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God used everything, and I mean everything, for my good and his glory. God used each appointment and procedure, the billing and the bandages, every experience related to my cancer, even the collateral damage.
- How Cancer Cured Me
Like most people, when diagnosed with cancer, David only wanted physical healing. God had bigger plans and used David’s cancer experience to heal many areas of brokenness in his life. By the time of his first cancer-free report, two years later, his life had been radically transformed.
In How Cancer Cured Me, David Gira, seasoned pastor and cancer survivor, shares fifteen ways God used his cancer experience, with all its challenges, to heal his life including ultimately providing physical healing. The topics range from becoming more courageous to finding his get-up-and-go. David also writes about the ways God used the cancer journey to positively impact his most important relationships.
With refreshing honesty and humor, David tells his cancer story, shares inspiring stories of other cancer patients, and reflects on relevant Scripture.
High Praise for
How Cancer Cured Me
David Gira wants rightly to live but he knows that requires an account of what it means to live right. To live right requires honest candor. That is what he has given us in this book. Pain is here but then also is laughter. You can give this book to others.
- Stanley Hauerwas, Gilbert T. Rowe Professor Emeritus of Divinity and Law, Duke Divinity School
I am thankful that David wrote this book. David trusts God and his readers, sharing his story with transparency, humility, clarity and strength. I commend to you this healing conversation about fear and courage, doubt and faith, dread and delight - universal human experiences binding us to one another and to God.
- Bishop Hope Morgan Ward, North Carolina Conference
United Methodist Church
David Gira shows how to be sick like a Christian. Only David’s robust, vibrant Christian faith explains how his cancer was transformed into an experience of learning, transformation, and even healing. This book will expand your notions of what it means to be healed and will show you how to endure even the most painful and trying times like a Christian.
-Will Willimon, United Methodist Bishop, retired, Professor of the Practice of Christian Ministry, author of Who Lynched Willie Earle? Preaching to Confront Racism.
What happens when you have given your life to healing others, and now it’s you who need healing? Pastor Gira provides us with very personal, honest, and often humorous insights into living with cancer as a patient and as a survivor. With the support of his loving family, friends and church community, David uses his faith to transform his doubts and fears into courage, strength and joy. This beautifully written book has life lessons for us all.
-Jeffrey Crawford MD, Duke Cancer Institute
“Pastor Gira vividly illustrates how an unexpected and terrifying cancer diagnosis becomes a personal refiner’s fire and catalyst for developing Christ-like attributes. His journey highlights how basic gospel principles such as faith, hope, grace, and forgiveness can help anybody endure and overcome the universal trials of life.”
- Dr. Christopher R. Kelsey, M.D.
Radiation Oncologist, Duke Cancer Clinic
David Gira has written one of the most honest and inspiring books about himself, his marriage, and his ministry I've ever read. I rank it with Kate Bowler's EVERYTHING HAPPENS FOR A REASON and Paul Kalanithi's WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR for its moving first-person narration of dealing with a life-threatening illness, and it also stands with Rick Lischer's STATIONS OF THE HEART written by a father about his son's powerful, faithful facing of his death by cancer. Having known David and his parents as their pastor, then watching David grow into a highly effective and beloved pastor himself over the past 20 years, it gives me confidence that God is still very much at work in calling and equipping new leaders for Christ's church.
- Rev. Dr. Charles Michael Smith
Former Pastor, District Superintendent, Director Connectional Ministries in the NCCUMC (=43 years of ministry), followed by 4 years as Pastor/Church Leader-in-Residence at Duke Divinity School
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When doctors diagnosed David with Stage 4 Lung Cancer, all he wanted was physical healing. Nothing less and nothing more. David soon discovered God had bigger plans. By the time David received his cancer-free report two years later, God had healed much more than his body. God had healed his whole life!
Click here for the complete Inspiration for How Cancer Cured Me
The Inspiration for How Cancer Cured Me
Upon my diagnosis with stage four lung cancer on September 1, 2017, I started journaling regularly, usually every day. I had always loved to write, and I had journaled off and on throughout my life. My mother encouraged me, knowing my writing would help me deal with my cancer, and might be helpful to others at some point.
