We thank the Lord that Pastor Gardner is recovering well after his surgery. Below is an update he wrote earlier this week. Thank you for praying!
On May 28th Betty and I were at Fort Bluff Camp with our entire team of missionaries for the Our Generation Leadership Camp. The night before I had thought to myself that I wasn’t needed for the camp because there were so many good preachers there from all over the world. I got a peace that the guys would do a great job. I felt funny because in all the years I have never thought that. What I didn’t know was that God was preparing me for what I would find out the next day!
On May 29th I woke up and went to the bathroom. Everything felt as normal as ever but I noticed that I was urinating blood. I told Betty that I needed to tell her something so she wouldn’t be too mad at me.
Over the last 38 years I have not been the best at going to the doctor. I wanted her to know that I would have to see a doctor and this was the first time I had ever seen or experienced such a thing. We were both in shock.
I spoke with the nurses from our church and team. They told me to go to an emergency room so that they would run a CT scan and everything. I was hoping for kidney stones but the Internet can sure scare up some other things.
Our son, Chris, Betty, and I went to Knoxville to Parkwest Hospital. I was not really nervous though I do not have lots of experience with doctors. I had really only had surgery when I was in 7th grade to get my tonsils out. The nurse said I had the shortest medical history she had seen in a long time.
The hospital ran two scans on me. I heard them say that my kidneys had good production or something like that. I went down stairs. The doctor who had seen my urine sample and ordered the first scan now ordered a second because they had found a mass on my kidney that measured over 4 inches long (10.5 cm). They used a dye the second time.
The emergency room doctor told me that I had cancer and would lose my entire kidney but that they should be able to get it all in one surgery and then I would be cancer free.
All I knew was that I wanted to get it done. I wanted to know if there was more to it or not.
I will admit that on Wednesday I had my hardest day, mentally and emotionally. Did I have cancer? How bad would it be? I spoke to Betty about what she would need to do to pay the bills if I died. She thought I was being morbid but I really didn’t know what to think at the time.
I planned on my one good kidney going to a pastor friend that I love and respect if I died. I thanked the Lord for all that He has done in my life and literally prepared my heart to die! I told Betty that I was the richest man alive, very few had ever been blessed so. I have a wonderful family, been allowed to see God do great things in ministry, been blessed in every way possible all of my life.
I made plans to see the doctor in Knoxville because I wanted to get the kidney out as soon as possible. One of the dear ladies at Vision, Holly, strongly told me that I should have the surgery in Atlanta. She said that being away from home so long in recovery would not be what I wanted. She was so right. I am very grateful to God for her influencing me to come back home.
God allowed some friends to arrange for us to see Dr Scott Miller and also to get a second opinion.
On June 7th I went in for surgery. Dr Miller had already told me that he felt like he would take the entire kidney and be able to get all the cancer. He felt like I would be cancer free after the surgery. If you are going to get cancer I guess this was one of the best kinds to get.
June 7th is pretty much a blur to me. Many kind friends came to the hospital. I obviously was not a good host. That night after surgery was a really rough night. Mark Coffey stayed with Betty and me all night taking care of me. I had horrible pain due to the CO2 that they put into the body to do the surgery. Mark spent the night massaging my neck where it seemed to all congregate.
Finally, on June 8th I was allowed to come home. I really had no idea how recovery from surgery goes. I have been in the hospital on visits many times but never really understood anything about what goes on.
The guys fixed my bedroom to make it easier for me to get up and down, sit in my recliner, etc. Then David Gardner, Mark Coffey, and Robert Canfield basically moved in to take care of me. Chris Gardner was there one night but had to go to Mexico.
David was there for several nights but then had an appendicitis attack and had to have surgery. I literally tormented Mark, Robert, and Betty for the next week. I couldn’t get out of bed on my own. I seemed to never know what time it was or how long it had been since I had had surgery. The pain kept me very uncomfortable the whole time. I had to always lay on my back and I was totally unused to that. The guys were getting me up and down at least every 3 hours for a week. 257 pounds of fat ugly man is quite the load to lift so many times.
Finally after about a week I was able to get up by myself and send the guys home. My poor wife of course was caring for me and still is even now.
I have now lost 20 pounds. I am in pretty good shape as far as discomfort goes. The different cuts are all healing. The doctor has basically set me free. I will see him again in a month which will be 6 weeks out from the surgery. That visit will be to set the vitals for comparison to keep a watch that I do not develop another cancer. The doctor feels like he will not have to do anything else and that I will never have cancer again on the kidney. That is great.
I found out that my dad’s brother had the same problem and operation 24 years ago when he was my age. He has lived with one kidney and is doing great. Tons of people have had the same issue and are fine. God has been very good to me again.
I want to take this opportunity to thank so many people that prayed for us. Friends contacted us from all over the world. Thank you for your kindness. Thanks for lifting us up in prayer.
I want to thank so many that sent cards and gifts. I want to thank those that sent food, came to visit, covered all of my duties, etc.
Trent Cornwell became the de facto pastor of the church and has done a great job. The men of the church have been super kind to me even cutting the grass and cleaning the yard.
I must above all thank Holly. Her wisdom made a big difference in my recovery. I would have been at my brother’s house and he would have done anything to care for me but I needed to be at home. Thank you, Holly. I will never forget all of your kindness to me.
I must thank Chris for going to the hospital with us and then being at the house when he could to care for me.
I must thank David for being here until he had his own emergency.
I must thank Robert and Mark for all they suffered to take care of me. I certainly didn’t deserve all of their kindness but I do not think I could have made it without them.
I must thank Betty because she is the greatest wife a man could have ever asked for. She has slept beside me in my groaning and complaining, awakened to give me my pain meds every four hours, literally bathed me and fed me. I am so blessed to be married to such a lady.
I want to thank God for all of this. It was good for me to take time and consider if my life and ministry were over. It helps to get some things into perspective. It appears that the Lord will give me normal life span again. I do not deserve that. I want to use my time that He gives me to honor and glorify Him.
There is so much to do. There are men that need training, churches that need started, unreached fields that need a missionary, and gospel that needs to be preached. I want to give my life entirely to that.
I love Vision Baptist Church and Mission. I love the men and women that I am privileged to work with. I love my family. I am so blessed and grateful to God.
I wanted to write this so that you could know that I thank each of you and love all of you. Something like this does give me a new perspective and I thank God for that.
I am well on the road to recovery. I plan to preach this Thursday night at Vision then again on Sunday. I will be at light duty but I am excited to be thinking and working again!