and life was good. When I was 31, I started to fall down for no reason. My right knee became weak, then hot and swollen. Although my wife was close to labor for our 3rd child, I could not take care of her at all. My father suggested that I see the orthopedic surgeon at the National Taiwan University Hospital. The doctor looked at the X-ray and found a tumor on my right knee that was the size of an egg and malignant. Because of its location, it caused me to lose strength to the knee joint, thus the leg would give out and I’d fall down. The doctor gave me two options. The first option was to remove the tumor and all the surrounding cartilage ligaments, such that after the surgery the knee could not be bent. The second option was a smaller-scale removal so that the knee could be bent after surgery. But with that option there is a chance of recurrence. And if the tumor returns, it will be necessary to amputate the entire leg. After thinking about it, I decided to keep my knee to have a better quality of life.
The doctor arranged for me to be hospitalized immediately, ready for surgery on the third day. The day before my surgery a young man in his twenties approached my ward and introduced himself as a third-year medical student. He also had a tumor in his knee, just like mine. And doctors amputated his leg just three weeks ago because the tumor had spread up to the thigh. Out of curiosity, I asked him why he was interested in coming to see me. He replied that he was a Christian and was moved to comfort and encourage me because he knew the anxiety and fear in my heart at the moment. He also told me that he loved to play tennis, and was on the high school team. Although he had now lost a leg and could not play tennis anymore, he would not let it deter his future medical career. This 20-something-year-old young friend really was an angel who came from God. It gave me great comfort and encouragement before and during my surgery.
Thank God! The operation was successful. Although it was not a major eradication, some of the cartilage of my ankle was put into the knee joint and my thigh all the way to my ankle was in a cast. Only after more than a month, following the removal of the cast, did I find out whether it was successful. By the mercy of God, although I was a little lame walking, and could no longer do anything strenuous, my life had not been seriously impacted.
We emigrated to the United States in 1982 and got a lot of help from my brother and sister-in-law. Soon I found work in a refinery, and life was stable. Our three children all completed their studies successfully, found good spouses and careers, and now have happy families of their own. All the children and grandchildren are Christians who love the Lord. God's grace and blessings have filled our whole family. I am very satisfied and thankful.
I was planning on going back to Taiwan with my husband in March 2011 and we were going to attend the wedding of a nephew. My brother and friends also arranged some tours for us and I was very happy. After we had already bought the plane tickets, my brother also arranged for me to get a medical check-up at the Tainan Int'l Hospital. We traveled to Tainan on March 10th and immediately went to the hospital that afternoon. I saw the generalist first, then I went to the obstetrics and gynecology department to do the cervical exam. After the doctor finished the Pap smear, she pressed around my lower abdomen. I feel a little pain in the right lower quadrant, and she said she felt some lumps, and told me to get an ultrasound. While looking at the image on the screen, the doctor said solemnly: "There is a tumor in your abdomen, of at least ten centimeters. It does not look very good and needs to be operated on quickly."
Strangely, when I heard her I had no special reaction. I was neither surprised nor disturbed, which made the doctor more nervous for me. In addition to wanting me to do a more detailed ultrasound, she also helped me to register to see the ob-gyn oncologist the next day, and repeatedly exhorted: "You must come tomorrow, and your husband, too."
That I can be so calm is a reflection of my faith. I am a third generation Christian who went to church with my father and mother since I was a child and was deeply rooted in my faith. I know that everything is in accordance with God’s will. If I submit to His will, and hand over everything to God, I have peace in my heart.
So on the next day, the 11th of March, I went to see the oncologist. She performed more tests, and told me: "This is an ovarian tumor, about 13 cm in diameter. It has a solid part and a liquid part. It looks like it has blood vessels supplying nutrients, so it’s grow fast. In any case, I suggest you have surgery quickly to get rid of it." Well, so be it. Attending the wedding and travel plans got put aside. I told the doctor that I wanted to get it over with as soon as possible. The doctor arranged for hospitalization the next day in order to do all the preoperative examination, and scheduled the operation for the morning of the 14th. The doctor further explained how she would operate on me: she would make an incision on my abdomen, take the tumor out, and do a biopsy and obtain the results in 30 minutes. If it is benign, she would end the operation. But if it is malignant, she would remove the ovaries, uterus, fallopian tubes, lymph nodes and other peripheral tissues, in order to avoid future recurrence. My heart secretly prayed, Lord let my tumor be benign, so there won’t be a drastic removal of my internal organs.
Everything went so quickly. It seemed that there was no time for me to think about what exactly was going on. But one thing I was certain that God would be with me, so I did not ask "why" but only thanked the Lord. Because while I was totally unaware of my cancer, things worked out that the tumor was diagnosed in time, and all the hospitalization and surgery were arranged so quickly. If it were not God's hand guiding me without my knowing it, how could everything go so smoothly? I am truly thankful.