In my journal entries, I wrote about the Scripture I read in my daily devotional time, my prayerful reflections, as I tried to process and connect the realities of cancer with my life and faith. In those holy moments, the Lord ministered to me. I experienced divine comfort, strength, wisdom, guidance, and more.
After a few months of journaling, I read all I had written. The physical healing that I had already experienced was phenomenal. My tumor was less than half the original size. But what amazed me more were all the other ways God had been healing me. I had become more courageous, faithful, strong, etc. God had delivered my marriage from on the rocks to a solid rock and then a mountain top. All things were working together for good.
I discerned a thread running through all my journal entries, a theme - God using cancer to cure me. All these wonderful transformations had happened within the context of cancer. In that moment, God gave me a mission to write this book and a vision for it. Each chapter would be devoted to one of the aspects of my healing. The Book would be a helpful and hopeful resource.
As both a pastor and a cancer patient, I felt uniquely positioned and qualified to write this book and a responsibility to do so. I could blend my firsthand account of my cancer and faith with my Biblical and theological training and ministry experiences. I had seen the impact cancer has on people and their families, including members of my own family. During the process of writing, I discovered a calling to help cancer patients connect with Christ
On July 9, 2019, doctors told me I was cancer free. I was writing the last couple chapters at the time. I thank God for my physical healing, whether my cancer is cured or controlled. This book remains focused on life between diagnosis and being cancer free. It is about how God can use cancer to cure each of us.
Excerpt from Chapter One - "Courage"
With the diagnosis of cancer and each following step, I encountered new fears. It’s like the creepy cancer bus pulled up to my front door, and all kinds of fears unloaded into my life. The fear of death and FOMO were just the beginning. After that, came scanxiety, the fear of the scan results. What are they going to find? And the fear that the cancer has suddenly spread everywhere. It could be in my liver, spine, brain... Then came the fear of biopsies, results, and treatments. Can my type of cancer be treated effectively? Is there medication? What kind? Will I need radiation? Surgery? There was the fear of insurance companies. Will my required treatment and medication be approved? I feared not being able to get the drugs I needed more than the side effects. I feared the hospital billing departments and running out of money. I feared how disruptive cancer would be to my life and my family. How will this impact my kids’ schoolwork? I feared I would lose my job. Will the church want a pastor with cancer? The fears kept coming.
Honestly, I struggled with a lot of fears before cancer. We’ll call them my pre-existing fears: the fear of failure, the fear of not being good enough, the fear of being rejected, the fear of criticism, the fear of asking for help. I felt ill-equipped to deal with a whole new busload of fears.
Each year, our family enjoys watching A Charlie Brown Christmas. In one scene of the movie, Lucy attempts to diagnose what’s wrong with Charlie Brown. She hypothesizes that he might have a phobia and runs through a long list of possibilities, including the fear of responsibility and the fear of cats. She names and defines them all, but none seem to be Charlie’s issue.
Exasperated, Lucy says, “Do you think you have pantophobia?“
“What’s pantophobia?” Charlie replies.
“The fear of everything.”
“That’s it!” Charlie says.
Between my old fears and my new cancer fears, I was starting to feel like Charlie, afraid of everything. I felt like I was drowning in my fears; they were getting the best of me. Good grief!
Excerpt from Chapter Seven - "Faith"
I felt like Peter being called by Jesus to step out of the boat and onto the stormy sea to walk with Jesus on the water. If I kept my eyes on Jesus, I could walk on water. I could handle cancer. But like Peter, the stormy waters commanded my attention and caused me to take my eyes off Jesus. The moment I looked away from Jesus, I started to sink into a sea of doubt. On more than one occasion, I could feel Jesus reaching out to catch me and hear him saying, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31).
