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PERSONAL TESTIMONY

Bettye A. Fugger

In 1986 I was diagnosed with STAGE FOUR ovarian cancer.  As I am sure you know, the prognosis was very dismal; and the oncologist and surgeon circled my bed with long faces and pronouncements of doom.  But when asked by the oncologist how I was dealing with the eminence of my death, I could only respond, “For me to live is Christ; to die is gain.”  (Phil. 1:21)  I had not planned that answer; it did not even require a lot of thought.  It just came out.  It was and is the only real truth of my life, and it is that truth that I want to share with you today.

In early January, 1986, I put Ed, aboard a plane bound for Cairo, Egypt (he was doing a project with World Vision); and then drove myself to the doctor’s office for my annual pelvic exam; I expected no problems.  I was tired, very tired; but that was nothing new.  Dr. Rice had delivered our youngest child eighteen years before and had also been a good friend.  He was concerned; the right ovary could not be found; there seemed to be a pelvic mass.  I needed immediate ultra sound of my abdomen.  Now, having worked the first twelve years of our married lives as an RN, I knew all the possibilities that lay before me; but I had also learned to trust the Lord over the next thirteen, and I refused to loose a night’s sleep over a “what if”.  The next morning, with bladder bursting, I reported to the radiology office for the ultra sound. The technician who did the scan maintained the customary silent reserve and assured me the radiologist would call the results to my physician.  As I was leaving the office, however, one of the radiologists (someone I had known years before he said - I did not remember him) came after me to tell me that my doctor, Dr. Rice, had been admitted to the hospital himself that very morning with an abdominal aneurism  He would be unavailable to treat me.  The radiologist  would contact another very good physician if that was all right with me.  With an almost apologetic look, he added that I would need immediate treatment.   Another doctor?  Well, sure.... I  remember feeling that every thing around me was rather surreal as I walked to the car and began to slowly drive up the hill that lay before me.  And then, I began to talk to our most loving Father and Savior.  “So, this is how it is to be, Lord.  I had not envisioned it like this; I had planned on just being zapped into your presence maybe in the middle of an old fashioned praise song.”  A wave of sorrow then gripped me with such intensity that I was forced to park the car at the curb.  I briefly closed my eyes and then looked up through the bare branches  of the tree I had parked beneath.  It was not the starkness of the tree that caught my eye but rather the brightness of the SON; and I said, “though you slay me, Father; yet will I praise you. (Job 13:15)  Soul, you will magnify the Lord. Thank you, Holy Spirit,  for continually putting words of praise in my mouth and thoughts of thanksgiving in my heart.  And I could use a song right now”.   Instantly, Mary’s song came to mind and I sang these words all the way home: “ My soul doth magnify the Lord, my soul doth magnify the Lord and my spirit shall rejoice in Christ my savior.  For He who is mighty has done great things and holy is His name.” (Luke 1:46-49)

Much to my surprise I received a call that very afternoon from a surgeon’s office.  I did not know him and had never heard of him.  That was all right; God was in control.  In fact, the surgeon himself spoke to me when I refused to let his receptionist  set an immediate date for the surgery.  No, I would not allow fear to rush me into this; I would wait for Ed’s return from Egypt.  After all, Ed had been planning and praying about this trip for over a year.  If God had approved and provided for the trip, it should be completed.  A call from me with this news would only bring him home prematurely.  I could wait and would wait totally surrounded in our Savior’s love.  If I had learned anything in our thirteen years of spirit-filled walk with the Lord, it was that the strongest point of agreement known in the spirit world is that agreement forged between a husband, wife, and Jesus. (Gen. 2:23-24 and Ecc. 4:12)

The ten day postponement was viewed as anything but good by the surgeon; so, I agreed to an office visit and found myself smiling across the desk into the face of a much younger man.  Yes, I could see the Father’s hand already at work in my behalf. A younger man meant newer technology - steadier hands.  I had to force my mind to concentrate on what he was saying -“I’ll do the best I can do”, “time is of the essence”, “nothing short of a miracle”..... Was I expecting a miracle?  Well, maybe I was. The Lord  had certainly performed them before; and He is no respecter of persons.(Acts 10:34) I left the office with a  return appointment scheduled for the day after Ed’s return from Egypt.

