Choosing Life When Faced with Death

Nancy Gibson is living out her life without chemotherapy after being diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer; surpasses prognosis on July 1.

By Alyx Arnett
Reprinted from the June 24, 2019 issue of The Kokomo Perspective.

When a local woman was faced with death after being diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer, she chose life. And she did it while opting to go the less-traditional route by forgoing chemotherapy.

In January 2018, Nancy Gibson, 56, was diagnosed with the disease, and it didn’t come as a surprise. The symptoms had been there off and on for years, but she had been taking care of her husband who was sick with cancer and later died in 2015. The symptoms were there as early as 2013, but Gibson said she put her own health on the backburner.

“I’m self-induced colon-cancer, and there were signs along the way I didn’t pay attention to. I was taking care of my husband, and after he passed, you know, you just don’t take care of yourself,” said Gibson.

On Jan. 1 last year, Gibson woke up in the hospital with an ostomy bag after suffering a complete blockage. She had the bag for six weeks before she underwent surgery on Feb. 19, 2018, to reverse the ostomy and remove a foot-and-a-half of her colon. Doctors found two cancerous tumors in her liver and several in her lymph nodes, which classified her cancer as stage 4.

Gibson was told, with chemotherapy, she could live another two to four years. Without it, she could expect another 12 to 18 months.

Having watched her husband undergo chemotherapy for three years to treat melanoma, Gibson said she didn’t want that, never mind the fact that she didn’t have the income to pay for it anymore. She had quit her job as a superintendent at Haynes International to care for her husband years prior and wasn’t working a job that could pay for expensive treatments anymore.

Her husband’s chemotherapy cost $2,600 a month after insurance, she said, and it was hard on him. Most days, he was bedridden, and when he was able to get around, he tired quickly.

When it came time for Gibson to make a decision on whether to undergo chemotherapy, she decided against it.

“When it came time for me, I was like, ‘OK, number one, I don’t have that kind of money now, and number two, I’d rather take part of that money and travel and work out and do the things I love to do when it comes to life because the end game is the end game. You’re going to die.

“Everyone is going to die, so for me, it’s what goes on between here and there because I don’t like being sick. I don’t want to be sick for two for four years. What the heck. I’d rather be like this for 18 months than like that for two to four years,” she said.

Having an expiration date put on her life was eye-opening and forced her to figure out what really was important in life.

Prior to her husband’s diagnosis, work was what was important to her and striving for the next promotion and the next pay raise and more responsibility, like most people, Gibson said. All of that, she realized, wasn’t what life was about. When faced with death, she said she realized she wasn’t living to begin with.

“My cancer is the biggest blessing of my life, and I would not go back and have anything change if it meant that I couldn’t be who I am today.”

Nancy Gibson

“Our whole concept of life and death and what we think of life, to me, is really death. What do we do? We set an alarm. We go to work. We hate the day. We go home. We get up, and we do it all over again. We never really learn to live, and this has forced me to,” she said.

Since her diagnosis, she’s been to San Diego, Boston, Key West, and Chicago. And she’s taken up exercise again, something that once was important to her. Twice a week she works out with a trainer at the Kokomo Family YMCA and takes yoga classes. She also picked up a job that she always daydreamed about doing while working at Haynes: watering flowers in a greenhouse.

Her faith also has become increasingly important, as well as her focus on her health. As lifestyle factors, such as diet and exercise, are known risk factors for developing colon cancer, Gibson has been working to swing the pendulum back the other way after she said she let herself go. One of her late husband’s doctors, who happens to be her own cancer doctor now, had given him a book called “Anti-Cancer: A New Way of Life” by David Servan-Schreiber, MD, PhD, and Gibson has been working to incorporate healthy foods into her diet. Since her diagnosis, she’s lost 70 pounds.

“Before my diagnosis, I drank too much. I ate too much. I had a high-stress, high-pressure job in the plant,” she said. “Unfortunately, I lost track of my health, and I ended up with cancer.”

A Milestone

On July 1, Gibson will hit the 18-month mark, the date she wasn’t predicted to make it past. And the past 18 months, she said, have been some of the best in her life.

“When I made the decision not to pursue chemo, I only had one other choice. That’s my faith, and that’s just trusting and knowing that there is something greater for us, a greater reason for us being here than what I knew going to work and having a job,” Gibson said. “Through this experience, this has been the biggest blessing of my life. My cancer is the biggest blessing of my life, and I would not go back and have anything change if it meant that I couldn’t be who I am today.”

