Everything was Up to God

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“Nothing prepares you for the moment you hear the words, ‘you have cancer.’ That’s not something you’re ready to tell your wife, family and friends.”– Brandt Brown

The moment the doctor took the lump out of Brandt Brown’s College elbow, they knew it was cancer. “I thought it was an injury from basketball,” said Brandt. “Nothing prepares you for the moment you hear the words, ‘You have cancer.’ That’s not something you’re ready to tell your wife, family, and friends.”

Dina and Brandt had been married 15 years and had two kids when he was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2009. The cancer was stage two, grade three, which meant it was treatable, but the outcome was not certain. “I enjoyed working and being in control of things at the office. But then the Lord allowed me walk through a cancer diagnosis – something I could not control. In the face of life or death, God was the only one who would decide if I would be healed.”

The Browns joined Watermark the year before the cancer diagnosis and only had been in community for about a year when they got the news. Their new community group played an important role throughout Brandt’s cancer treatment, and it was different from other groups they previously had been part of. “We’d been in other churches where people just put on a happy face so everything looked great. Few people talked about their struggles. I’d struggled with anger and lust, but I didn’t want others to know. It was easier to stay busy at work and not have accountability. That was not the case in our Watermark community group. No one was hiding anything.”

Dina says the family could not have gotten through the initial shock and the months of cancer treatment without the friends God put in their lives. “At the time we lived in Plano, but our community group was in Richardson,” said Dina. “We moved to Richardson to be close to our family, friends, and community. Our community group did so much for us – cooking, driving the kids around, and grocery shopping – but being there to listen and pray was really the biggest thing.”

As the treatment continued, Brandt was frustrated by the fogginess and exhaustion he felt. Brandt’s boss was a Christian and allowed him to work as much as he wanted during treatment. Coworkers stepped in and carried the load for him, which was humbling. “I always wanted to do my best. I was the guy who could anticipate questions and answer quickly. But chemotherapy made work so difficult. God used that experience to help me see that He was in control. Whether I could work or even if I were going to live – none of that was up to me. Everything was up to God.”

Dina took on everything for their family and home while Brandt was sick. Going to work during the day was all he could manage. As time went on, their community group and family continued to pitch in so Dina could keep her head above water. “It really felt like the whole church stepped in and helped us,” said Dina. “Their prayers encouraged us to depend on God’s power every day. Brandt was tired, and I was, too, at times. When we didn’t have strength, God did.”

The thing Brandt remembers most about his journey through cancer was not hearing the word “remission” eight years ago, but instead, the change in perspective God brought about during the treatment. “Before, I viewed myself as a provider because it was modeled for me well by my father,” said Brandt. “Through the struggle, I recognized that fatherhood is more than that. I began to see the value in nurturing our children, as well as providing for them. I cherish my kids now more than I ever have.”

Cancer also brought about a change in the Browns’ marriage that they never could have anticipated. “I was so dependent on Dina, which was new for me. I found that we communicated so much better because of this crisis. I’m so thankful for her.” Dina agrees that their marriage is even stronger today. “I always loved my husband, but I didn’t really understand how much until he got cancer,” said Dina. “God used this whole experience to draw us closer together.”

Brandt and Dina’s prayer is that they will continue to have opportunities to comfort other families the way they have been comforted. “I would encourage anyone struggling with a health issue or other challenge to open up to the people God has put in their lives,” said Dina. “It means so much to be able to help, but people never know if you don’t let them in. I am thankful for everything our community did for us, and I pray we will have opportunities to live out 2 Corinthians 1:3-5. I’m grateful that God can take things that we don’t understand or want to happen and use them to serve others.”

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-5, NASB)