My course was set; and now, it was a matter of walking out the next ten days with the Lord.  We, Jesus and I,  had done this before over many different matters.  It meant keeping the Word, my Bible, open on an almost constant basis because, you see, the only way I have found to drive those nagging stray thoughts away is by the power of the Word.  The power of the very presence of Jesus (John 1:1-5)  I kept my own council during this period because at this point there was no need in heaping  crushing cares on children, family, or friends who would share them all too soon.  I simply spent the next ten days reviewing much as King David did (Psalms 105) the mighty past accomplishments of God in our lives.  He is a sovereign but loving covenant keeping God!  Ed and I had spent thirteen of our twenty three years of marriage studying and learning, experiencing and teaching about His wonderful covenant provisions for our lives; and as we had gone  about our daily living, we had more than ample opportunity to “taste and see” (Psalms 34:7-8) that His ways were indeed higher and better than our own. (Isaiah 55:8-9)  We had seen Him miraculously bring order to  our household, our finances, and our personal lives. We had experienced His divine health and his healing power. I found rest in all I remembered, and Ed was home before I knew it.  Ed’s welcome home dinner became a lively affair as he shared his experiences in Egypt, and I truly hated to serve up my news along with the dessert.  But when I did at last tell him of the impending surgery, he listened intently; and then, quietly began to pray.  Yes, it was an old familiar prayer; I don’t remember anything unusual about it. There were no thunderings from heaven, no rapt visions... only the absolute assurance that one more time we would be going through a very difficult situation together with our Lord.

Following the radical pelvic surgery, I was launched on a course of chemo treatments; one  a month for the next ten months.  They were long (12 hours - involving 24 hours of hospitalization) and difficult leaving me violently sick to my stomach and without the strength to even stand for a good week following each treatment.  Even then, my strength was slow to return,  and I would just begin to be feeling better when it was time for another chemo treatment.  During those periods, I found myself on hands and knees crawling from room to room and reciting from Psalms 18 “by my God I can crush a troop and by my God I can leap over a wall.”  (Psalms 18:29)  It was the only way I found to keep household together - family life must continue.  My mother was eight hours away and had her own spiritual battles to fight.  I was in her prayers and the prayers of many others  - that would be enough.  It was amazing, however; no one seemed to understand the debilitating effect of  the chemo.  Friends would report on others who had fifteen minutes of chemo in the doctor’s office and skip off to manage five small children or tame the savage corporate world. I started to feel a little whimpy, maybe I was giving in to myself too much.  But that was Cream of  Wheat all over the ceiling and the cabinets the other day when I had passed out in the kitchen while preparing breakfast.  I would continue to rest in the Lord and read His word.  - All day every day if necessary.  I guess the real event that caused me to let go of most close contact with friends was the day I received a get well card from a dear friend who told me if I would just repent, I would be healed.  She meant well, but the cut was deep.  Although I am no ax murderer, I had already actually tried to lay all the sins of pride, omission and commission before the Lord. “Well, here I am again, Lord.  What have I overlooked?  Help me!”  Like a soft refreshing breeze two scriptures came to mind.  One is found in Ecc. 9:11, “Time and circumstances happen to all men.”  It seemed that the Lord was putting all this in perspective.  This time in my life; this awful experience was just that -  a period in my life, like all the other periods.  It was another opportunity to bring glory to His name as I walked through it. The next scripture that came to mind was John 9:1-3,  when Jesus told his disciples “It is not whether this man or his parents have sinned.  This is for the glory of God.”    Well, be glorified, oh Lord!  I truly wanted Him to be glorified; and it was to that end that I purposely concentrated all my further efforts.

