Health Update – Biopsy Results

Health Updates

familypicAs many of you know, it’s been a crazy few weeks for my family and I. On Friday October 23rd we learned from an MRI that I had a large tumor in my brain. On Monday November 2nd, I had surgery to get a biopsy of the tumor and excise as much of it as possible. Since then I have been recovering from the surgery and waiting for the biopsy results.

My family and I have also been overwhelmed by love. It is impossible for me to describe the outpouring we’ve received. Aside from being so diligently prayed for by so many people I don’t even know, from all around the world…aside from dozens of people descending on our house before the surgery to fix things, clean things, set stuff up for me to be out of commission…aside from the jaw-dropping generosity of people contributing money to pay for our expenses…aside from helping with and loving on our kids…aside from the practical time-intensive help…there is just more, and more, and more.

Never in my life have I felt so loved and cared for by God and the people around me. Some of you have heard me say thanks and some of you haven’t…I know there are so many of you that I don’t even know to thank, but you have served me. Please know that not only am I grateful for my sake, but I am grateful to see how God has worked in so many of your hearts. I did nothing to earn or deserve any of this love, yet here you are sacrificing to give it. To me this is evidence of God at work in you, which to me is the greatest thing. Please know He is also at work in my heart, and my family’s. 

Because I know so many of you care and are praying, I want to share what we’ve learned so you can be aware, and pray if you are doing that for me. 

My surgery went as well or better than we could have hoped.

The surgery’s primary goal was to excise enough of the tumor to get an accurate biopsy, to learn exactly what kind of tumor I have. The tumor was large and in some complicated spaces, which meant the surgery would definitely not be able to remove the entire tumor. The surgery also carried with it the risk of me losing some motor control and possibly a stroke. By God’s grace my surgeon, Dr. Tse, and his team, did a fantastic job. He excised 75% of the tumor, which was more than anybody expected. I experienced no motor control loss, no permanent brain damage, no stroke. My wounds from the surgery have been healing cleanly, and there have been no real complications.

Brain surgery recovery is no picnic; my sleep schedule is erratic, I can’t drive, I am tired and weak…those sorts of things. But the recovery is progressing the way it should. The worst experience I’m having recovering from the surgery is some pretty severe leg/knee pain, but when you compare that with what could be, that is pretty great stuff.

We have the biopsy/pathology results and know what kind of tumor I have.

I have Grade 2 Olingodendroglioma, which is a type of brain cancer. As with every health condition there are so many variables, so if you Google that you will end up with more questions than answers. But for my particular situation, you should know that Grade 2 is very good news. Based on the tumor’s appearance and behavior up to this point, doctors were worried it could have been a much, much more aggressive type of cancer. Of course the best kind of brain cancer is no brain cancer, but praise God the pathology results were much better than they could have been.

My next step is deciding on a treatment plan and going from there.

As I recover from surgery I will be consulting with my team of doctors to decide on a treatment plan to fight the cancer. Surgery recovery is likely to keep me off work on Doctor’s orders into early/mid December. It is overall going the way it should, though, so I hope I can transition back to working soon.

I am more convinced than ever at God’s goodness and faithfulness toward me, and toward you.

I am not lying when I say that through all of this that I have been met by God in ways that I never have. Those of you reading what I’ve been writing have gotten a glimpse into that. I am not excited about having brain cancer. But as has been so clear, this week especially if you look at the news – this world is a broken place. There is horrific suffering everywhere. What my family and I are facing with this cancer is one more piece of evidence that our world is broken. This is all entirely consistent with what we see in God’s Word, and the truths of the Gospel. 

What the Gospel says is that even though our world is broken, it will not be so forever. Even though I am a sinful man who deserves the wrath and judgment of God, because of Jesus I receive God’s love and grace, and adoption into His family as a son and heir. God owes me nothing but wrath for my rebellion, but instead He has given me life. This same offer is true for everyone: we are all broken sinners who can receive the unconditional love of God by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, not our efforts. In these last weeks He has surrounded me with people lavishing my family and I with all kinds of love. But more than that, He has given me more of Himself.

I hope to be able to flesh more of that out as time goes on. But for now I want to end this by sharing a couple of big ideas God has been working into my heart, that I hope He will work into you.

