Personal testimonies of a physician and his wife struggling with cancer - By Bro. Gene and Sis. Karen Bailey
The Lord is alive! He talks to us, He walks with us, and He is there for us… even when we're not expecting it.
While I was praying for a family in Church, I prayed a prayer that I had prayed many times when my wife was ill. The prayer was about ‘moving mountains' and how we need mountains moved in our lives.
As I was praying, a brother came up to me, put his arm around me, and said, "You know Brother, I remember when we were praying in the old Church building for the Lord to move mountains in your wife's life." He was referring to the time when my wife was hospitalized in Boston with cancer.
It is good to be put in remembrance, isn't it? There are so many instances in the Bible where the Lord wanted His people to put in remembrance what He had done for them. How about when the Red Sea opened up? How many times do you think the Israelites talked about that? What a miracle in their lives! They were up against a wall, up against the enemy, and the Lord provided a way for them. Well, that was the same for me.
Since my wife Karen was healed in 2000, the Biblical account of the Ten Lepers has been spoken about a few times. Each time it was, I'd sit in the congregation, and my heart would do a flip because of how the Lord encouraged me with that account. Every time I'd say, "Lord, I'm going to go up front and give a testimony to the congregation." But, it never happened.
This time when the account was being spoken about, I said, "That's it Lord, I know You're talking to me." So, I asked to share this testimony. I was thinking about testimony and the testimony of the Lord. Psalm 19:7 states, "The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple…" The Lord gave me a Scripture in 1 Corinthians 2:1, "And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God." I am here to declare that testimony.
The teaching of the Ten Lepers account brought me back to a struggle in my own life and in our lives as a family. I am in the medical field; I have been a medical doctor for many years. As a physician, I have never seen leprosy. I have read about it in textbooks and seen pictures of it. I may not have seen leprosy in my career, but I have seen a lot of cancer. In many ways, I can equate cancer to leprosy because of many things my wife experienced. For instance, when she was ill and undergoing bone marrow transplantation, she was confined to a hospital room and could go nowhere. If you wanted to see her, you had to put on gloves and a mask and wash down. Visitors were limited; my wife didn't have much social contact. So, when I thought about the whole idea of leprosy, I thought about the isolation my wife experienced during her cancer treatment. Again, my heart leaped when I heard the account of the Ten Lepers and the miracle they experienced.
In Biblical times, there wasn't any treatment for leprosy. Lepers were cut off from others; they were cast out to die a very lonely and terrible death. So, I just wanted to go through how the Ten Lepers account related to my family and I personally.
Sister Karen – diagnosed with cancer at age 36
Karen, my wife, was diagnosed with cancer on January 23rd, 2000. She was 36 years old. She had a very large tumor in the center of her chest; a huge shock to both of us. We never even dreamed of anything like this. We were living normal lives serving the Lord, when suddenly, here was the shock of this diagnosis. I personally felt life had ended – a very human emotion, but truly my initial reaction to the news.
After initiating treatment, we struggled, battled, and prayed for six months while Karen went through chemotherapy – only to have the tumor become resistant to the drugs she was receiving. When chemotherapy does what it is designed to do, tumors melt away. In Karen's case, it failed; the tumor actually enlarged. It was a really difficult time for us.
Our physician became very nervous. Not knowing what to do or where to turn, he contacted someone in Boston, and that's where we ended up. At that time, our children were 4, 6, and 8 years old. Off we went – Karen to the hospital and to isolation; the children and I to my mother-in-law's. I can't even quantify the time I spent in prayer. My wife constantly sought the Lord as well. I know the congregation was also seeking the Lord on our behalf.
So, when that brother came down and put his arm around me that day in Church, it really put me into remembrance of God's work in our lives. The Scripture that continually ran through my head during Karen's illness was Mark 11:23: "For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith. Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them." I remember praying over and over again upon this Scripture that I wanted the mountain moved. I asked the Lord to do this. I don't know if Karen ever felt she was going to be healed. She told me she knew her life was in the Lord's hands, whatever the outcome. But for me, I wanted the cancer to be gone. I actually believe I had to remove doubt in my heart and mind; I think that's why the Lord brought me through so many struggles. I was wrestling with the Lord, but He brought me through all my doubts and emotions.
The account of the Ten Lepers was really the pinnacle of my prayer life regarding Karen's illness. I struggled because I am a physician and I wanted to control the situation. As a physician, I knew too much, so it was very difficult for me because the chemotherapy wasn't working. The tumor was growing larger, my wife was getting more ill, and it seemed like the light was getting increasingly dim. I kept pressing in to the Lord and brethren kept encouraging and helping me to press more in to the Lord. Even with so much encouragement, it was a really hard time – I had to give up my practice for three months while Karen was in Boston so I could deal with everything at the time. I became physically exhausted and emotionally drained. The personal toll was enormous as we were flung into unchartered waters. I knew the Lord was there, but every single morning, every single time I got into prayer, I was consumed with the situation and was constantly bringing it before the Lord.
