Unexpected Circumstances

Written Tuesday, September 4:

Here I sit once again on a plane writing my thoughts on the experiences that lay behind me and before me. This flight from St. Louis back to NY was delayed nearly one week due to some unexpected circumstances. I have always said that the greatest opportunity to minister comes in difficult circumstances. Well, now I will add unexpected circumstances to that category.

Last Monday, August 27 I arranged to have a check-up with a doctor who is also a close friend. The check-up was for no particular reason than the fact that I recently turned 30. Many people have jokingly said that my body would fall apart at 30. Despite a problematic knee though, I felt (feel) great.

During the examination, the doctor noticed an abnormality that did not cause great alarm but required an ultrasound for follow-up. The ultrasound was relatively quick and non-concerning until the technician asked me to wait while he had the radiologist take a look.

I must interrupt the story to say that at no point in my experience was there any sense of trepidation. I believe that we don’t serve a God of karmic destiny but instead a God who is capable of using everything for His glory.

About 15 minutes later the radiologist came to the waiting room and invited me back. He introduced himself and began to share his appreciation for G2’s work in the Bronx. He had heard me speak the previous day at church as well as in his Sunday School class.

His next question was both unexpected and slightly humorous to me. “Do you know what the greatest thing is that can happen to a Christian brother or sister?”

I paused to answer, not because I didn’t know the answer or even because it startled me, but simply because I was amused that a doctor would begin a conversation in such a manner.

“Death?”

“That’s right!”

(As I write this now, this exchange still gives me a chuckle)

He continued by telling me what he read in the ultrasound. The abnormality that was found was likely testicular cancer and would require an orchiectomy (removal of the testicle). Through the whole conversation he was very reassuring, letting me know that he doesn’t normally talk to patients but thought he owed it to me as my Christian brother.

Returning to my primary care physician, we discussed possibilities and options. It seemed to make the most sense to return to NY and find a urologist.

The next day, my mom and I traveled to St. Louis. My flight back to NY was early Wednesday morning so we decided to go up the day before and spend the night. On the three hour drive from my mom’s house to St. Louis I began to call urologists in NY and even scheduled a couple different appointments. About half way through our journey I received a call from my physician (don’t forget he’s also a good friend). He had been on the phone with a leading urologist at Washington University in St. Louis and thought that I should give him a call. He gave me the urologist’s cell and home phone numbers!

The urologist had a great sense of urgency in treating the cancer. Apparently with this type of cancer, one week can make a difference. He was willing to refer me to a friend of his at Columbia University in NY, but he was also willing to work me into his schedule the next morning. After a few conversations back and forth, I decided to postpone my flight to NY and see him on Wednesday.

From my conversation with the doctor, it did not seem like I would be in surgery until Friday; nevertheless, I decided not to eat or drink anything the rest of the day, just in case.

Throughout this whole story I can point to you numerous moments of God’s sovereignty, providence, provision, mercy, grace and miracles. Getting a check-up for the first time in 15 years, receiving the cell phone number of a leading urologist, being surrounded by very capable friends and individuals who greatly care about my well-being…all signs to me of God’s presence. Nothing though was so blatant and obvious of a love note from God as what would happen next.

On Wednesday morning my mom and I headed to Barnes Jewish Hospital. We pulled into the parking garage sometime after 8 am. I got out of the car and heard someone say, “Andrew?!”

I turned and there stood a long-time family friend, Howard Garrett. He reached down (he is a very tall individual, and I’m well…not) and gave me a big hug. Although unexpected, it was an easy guess why he was there. His wife, Judy, has been fighting cancer for 20 years. She recently had her stomach removed and I was correct in assuming that they had driven from Springfield, MO to see her oncologist. I shared briefly what was going on with me. He said, “I’ll let Judy know.”

