The 700 Club with Pat Robertson


Beating a Cancer Death Sentence

By Rod Thomas
The 700 Club - Joe Fornear had always been an active, healthy man.

“Anytime I had anything physically wrong with me, I pretty much ignored it ‘cause I thought, you know, I’m going to just tough it through this,” says Joe.

In 2002, while vacationing with his wife Terri, Joe noticed a lump under his arm.

“I thought, ‘well, you know, I’ve had other lumps, little cysts on my body and it’s probably nothing,’” remembers Joe. “And I thought, ‘well, just ignore it at first and see what happens.’” 

Joe’s wife Terri remembers hearing the news. “He was really tired and he told me about this, but I just thought, ‘okay, you just need to go to the doctors.’”

By the time they came home the lump had grown. Joe made an appointment with the family doctor.

Joe remembers the doctor’s words, “He said, ‘whatever it is, it’s not cancer.’  And he said that at two different appointments. So that kinda really put me at ease.  He thought it was a cyst.  And he thought maybe it was an infection or something so he gave me antibiotics and tried different things to try to calm it down or make it go away.” 

The lump kept growing, and Joe’s doctor finally sent him for a sonogram.

“The tech said, ‘this is not a cyst, these are lymph nodes,’” remembers Joe. “At that time it was probably getting close to golf ball size and maybe even a little bit bigger.  Eventually I went in to get the biopsy and the surgeon said that the cancer was two baseball sizes by the time he took one of them away for the biopsy.”

Joe had stage IV, metastatic melanoma, an aggressive cancer, and it was spreading throughout his body.

“It spread to my stomach,” recalls Joe.  “So they had to take a third of my stomach out, and they took some lymph nodes out and part of my omentum.”

Doctors sent Joe to Pittsburgh, where he received high doses of interleukin 2, a very potent form of chemotherapy.

“It is like an immune system booster and it was like brutal,” says Joe.” It turned out that didn’t work and it only grew even more.”

Eventually, the cancer invaded Joe’s kidneys, lungs and pancreas. A doctor told Joe it was only a matter of time before he would lose his battle.  

Joe remembers that conversation. “He said, ‘Mr. Fornear, I don’t know if you know, but you have days to live.’ There was times when late at night I’d be laying in the hospital and I’d be thinking, you know, in the dark, and kind of a dark night of the soul, you know, ‘what’s this going to be like?’ Because I realized I was dying.”

But Terri believed that God would heal Joe.

“I was really fearful, and that is when I feel like the Lord gave me a promise, ‘abide in me, and if I abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and you will get it,’” remembers Terri.  “And that is when I felt the Lord was telling me that Joe was going to be okay.” 

The Fornear’s met oncologist Dr. Barry Levinson.  He told them about an experimental treatment that combined chemo with immunotherapy. It was a long shot, at best. But they were out of options.  

Dr. Levinson explains, “It was a highly toxic regimen and again I was concerned about his ability to tolerate it. He was quite ill at the time, very weak, had lost a lot of weight and I certainly was anxious to get him started on therapy, but also faced it with some trepidation because treatments are very, very difficult to tolerate.”

Despite the dangers, Joe agreed to the treatments.  Meanwhile, the Fornear’s church prayed, believing that God would have the final word.

Terri remembers, “Why does everyone say ‘thy will be done,’ and not the rest of that verse, you know, ‘which is in heaven?’ So I started thinking, what’s in heaven?  Is melanoma in heaven?  Is sickness in heaven? There’s all good things in heaven, so I started just asking for heaven to come to earth. I think that we started getting bolder.”

“After the first round I could feel I had two masses, one above, and one below my collar bone,” remembers Joe. “I could feel those shrink and go away. And after the second round I had some internal shrinkage from a scan I had. They said, ‘you’ve had significant shrinkage on the inside.’ Then after the third round of the chemo, it was totally gone. I had a PET scan and they said, ‘there’s no cancer.’
He told me that what happened to me doesn’t happen and he’s never seen it happen.”

Terri remembers, “That’s the moment I knew and the moment I wanted, the nurses and the doctors to say, ‘this is a miracle,’ and that, ‘this has not happened before.’”

“I’ve found that patients, who are patients who have great faith tend to do better than predicted,” says Dr. Levinson. “We can’t always predetermine who will respond well and who won’t, so that’s something beyond our control.  And then ultimately, you know, God is the ultimate healer, and we put our trust in His hands.”

For eight years, Joe has been cancer free. He is back to enjoying life, knowing that each day is a gift from God.

“This cancer was way bigger than me,” says Joe. “But I found that with God on my side that that changes everything. It’s a game changer having Him and He just showed me how weak I was apart from Him, but how strong I can be in Him.”

“For me, I think cancer was one of those calls on our marriage that I took all expectation off of Joe and put all my expectation on God,” says Terri. “I feel like the love of Christ came out of me ‘cause I had no expectation.”

“There is, indeed, nothing impossible with God,” says Joe. “If he chooses to heal, he can do it in a flash. And I think that has helped me just to trust Him, trust His goodness, trust His power and His ability.”

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