Link to full story, via Dallas Morning News: http://healthblog.dallasnews.com/2016/04/feasting-on-gods-word-plano-minister-battles-brain-cancer-with-gratitude-grace-2.html/
“Feasting on God’s word,” Plano minister battles brain cancer with gratitude & grace
When you’re 28 years old, in your third year of marriage and your first as a singles minister at a church with a membership larger than your Mississippi hometown’s population; when you and your wife are helping raise a 13-year-old boy; when you hike and play basketball and are so energetic your nickname is Tigger, you’re not supposed to be battling a brain tumor.
But life is not about supposed-to-bes. It is about the big picture and the smallest of brush strokes. It’s about questions with no answers, about squint-inducing light in the darkest of tunnels. It is, at its most succinct, about beauty and about pain: intense, interwoven, incomprehensible.
Chase Sims knew this; basically, all of us do. But in the last three months — after finding out his excruciating headaches and blurred vision weren’t caused by migraines or stress or too much caffeine — it has surrounded him, engulfed him, buoyed more than baffled him.
“You have to trust something beyond what you can see or put your hands on,” he says, “or it will drive you crazy.”
While in one breath he’s recounting a doctor’s description of his tumor — “a widow-maker,” in the next he’s saying this: “God’s been so merciful.”
As he sits at a table in the mostly empty dining area of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, he explains — in phrases, in sentences, in paragraphs — why he believes this.
He never had a seizure, which tends to be common among people with brain tumors. He’s a short drive from UT Southwestern Medical Center, where he had his surgery. He and his wife, Corrinn, could drive there during lunch breaks for his initial six weeks of treatment, which he referred to as “chemo church,” says Linda Spratt, a member of the singles class, because he and Corrinn could witness to others going through similar situations.
The treatment was aggressive — five days a week of radiation, seven of chemotherapy — because his tumor, a high-grade glioma, was itself aggressive and very rare. Had he and Corrinn stayed in Fort Collins, Colo., their home before here, the closest specialist would have been 700 miles away.
During treatment, he found out he had won a trip to the 2016 Masters Tournament in a lottery he’d been entering since high school. The church pitched in and paid for Corrinn, who works in the church’s missions ministry, to go, too — one week after treatment had ended.
Thirteen weeks ago, worshipers at this 40,000-member megachurch “had no idea who Chase Sims is,” he says. Now, “they’ve scooped us up. They pray for us. They bring us meals every day. One girl made us a month of homemade meals. We just have to take one out of the freezer and put it in the Crock-Pot.”
He emphasizes his appreciation for the kindness more than he does his diminished appetite. But truth to tell, even foods he loved — like the Cranberry Orange Club sandwich at McAlister’s Deli — he’s hardly been able to think about eating. He drinks the bottles of Ensure that a Prestonwood pastor brings him weekly, and he savors the eggs and waffles Corrinn makes him for breakfast. Even so, when she hugs him, she tells him, “You’re so skinny.”
When he began getting what he assumed were migraines, the woman he calls “the best part of me” offered him her eye blinders and turned out the lights in their bedroom until the headaches subsided. When they were new in town and healthy and her husband’s pain and blurred vision occurred simultaneously, she did a Google search to find a doctor. They were blessed, they say, that he didn’t just prescribe migraine medicine; he made sure Sims had an MRI.
The evening of Jan. 25, Sims was standing at Corrinn’s office door when the doctor who had read the MRI called.
“Mr. Sims,” the doctor said, “you have a very large mass on your right temporal lobe. You need to get to an ER immediately and consult a neurologist.”
Chase Sims’ scar from brain surgery looks like a question mark, which is somehow fitting as he faces a future of shadows and sunshine.
Four days later, he had surgery to remove the fist-size tumor. That night, says Jeff Young, minister of spiritual development at the church, “we had a prayer rally. We were expecting 70 or 80 people, and we had almost double that.
“None of us know why in the world something like this would hit Chase. But we are all confident that God is able to heal him, and that God will use this for purposes that right now we can’t understand. We’re begging God to heal him, to let this be part of Chase’s testimony. We’re asking for a miracle.”
Not a day goes by, Sims says, that someone at church doesn’t send a text message or ask, “What do you need?” His answer is forthright and looks ahead to his next big doctor’s visit: “We need a miracle. Pray on May 3 that they do an MRI and hope they only see my brain.”
There are moments, he says, “that I’m simultaneously terrified, yet fully expectant of God to do a miracle.”
He worries for his wife, for the 13-year-old boy they’re helping raise, the one who calls him Pop, the one they call Bam. “I don’t have to look at my bald head or a scar,” he says. “For my wife, it’s a constant reminder that I’m really sick.”
Most of the time, he covers his head with a gray knit cap — not to hide his scar, but to protect it from sunlight and to keep his almost-bald head warm. The scar forms a long and winding question mark which, with a future alternating between sunlight and shadows, somehow seems appropriate.
As the family faces that future, they feast on God’s word, Sims says. They look at each other and say, “We can do this.” They read a Psalm every day. He’s begun studying the book of Daniel. “I tell my wife, ‘Baby, we have to learn to breathe in the fire.’”
Their journey, she says, has taught them “to value life in a different way.” It’s helped them understand “God is in control over every single piece of every detail.”
Not quite three months after surgery, his energy level is rising. He played his first round of golf, which wiped him out for 24 hours, but made him feel alive. He and Bam throw the baseball back and forth. Last Wednesday evening before the singles-ministry class met, he doesn’t so much walk as bounce — ecstatic that he’d played two games of full-court basketball and eaten a sandwich, which tasted wonderful.
His next goal: running, so he can participate in Head for the Cure, a 5K on May 7 that benefits brain-cancer research. Spratt from his singles group organized a team called — what else? — Chase the Faith.
“I am so grateful God allowed me to walk this road,” Sims says. “When I wake up and my head hurts a little and I wonder why — because I don’t know how I’m supposed to feel. That’s part of the faith battle. We don’t know what’s happening. We trust that the Lord is fighting for me.”
Then his words change, as they do at times, becoming a prayer: “Whether I’m here in a year or not, we trust you, Lord.” And later, “People are hurting. Life is hard. Lord, your grace is sufficient. It calms the spirit and satisfies the soul.”
“God’s mercies are new every day,” he says. “What more do I need?”