As I was signing in at the urology office Howard and Judy walked in. I can’t tell you the significance this moment had for me. I was walked onto the battlefield of cancer by a veteran warrior who has fought with incredible grace and faith. We visited, they prayed for me and Judy hugged me. To me that hug was the arms of God saying, “Andrew, you’re right to have perfect peace.”

From this point, as if they weren’t moving fast enough, things started moving pretty quick. I saw my urologist. He confirmed that I would need an orchiectomy. He said, if I was willing, he would have one of his fellows perform the surgery that afternoon. By 3 pm (about 48 hours after first being diagnosed) I was in surgery. I was kept overnight and the next morning they performed some scans. I was discharged Thursday by about 1 pm.

Up to this point I haven’t mentioned Proof. She was with me through the whole journey! If I had expected to be going to surgery, I would have had my sister dog-sit. Instead, Proof was with my mom and I in the hospital. In her typical fashion she even helped me out–I was upgraded to a private room due to her presence.

So what’s ahead? Honestly, I don’t know, but that is fine–that is part of this adventure. My labs and scans indicate that the cancer has spread to a couple of lymph nodes in my abdomen. It is highly likely that I will need chemotherapy and possibly another surgery down the road. For now, I am on my way back to the Bronx. I will be under the care of a urologist and oncologist in NYC who will determine the course of treatment.

So what is God teaching me? There are three things I have been repeating.

1. There is no reason this should be me and no reason this shouldn’t be me. The search for reasons inevitably leads us down a path where God is not in control or where God doesn’t love. Neither could be further from the truth. God didn’t cause this, sin didn’t cause this. I’m not even giving Satan the credit for causing this–no weapon formed against me shall prosper. That means Satan is powerless.
Weapons made to attack you won’t be successful; words spoken against you won’t hurt at all. (ISAIAH 54:17 CEV)

2. I didn’t choose this road and I can’t choose the road ahead, all I can do is choose how I walk it.

3. I will walk it in a way that glorifies God. I realize that I probably have hundreds of people praying for healing. I thank God for that! My prayer though is that God will use these circumstances to glorify Him. Use them to expand his kingdom–both in the Bronx and to any one God places in my path. Use these circumstances so that I can explore and reside in new depths in my relationship with Christ.

Some verses that are carrying new significance for me:
I honestly expect and hope I will never do anything to be ashamed of. Whether I live or die, I always want to be as brave as I am now and bring honor to Christ. If I live, it will be for Christ, and if I die, I will gain even more. (PHILIPPIANS 1:20-21 CEV)

Above all else, you must live in a way that brings honor to the good news about Christ. Then, whether I visit you or not, I will hear that all of you think alike. I will know that you are working together and are struggling side by side to get others to believe the good news. Be brave when you face your enemies. Your courage will show them that they are going to be destroyed, and it will show you that you will be saved. God will make all of this happen, and he has blessed you. Not only do you have faith in Christ, but you suffer for him. (PHILIPPIANS 1:27-29 CEV)

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4 NIV)

God bless.
Andrew Mann

14 Responses

  1. Sylvia Thornton
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    Andrew, Wow….I never dreamed I would open this up to read this story. Just like you never dreamed your visit to the doctor would lead you down this road in such a short time. Already such an incredible story in a short time. Praying for you and whatever lies ahead.
    Sylvia 🙂

  2. Allison Sonnier
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    Andrew,

    I love seeing how when faced with a situation like yours that God is still in control and that He is providing you His perfect peace! I’ve often wondered what my faith will look like in a “unplanned, unexpected” situation! Your testimony speaks louder than you will ever know! I will be praying for you, with you, and along with your other Christian brothers and sisters! Please let us know if any of us from FBC Moss Bluff can do anything more!

    Allison

  3. kim stinson
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    Andrew,
    I was thinking, I was going to see all the updates from the summer.. but instead was blown away and starting praying! as you know, God has His hand on you! We are prayer warriors with you and praying for you and all the people you have influence on at G2.

