The Cancer Journey Begins

Journal Entry: Written on Sunday, March 26, 2023

In an increasingly interconnected world, it is fitting that I was informed about cancer from a very impersonal app on my iPhone.

On Friday afternoon, a text message appeared on my phone informing me that I should check in for a doctor appointment on Monday morning. I was confused because I thought that all appointments with my urologist had been canceled and replaced by a three month follow up visit. I tried to cancel the new appointment through the app and when asked in a dialog box why I was canceling, I explained in a few short words that I was confused.

Then just a few minutes later, I discovered an email telling me there were test results now available in the digital portal of my AdventHealth app. I accessed the app to hunt for the latest test results, and lo and behold, I discovered a report on the tissue that was taken from the bladder resection surgery that I had two weeks previously.

I printed out the report and realized it was brutally honest to this very untrained layman. This was not the message that we were hoping to receive. It said in bold type, “Invasive high-grade urothelial carcinoma.”

So, I texted Connie‘s brother and sent him via email a copy of the pathology report. He is a brilliant retired veterinarian surgeon. Within 20 minutes he called on the phone. After catching up on some family updates, I said, “OK, tell me about the report I sent to you.” He replied, “Gerry, words mean something, and the words in this report that mean something are invasive high-grade carcinoma.” He said, “If I were you, I know what I would do. I would go right to aggressive treatment at the very best cancer option and proceed as swiftly as possible.”

I told him then that the person who had just replaced me at Maranatha Village had recently retired from Mayo Clinic in Rochester. Her job over the many years was as an executive secretary to chief of the all cardiologists at Mayo. During the last few years of her career, she handled many notable patients that came to Mayo for various kinds of treatment. She has extensive contacts within the Mayo Clinic system in Rochester.

A number of years previously Kaye had opened the doors for my sister Cheryl to be admitted to Mayo within a few days and receive lifesaving treatment. Then a few years after that, her husband Dwight faced life-threatening heart issues. Once again Kaye was able to open up the doors and get him lifesaving procedures. And just last summer, she was able to open the way again for Dwight to return to Mayo for successful treatment on a persistent and debilitating neurological issue.

So, I immediately called Kaye on the phone and told her about this new challenge. She said, “Bring the report to me at church on Sunday and I will make contacts on Monday morning.” I replied that I’d like to bring it over to her right now, and she came back with, “OK give me 15 minutes because I just got out of the pool.” Connie and I jumped into our golf cart and took the two-minute ride over to the Halstead‘s villa. As soon as she saw the actual report, her eyes widened and she said, “I know the secretary to one of the four best urologists in Mayo Clinic. I’ll send this to her”. I told her that I’d already sent her a copy via email. Kaye is emailing it tonight because she knows her friend looks at emails over the weekend.

We went back home with our minds spinning in a whirlwind. I immediately thought of our neighbors, who we’re not able to return this winter because the husband had in recent months gone through a cancer journey at Mayo. I remembered they had reported in an email to our village community how they were blessed by being able to stay at a wonderful facility in Rochester.

Within a few moments we had a conversation and they described the blessed ministry of Hope Lodge that is within walking distance of the Clinic. It operates expressly for the purpose of serving cancer patients as a place to stay where there are others who are walking the same pathway.

We don’t know what the road ahead looks like, these are just the first steps of this stage of our Grace Journey. Doors will have to open, and medical help will be needed in the days to come. Just this week I started rereading Robert Morgan’s wonderful little book Red Sea Rules. He begins the Preface by quoting Charles Haddon Spurgeon with this comforting thought:

“The Lord will make a way for you where no foot has been before. That which, like a sea, threatens to drown you, shall be a highway for your escape.”

Subsequently we have gained an appointment at Mayo Clinic, in Rochester, for April 12th. Pray that the Lord will be glorified in all that transpires. We are trusting our Lord to lead us down that highway.

Several friends have already given us uplifting scriptural promises to guide and encourage us. We will hold fast to God’s almighty hand.

“The LORD is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him.” Nahum 1:7

“Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. For I the LORD thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee.” Isaiah 41:10, 13

A number of months ago I took Psalm 71:18 for the remaining days of my life on this earth. I offer these words each day as a prayer of trust in the abiding will of our great God and loving Savior.

“Now also when I am old and greyheaded, O God, forsake me not; Until I have shewed thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to every one that is to come.”