One thing I know many people have been praying and hoping for me is a “miracle,” by which they mean I am completely healed and the tumor disappears, never to return. I think that would be pretty awesome, and I believe God could do that. I will be praying He does. But I do not believe my greatest need is health or an extension of life. My greatest need is God Himself. The greatest possible purpose of my life is to glorify God – to help others see how good He is.

sufferingbookIn the last couple weeks I read through Timothy Keller’s amazing book, “Walking With God Through Pain and Suffering.” (You should read it; it is the most comprehensive, Biblical, Gospel-drenched book on evil and suffering I have read and it is outstanding.) I want to share a couple quotes from that book that have encouraged me, and I hope will not just encourage you but help you think differently about suffering overall, and God Himself.

The first quote is in the context of the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who you may know from the Old Testament. They were three guys who refused to stop worshiping God, so they were thrown into the furnace to be burned up. Before going into the furnace, they basically said “We believe God CAN rescue, us, and we believe God WILL rescue us, but even if He doesn’t, He is God and we will worship Him.” This mindset/approach to suffering is so different than our natural one – here’s the quote that explains part of how it’s different – I think it explains the mindset/approach God is growing in my heart through the current uncertainty in front of us. I hope you are encouraged by it, because I am:

The answer is that their confidence was actually in God, not in their limited understanding of what they thought he would do. They had inner assurance that God would rescue them. However, they were not so arrogant as to be sure they were “reading God right.” They knew that God was under no obligation to operate according to their limited wisdom. In other words, their confidence was in God himself, not in some agenda that they wanted God to promote. They trusted in God, and that included trust that he knew better than they what should happen. So they were essentially saying this: “Even if our God does not rescue us— and that is right— we will serve him and not you. We will serve him whether he conforms to our wisdom or not. We do not defy you because we think we are going to live— we defy you because our God is God.” 

I often hear people say, “If God is going to bless us, we must believe fervently without any doubts that God will bless us. We must claim our blessing with full assurance that we will get it.” But we don’t see that here, nor do we see that attitude in other places in the Bible. Think of all the greatest servants, from Abraham to Joseph to David to Jesus himself, who often prayed and did not get the answer they sought. If we say, “I know you will answer this prayer, God. You can’t not answer it”— then our confidence is not really in God’s wisdom but in our own. As a pastor, I have heard countless people say, “I trusted God, and I prayed so hard for X, but he never gave it to me. He let me down!” But to be more precise, their deepest faith and hope was actually set on an agenda they had devised for their lives, and God was just a means they were deploying to get to that end. At best, they were trusting in God-plus-my-plan-for-my-life. But these three men trusted in God period. 

The “I just know he will rescue us” kind of approach may seem confident on the surface, but underneath, it is filled with anxiety and insecurity. We are scared that maybe he won’t answer the prayer for deliverance. But Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego really believed “all the way down” to God. So they were not nervous at all. They were already spiritually fireproofed. They were ready for deliverance or death— either way, they knew God would be glorified and they would be with him. They knew God would deliver them from death or through death. Their greatest joy was to honor God, not to use God to get what they wanted in life. And as a result, they were fearless. Nothing could overthrow them.

By God’s grace, that fearlessness over what comes next, and that joyful submission to what God decides to do, is how I currently feel. I feel great freedom and joy. Feelings change, of course. But I have this confident faith in God in a way that I haven’t. I ask for your prayers, for Janelle and I – that God would strengthen our faith as we enter into the real furnace of battling the cancer.

The cornerstone of that faith is Jesus. He is why we can have this confidence that God is for us. Here is the second quote from Keller’s book that provides a Gospel perspective on our suffering:

But preeminently, it means to see with the eyes of your heart how Jesus plunged into the fire for you when he went to the cross. This is what you need to know so you will trust him, stick with him, and thus turn into purer gold in the heat. If you remember with grateful amazement that Jesus was thrown into the ultimate furnace for you, you can begin to sense him in your smaller furnaces with you. This means remembering the gospel. He was thrown into the ultimate fire, the fire that we deserve. And that is how we are saved: If we believe in him, then none of that wrath comes to us.  

What if, however, you believe that God saves only those who live a very good life? If that is your belief when suffering hits, you are going to hate either God or yourself. Either you will say, “I lived a good enough life. I deserve better. God has done me wrong.” Or you will say, “Oh, I must have failed to live as I should. I am a loser.” Either way, you go into despair. A heart, then, forgetting the gospel, will be torn between anger and guilt. If you go into the furnace without the gospel, it will not be possible to find God in there. You will be sure he has done terrible wrong or you have and you will feel all alone. Going into the fire without the gospel is the most dangerous thing anyone can do. You will be mad at God, or mad at yourself, or mad at both. But if you say to yourself when you get thrown into the furnace, “This is my furnace. I am not being punished for my sins, because Jesus was thrown into that ultimate fire for me. And so if he went through that greatest fire steadfastly for me, I can go through this smaller furnace steadfastly for him. And I also know it means that if I trust in him, this furnace will only make me better.”

