At age 37 Chris Lawrence looked to be the picture of a happy, healthy life. He had a loving wife and a beautiful 6-month-old daughter. He led outdoor adventures for a large Christian ministry and spent his free time enjoying strenuous activities like rock climbing, whitewater rafting, downhill skiing, backpacking, long distance running and mountain climbing.
But then came the searing back pain and eventually an MRI, which in the spring of 2016 revealed bile duct cancer spread to his liver, ribs, back and pelvis.
“I had been running triathlons and doing well, only to find out my health was bankrupt,” Chris told me in our recent phone conversation.
He and his wife Elizabeth met with three oncologists and each physician issued the same dire message: stage 4…incurable…no hope any treatment will help…maybe a year or so to live.
“One doctor said ‘we’ll put a metal rod in your back to help with the pain, but you’re pretty much going to die’,” he recalls. “It was the most depressing, worst thing ever.”
The first oncologist was near Chris’s Colorado Springs home and the next two were in South Dakota, where he had relocated so his parents could help care for his family. It was there in his hometown of Sioux Falls, Chris decided to make an appointment at Avera Cancer Institute–expecting to hear the same depressing news.
After getting blood work for “genomic sequencing” to identify the unique DNA fingerprint of Chris’s cancer, the couple and his parents met with oncologist #4, researcher Dr. Brian Leyland-Jones, Chief Medical Officer of the National Foundation for Cancer Research.
“We received the results of your genomic sequencing and in short, it’s good,” said the British doc with white wispy hair . “I know how to treat this.”
Chris’s reaction was “Wait…what??? He knows how to treat this? Of course, he made no promises, but it felt like hope walked into the room.”
His elated father scribbled “HOPE” across a nearby white board, signaling its arrival for the devastated family.
After a couple months of a multi-drug experimental treatment guided by the genomic testing, scans showed all the tumors were dying. More than a year later, Chris was declared in complete remission, where he miraculously has remained for seven years, even resuming his former athletic lifestyle.
Chris always will remember the moment when medical hope walked in the door, but he is clear that he already had deep spiritual hope. In fact, his favorite verse is Psalm 71:14 “But as for me, I always will have hope.”
“I still was terrified about dying and leaving my wife and daughter,” he says. “It was incredibly difficult and there were no guarantees, but I had this hope God somehow would take care of my family.“
Unbeknownst to Chris, shortly after scrawling “HOPE” on that board, his dad also reserved the website address https://www.hopehasarrived.com
And in 2018 Chris founded Hope Has Arrived, a nonprofit dedicated to helping cancer survivors and their families through hope-filled stories, practical resources and prayer. To date they have assisted more than 3 million people.
“Our mission is to help you find hope, strength and peace against cancer,” explains Chris, who serves as the unpaid executive director, along with a team of volunteers.
“When your life is threatened and you’re in the pit, you realize just how vital hope is,” Chris says. “And for me, I found that it was the key to facing cancer.
“That’s what I want for other people facing cancer: to find hope—to find hope like I have.”
I pray the God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in Him.
Then you will overflow will confident hope though the power of the Holy Spirit.–Romans 15:13
Contact Chris at https://www.facebook.com/hopehasarrived or https://www.hopehasarrived.com And here’s the link to his newly published devotional, Called to the Wild, a 40-day journey of biblical reflections on faith, perseverance and surrender… written from one adventurer to another https://www.seaharp.com/calledtothewild
Open in your browser to hear “Hope in Front of Me” by Danny Gokey.