'God was not surprised'
Steve Jones’ workday had not gone well.
He was worried enough about his difficulty assembling thoughts and sometimes-jumbled speech during a conference meeting that he’d let his wife Christy drive the family’s Dodge Durango for gas when he got home.
Steve never made it to the MRI scan scheduled for mid-week.
“As we were driving, I told Christy they gave me a flu shot Monday when I went to the doctor about my symptoms but I couldn’t say ‘flu shot,’ ” he recalls. “It took me five times to say it. At that point, one side of my face drooped, and I had lost feeling in my face and tongue.”
Later that night, tests at the Kernersville Medical Center confirmed bleeding on the brain and, after transfer to Forsyth Hospital and more tests, the cause was clear: a golf ball-sized tumor on the left side of Steve’s brain.
However, the surgery Feb. 25 that removed about 30 percent of the growth was only the beginning of a long ordeal whose impact hit the hardest as he prepared to begin radiation and chemotherapy.
“The doctor essentially said I had a 50-50 chance of being alive in two years,” Steve says. “That was a punch in the gut that took us to our knees. I honestly and truly felt like it was a death sentence. My thoughts immediately went to my family and who would take care of them.”
But it was at that time that God used Tim Gerber, executive pastor for children and ministries, to remind Steve of one very important truth: God’s sovereignty over all.
“The most important thing that has gotten me through were the words Mr. Tim shared with me early on: God was not surprised, and He knew this was going to happen,” Jones says. “He didn’t wake up one day and say what is going to happen to Steve. He knew. Those words were powerful.”
Two weeks ago, the same doctor had much different news this time for Steve after another scan. After the 30-day radiation and chemotherapy regimen he’d begun March 17 on Christy’s birthday, the tumor and all cancer cells were gone.
For the next several months, Steve will continue to take five chemo pills to start each month and have an MRI scan every three months to make sure the cancer has not returned.
“The doctors have told me that the prognosis is good and that if I get to 5 years with no recurrence of symptoms there’s less than a 10 percent chance the cancer will return,” he says.
As tough as the treatment has been and its aftermath — an extreme fatigue, Steve explains, that “sucks the life out of our body,” he adds that the illness also has brought countless blessings.
He wasn’t even out of the hospital before co-workers and church members and people he’d met across the U.S. were either praying or planning meals. On June 18, a benefit yard sale held in his honor raised more than six times what Christy hoped would pay one medical bill.
“We have been blessed beyond anything we could ever imagined,” Steve says of the sentiment behind a hashtag the family now uses often on social media: #blessedbeyondmeasure.
“I’ve seen a lot of stuff and people in the radiation treatment room who can’t walk in and out like I’ve been able to. I know I have so much to be thankful for.”
The ordeal has brought Steve and Christy even closer. They’ve further ramped up their devotion time together, going through a calendar from her mother. One early devotional scripture was Philippians 4:6: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
Steve says the experience also has made him even more perceptive of others’ needs. Drawing on their experience, he and Christy now are encouraging a lung cancer patient as she goes through treatment.
Finally, the man who has served as deacon, leader of Upward football, and helped build several Awana grand prix championship cars, led high schoolers in Sunday School and middle schoolers as a small group leader has learned to relinquish control.
And his daughter, Ashlee, and son, Justin, have seen it all and had their own faith and family tested and strengthened as never before.
“I have always had control of my life,” Steve says. “I compartmentalize a lot of stuff, and when I need to, I know I can go get that box off the shelf — the deacon box, I’m a deacon and here’s what I need to do to be deacon. Time to do Upward football? I get the Upward football box. But with my cancer, God says, ‘That is not how I want it anymore. You need to trust in me for direction and guidance.’
“My boxes are all messed up now,” Steve says, smiling. “It’s just one big box and it’s God’s.”