I am so grateful for the truth of the Gospel. My most fervent prayer and hope is that you would be able to see and experience Jesus too! May all of us be able to see through our brokenness and the world’s brokenness, the greatness, graciousness, goodness, and glory of God. One day He will set all things right. One day all the sad things will come untrue. One day we will be able to look back at all the pain in the world and see that somehow God redeems it to make what comes next even more glorious. And yet, while we wait, He is with us. Who is like our God?

46 comments… add one
  • Lynette Link Reply Avatar

    Wow, Glory to GOD!! What a wonderful testimony and to Him be all Glory, Honor and Praise. I am so encouraged by not only your words but by the road ahead. Knowing that YOU trust and love Him so much is comforting to me because I know He will give you that “peace that surpassess all understanding.” Phil 4:7
    Blessed to be a part of your life and will continue to pray and help whenever you need.

    In Christ alone,
    Lynette

    • Jackson Link Reply Jackson

      Thank you Lynette. You are awesome. You have been such a blessing to us for a long time, and now in this season still, even more. Thanks for showing me and my family the sacrificial love you do.

  • I’m relieved to hear it’s Grade 2 Olingodendroglioma… I mean it sucks it wasn’t like, “Oh… did you swallow a Nerf Ball when you were young, ’cause here it is!”.
    Your testimony and public declarations of faith and love to the Creator leads me to question how I would react to such a season… I am impressed… humbled, really.

    • Jackson Link Reply Jackson

      Thanks Daniel. I am being humbled too. Through much of this I am seeing that my own selfishness and sinfulness are and have been so much bigger than I was realizing – and yet STILL in all this God is giving me proof after proof that He loves me, He is giving my soul comfort and joy, He is reminding me that the Gospel is true, He is giving me the faith to believe it…I am being carried, completely. All the way down, God proves to be faithful and good and gracious. He is making that so clear I can’t do anything but trust Him.

  • Laura Link Reply Avatar

    Im praising God with you and for you Jackson- He is already being glorified through your suffering as we continue to be in awe of your faithful response and witness God’s faithfulness to you and your family! Thank you for sharing this personal journey with us- I will continue to pray for steadfast hope, comfort, provision & healing… And above all, more of Jesus for you and everyone your story reaches! In Christ, Laura

    • Jackson Link Reply Jackson

      Thank you Laura! What joy we can have because the gospel is true!

  • Joe Link Reply Avatar

    Youv’e taken the Fear out of Fearful and replaced it with God. Now we are Full of God! Cant wait to Hug you Man!

    • Jackson Link Reply Jackson

      Thanks Joe! Hope to see you soon bro!

  • Susan Link Reply Avatar

    So thankful Jackson that the results were as positive as they are you will be continually in our prayers both you and your lovely family I know from experience that you will know God in a way through this experience that you would never have known him otherwise

    • Jackson Link Reply Jackson

      Thank you Susan. You are so right – I have never felt, experienced, or believed God’s love and presence in my life like I have recently. Thank you for your prayers.

  • Ben Link Reply Avatar

    Hey Jackson, thanks for keeping your eyes on the Maker. I will continue to worship him and more earnestly seek him thanks to who you are. Thanks for the reminder of God’s goodness. Always good to be reminded. My prayers for you and your family will continue. Love you brother.

    • Jackson Link Reply Jackson

      Thanks Ben, I love you too!

  • Your Faith is truly a inspiration to me. God is our ROCK and The Only True ROCK. God Bless you and your family. My prayers are with you. In Blessings

    • Jackson Link Reply Jackson

      Yes, Catherine, He is! You got it! Thank you for your prayers!

  • iMel Link Reply Avatar

    God be the glory through you and family, Jackson. Thank God for your heart & soul. I’m grateful to be part of our community. Your testimony is so powerful and clearly displaying that The Spirit is at work. God has blessed & inspired many through you. Continue praying for you, Janelle, and the girls.

    • Jackson Link Reply Jackson

      Thanks Imelda! God has encouraged me through you this year too as I’ve seen you pursue Him.

  • Good news on your condition my brother in Christ. He is working in amazing ways in your life and situation. Your message of true faith and trust in God armed with the Gospel is enlightening. Even in your battle you are enpowering others to draw closer in understanding to our Lord and Father. He is being glorified through your struggles Jackson. Our prayer warrior partners will continue to lift you, your family and your situation up to God. Miracle can & do happen. Love in Christ.