32 thoughts on “The Cancer Journey Begins

  1. Thank you for the report. Our hearts are with you and Connie. Joy had colon cancer surgery January 31 that went exceedingly well but the cancer got through the colon wall and into 1 Lymph node, making it stage 3 cancer and requiring chemotherapy. She finished her first 2 week session of chemo pills 3 days ago and is in a 1 week break now. The chemo has gone generally well so far.

  2. Thank you Don. We are not sure of our pathway at all. I had my first bout 13 years ago, but the scraping of the tumor was all that was needed. I’ve been under the care of Urologists ever since. Simply trusting every day…

    1. Angel Gonzalez

      Dear Brother, just to let you guys know,
      That was are going to pray for you and Connie.
      In Christ 🙏 Angel and Silvia

    2. Diane Budke

      Our prayers are with you both, I sure cling to Isaiah 41:10. The road may be hard but the Lord makes it easier for those who know him and ask. I praise him everyday for his healing Grace. I know he will do the same for you. Love to you and Connie. Diane Budke

      1. Yes, I am learning to cling to Isa. 41:10 as this new part of the journey has come to me. It is wonderful to hear from different individuals who give testimony to the fact that the same verse has brought comfort and strength to them. That tells me that the great God of heaven teaches us all the same lesson — trust Him! He is able. He gives strength. His will is perfect. My prayer is that the loving Lord will allow me to fulfill Ps. 71:18.

  3. So sorry to hear this, Dr. Carlson, but your confidence in the Lord’s guidance through the journey is encouraging, a great example for others. You and the doctors who will be treating you will be in our prayers.

    1. Luke Holderby

      I will be praying for you. I was diagnosed with colon cancer on November 2021. We went straight to Mayo in Rochester. There is no better place to be to over see colon/rectal cancer. I can’t say enough about the care, professionalism, communication, expertise, and patience of Mayo Clinic.
      I will be praying for you through your journey. Take as much time and ask as many questions as you want at every appointment- they will patiently answer them all.
      I’m sorry you are going through this.

      1. Thank you, Luke, for your wonderful comments and thoughts. We are so thankful that the Lord opened the door for me so quickly. We arrive on the 10th and have my first appointments on the 12th. The pastor in Pine Island is Tim Graham, and he was an adjunct business prof at Pillsbury during my one-year stint. If you remember Chris Friese dorm supe at PBBC 94-95, his dad will be taking us around to appointments. We are in awe of how the Lord has opened the way for us. Certainly appreciate your prayers.


    Know that you are being prayed for in our family. Harsh way to “tell” you such a message, but you’ve handled it wisely. Will pray for day to day guidance and for the mind-set for you and Connie in this trying time.

    Bob & Teresa

    1. Praying is better than AI, eh? You are a pioneer utilizing the tools of the techno age. I am seeking to tell the fuller story of our Grace Journey. Wayne & Carole have become a key part of it in the last three months by ministering to our dear son Kirk. We say, “It takes our breath away.”

  5. david Henry sorenson

    Gerry, long story short, I was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic Leukemia 3 1/2 years ago. Longer story short, the Lord healed me thereof. Don’t have time right now, but I would be happy to share that story with you. Praying for you in the meantime.

    1. Would love to hear sometime. Have you written it out? My Grace Journey postings are just the tip of the iceberg to what God has been doing, through His providential guidance. That is why I’ve taken Ps. 71:18 as my “rest of life” verse. I pray that God will allow me to write about what I’m still learning about His matchless grace.

      1. david Henry sorenson


        Actually about 2 ½ years ago I was diagnosed with stage 4 CLC (chronic lymphocytic leukemia). The initial PET scan showed there was cancer all over my body. I had visited cancer patients many times over the years as a pastor. But it was surreal going into the Cancer Center myself as a cancer patient.

        After the oncologist (whom I have come to really like) saw the PET scan, he told me he would formulate a plan of attack to deal with it. Meanwhile, He started me on a chemo pill.

        About a month later, I went back for a second PET scan and to his amazement, the cancer was basically gone.

        But here is what happened in that month interval. Two passages of Scripture struck me. One was Psalm 103:2-3 “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: (3) Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases.” As I thought about it, I considered that He had forgiven all my iniquities by faith when I trusted Christ. Why then would He not heal all my diseases as I trusted Him in simple faith. And I told the Lord so. I claimed Psa 103:3 and told the Lord I was going to take Him at His Word to heal me. I do not believe in divine healers, but I do believe in divine healing. The bottom line is taking Him at His Word which I did. I know of no reason the promise in Psalm 103:3 has ever been abrogated.