Before entering the operating room, I entrusted myself to the Lord. He is my strength, my salvation, my help, and He will be with me. I have peace in my heart. After more than four hours of surgery, I was transferred to the recovery room in a daze. No one told me whether the tumor was benign or malignant, and I did not want to ask. Only when the doctor made her rounds to check on the patients, she told me that it was ovarian cancer. She needed to wait for further tests to know whether there is further metastasis. I was of course a little disappointed. God did not answer my prayer to give me a benign tumor. But I did not lose heart. God is sovereign. No matter what the situation, He controls everything. I can only focus on trusting in Him.
The next morning, I was still drowsy, but there was a melody circling in my head. When I was more awake, I slowly remembered it as a hymn I used to sing at church when I was young. I had not heard or sung this hymn for many years. When my brother and sister-in-law came to visit me, I hummed the melody to them and they immediately said that the song is "God is taking care of you". And then I found that I could sing the lyrics of the first verse without any errors. The lyrics can be translated as follows:
Whether the situation is good and bad is determined by the Lord
God is taking care of you
Calm and no surprises under the Lord's Wings
God is taking care of you
God is taking care of you
Daily taking care of you
Daily leading the way
God is taking care of you
God is taking care of you
Oh! Angels gave me this song in my dream, and let me know that no matter the circumstances God was taking care of me. I need not be worried or afraid. I was really touched, and so thankful!
Two days after the surgery, the surgeon went abroad to a conference. A week later she came back and made the rounds. She told me the good news: "After two doctors carefully analyzed the biopsy, it looks like the cancerous cells stayed within that tumor. It did not spread, and all other tissues and organs are clear of cancer. Therefore, there’s no need for any follow-up treatment such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy, only regular follow-ups. My husband and I heard the good news and cheered: "Thank the Lord! Hallelujah!" It is the Lord's protection. Such a big tumor, yet the cancer cells were “tamed”. It is indeed the mercy and the grace of God.
My brother's friend said, "Your sister must have done many good deeds to be so fortunate, and to benefit from so many great people at opportune timing." I am very embarrassed, as any good thing that came to me was only by God's grace. Paul says in Romans 11: 6, "And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace." Yes, I received the abundant grace of God, which He gave freely. I only received with gratitude in my heart. As for the great people, I think that God sent angels to be my help at any time.
When I returned to Taiwan with my wife in 2011, I was very surprised to discover that my wife had ovarian cancer. The doctor arranged an operation immediately. I remember when I was waiting outside the operating room; I hoped that the doctor would come out quickly and tell me it was benign. But as the hours passed by, I became more and more anxious. Finally the doctor opened door, holding a basin with a bloody mess that really scared me. The doctor explained: "This was taken from the abdomen. This big tumor is known to be malignant. We’ll have to do further tests to determine whether cancer cells had spread to other organs and tissues." Oh! Dear God! Please keep my wife safe!
Thank God! A week later the doctor announced that the cancer cells have not metastasized. We are so very grateful.
During the hospital stay, my husband was there by my side around the clock. He gave me daily leg massages, as the groin lymph nodes were removed. With poor blood circulation in the legs, I risked getting ‘elephant legs’. My brother and sister-in-law also came to see me every day, giving me spiritual encouragement. I knew that many relatives and friends took time to go to the hospital just to see me, to pray for me. We had a long distance call with our church pastor, and more people praying for me. Family and friends were so precious. I felt it in my heart, and will never forget.
My three children knew that we were going back to Taiwan for a wedding and travel. However, on the second day after I went to Taiwan, they received an email from me saying that I was going to be in the hospital and operated on. Then they received an email from their uncle saying that I had ovarian cancer, which must have been very shocking. Because my son just had his second child (born March 10th), he was understandably pre-occupied, but was still praying for me every day. My two daughters were also worried and anxious. Being across the ocean, they were not sure they’d see their mother again. But fortunately they had strong faith, often praying for me with tears of supplication. They also asked their friends and small groups for prayers as well. When they knew my cancer cells did not spread, they also joined me in thanking the Lord.
Since 2011, my wife has been fine. Two years later, however, I was diagnosed with liver cancer. I was not terribly surprised, because since I was young I’ve had hepatitis B. Eventually cirrhosis and liver cancer seemed to be the expected. The doctor gave me three options: surgery, radiotherapy or chemotherapy. I chose the latter. In September of that year, chemotherapy was administered. In November, a CT scan was done to monitor the chemotherapy. In December I met with the oncologist, who said the chemotherapy was ineffective. Two large tumors were found on the screen, both exceeding three centimeters. It is no longer suitable for surgery or radiotherapy. The doctor said bluntly: "In this type of cases, you probably only have a few months to half a year to live. I suggest that you go home and get convalescent care. The hospital will provide the necessary equipment and services." Is this not a death sentence? I'm going to say goodbye to loved ones, family and friends? Is God asking me to return home to Him?!?
