The Day I Found Out I Had Cancer

I’ve always heard anesthesia was nice, but now I know – it’s great. I remember going in for the colonoscopy a little nervous, very hungry, and very exhausted after a long and intense night (those of you who’ve had this procedure know what I am saying, right?). I had never had an IV. I had never been admitted to a hospital at all. Yet here I was going in for what I thought was a procedure that wouldn’t find anything and was probably pointless. I was having some minor stomach issues, but no pain, no discomfort really. But the Doc said I should get it checked out. So there I was.

After going into the room for the procedure, the doctor came in and went over my info. He said it was very unlikely we would find anything serious given my age and symptoms, but we will check it out and it’ll be just fine. Then they put me to sleep.

The next thing I remember was waking up to Mary’s face – she had tears in her eyes. She said, “Gabe, I have bad news. They found cancer.” The tears started to fall. I remember being shocked and thinking maybe I was still dreaming. I tried to shake out the fog in my head. I asked if they were sure, and she said yes, they found a tumor – 5 inches long – in my colon.   I remember feeling stunned. Blindsided. I still feel that way to a degree.

[Sidenote:: As I was sitting in the hospital there that day I thought of how I love it when people get blindsided on reality shows like Survivor or the Bachelor. That is my favorite part – when they go in to a rose ceremony or tribal council all confident and cocky, then get voted off. The shock and disdain of their reaction is fantastic, isn’t it? I smiled at this and I thought about how I just got a taste of my own medicine. #blindsided]

So that week followed with a series of tests, meetings, a lot of prayer and a lot of shock. We had to wait over the Memorial Day weekend to get the results of the PET scan that indicated if the cancer had spread anywhere. That was one of the longest weekends of my life.  Thankfully we got a good bit of news when we found out nothing has spread – it has remained in that location. It was nice to get good news.

So it turns out that I officially have stage 3 colorectal cancer. I’ll start treatment – radiation and chemotherapy – this coming Monday, June 8th. I will go in for radiation 5 days a week for 5 weeks, and take the chemotherepy pill every day for 5 weeks.  That will be followed by a 5 week rest period, and then surgery after that. Then we will most likely do post-surgery chemo for a time.  It’ll be quite a journey.

I hadn’t officially announced it yet, but I was selected for an Active Duty position with the Air Force as a Chaplain. We were gearing up for a total life change. We were wrapping our heads around moving in the near future. I was excited about taking a new full-time job. We felt sure that is where God was leading us next. Now it looks like that is on hold for at least awhile.  It’ll depend on how everything goes.

We will definitely continue with the photography business. Mary and I both love it and I should still be able to work most days during the treatment. I certainly still plan on being at our weddings on Saturdays. And I will continue to work at First Alliance Church on a part time basis as well.  They were more than generous in offering to keep me on staff, albeit in a different role than before.

This has been the most difficult couple weeks of my life and Mary’s life, for sure. It is still all hard to believe, to take in.  I’ve had every emotion imaginable: hurt, anger, fear, disbelief, confidence, and most in between. I’m told that’s normal. I’m doing OK though, just trying to take it one day at a time, trying to not live in the ‘what-ifs,’ and trying to keep a broader perspective through all of this.

The amount of support we have already seen and felt from our friends and family has been astounding. The prayer, texts, calls, cards, messages, meals and words of encouragement means everything. Without all of this I honestly don’t know how we would be making it. So thank you to all of you – you know who you are. Both my family and Mary’s family have been amazing. We are so grateful for them especially. The kind words, the support, really does wonders for the spirit and soul.

I know this is going to be tough. I know it’s doing to be dark at times. But I also know that God is with us in the valleys of life and even in the shadow of death. He will give me grace and strength when I have none of my own. Every great story has conflict – and this is mine. I’ve resolved I won’t be defeated by this.  I want to use this setback to grow closer to Christ. I want this suffering to drive me to Him, to drive away the sin and selfishness that is harbored in my heart and cause me to grow closer to His heart of love.