She’s also been on the receiving end of some of the stigma attached to not having chemotherapy. A lot of people, she said, assume she’s giving up.

“What’s really important for anyone that’s out there is for them to know it’s their choice, and you can’t imagine the peer pressure when you say you’re not going to do treatment. People are like, ‘Oh my gosh, you’re not going to fight,’” she said. “Well, I freaking fight every day.”

Gibson thanked her oncologist, Dr. John Salter at Community Howard Regional Health, for his support and not putting “undue pressure” on her. She said he’s given her great suggestions as far as ways to improve her health diet-wise.

Her hope, she said, is that she’s able to continue living her life as she is now for as long as possible and to remind people that no matter how bad their situation seems that there’s always hope.

“I just want everybody to have a good outlook no matter what your circumstances are. You can change your life by changing your thinking. We are in control of so much within ourselves,” she said. “We’re living in a time when there’s so much negativity everywhere that it’s hard to turn away from it, but when you do, man, look out because it’s beautiful.”

Gibson also wished to remind people not to get so caught up in the day-to-day aspects of life so much that they miss out on living it.

The Disease

Excluding skin cancers, colon cancer is the third-most common cancer diagnosed in men and women in the U.S. and also the third-leading cause of cancer-related deaths, according to the American Cancer Society.

The death rate for the disease has been dropping for the past several decades, and part of that is attributed to the availability of screenings for early detection. The five-year survival rate for those with localized colon cancer in which there is no sign the cancer has spread is 90 percent. Those with distant colon cancer, such as Gibson, which has spread to other parts of the body, is 14 percent.

According to the American Cancer Society, people being diagnosed now may have a better outlook than those numbers show, as they’re based on people who were diagnosed and treated at least five years earlier, and the numbers also don’t take into account factors such as age, overall health, and how far the cancer has spread.

Lifestyle risk factors include being overweight or obese, physical inactivity, certain types of diets, smoking, heavy alcohol use, while other risk factors can’t be changed, such as age, family history, and personal history of inflammatory bowel disease.

A Reminder to Remember

I am beginning to identify with Jeremiah, the one called “the weeping prophet.” Not that I consider myself a prophet, but I am one who weeps.  
Each time my fingers tap out the words to send from my heart to yours, this thought runs through my brain, “Maybe I should write something that has a lighter feel.” And each time God whispers to my ear that there are so many people hurting, struggling, wounded, and uncertain about the future. I count myself one of the many.

We truly want to finish well the race that is set before us. But in the spirit of authenticity, sometimes I find my faith teetering on the fence of doubt. 

Perhaps the days of lightheartedness will come soon. I hope so. 

But for now, we are called to-

lock arms 
hold one another up 
offer grace when one stumbles
lift each other up
and take one more step in this heavenly race.


We are to remember that this world truly is not our permanent home (Hebrews 13:14). There is a glorious place waiting for us. But until we stand face to face with Christ in all of His glory, we must remember we are ambassadors of His kingdom (2 Corinthians 5:20-21). We are called to bring what’s up there down here in our day to day lives. We are reflectors of grace, set apart for a greater purpose.

We are called to know Him and the power of His resurrection as well as the fellowship of His suffering (Philippians 3:10). Confession time. We have all seen that crazed football fan. The one who paints his/her face with the team colors and roars with every advancement of the ball down the field then jumps up punching the air with his/her giant sponge hand when the team scores.  That’s me when I hear the first part of this verse, “the power of His resurrection.” YES!!! Go, God! That’s what I want to see, the resurrection power. 

As I reflect on this verse in light of so many who find themselves in life’s hard places, there is a clearer message coming into view. There can be no resurrection power without death first. Wow! I never saw that before. 

Maybe today you are experiencing a death of sorts–the death of a dream, a job, a relationship, health, or expectation. My friend, these are the places where His resurrection power breathes life into dry bones. 

Every victory won was first a battle fought.
Each body cured, was first a disease diagnosed.
All mountain top views were reached by trekking the valley.


This week’s “Hope for the Journey” is less organized in thought than I am comfortable with.  However, it seemed fitting to take a step back and remember some truths about who we are and who we are called to be. Suffering never negates the greater purposes of God or our identity in Him. 
 

