This article appeared in the Pentecostal Evangel magazine on Mother’s Day, May of 2001 (http://pe.ag.org/Articles2001/4540_rhoden.cfm). Joan Rhoden lives in Richmond, Virginia, and is the wife of former District Superintendent, Dr. H. Robert (“Bob”) Rhoden. Joan and Bob have been my friends from 25 years, and Joan wrote this article shortly after Vicki, my wife, was dramatically healed of ovarian cancer.
Come on, Vicki, dance with Me.
These were strange words for a Pentecostal pastor’s wife to hear. Born and reared in a traditional Assemblies of God family, Vicki Qualls was not exactly savvy to ballroom etiquette. She laughed out loud as she sensed in her spirit that God was speaking and wanted to take the lead.
But I’m getting a little ahead of my story.
In October 1998, after what was supposed to be a routine surgical procedure, it was discovered that Vicki had cancer. The type of cancer was determined to be uterine and ovarian and very aggressive. A complete hysterectomy was performed, followed by six months of precautionary chemotherapy. By all appearances it was successful. Vicki was pronounced cancer-free.
But a peculiar pain surfaced in April 2000, gnawing away at her side and back. This time a CT scan revealed a mass attached to a muscle in her back and wrapped around her aorta. It was deemed inoperable because of its location and hemorrhaging potential. The news wasn’t as shocking as the first time, but it was certainly more devastating. So much so that it literally bowled Vicki over — she fainted. “I didn’t know that happened in real life,” says Vicki. “I thought that only happened in Southern novels.”
The joking quickly vanished as Vicki and her husband, Lowell, went home to wrestle with God over what action to pursue. What does faith require? Doing nothing and expecting God to take over? Or exhausting all human options and then watching God step in? After much prayer and research, the Quallses opted for an extreme nutritional plan as well as a new, mild form of chemo with fewer side effects.
At this point, Vicki became enveloped in an unexplainable blanket of joy and peace. She talked to her church family at Trinity Assembly of God in Richmond, Va., explaining what was happening to her. Then, again, at the Potomac District Ministers Institute, she addressed her colleagues with a message of hope that whether she was healed or not, God would be glorified and people drawn to Him. She thanked her peers for passionately praying for her healing. “But whether I live or die,” she assured them, “I win. My future is secure in heaven.” She urged them to pray with equal passion for unsaved friends whose eternal destinies weren’t secure.
As she suffered during lonely days and nights, a new friendship with Jesus emerged. It was while Vicki walked and talked with her Friend that the “dance with Me” invitation came. It also dawned on her that God had prepared her for this trial.
Seven years earlier, in 1991, she had penned a curious journal entry. She was attending a Women’s Ministries Getaway and heard Marigold Cheshier’s vibrant testimony of her healing from cancer. The atmosphere was charged with faith. When she returned to her room, Vicki wrote: “I’m tired of being ordinary … I long for God’s power to work in me and through me to touch others.” Then she wrote about a strange foreboding that swept over her. She felt that God was going to allow her to deal with a personal tragedy — maybe even cancer. Whatever happened, it would be all right. “Pain could be my friend,” she wrote.
The seven years between the journal entry and her illness were laden with other challenges. Her sons, Brandon and Chris, went through some teen-age prodigal years. But they both returned to the Lord, are filled with the Spirit and alive with faith today. Her husband battled a debilitating siege of depression for 18 months.
So God had been at work, time and again proving himself trustworthy. Vicki let God take the lead.
Then more bad news. The nutritional plan and chemotherapy were not working. The tumor continued to grow. Ultimately, it grew to the size of a football, pressing on her back and protruding from her right side. She decided to stop all treatment, placing her future in God’s hands.
In January 2001, a new scan got her doctor’s immediate attention. With guarded excitement he told her, “I don’t understand what has happened, but your tumor is now positioned differently. It no longer appears to be attached to your aorta, and it seems to have a clear margin almost all the way around it.” It had encased itself in what he described as a thick, leathery shell and looked like it was operable.
Surgery was scheduled for January 26. A vascular transplant surgeon was called in to help Charles Jones, her gynecologic oncologist. Two units of blood were on standby in preparation for a potential transfusion. The operating room at Henrico Doctors Hospital in Richmond, Va., was reserved for a four-hour surgery. Dr. Jones was confident for he knew the divine Surgeon.
(Lowell, Dr. Charles Jones III, Vicki)
After just two hours he appeared in the waiting lounge, grinning from ear to ear. “Pastor Lowell,” he said to Vicki’s husband, “I’ve never seen anything like this. It came out!” He hardly had to cut — removing it mostly with his hands. No transfusion was needed.
Two days later the pathology report revealed the healthy tissue around the perimeter of the tumor was cancer-free, but the most amazing thing of all was the tumor itself. Its blood supply had been cut off. The cancer cells inside were either dead or in the process of dying — an “abortive state,” the doctors called it. God had destroyed all the cells, and because of that no follow-up treatment was recommended. “I’ve never seen this before in all my years of practice,” says Dr. Jones. “As physicians God has provided us with tools and gifts to treat our patients, but these gifts have limitations that only God can overcome with miracles. God has blessed all of us with His miraculous intervention in this healing.”
How does she feel about what has happened? “I’m awestruck,” Vicki says. “It’s been a very serious, awesome, holy thing. It is just God’s grace — no merit of mine.”
Questions still face the players in this medical drama: What does God want us to do with this experience? What do we say to people who are still praying for healing? “We’re all going to die,” Vicki has told some of her friends who struggle with cancer. “Some of us just die sooner than others. The most important thing is our relationship with God and how we live out whatever days He gives us.”
Vicki Qualls will never be the same again. She is healed — and is dancing with her Healer.