No matter what my daily plan was, most of my daylight hours over the next months were spent snugly dozing on the den couch.  My Bible was usually at my finger tips because I was always trying to finish the verses I had begun to read early in the morning.  My intentions were good, but sleep would often over take me before I could read more than two or three verses.  I would wake with the intent of meditating on the verses I had read only to realize that I could not remember what they were.  I would start again and ask the Holy Spirit to help me yet another time.   On one such day, the Lord spoke to me very plainly.  “It is time for a treatment.”  Oh, no, Lord.  I just had one last week.  You are mistaken.  Just the thought of a treatment at this point brought on waves of nausea,  and I was sure that I had not heard correctly.  Maybe I had not heard at all.  But again the Lord said, “It is time for a treatment.  Not a chemo treatment, but My treatment.”  Your treatment, Lord?  What do you mean?  “Do you remember the molten sea described in I Kings”?  Well, yes,  Lord .  “I want you to find the passages of scripture that refer to that molten sea.  Read them and visualize it carefully.”  Yes, I was certain I had heard Him.  I sat bolt upright on the couch and began to search the scripture until I came upon the passage in I Kings 7:23-26.   There the molten sea is described in great detail, and I began to visualize the massive lily shaped bath as it was supported on the backs of twelve oxen.  The artist in me rose to the occasion as I pictured the fine detail of the carving and the immenseness of the bowl; and as I rested in those thoughts, I became aware of   a crimson stream that flowed into the bowl.  My mind’s eye sought the source, and I found Jesus!  Endless riverlets of blood ran from His wounded brow and body into the molten sea; and He said.  “I was wounded for your transgressions; I was bruised for your iniquities; the chastisement of your peace was upon me; and by my stripes you are healed”.  (Isaiah 53: 4-5)  “Get into the pool”.  What, Lord?  “Get into the pool;  let my blood permeate your body; visualize it washing  every cell in your body  - every cell in every tissue in every organ in every system of your body.  This is my treatment; take one daily; take one as often as you like.   Know that it is I in you and you in me.  Just as the Father and I are one, so am I one with you.  (John 17)  As you wash in this manner the Holy Spirit will be at work to quicken your mortal body even as he did my own on resurrection morning.” (Romans 8:10-11)   Needless to say, I followed our Lord’s clear instructions; I  had oh, so many questions, but I tucked them all away  and simply climbed in.  My mind cried for explanations but my spirit knew this called for a definite act of faith. (Heb 11:6)  From that day forward, I washed in this manner several times a day.  Unlike the chemo treatment,  the Lord’s treatment always brought a refreshing and rested feeling.

On the medical front,  the reports seemed positive, but the oncologist was sure there was no reason to get our hopes up.  The treatments continued with brutal precision and on occasion threatened to throw me into an anemic state.  (I had already determined that I would have no blood transfusions.  I did not want to add aids to my list of physical woes.)  On each occasion when my blood count dipped past the allowed level, I simply stepped back into the precious fount of our Savior’s blood for a transfusion.   Talk about baffling the physicians!  My count would rebound in a matter of days.

Spring rolled into summer.  Our son had graduated from high school and our daughter was home from college.  The thought of a summer with the whole family together was wonderful to me.  The Lord had really been preparing me for this time with the children.  It was time to speak to them of eternal things again.  Not that they hadn’t learned their lessons well, but when your mother is being treated for ovarian cancer that is really up close and personal.  The Lord had told me that if we really believed in eternal life then we (all of us) should be able to begin rejoicing at the prospect of my going to be with Him.  Well, that was a shocker, because I thought all that had been settled.  I was healed.  Right?  Lord?  The  thought came: “No questions, just obey.  Tell them that when they went to school for the first time you were filled with mixed emotions.  You were sad because they were growing up and leaving you little by little; but at the same time you were happy for them because you knew they would be learning new things and growing into very special people.  Tell them that at each new step of  their lives you learned to rejoice with them and to let them experience it on their own.  It has meant that you have physically been with them less; in fact, when they both leave for college in the fall, you will not be with them at all.  You will know where they are and that they are having wonderful new experiences.  Tell them that it is easy for you to do this only because you have left them in My care.  Remind them that I am always faithful to keep those things and people that have been committed into my care. (2Timothy 1:12)   Now remind them that if  they truly believe in eternal life, they must do the same with you.  Remind them that when you die they must commit you into My care and know that although they no longer are physically with you that your life is continuing in another place where you are still growing and learning.  They are to rejoice with you in that accomplishment.”  It was a sweet time in the Lord; but, of course, the children said that they  knew all those things.  Then, why had I even bothered to share them?  Oh, yes, a little matter of obedience.  (1Sam. 15:22)  You told me to do it, Lord.

It was a whirl wind summer; Ed had business in Los Angels,  and we all went with him.  Not that we could really afford it, but it might be our last vacation together.  Was that a little doubt creeping in?  No, the children were simply growing older and would be away on their own.  It was a good thing to do; we would go to Disney Land.  Better late in life than never.   How could all this be worked in between treatments?  Well, that was simple; my blood count dipped to an all time low; they would postpone the chemo for one week and see what would happen.  It was perfect.  We had a week together and my blood count did a rebound that put Magic Johnson to shame.