Stand strong, dear one. Hold tight to His promises. Live with your eyes wide open to…

His divine peace
His miraculous ways
His overwhelming joy
His unexplainable presence
His extravagant love
His wondrous grace


This is our God!
Remember Him and live in awe.

Until next time, let’s find hope in the journey,
Evelyn

Hi There! My name is Evelyn. I am a lover of all things family, faith and Fall. So grateful that you found your way here. The chaos of life can leave us feeling a bit worn around the edges. Sometimes a little ray of hope is all we need to provide courage for the next step in our journey. So come on in, take a deep breath. My prayer is that in this space, you will be able to grab hold of hope. For more of Evelyn’s columns, see her blog Hope for the Journey.

Something New

In an interview some 50 years after the fact, Paul McCartney related a story about the first time the Beatles recorded an album using “stereo” sound.

“What’s stereo?” McCartney had inquired, having encountered the technology for the first time.  The studio sound engineer explained that in “stereo” recording, music is divided into two channels. “Some of the music comes out of the left side speaker,” Paul was told, “and some comes out of the right side speaker.” 

McCartney’s early-1960s response was a playful, puzzled, “Yeah? Great! Why?”

Although today we can’t imagine sound or video recording that doesn’t offer the depth and texture of multiple tracks, multi-channel sound, and multi-dimension video, one of the last century’s and arguably one of history’s best known musical talents had to start, at some point, hearing about “stereo” for the first time.  It was totally new.

This Beatles vignette was in a chunk of text I actually removed from something else totally new – something I did for the first time over the weekend – which was to preach a message – a sermon – in a small church service.  It was at Allisonville Meadows assisted living center here in Fishers, Ind., and while I loved the “stereo” analogy, I forced myself not to veer so far away from the point I wanted to make.

And my point was… that the most shocking, totally new thing in all human history was Jesus Christ.  He revealed to humanity eternal life, relationship with God, the fatherhood of God, forgiveness of sin, peace in this life, comfort of the Holy Spirit, and the assured knowledge of saving grace, sacrificial love, God’s glory, and ultimate victory over sin giving human life a depth and texture it never previously offered.

That is the truth of the Gospel; that was totally new and totally unexpected.

It’s surprising, really, that despite all the prophecy and Hebrew scriptures about a coming Messiah… everybody missed it.  The greatest experts–the Pharisees and Jewish leaders–utterly and violently denied Jesus when they should have known his voice.  Instead, they wanted to kill him. And did.  They did not know Him.

The opening of John 17 was the text for the message.  Verses 2-6 begin Jesus’s well-known “Priestly Prayer” given on His way to Gethsemane.  After leaving the Last Supper, Jesus prayed for himself, his disciples, and for all believers.  And he prayed aloud–as badly as Jesus needed to pray to God, the disciples needed to hear it. 

Jesus opens by praying for God’s glory, His own glory (meaning His death, resurrection, and return to God), His authority, His work … and the eternal life that will be given to all who believe in Him. That was my core idea: knowing Jesus is “The Right Stuff” (that was the sermon title; I took out the Beatles, left in Chuck Yeager and Neil Armstrong and referenced Tom Wolfe’s 1979 book about aviation adventure) to know God, for God to know us, and for us to have eternal life. 

The disciples–fearing Jesus’s death and likely their own–had no idea about eternal life or what was about to happen just three days later and on into human history.

I can imagine music without the Beatles, but none of us would have a clue–or could possibly have a clue–about eternal life or even new life without Jesus Christ.

That was really and truly something new.

Walters (rlwcom@aol.com) thanks retired ministers Bob Tinsky and John Samples for the opportunity to preach, which to be honest was kind of a bucket list thing for Bob anyway.  How did it go?  Evidently OK … they invited him back next month. For more of Walters’ columns, see commonchristianity.blogspot.com. For his books, see www.lulu.com/spotlight/CommonChristianity.

Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, Onstage!

Runs April 14–May 10, 2020
Indiana Repertory Theatre (140 W. Washington St., Indianapolis)
Adapted by Jessica Swale

Three sisters and their widowed mother lose their family home and must create new lives for themselves in a tiny seaside cottage. Along the way they face kindness and cruelty, duty and deception, as they try to navigate the complex social rules for proper young ladies. What will lead to lasting happiness and true love: practical good sense or following the sensibility of your heart? Sit back and indulge yourself in the wit and wisdom, the beauty and charm of Jane Austen.