When I got home, I had a lot of mixed thoughts and feelings. I began to complain to God. After retiring, I spent most of my time helping at church and doing ministry work, loving God and loving people. Did God forget about me? I also became irritable, as if everyone was against. Besides my family, I did not allow my wife to tell anyone about my cancer. And whenever she talked to others and mentioned my name, I became furious. My wife said that I was like a hedgehog no one could touch. I was being very obnoxious. She secretly told the pastor and some friends at church, asking them to pray for me. My son and daughters also asked their church friends to intercede. Thank God for listening to all the prayers. The attending physician was willing to try chemotherapy for me one more time, and the tumor shrank. Then radiotherapy eliminated the remaining tumor. After more than two years of follow-up, I was still cancer free.
Two years after my cancer treatment, my husband was diagnosed with liver cancer. He chose to do chemotherapy treatment. More than a month later, the CT scan found that the original two centimeters of the tumor not only did not shrink, but grew another centimeter, and next to it was another even bigger tumor. When the oncologist approached us he got straight to the point and said, "Chemotherapy is not effective for you. You have about six months to live. I recommend that you convalesce at home. The hospital will provide a bed and some other equipment." How could this be? We had not been so shocked when he first discovered that he had liver cancer. Now it is like a death sentence. It is so hard to accept!
David became easily irritable, and I also became less patient. The home seemed to be shrouded in tension. Nevertheless, I did not lose faith, but prayed to God even more fervently. And the words of the Bible once again remind us: "A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones." (Proverbs 17:22) We must not let negative emotions defeat us. Thank God! The attending physician said he was willing to try the chemotherapy once again, and as a result, both tumors were shrunk. And after that he was given another radiotherapy treatment to eliminate the tumor.
A few months ago the doctor found another new tumor. Chemotherapy was administered again. At the follow-up visit, the doctor told me that the chemotherapy did not work. He suggested doing radiotherapy, but he needed to coordinate with the surgeon about a complicated surgery. At this time we have not decided when to start the treatment. But I have been able to fully face the reality, and know that what I believe is a true and living God. He is sovereign, able to preserve my life, and also able to call me to heaven. I can only obey. Earlier, I thought God would not ‘mistreat’ such a fervent servant of Him like me. Now, I understand that everything is God's gift. What I have done cannot ever come close to repaying His grace. My life is in His hand, He is the God who rules over all things.
For two plus years David’s liver cancer follow-up exams had been routine, until recently this new tumor was found. And now he must accept another round of chemotherapy. We do not know what God's will is. David is more optimistic now; his faith in God is more solid. Because we have received countless blessings from God, we have no reason to doubt God’s love. And neither can we complain about pain and illnesses. In the Bible, Job said after suffering great tribulation: "Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised." (Job 1: 21) After that he had boils from the soles of his feet to the top of his head, and when he was still in pain, he said, "Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?" (Job 2: 10b) This faith Job had in God is the best example we can learn, to put everything in the hands of God.
After my cancer treatment was done, I felt grateful and wanted to become a useful tool in God’s hands. When I saw cancer care volunteer training in a Herald Monthly, I decided to sign up. Although my husband was still in treatment for liver cancer, he was also willing to join me in this cancer care endeavor. For four years now, we've learned a lot and received a lot. It is a group that conveys the love of Jesus. Not only do we care about others, but we also received much care from them. We are willing to give blessing to others as we have received blessing from God. May the rest of my life be used by God, to glorify God and bless people. Glory to the Most High God who sits on the throne.
I often tell my friends that the best thing I did in my whole life was to marry my wife. Above and beyond how good she is, it’s also because I became a Christian because of her. As the hymn goes: the most beautiful blessing in this life is to know the Lord Jesus and trust in Him. I already have this most beautiful blessing; I really want to share this blessing with others. So when my wife invited me to join the cancer care ministry, I readily agreed. This is a very meaningful service. In the course of training, we found that when we try caring for others without being trained, we tend to say the wrong things. The intentions are good, but the listener might not appreciate it. Both of us are cancer survivors, and we have had similar experiences. Now as volunteers, we are learning to be more empathetic with other cancer patients. I am currently caring for two patients, both with terminal cancer. I have the opportunity to lead them in the final stages of their lives to Jesus. And their families have repeatedly thanked me. Actually, all thanks be to God, I am nothing but His vessel. I only hope to be of some help to others, and to continue my own upward journey and growth, and spread the good news, as something pleasing to God.
I do not know how long I still have. Other than doing volunteering work, I also encourage my children and grandchildren to read the Bible and share my experiences and what I have learned with them. I hope this faith can be passed on from generation to generation as an inheritance. May I live for Christ, to love God and help others.
David & Susan Wang
(translated from Chinese by their son)