    • Jackson Link Reply Jackson

      Thanks David! You are Maribelle have been such a blessing and encouragement during this time. Thank you for the ways you are loving us.

  • Sue Van Vliet Link Reply Avatar

    Jackson – you are such an incredible man of God! Such inspiration. I’ve done medical transcription for 30+ years, most recently for a cancer center. I had some thoughts as to what you might be facing, but I’m not a soctor. You really did have an incredible outcome considering what it could have been. Sounds like you have an incredible team! I type reports for all types of cancer all day….stage II, especially slow growing is great news (of course no cancer would have been welcomed). I see so many patients fully in remission for years or cured – and I’m talking older patients not in good shape to start. I pray for them all. I truly believe you will get through this. God is sure using you to touch many people, me included. How sad it must be for people to go through cancer or any illness without God or the love and support of family ‘ not to mention an entire church! Thank you for your courage and faith!

    • Jackson Link Reply Jackson

      Thanks Sue! I am blown away by God’s love and patience with me. As you mention, I’ve really been struck by how hard it must be for people who deal with difficult news/suffering who don’t have the love and support of family/church family, or the awareness that God is in control and loves them…it is such God’s grace to me that I have all these things. And my prayer and hope is that more people will be able to experience the bad stuff of life in the context of a relationship with God and others, which is part of the privilege we have as Christians, to reach out to others with that love.

  • Karen Alvey Link Reply Avatar

    Thank you for sharing this update. Your words, attitude, and perspective are an inspiration to me! I will continue to pray for you, your family, and your doctors as you recover and make treatment decisions.

  • Elizabeth Seward Link Reply Avatar

    Jackson, I am one of those people who you don’t know up in Oregon, but a sister in the Lord. I praise our Lord with you of your peace, your love for our Lord and proclaiming it is all about HIM and giving HIM glory!!! Our Lord is so using you even in the first of this journey. Thank you for being that vessel where others can see your deep intimate relationship with your savior. I pray the Holy Spirit will engulf your family and home and HE will minister to your spirit through this walk. Thank you for touching my heart this night. Your family will be lifted before our precious Lord at 6:00 in the a.m. Bless you son of HIS:)
    Liz Seward
    Milwaukie, Oregon

    • Jackson Link Reply Jackson

      Thank you so much Elizabeth. How cool to experience being a part of the Body of Christ this way. Thank you for your love and prayers, sister!

  • Bernie Link Reply Avatar

    You walk the talk and I am so blessed by your testimony. It is very inspiring and I do not see cancer, I see an amazing person like you whom God is so pleased. I see so much faith, love and peace. I am so humbled by this. To God be the glory!

    • Jackson Link Reply Jackson

      Thank you Bernie. You and I both know that God is the source of my faith, love, and peace. He is so good! Thanks for your encouragement and prayers!

  • Beth Hanson Link Reply Avatar

    Hallelujah. God is so good. It is a lesson in faith for us to pray with you and to accept our Saviors plan and purpose. Thanks for the written sermon. You have a gift of ministering and God continues to use your heart soul and mind. Blessings and continued prayers. ♡♡♡

  • Jackson Link Reply Avatar

    Thank you all for the encouragement and prayers, and for reading! I hope God will continue to encourage you the way He is encouraging me.

  • KSS Link Reply Avatar

    Try Frankincense essential oil ( Jesus got it as a gift when He was born .)
    Use a diffuser . OK to get both from Amazon.com
    From Classical Chinese Medicine, IT can diffuses thro’ blood brain barriers and promote ” Blood ” circulation.
    Will pray for you !

  • Paul Link Reply Avatar

    Continuing to pray for you, your family and your church family as you journey through this season. Thanks for the update and the encouragement

    • Jackson Link Reply Avatar

      Thank you very much, Paul.

  • Hi Jackson –

    You are in our prayers. We love you and your church family. Dave Dravecky, former pitcher for the SF Giants once told me: “Most Christians in America pray that God would take the trial, disease, or pain away, whereas Christians in China pray that God would give them strong backs to sustain them during the trial.”

    The EFCA West is pulling for you and praying for you, Dave Page

    I began to pray for a strong back.