Approximate Run Time: 2 hours and 45 minutes, including a 15-minute intermission

Sense and Sensibility is a period romance by Jane Austen. Recommended for patrons 9th grade and above.

“Jane Austen originally published her novels anonymously; today, she is one of the most wildly popular classic authors. Why? Her best books are breathlessly compelling; I find that once I get started, I can’t put them down. Jane Austen writes about the emotional and economic tangles of family and relationships with clear, direct honesty, warm-hearted humor, and gripping storytelling. Our production of Jessica Swale’s stage adaptation of Sense and Sensibility offers a timely and timeless point of view on today’s ongoing struggle to make equal space for women in a man’s world.”

Richard J. Roberts, Resident Dramaturg

Tickets begin at $25. For more information or to order tickets, visit the Indiana Repertory Theatre online!

Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, Onstage!

Runs March 3–29, 2020
Indiana Repertory Theatre (140 W. Washington St., Indianapolis)
Adapted by Ken Ludwig

A luxury train trapped in a snowdrift, a dining car full of glamorous passengers, a dead body with multiple stab wounds, a suspicious intruder who keeps disappearing, and mysterious links to a far-distant murder case. Hercule Poirot, the world’s greatest detective, must interrupt his holiday to solve this fiendishly intricate and clever plot—before the snow is cleared and the train moves on. A golden-age detective story springs to life from the pages of the world’s best-selling author.

Approximate Run Time: 2 hours, including a 15-minute intermission

Murder on the Orient Express is a thrilling Agatha Christie whodunit and contains profanity and onstage violence. Recommended for patrons 9th grade and above.

“After directing Jeffrey Hatcher’s Holmes and Watson last season, it is exciting to come back to IRT and work on a very different kind of mystery play: Ken Ludwig’s adaptation of Agatha Christie’s masterpiece Murder on the Orient Express. It is widely believed that the kidnapping and murder of Charles Lindbergh’s son in 1932 inspired the sub-plot of this 1934 novel. When Christie wrote the book, the killer was still at large. The play begins with a kidnapping reminiscent of the real one, but quickly transports us to Istanbul where we meet 10 delicious characters about to take a journey on the luxurious Orient Express. These complex, eccentric, passionate individuals hail from all over the globe from all walks of life. And they all have secrets! Put them together on a train stranded in a heavy snowstorm, and who can tell what might happen? I can tell you these ingredients make for a highly entertaining evening in the theatre.”

Risa Brainin, Director of Murder on the Orient Express

Tickets begin at $25. For more information or to order tickets, visit the Indiana Repertory Theatre online!

Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Onstage!

Runs November 16December 26, 2019
Indiana Repertory Theatre (140 W. Washington St., Indianapolis)
Adapted by Tom Haas

A delightful ensemble of players brings Scrooge, Tiny Tim, four spirits, and all of Victorian London to life on our snow-covered stage for this holiday treasure infused with music and song. In the darkness of winter, we all need the shining light of forgiveness, redemption, and love. Come celebrate the joy of the season and the spirit of giving.

Approximate Run Time: 1 hour and 30 minutes, with no intermission

A Christmas Carol is an adaptation of Dickens’ classic tale that contains imagery that may frighten young children. Recommended for patrons 4th grade and above.

“I am excited that A Christmas Carol is getting a fresh new look! Linda Pisano’s new costume designs are beautiful and her research and attention to detail lifts this important story in a magical way. We will have some long-time Carol actors and Indy favorites joining us again this holiday season, while inviting some new spirits into the tradition. Additionally, there will be new songs along with our favorite Christmas Carols. All of these new investments of time and love to Carol come from our commitment to keeping the production fresh, accessible and relevant for our community.”

Benjamin Hanna, Associate Artistic Director and Director of A Christmas Carol

Tickets begin at $25. For more information or to buy tickets, visit the Indiana Repertory Theatre online!

Twelve Angry Men, Onstage!

Runs September 429, 2019
Indiana Repertory Theatre (140 W. Washington St., Indianapolis)
By Reginald Rose

A young man’s life hangs in the balance as a trial jury meets behind closed doors to debate his guilt or innocence. Did he kill his father? Or is there reasonable doubt? What is justice, and how do we achieve it? You will be on the edge of your seat as a dozen men with different viewpoints try to agree on one verdict. This classic American drama from the 1950s could have been written yesterday with its provocative look at power, prejudice, and clashing perspectives.