I am so thankful I have Mary, an incredibly strong, amazing person to help me through this.

A few passages of scripture have really been encouraging to me over the last couple weeks.

The Light shines in the darkness, Yet the darkness did not overcome it. John 1:5

No matter how dark things may get – I don’t need to lose heart, because the Light has already won.

And I just came across Psalm 121 a couple days ago.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains – where does my help come from?

It comes from God, the maker of heaven and earth…

The psalm doesn’t suggest we will never face pain or hardship. The psalm talks about God as our guardian in the midst of trials, our strength when we seem to be in danger. Our God is present in our dark times, he is with us at our lowest points in life.

As Psalm 46 says, God is our ever present help in time of trouble.  I’m banking on that more than ever these days.

And I’m also banking on the help and support of family and friends.  I know we will need the support and help more than ever in these days.

We would be so grateful for your prayers for healing. For grace. For divine strength.

If you would like to stay updated on what’s going on or would like to know how to help, visit our site: and/or email

Photo May 28, 14 16 44


24 thoughts on “The Day I Found Out I Had Cancer

  1. Gabe, that was a touching and very emotional telling of your situation. The light does shine in the darkness and the darkness will not overcome it. You and Mary are in our prayers. Cling to Him. You are a blessing to many and you are loved by many. “Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

  2. Gabe – thanks for sharing your honest and courageous thoughts. The “c” word is always scary. My own pronouncement, minor compared to yours, was certainly one that led to deep reflection and some fear. But the “C” word is greater still – “I can do all things thru ‘C’ who strengthens me.” “‘C’ in you, the hope of glory.” And we could go on and on. “C” trumps “c” every time. You are in our prayers.

  3. Love and prayers to you and your precious family. Please let me know if I can join Mary at weddings for support, babysit or just talk to you. God will see you through this and prayer is everything. Big hugs to all!
    Ginny Adkins

  4. This is Kristen Locke Groves’s mom-in-law. Just wanted to know the Groves family is praying for you — that God will fill the coming days with His blessings for all to see.

  5. Gabe, it was good to read about your experience and how you handle it. You are a strong guy and Mary IS a strong woman. Not only in your character and Christian faith, but in your demeanor, education and everything! At least that is what I’ve always seen in both of you. We knew Mary before we knew you because she went to high school with our kids at Dunbar. God is stronger than BOTH of you – and you can rely on that when you need to! Isn’t that good to know? I know you already know it – but we are a blessed people who can call the God our Lord. We will be praying for you and Mary and both your families through this journey – all the way from PA! We love you!! Sue and Craig Stevenson

  6. May God give you and Mary his peace that passes all understanding through this entire journey! We love your sweet precious family! you’ve got this!

  7. I too remember the day cancer came into our lives. I also remember how immediate the prayers came from so many. Please know that I remember too the beautiful moments you captured of our daughter, Megan’s, and Matt Bracken’s wedding. They are cherished memories for all of us of a day that brought a new member into our family. Please know that I will be praying for you and Mary and your beautiful little girl. God CAN do immeasurably more than we can imagine. Praying you feel the comfort of many prayers, and the joy of love flowing to all of you.

    • Thank you, Dawn. Your prayers mean so much to us. I know you’ve been through this battle – and I’m so sorry you have. You and your family are in our prayers as well these days for comfort and peace.

  8. WOW! Bulldog, I had no idea. I am sorry and yet blessed to see how strong the Lord is keeping you through all of this. I will keep you and your family in my prayers during this time. I know God will do amazing things. God be with you.
    Nate Bierly

  9. Babe, you do not know us, we are friends of your parents, but know that we will also be praying. Keith and Kim Moore

  10. Thank you for sharing, Gabe. I’m sending love, hugs and prayers your way. You are still missed you at the library!!! 🙂

  11. Gabe, You can do this. These next months will be incredibly hard, but you have a strong support system and your youth working in your favor. Keep your faith and positive attitude up, and you will get through this. We will be praying for you and your family.

    Julie Mays

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *