Friday, April 16, 2010

The Last Wish of a Cancer Patient

“You have a choice. Live or die. Every breath is a choice. Every minute is a choice. To be or not to be."
Chuck Palahniuk

Doug and Margaret Nichols have faced their share of obstacles. After
surgery for colon cancer in April 1993, Doug sat across from his
doctor and listened in disbelief. "I'm sorry, Doug," said the doctor
nervously, "but you do have a 30 percent chance of recovery."

"You mean I have a 70 percent chance of dying?" Asked Doug, with a

"I wouldn't put it that way," said a surprised doctor. "But my best
estimate is that you have about three months to live."

"Well, let me tell you something, Doc," said Nichols. "Whatever
happens, I have a 100 percent chance of going to heaven."
One year later radiation and chemo treatments had left Doug's body
wracked with pain. Though he kept his humor well-oiled, both Doug and
Margaret knew the end might be near. But their world was not the only
one collapsing. Nightly news reports from Rwanda indicated that civil
war had spiraled out of control and more than a million people had
been slaughtered, many by their own neighbors and trusted friends. The
carnage was beyond belief. Terrified Rwandans by the thousands had
fled across the border into Zaire and crowded into filthy, ill-
equipped refugee camps, where diseases such as cholera found a ready
home. People were dying everywhere-50,000 in three days alone in the
little town of Goma. As Margaret and Doug read the terrible accounts
and saw the images on TV, their hearts were broken. But what could one
couple do?

"I knew I was going to die," Doug told me, "but I wanted to do
something before leaving this earth. I just wanted to hold some of
those children in my arms and try to offer hope."

Soon Doug found himself traveling with a team of people in medical scrubs, the  doctors and nurses in scrub tops and scrub pants through the heart of Rwanda, with no idea of the adventure that lay

A Rwandan Christian leader whom Doug had worked with before had hired
300 refugees as stretcher bearers to bury the daily masses of dead and
transport the sick so doctors could do their best. One day the leader
approached Doug with an expression of deep concern. "Mr. Nichols," he
said, "we have a problem."

"What is it?" Doug asked.

"I was given only so much money to hire these people, and now they
want to go on strike."

"What? In the middle of all this death arid destruction these men
to go on strike?"

"They want more money."

"But we have no more money," Doug informed him "We've spent
everything. If they don't work, thousands will die."

His friend shrugged his shoulders. "They're not going to work. They
want more money."

"Well, can I talk to them?"

"It won't do any good. They're angry. Who knows what they'll do?"

Finally Doug's friend agreed. Walking over to an old burned-out
building, Doug climbed the steps wondering what on earth he could say.
Three hundred angry men surrounded the Rwandan who would act as
interpreter. "Mr. Nichols wants to say something," he called above the
clamor as Doug desperately searched for words that would get through
to them.

"I can't possibly understand the pain you've experienced," Doug
"and now, seeing your wives and children dying from cholera, I can
understand how that feels. Maybe you want more money for food and
water and medical supplies for your families. I've never been in that
position either. Nothing tragic has ever happened in my life that
compares to what you've suffered. The only thing that's ever happened
to me is that I've got cancer."

He was about to go on when the interpreter stopped. "Excuse me," he
said, "did you say cancer?"


"And you came over here? Did your doctor say you could come?"

"He told me that if I came to Africa I'd probably be dead in three

"Your doctor told you that and you still came? What did you come for?
And what if you die?"

"I'm here because God led us to come and do something for these people
in His name," Doug told him. "I'm no hero. If I die, just bury me out
that field where you bury everybody else."

To Doug's utter amazement the man began to weep. Then, with tears
flowing down his face, he turned back to the workers and began to
preach. "This man has cancer," he told the crowd, which suddenly grew
very quiet. In Rwanda, cancer is an automatic death sentence. "He came
over here willing to die for our people," the interpreter continued,
"and we're going on strike just to get a little bit more money? We
should be ashamed!"

Suddenly men on all sides began falling to their knees in tears. Doug
had no idea what was going on because no one had bothered to
translate. To his great embarrassment, one fellow crawled over and
threw his arms around Doug's legs. Dumbfounded, Doug watched as people
stood to their feet, walked over to their stretchers, and went quietly
back to work.

Later, as the interpreter recounted the whole story, Doug thought to
himself, What did I do? Nothing. It wasn't my ability to care for the
It wasn't my ability to organize. All I did was get cancer. But God
that very weakness to move the hearts of people.

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