Incurable Cancer and God’s Goodness

If you ask my dear friend Pat Magness what’s getting her through a nearly three-year journey with incurable cancer–and remission from it–she will tell you: God’s goodness and Lee’s encouragement.

Both God and husband Lee were in Pat’s life long before the sobering diagnosis, but her love for each has grown much deeper.

Pat and Lee, college sweethearts and retired college professors, have been avid travelers for all their 57 years of marriage–visiting about 50 countries.

But their cancer journey has been the most difficult they’ve ever faced.

“I was diagnosed in July 2021, but I had terrible back pain for months,” Pat recalls, “so I knew something was really wrong.”

An MRI finally revealed the problem: two spinal fractures.

She was directed immediately to another hospital for emergency  surgery to stabilize her back and avoid any paralysis. Meanwhile, Lee was admitted to a different hospital with a “scary” cellulitis (bacterial skin infection)!

Pat’s extensive blood work and bone marrow biopsy revealed the culprit was multiple myeloma: a blood cancer that develops in bone marrow plasma cells.

With two short rods implanted in her spine, Pat left the hospital in a fitted back brace she wore for three months.

When both were released from their hospitals, they spent the next month with younger son Ethan and his family, who live in the same town.

“We had been independent, traveling the world and all of a sudden we couldn’t even take care of ourselves in our own home,” Pat explains.

Chemo began shortly and the cancer responded almost immediately. Soon doctors were discussing a stem cell transplant, even though at 74 Pat normally would be considered “too old.”

Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center decided Pat was a good candidate for the procedure, designed to restore the body’s ability to produce new blood cells after treatment with the very high chemo doses.

A transplant is an ordeal lasting several weeks and includes constant monitoring and high risk of infection. Pat and Lee stayed at a nearby apartment and every day Lee insisted they walk back and forth to the center.

“It got really tough,” Pat remembers. “I would say ‘I don’t think I can do that’ and Lee would encourage me to try. We walked every day for six weeks and there was only one time he had to drive me.

“I credit Lee with saving my life,” she continues. “He made the beds, did the cooking and the driving–everything for me.”

Celebrating 2nd transplant anniversary

Follow-ups tests show the cancer to be in complete remission and Pat continues on a bi-monthly “maintenance” treatment. She admits it gets tiring to be “constantly confronting your own mortality–you can’t pretend there’s nothing wrong.”

But in those discouraging moments, Pat recalls the hope promised in Romans 15:13:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him,
so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

When I asked what got her through the toughest times, Pat says it was “songs in the night” (Job 35:10)

A former church pianist, she “began to hear worship music, especially at night–it was so unusual.”

“No anxiety,  I just felt gratitude for life and for treatment,” she adds. “The song I heard most was ‘Goodness of God’.

“When you enter the cancer world, it helps to have things to live for and I just had so many things.”

Grandchildren’s high school and college graduations.  A new ministry praying for cancer patients. International traveling again. And last month accompanying us on our Mississippi riverboat cruise to belatedly celebrate our 50th anniversary.

Yes, the goodness of God.

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Open in your browser to hear Pat’s favorite song in the night–“Goodness of God” with CeCe Winans.

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