So, I was constantly praying and Karen was in the hospital receiving a bone marrow transplant. Again, I'm likening this to a leper colony because the transplant unit was on a separate floor – set apart from all the other areas in the hospital. It was in an area that was locked down and secure; admittance was restricted. Visitors had to go through a ritual before entering the room. Every single day, I would get the kids doing what they were supposed to be doing and then I would go to the hospital to see my wife. I was buzzed into the unit, had to wash thoroughly, then don gloves and a mask… the same ritual every day. I'd spend time with Karen only to watch her condition deteriorate as she received treatment. The high dose chemotherapy given prior to the bone marrow transplant literally destroyed her cells and immune system. That's how it's done – destroy the immune system with massive doses of chemotherapy. Once that's destroyed, and all the cancer is hopefully destroyed, the physicians give back these vital cells in hope that they will transplant and take – and there isn't any guarantee the bone marrow will take.
My wife's skin started to fall off; we couldn't get anything to stick to it. She looked like a lobster because her skin was very red. Her immune system was gone and her body was trying to hang on to make it through the process to get to the other side. We were struggling; the hospitalization seemed to get longer and longer. My prayers were going out, and I didn't see her getting any better. It was physically and emotionally draining to go into Boston every day.
Karen continued to get worse. Her white blood cell count dropped and she developed a fever. The physicians wanted to start giving her amphotericin because they feared that she had developed a fungal infection that could potentially kill her since her immune system was compromised. This medication has terrible side effects. I felt if she had to have that medication started, we were going to lose the race. My faith was waning, but the Lord continued to provoke me to get into prayer. Things didn't seem like they were progressing.
The Lord speaks to Brother Gene
The morning before they were going to start this medication, I got up to pray. The medication would mean a prolonged hospitalization and our children were going to be starting school again in a short time. In prayer, I said, "Lord – I've had enough! I can't deal with it any longer! Lord, I don't know what to do! I've been with You; we've met every morning…" and the Lord turned me to the Scripture with the Ten Lepers. I don't know why; I wasn't asking Him for that, but that's where I went.
Hallelujah! I opened to the Scriptures and read. The Word spoke to me that morning so crystal clear – it was literally as if I could hear His voice. I felt God was talking to me in an audible voice. Luke 17:11-12 reads, "And it came to pass, as he went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off." I was thinking about Karen; thinking about the situation she was in. Those lepers had been there for so long, who knows whether they would have ever been healed. I don't know if the light was dim in their lives or not, but they certainly were afar off.
Verse 13: "And they lifted up their voices and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us." Well, I felt like I was intervening for my wife right there and then and I was saying, "Lord have mercy on us!" I didn't know what else to do.
Verse 14: "And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed." The Lord spoke to me clearly that morning that Karen was going to be cleansed. She was going to be healed! Hallelujah! It breathed life into me. I was renewed and said, "Hallelujah, my wife's going to be healed!" (The Lord had told me this back in the year 2000, and here we are today, all these years later. I believe the Lord honored that. That time of illness and isolation was a struggle and a wrestling match, but the Lord broke through. And the Lord will break through in your life – you just need to continue.)
As I continued to read that morning, verses 15 & 16 stated, "And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks…" And the Lord said to me, "I'm going to heal your wife, but it's ME that's doing the healing; it's of ME. And I want you to glorify ME." It was so clear!
A miraculous healing
I went to the hospital and amazingly over the next 24 hours, I saw skin rejuvenating on my wife! I could literally see it growing on her body! I've never seen anything like this in my life and I don't know if I ever will again. This was something for me… you know, when you see a miracle, you don't ever want to forget it. To me, it was miraculous – as if a switch had been turned on; the redness went away and her white cell count went up. I had planned to bring the children back to Syracuse. I thought Karen was going to be in the hospital for another month on this medication; not knowing if she'd ever even come home. Now, the hospital staff told me that they wanted to discharge her the next day! She was discharged and we brought her home – Praise God!