Approximate Run Time: 1 hour and 40 minutes, with no intermission

Twelve Angry Men is a classic American drama that contains profanity and mild violence. Recommended for patrons 9th grade and above.

“The season opens with the classic American 1950s courtroom drama Twelve Angry Men. We select a play of this nature to unite the adult and student populations with a play that holds power for its strong dramatic tension, as well as its heated debates on the efficacy of the American justice system. It will pack a content and a style punch, and we’re excited to open our season with this quintessentially American high-stakes debate play that feels ripped out of today’s headlines.”

Janet Allen, Executive Artistic Director

Tickets begin at $25. For more information or to buy tickets, visit the Indiana Repertory Theatre online!

The Screwtape Letters, Onstage!

4PM | Saturday, November 2, 2019
Clowe’s Memorial Hall, Butler University (4602 Sunset Ave., Indianapolis)

“I have no intention of explaining how the correspondence, which I now offer to the public, fell into my hands.

“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.

“Readers are advised to remember that the devil is a liar. Not everything that Screwtape says should be assumed to be true, even from his own angle.

“There is wishful thinking in Hell as well as on Earth.”

C.S. Lewis, July 5, 1941

This acclaimed and faithful stage adaptation of C.S. Lewis’ satiric masterpiece follows Screwtape, a senior tempter in Hell, as he schemes to capture the soul of an unsuspecting human on earth and reveals spiritual warfare in vivid, humorous, and powerful ways.

Run Time: 90 minutes; no intermission.
Age Recommendation: 13 and older. Children under age 4 not admitted.

This play is produced by the Fellowship for Performing Arts, a Biblical Christian organization founded by Max McLean. Tickets will be onsale soon! For more information, visit the Fellowship for Performing Arts online.

Q&A

What is the Fellowship for Performing Arts?

Founded by award-winning actor Max McLean, FPA is a not-for-profit New York City-based production company producing theatre from a Christian worldview to engage a diverse audience.

Where do you produce your work?

In addition to an annual season in New York City, FPA tours its productions in major cities from coast to coast and internationally.

What plays have you done?

FPA recent productions include the international hit The Screwtape Letters, The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis Onstage: The Most Reluctant Convert, Martin Luther on Trial, Mark’s Gospel, Genesis, Robert Bolt’s A Man for All Seasons, and the first New York revival of the Tony-nominated play Shadowlands.

How do you choose your productions?

FPA carefully selects works from great authors and themes that can articulate the Christian worldview in a way that is imaginative, multi-layered and relatable to audiences from any faith perspective, or none at all.

Truth at Work 2019 Conference

Friday, November 8th | 8AM-1PM
Northview Church (12900 Hazel Dell Parkway, Carmel)

TRANSFORM THE MARKETPLACE

This annual conference cultivates, encourages, and inspires leaders and those who desire to serve the Lord in the marketplace. If you want your work to have eternal significance, even if it means going against cultural norms, come, network with likeminded leaders, and learn from national experts on how to live out your faith so you can impact the marketplace for Christ.

Join thousands of other Christians in business for a powerful one-day event designed to equip and inspire you.

SPEAKERS

WHAT TO EXPECT

A day together that will equip and fortify you through learning how to become a transformational leader. This type of leader affects change in many ways, including:

  • Demonstrating Generosity
  • Building a Championship Culture
  • Creating a Vision
  • Disrupting Industries & Traditions
  • Leading through Service
  • Influencing Society

Don’t miss this opportunity to learn from some of America’s top thought leaders on how to transform your leadership, business, and in turn, society.

Who should attend?

WHO SHOULD ATTEND

Business Owners

Discover best practices, practical resources and a local community to help leverage your company as a platform for Christian ministry

Managers & Executives

Learn practical ways to live out your faith and model Christ-like servant leadership to your team and co-workers

Emerging Leaders

Learn how to build your career on proven biblical principles so your work brings honor and glory to the Lord

Pastors & Church Leaders

Equip, encourage, and empower marketplace leaders in your church to impact their workplace for Christ

For anyone wanting to integrate their faith and work, learn what God’s Word says about the integration of faith and work and how you can begin to do so right where you are.

For more information, see the Truth at Work website. To order tickets, visit the itickets event site.