“We are all going to die,” said David Sandlin. “Even Lazarus, who Jesus raised from the dead, eventually died of something. I’ve just been given a glimpse of that reality a little more than some others have.”
Six years after marrying his wife, Karen, David was diagnosed with a rare form of neuroendocrine pancreatic cancer. It had metastasized by the time it was discovered, and his liver was riddled with more than 100 tumors. Treatment began immediately with surgery followed by radiation. David waged the fight of his life for more than five years, but had very little to show for it.
“After many treatments and complications along the way, healing didn’t happen,” said David. “In fact, more damage had been done. Finally our doctor in New Orleans told us there was nothing else he could do for me.”
Karen says it was God’s Word that sustained them during that season of adversity. “We prayed for healing, but God did not answer those prayers the way we wanted,” said Karen. “We had friends who walked a similar journey and prayed for healing, but unfortunately passed away. However, we clung to the truth that God was faithful and could be trusted whether He provided healing or not.”
At low points, David questioned if this was how his story was going to end. He says that Isaiah 41:10 and 43:2-3 reminded him that even while going through a trial of faith, the Lord would not leave him.
Out of options, David was referred to a doctor who specialized in multi-organ transplants. He advised David to move forward with the surgery while he was healthy enough to survive a transplant. It would take months to receive insurance approval and complete all necessary tests. A year passed before David was placed on the transplant list. Even if the transplant happened, David and Karen would have to leave their kids in Dallas (their youngest daughter was a high school senior at the time), and relocate to Miami where the surgery would take place.
Their children encouraged David to move forward with the treatment in Florida. Friends offered to live in their home to keep things in order. An army of faithful friends prayed and offered practical assistance along the way.
“So many people found out about our journey,” said Karen. “I walked into a business conference in another city, and someone I never even met told me they had been praying for us. I was continually reminded that if God is in control of every aspect of our lives, we should not give way to fear. So we followed where God led us not knowing how it would go.”
A few weeks after the Sandlins made the trip to Miami in July of 2013, David received the life-changing news that he would soon receive a new pancreas, stomach, small and large intestines and liver. At that point only fifteen people had successfully gone through a multi-organ transplant after neuroendocrine pancreatic cancer. Despite the risk, David was not afraid.
“I went into the transplant surgery without fear because I knew it was either heaven or healing,” said David. “Even if I survived the surgery, the healing part would just be temporary. The Lord would take care of me either way.”
When the surgery began, the doctor discovered that David’s stomach had disintegrated, and his liver was in terrible shape. “At that point many doctors would have stopped the surgery, but my doctor moved forward. Turns out the transplant happened at exactly the right time,” said David.
After an arduous procedure, David was released from the hospital faster than any other patient before him. After one year, the Sandlins received the great news that there was no evidence of cancer in David’s body. Though the doctor cautioned him that the cancer could return, the chances were good that David would enjoy a great quality of life.
In spite of his miraculous recovery, David says his story isn’t about defeating cancer. “When I got the diagnosis I didn’t understand why God allowed me to get cancer,” said David. “One afternoon the Lord impressed upon me that this was an opportunity to, ‘know Me better’. I wrote those words down even though I didn’t understand. The gift in all of this was to know more about how wonderful and loving God truly is. This wasn’t about praying for a miracle, although I am eternally grateful. The Lord taught me to depend on Him and nothing else.”
Today David shares his story with whoever will listen. “Hurting people out there need to know that God is in control,” said David. “There have been hundreds of opportunities to tell my story and give God the credit. I tell them that I had cancer, and at one point, part of my body was dead inside. But God is good, and He can be trusted even when things look hopeless.”