We were hardly back in Texas 24 hours before  Ed was talking about moving to Virginia for the job opportunity of a life time - one we had been praying about for literally years.  Should we leave my oncologist and the support system we had in Texas?  Could we afford to loose the hospitalization I currently had?  After all,  in September we would have two children in college.  Well, Ed and I talked it over just about the way I have written it; and in as much time,  we determined that this opportunity was an answer to a long prayed prayer. What God had called us to do, he would also make provision for. (Phil. 4:19) We left for Virginia the end of August.  One week after arriving in Virginia, I had my next chemo treatment.  The oncologist was nice; more open to my talking about the Lord.  The chemo treatments were the same, but my physical response seemed to be even more severe.  I did not know if I could take the last treatment.  Well, while I was struggling with those thoughts, Ed was struggling with the hospital bill.  It seemed that 24 hours in a Fairfax, Virginia hospital was twice the cost of 24 hours in Tyler, Texas.  Hello?  Did we miss you, Lord?

I couldn’t concentrate on the finances and wage my battle at the same time; so, I left Ed and the bills in the Lord’s tender care and continued daily before the throne of grace.  Should I take the last chemo treatment? Could I take the last treatment?   As I sat in the three room apartment (I could not take care of more) that we had leased just two minutes from Ed’s lab, I heard the Lord speak once again.  “Do you remember Naaman?” (2Kings 5) Yes, Lord.  “Do you think he would have been healed had he only dipped six times in the Jordan River instead of the seven ordered by the prophet?” Well, Lord, I have never given it any thought.   “Well, think about it.”   One week later I took the tenth chemo treatment.  My mother came to be with me; and honestly, it was the easiest one I had.  

Now the physicians clamored for a second look surgery.  It was necessary they claimed; how else could they know how to continue the treatment.  I was content to stop all treatment and rest in the Lord.  I had followed the prescribed course, and now I would stand. (Eph. 6:10-18)  And besides, the two chemo treatments in Virginia had been so costly without insurance, what would a surgery in Virginia cost?  It was mind boggling.  The physicians insisted, but I did not agree until the Lord said, “Go show yourself to the priests.” (Matt. 8:1-4)  Of course! It was necessary for all lepers who had recovered to show themselves to the temple priests that the healing might be verified.  I must have the second look surgery!  Three weeks later,  the Fairfax hospital system changed medical insurance.  All pre-existing illnesses would be covered by the new insurance beginning on January 1.  Not just covering 80% of the cost but 100%.  Wow!  What a mighty God we serve.

I had the second look surgery on January third, 1987.  The physician wrote on the chart following the surgery: There is no evidence of cancer through observation, biopsy, or abdominal washing.

Have I had any difficulties since?  The answer is no. About a year after the second look surgery I received a call from the oncologist’s office saying the CA125 that had been drawn the week before was 2,000.  Just before the call came I had been watching a dove that had built a nest just outside our window.  The nest was balanced between two independent branches and seemed to be in a very precarious position in the best of weather.  This particular day the wind was blowing quite furiously; and as I marveled at the calm of the little dove sitting upon the rocking nest, the phone rang.  It was the nurse in the oncologist’s office with the CA125 report.  My CA125 had been running 6-8, so 2,000 was way out of the past year’s norm.  Instantly, a sick feeling gripped my heart; and I could hardly catch my breath, but just as quickly, the Lord whispered in my spirit.  “It is just the wind.”  My eyes sought the little dove and there she sat so quietly, so securely with the wind tossing everything about her.  Yes, it was just the wind. (Matt 14:28-33) I agreed to present myself for another blood draw in the morning.  I can honestly say that I was able to rest in the Lord for the next week while I waited for the new results - no nagging fears.  When the nurse did call with the results of the second test, she was full of apologies.  There must have been a lab mistake.  The CA125 was once again 6.

Dearest Reader, I have written all of this because I truly understand how you may be feeling physically; I know how heavy your spirit may be feeling.  But I also know that there is rest in God’s word (Psalms 119:11) and that He is altogether faithful to perform His word in your life. (1Peter 4:19) As I am sure you know, it makes no difference where you read. (2Tim. 3:16)  He (Jesus) can speak to you from any passage of scripture; and although He used all of the 18th Psalm a great deal with me,  you will (and may have  already) find your own passages that will minister peace and instruction to you.     

Never forget that you are greatly prized and loved by the Lord; and He has heard your cry.

In His love,
Bettye Fugger

 


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Smith Mountain Lake Virginia