The challenging circumstances revealed some of my faith faults. “Holy amnesia”: I would forget everything God had already done for me and all God’s promises. “Peekaboo faith”: I believe you if I can see you, God. And my personal favorite, “Stinking Thinking”: Instead of thinking positively about what can happen with God for whom “nothing is impossible” (Luke 1:37, ESV), I would start thinking that everything was somehow impossible. No one wants to be around you when you’re “stinking thinking.” I didn’t want to be around me.
I recalled an assignment from one of my favorite seminary professors, Dr. Davis. We were studying the great pastor, poet, and mystic John Donne. Dr. Davis asked us to pick one of his sermons and show how it could be applicable today. I spent several days writing a long paper about how it wasn’t possible. A few days later, I got my paper back with a big, fat, red “F” written on the front, along with a note from Dr. Davis, reminding me that the assignment was to imagine how the sermon could be used today. Fortunately, for my GPA, she allowed me a chance to try again.
I accepted her offer and rewrote the essay and rewrote one of Donne’s sermons, “The Fear of the Lord, “ which I have since preached multiple times. It’s made a big difference in the lives of many people, including myself.
I will never forget that lesson. It wasn’t just about academia. It was also about me and my faith. I spent way too much time envisioning, sometimes in grand scale and meticulous detail, how things were not possible, how badly it would all fall apart. That’s what my night of terrible visions was about. In the same way, I needed to approach my cancer with faith in what God could do and all the good things possible.
I knew the difference that faith makes and how important it is. Faith has the power to change our lives and the world. I remembered Jesus’ bold promise of the power of faith. “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20).
Excerpt from Chapter Five - "Get-Up-And-Go""
A few days after the weekend trip with Marcie, I went in for a scan of my chest. My oncologist wanted more images of my lungs and to make sure cancer hadn’t spread to my brain. I made jokes with the nurses to calm my nerves. It was my first MRI.
I looked at the poster on the wall across from me as the nurse slid the needle into my arm and started the IV. The poster proclaimed, “Life is full of little pricks,” and pictured an actress, famed for her mean character on a popular tv show, dressed as a nurse, smiling slyly and holding a disturbingly large needle in her hand.
A few minutes later, I laid back on the narrow exam table protruding from what looked like a ten-foot-wide silver donut standing vertically. The technicians explained that the procedure would involve a series of scans of varying lengths, from my waste to the top of my head, loud knocking sounds and buzzing, and the injection of the magnetic dye into my arm at the halfway point. The technician put a pair of headphones on me to help lessen the noise and to allow them to speak to me, gave a thumbs-up, and returned to the control room ten feet away.
Through my headphones, she said, “This first scan will take three minutes,” and the table began sliding into the doughnut hole.
I gave her the thumbs-up and watched her in the control room, push a series of buttons. “Let’s go!” I heard her say, and the knocking and buzzing began.
Her “Let’s go!” surprised me, and I thought about it as I laid there. Let’s go. Where am I going? I’m flat on my back, strapped to this table, having an MRI. I’ve been diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. Hopefully, it’s not spread to my brain. This is my fourth scan in three weeks. With each report, the diagnosis worsens. Let’s go?
The first scan ended, and the tech said, “Are you okay?” I gave the thumbs up and smiled. She introduced the next scan. “Okay, this scan will take five minutes. Let’s go!”
For the next three minutes, as I felt the vibrations and listened to the knocking, humming, and clanking, “Let’s go!” echoed in my mind. The words began to sound like God calling me to move forward into a promising future. Let’s go, David. I have plans for you. This cancer isn’t the end for you. It’s the beginning. It’s not a death sentence. It’s a call to live.
Excerpt from Chapter Three - "Forgiveness"
Since you can’t take out your anger on cancer, I probably took it out on the people around me who loved me the most. I snapped at my family, spoke unkindly at times, and acted impatiently. I withdrew from friends and family. I felt more anger toward those who had hurt me in the past. In some way, everyone made me angry. The guy who pulled out in front of me just as I approached the intersection—Hey, jerko! Learn how to drive!