    • Jackson Link Reply Avatar

      Thank you for taking the time to reach out and pray for me, Dave, and for doing so with the people around you in EFCA. Although I am an A’s fan, I was also encouraged by the quote from a Giant. 🙂

  • Annie Link Reply Avatar

    I had the pleasure of meeting and teaching Belle at TCCBC for AWANA. She was such an amazing child and I knew she must have amazing parents. Your testimony is proving my belief. I am so humbled by your testimony. To find God in this and to rejoice in knowing you have not as bad cancer just brings me to tears. My tears are from my heart being touched by you being a man of God and being able to use this most difficult time to proclaim who He is. We recently studied Daniel in BSF and he proclaimed God in all that he did and gave Him the glory when he exited the den. To the point where the King could no longer ignore Daniel’s God. I already see through your sharing how you are being a Daniel for God. You are raising up your Lord Jesus Christ as your savior even in the time of difficulty. Thank you Jackson for your faith! Thank you that God is using you so you can continue your ministry even as you are suffering. I hope to meet you one day to thank you in person for being able to glorify God even at your toughest time. I pray for your family that they will find strength in Him so they can support and love you. I pray that those around your family will experience His grace and mercy so they can envelope your family with love and support.

    • Jackson Link Reply Jackson

      Annie, thank you so much for your encouraging words, and for teaching Belle! She loved her time at Awana.

  • Len Wshlery Link Reply Avatar

    Jackson: I’m another friend that you don’t know. I felt a strong connection to you through your testimony. Being a fellow man of God I’m humbled by your depth & understanding. God bless you & your family. You remain in my thoughts & prayers.

    Len Wahlert
    Aliso Viejo, CA

  • Lisa Bradley Link Reply Avatar

    Hi Jackson, I do not know you but I’m so excited for you and your family, Your story of courage, thankfulness is beyond words. Paray in numbers is exceptional I will keep you in my prayers and your family too. Remember the greatest of all this is LOVE LOVE LOVE. Have a wonderful week and a blessed Thanksgiving. Sincerly, Laura’s momma Lisa

  • Norma Macias Link Reply Avatar

    I am continuing to pray for you and your family through all of this. You are truly an inspiration and your faith is so strong. I pray that if and when I go through “a furnace” that I will have the same strength and faith as you do. I don’t know what people do that don’t have Jesus in their lives. I am so thankful that He is there for anyone who seeks Him. He will never leave or forsake us!! Love to you and your family.

    • Jackson Link Reply Jackson

      Thank you Norma. I am glad that it is not the strength of my faith that determines if God sticks with me or will take care of me, but it is who God is. That I can have joy and be confident in God right now is testimony to how awesome He is. My faith itself is His grace to me too, it’s not my strength of character. God is so gracious to us!

  • Diane Gryseels Link Reply Avatar

    Praise God for His revelations in the midst of all this! He is so faithful. Continued prayers for all of you.

  • Eileen Link Reply Avatar

    Praise Lord that you are turning your eyes on our Lord for His kingdom, not ask for completely recovery or extention of our life, it is possible if our God will. May His will fulfill on you and you will be His witness as describled in book of Hebrew 12:1. Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off evryting that hinders…..

    Psalm 16
    1 Preserve me, O God: for in thee do I put my trust.

    2 O my soul, thou hast said unto the Lord, Thou art my Lord: my goodness extendeth not to thee;

    3 But to the saints that are in the earth, and to the excellent, in whom is all my delight.

    4 Their sorrows shall be multiplied that hasten after another god: their drink offerings of blood will I not offer, nor take up their names into my lips.

    5 The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: thou maintainest my lot.

    6 The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage.

    7 I will bless the Lord, who hath given me counsel: my reins also instruct me in the night seasons.

    8 I have set the Lord always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.

    9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope.

    10 For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.

    11 Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.

    this is one bible scriptures that I like it every much and want to share with you.

    God Bless you and your family. He is our peace!

  • Cynthia Y Link Reply Avatar

    Jackson,

    You don’t know me, but my friend from Resonate told me about your situation. I can relate to your blog, as I’ve been learning deep lessons regarding suffering due to illness. The Lord led me to write this poem. You’re the first one I’m sharing it with.

    For His Glory, Cynthia

    Jeweled rains of GRACE fall in steady prismatic sheets
    Abundance! Abundance! Abundance! They sing!
    More pure than any manmade thing
    Made of heavenly substance unseen
    But real enough
    To help one survive
    When the going gets tough
    And you think you may die.
    But in the midst of death
    Can one THRIVE?

    According to the weather report
    Of abundant jeweled rain today and forevermore

    The answer is. . .

    Yes.

    • Jackson Link Reply Jackson

      Cynthia, what a beautiful poem. Thank you for sharing!

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