        Then I recalled James 5:14-15 “Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: (15) And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up.” The key principle here is for the sick to call for the leadership of the church to pray over him and anoint him. Again, it is taking God at His Word—faith. I believe prayer and anointing as specified here is similar to believers’ baptism. The water is not efficacious, but a symbol of God’s cleansing. It is the outward testimony of the internal faith. There is nothing efficacious in the olive oil. But like water baptism, it is an external testimony of internal faith.

        So I asked the pastor and deacons to anoint me and pray over me on the platform of the church during an evening service. They did. I believe doing so publicly is pleasing to the Lord just like public baptism is.

        Shortly thereafter, I returned for a second PET scan and the doc was amazed. I told him that I thought the Lord had healed me. He said, “Well, whatever you are doing, keep on doing it.” That was more than two years ago. Recent PET scans have confirmed I am clean of cancer. PTL

        So that’s my story and I am sticking to it.

        Your friend
        David Sorenson

        PS: we are still waiting you piece on Don Nelson. 🙂

      2. I have added your scripture offerings to my growing list of verses that I call my Cancer Journey Treasure Trove. During our year at PBBC, which I now fondly call my suicide mission, friends started giving me verses of scripture for encouragement and comfort. I think the first ones were Sam & Eva Telloyan. I copied all of those verses on 3×5 cards and we would read them aloud over and over as we traveled among the churches on every weekend. I still have those “dog eared” cards and pull them out every year or so. Precious promises.

        Maranatha Village is a praying place. Missionaries love our village because they say they get way more emails, or letters, from MBC than any other supporting church. In just two days I’ve gained way over 100 people in MV telling me they are praying for me. In an upcoming FB post I will introduce my new idea of a PRAYER FORCE. Hopefully, this name can give focus to an even wider spread of prayer dependence in our day of deep and multitudinous needs in our country.

        I just want to glorify the Lord and be submissive to His abiding will. I just pray that I might be given some time to fulfill Ps. 71:18 to some very needy situations in our family.

        I am still planning to do “A Pioneer Youth Pastor” when I can. I’ve started, but just last week his daughter Barbara sent me some new material about his WWII service on the Burma Road.

    1. My dear surgeon friend, Dr. Harold McGinnes, said, “God heals every disease.” He would explain that as a surgeon he was trained and gifted to cut out the offending disease or growth — but then God would do the healing as the body which was fearfully and wonderfully made would begin the regenerative process. Yes, our Lord is the healer of all diseases. Sometimes he uses the surgeon’s knife, in other times he performs His miraculous will in inexplainable ways.

  6. Doris Bishop

    Dear Gerry, Sorry to her of your latest health report. But I know the Lord is watching over you & I pray you will get the right treatment at Mayo. I praise the Lord for having a foot or more of my colon removed & the cancerous growth too, Dec. 29. God is so good as I have had very little pain with it. AMAZING!

    1. Praise the Lord, Doris! You are constantly a source of encouragement and faithfulness to all of us at MV. May the Lord continue to increase your days so that you can continue your ministry of intercession.

  7. Bruce G. Jackson

    I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your Grace Journey newsletters. This one, however, was rather sobering. You are definitely in our prayers. May I say that Marsha and I definitely recognize that you and Connie have had a very special role in our lives. The years that we spent with you in AACS and then at Maranatha were most excellentest!!
    Bruce and Marsha Jackson

    1. Thank you so much. It is sobering, but also challenging. I feel pretty good and have no know symptoms of the cancer. But there is stress in trying to get ready to go into the unknown. We will just let the Lord lead. You two have been a huge blessing to us. Pray that I may be given life and strength to fulfill Ps. 71:18.

  8. Jerry and Marilyn Williams

    ” When my heart is overwhelmed within me, lead me to the Rock that is higher than I.”. Psalm 61:2

    We’re praying that you and Connie will know the security of that Rock beneath you. And that from it’s height your spirits will soar above the appointments and treatments and bills and uncertainties, beholding this new challenge from God’s viewpoint. We know you’ll embrace every opportunity this provides to speak for your sweet Savior. We know that He will be glorified.

    You and your entire family are in our prayers.
    Jerry and Marilyn Williams

    1. Thank you so much. Pray that the Lord will be glorified. We’ve already had the opportunity to give testimony to His strength and power. My verse for the rest of my days is Ps. 71:18. My major request is to be able to fulfill that plead. I’ll add your verse to my growing list of promises.

      Especially dear to me right now are these precious words of our Savior: “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”‭‭ John‬ ‭14‬:‭27

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