    Gary and Kim Gardner Stinson
    Franklin, TN

  4. Jewell Hyde
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    Andrew, be assured of our prayers for you at this time.

  5. Jesse Gray
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    Andrew, you know that your church family at FBC @PB is praying for you, your mom and proof in all of this. If you ever need us you know that we will always be there for you. Keep looking up.

  6. Carolyn Wright
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    Andrew, I am praying for you. The fact that you got in for surgery so quickly is amazing. God is so good to walk with us through everything and to provide who and what we need. I talked to your mom Sunday as I care and the only thing I had been able to find out was that you had cancer. After talking to your mom and reading your own words, I understand and will continue to pray for you. I’ve known Judy Garrett since elementary school and am so glad you got to spend some time with her and Howard. It helps so much to talk to someone who has already had the journey.

  7. Gail McCoy
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    Andrew, this past summer was Phillip and myself’s first opportunity to minister with you at Graffiti2. Wow! What a blessing and how it changed my life. Graffiti2 is on daily prayers. Thank you for how you touched us. I am praying for you. For complete healing, as we are human, and that you will be so filled with His presence as you travel this journey. May God give your fresh courage and opportunies for Him. To God be the glory!
    Gail /Calvary Baptist Church Dothan, Al

  8. Ginger Simmons LeQuieu
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    After walking with our sweet friend Sarah Jarboe White in her 4 year battle with cancer, I am of course sadden to hear your news from my family. However, I am blessed my your post/words mroe than you know. My prayers are with you and your family.
    Ginger Simmons LeQuieu

  9. Judy Cox
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    Andrew, you have always been very special to me as is your whole family. My heart is so full after reading your post because we care about you and because Eugene and I have been where you are and got to experience God’s presence up close and personal too. He sat with us, held our hands, answered questions for us, made decisions for us when we did not know what to ask or how to answer and made us feel like his loving arms were wrapped around us all the time. It was truly incredible. Sometimes I would almost feel guilty that I wasn’t more afraid or upset. He really does give you that peace that passes all understanding. Not for one minute did we feel alone We will continue to pray for you and your family.

  10. John and Ann Mary
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    All the famuily were shocked to hear the news of your illness, surgery and treatments.
    Just know that we are all praying for your healing and a quick return to your wonderful ministry. We always enjoy reading the updates of this work that you and Proof do for the Lord!

    Love from all the Gilberts

  11. Sheldon Tyler
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    Andrew, first of all, I am so excited about your walk with God. 2nd 10 years ago this year (actually, almost 10 years to the date) I had a prostatectomy. Earlier in the year Dr. Caldwell found my PSA was high. He thought there was no way a 40 year old had prostate cancer. The Lord had already let me know I had, so I was not surprised. If I had waited until now (the recommended age) I would have probably had to have gone thru quite a bit more. 10 years later I am still cancer free. Praise God.

    I’ll fill you in on other things (seizures) I have gone thru this year, later. But I am still encoencouraged. Praying for your & stay blessed.

  12. Bj emmons
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    Andrew I do not know u bur have heard alot about u..this post is very moving and it’s amazing the courage that u have. I pray for your recovery daily.

  13. Belinda
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    Andrew, I wanted to write something encouraging here for you to read but after reading your testimony and the amazing ways God has already worked in your circumstance all I can say is God is good! Thank you for sharing your story and encouraging us to trust God in everything. You are an amazing young man and God will use you through all this to witness for Him and glorify Him. Please know we love you and are praying for you always! The Winters/Aden Families

  14. Nina Bramon
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    Andrew, our hear goes out to you, but at the same time we are amazed that your faith is so strong and you are honoring God to the utmost by your witness and letting others know how God chooses to work in our lives, as we are faithful to honor him, Bless you and your wonderful work in your area. and the ones who join in this work. and for the prayer support you receive and the great friendships you have made. We love you and will be prayihg for your health and be waiting to see how God will continue to work :Love. Gerald and Nina Bramon.x

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