So, I want to tell you – have faith and know that the Lord is in control. When it seems like there's no light at the end of the tunnel, the Lord is in control. The just shall live by faith. Even if you're physically exhausted and emotionally distraught, the Lord will break through – one way or another, He will break through. He's there for us… no matter what happens. Even if we die, He's there for us. He will intercede for us. Be ready to hear His voice. It is a wonderful and glorious thing to hear His voice; to see a sign of His wondrous works in our lives. He's working in our lives; He's there. Lastly, glorify God – let His praises be heard among His people. The Ten Lepers account has meaning for me, and puts me in remembrance of a mighty, mighty miracle that was performed in my wife's life. I saw it with my own eyes and I give God all the glory!
Editor's note: After Bro. Gene shared what he was going through, Sis. Karen Bailey recounted her own testimony of the day the Lord healed her of cancer.
The treatments weren't working
As Gene and I were preparing for this testimony, I dug out the prayer journal I had started right before going into the hospital in Boston – when things were bad. I had written on the front of the journal in faith, "I will live and tell of the works of the Lord" because I believed God could do something for us.
Things were really bad…I had completed six months of chemotherapy here in Syracuse, which did not work. Then we did salvage chemotherapy, and that didn't work, either. The tumor actually doubled in size between the salvage chemotherapy and the last CT scan I had here. The doctors didn't tell us this until we got to Boston. Once I was there, they tried to capture my stem cells – normally a one-day process that ended up being dragged out over seven days.
I had finished a month of intensive radiation, which I had morning and afternoon. I was very sick at this point. Since enough stem cells had not been harvested, the doctors removed bone marrow from the back of my hips in preparation for the transplant. I had just completed radiation when I was given the high dose chemotherapy for the stem cell transplant. I developed what was called "recall radiation burn" – so my skin was all open; red and raw – like when you fall off a bike and your knee is skinned. That's how it was on my body and on my back. I also had horrible mucositis; I lost all of the lining in my mouth, which would come out in chunks. Because I was in a lot of pain, I drew a picture in my diary of a mouth on fire. (I drew the picture because I couldn't write at that time.)
The next night, I woke up – it was 3:00 a.m. There was a little light coming into the room from the hallway, so I got up to do my mouth care and to put anti-fungal medicine on my chest.
"Back in the land of the living" – The Lord speaks to Sister Karen
I titled my journal entry for that day of September 1st, 2000: "Back in the land of the living." I had started to cough; I was worried I had aspirated some of the anti-fungal powder; I was worried that I was giving myself an infection. Then I heard myself talk – it was the first time I had talked and recognized my voice because I wasn't able to speak very well because of what was going on in my mouth. I had this awful sounding cough and it scared me. I thought I inhaled the powder, so I started rinsing, gagging, and spitting, then I heard my voice – it sounded normal. Then I hacked up a bloody ball of phlegm – and it was my last! And I was actually able to drink some water without falling off the bed in pain – Praise you, Lord!
I have never heard the audible voice of the Lord; I can't tell you what was happening in that room. The Word of God was there – I can't really explain this effectively, but it was bouncing off the walls. It was there; the Word of God was there! I don't know if I heard it, or if it was just there. The two Scriptures that were going through at that time: "So foolish was I, and ignorant; I was as a beast before thee. Nevertheless, I am continually with thee; thou hast holden me by my right hand. Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever." (Psalm 73:22-26)
So, that Scripture was going around in the room – I don't know if I'm hearing it, or it's just there. The other Scripture was out of Isaiah, "And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the LORD; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation." (Isaiah 25:9)
The Lord heals in a mighty way
And… I went to bed. And I woke up the next morning… and I had skin! And the nurses took their masks off. My blood count was 1.3 after being less than 1. And it was wonderful! I think at that point, when I was standing at the hospital sink at 3:00 a.m., that was when the Lord reached in and he healed me.
God has been very good to Gene and I. You may be going through hard things right now. It doesn't matter what it is – family problems, illness, financial problems, you lost your job… the circumstances really do not matter. God is there and He is in control. The Scripture in Isaiah 50:7 says, "For the Lord God will help me, therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed. He is near that justifieth me; who will contend with me? let us stand together: who is mine adversary? let him come near to me. Behold, the Lord God will help me; who is he that shall condemn me?" (Isaiah 50:7-9)
The Lord is our defense against the enemy. Hold onto that, because whatever the circumstance, He is going to get us through it. He always has. He's proven Himself. We have His Word, and there is no better Word to cling to!
Editor's note: The Lord Jesus Christ has power to heal individuals of all manner of sicknesses and afflictions. The Bible says, "Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: Who forgiveth all thine inquities; who healeth all thy diseases…" (Psalm 103:2-3)It is the desire of the Bailey family that this testimony would be a source of strength and encouragement to provoke you to seek the Lord Jesus Christ during times of difficulty and trial. He is able to ‘move the mountains' in your life.