By Susan LeDoux
We all encounter those unwanted bends in the road. Cancer is one of them. It strikes terror in the bravest among us, and whatever the outcome, changes our lives forever.
Three cancer survivors from Crossroads Christian Church in Elma, New York, Pastor Pat Kleitz, Tammy Castellana, and Michelle Becker, decided the church must respond more effectively to help people with cancer, and cancer victims need information to make informed decisions about their treatment and future. The statistics (cancer will affect 75% of American families, as well as one in two men and one out of three women) told them communities, and churches, need help dealing with cancer.
Kleitz fought cancer three times — first when he was 30, later in his early 60’s, and an aggressive form of bladder cancer a year later. He viewed an informative video about cancer at a conference, but was told because of copyright laws he could not use it at his church.
“Man,” he said later to Castellana and Becker, “let’s just do our own.”
They centered their professionally produced, video study for small groups on seven issues they knew from experience people faced:
- Everyone Knows Someone
- Why Me?
- Living Life by Statistics
- Treatment Options
- How Do I Help?
They presented the video as a church-wide study, welcoming suggestions and impressions from the participants.
“When we went through this with our church, there was fear in that room,” Becker recalled. “You say cancer, people sweat. Pastor told us people fear cancer more than anything else. Of people questioned, 41% feared cancer, 31% Alzheimer’s, and 8% heart disease, which kills most people.”
According to Kleitz, there is nothing like their video, and accompanying workbook, titled “Life’s Bend in the Road.”
“Go online and look for a small group (study) on cancer and you will not find anything. There’s books…but no small group material.”
Thanks to Pastor Kleitz, Castellana, and Becker, there is now, and you can find it at http://www.bendintheroad.net/. Each video runs about 25 minutes, with the three of them walking through the material. Periodically the video stops for people to answer questions in their workbook and interact with each other. (Watch the trailers dealing with the topics listed above at the website.)
“As a pastor, I’ve done every evangelistic campaign there is in the world. This is the best, because it’s right where people are. They’re fearful. They don’t know what to expect. Cancer’s taken over their lives. It defines who they are, their day, their time…how people talk to them.” He said when someone hits this bend in the road it is a perfect time to be there to present the Gospel. He never experienced a cancer patient refusing prayer.
Even though a pastor, Kleitz struggled to understand why. When asked if he had become discouraged after three bouts of cancer, he replied he did not know if “discouraged” was the right word. “Probably more like ‘why me?’ I serve the Lord. What’s the deal here?”
He said, “Cancer takes you right down to the bottom where all you look at is God. You don’t have anything else. There’s no other place to go. No other place to turn. You just give Him everything.”
Tammy Castellana spoke of her faith in Jesus during her illness. Her first bout with cancer involved tumors in the stomach she had surgically removed twice. Later, she developed the beginning stages of uterine cancer.
“The first time I walked down the road, I didn’t have my faith. I went to church on Christmas and Easter. I believed in God but had no relationship with Him. I had no church family, no hope. The second time around, it was just so different. It’s so true when you think you’re about to die, I can’t imagine anybody not pulling over to the side of the road and having a conversation with God.”
Castellana speaks of another important conversation, that of getting a second opinion. She believes if she’d done so, she would not have needed the second abdominal surgery to remove what the first surgery had missed.
Research, though important, can be terrifying. When the doctors diagnosed Michelle Becker with melanoma, they told her she had about nine months to live, a 2% chance of survival. She fought through treatments that left her half-dead, but handed the frightening research to Castellana. Doing research for each other, accompanying each other to doctor visits shows how important it is to share your cancer journey with a friend or family member.
Through research, they discovered ways to fight cancer beyond the traditional chemo, surgery, and radiation treatments. Specific changes in diet, exercising, drinking water to flush toxins out of the body, avoiding toxins in the environment and your food, etc. enhanced their chances for a positive outcome. Kleitz believes his diet prevented hair loss from chemo.
Like many cancer survivors, Becker affirms, “Cancer is the best thing that happened to me because my relationship with Jesus went through the roof.”
She tells of sitting in the exam room, anxiously awaiting her physician’s dire prognosis, when she recalled a painting of Jesus she had admired at a friend’s home. “It was as if Jesus was speaking to me from the painting; He was right there.”
By the time the doctor entered, her terror had changed to joy. “Don’t you give me that look like I’m dying, because I’m not dying…Whatever you have to say, I’m not going anywhere. I’m telling you right now, God’s with me and I’m not going anywhere.”
Since some people may be cured in the next life, Becker, now in remission, said, “Some people don’t make it out, and I get that. But if they’ve got God, they’re making it out and they’re going to win. Somewhere along this path, you will see that because of what happened to that person, people around them were saved. It’s a win-win, and I see it now,”
For more info visit at http://www.bendintheroad.net/.