Book Review by Richard Deem, Evidence for God0
What happens to a nominal Christian when confronted by a diagnosis of Ewing’s Sarcoma, which has an average survival rate of less than 50%? J. Patrick Thomas, writing in third person about the “fictional” character Malcolm “Skip” Sibley tells his story about the trials and blessings of having cancer in A Call to Faith. Skip was an outgoing Wall Street financier who had “retired” with over a million dollars to raise a family near Charleston, South Carolina. Although they had been married over 20 years (married young), Ashley and Skip had two young children, a girl of 5 and a newborn son. Then the unthinkable happened.
The shock of the diagnosis of cancer is bad enough. However, Skip’s cancer went from being originally diagnosed as a relatively mild reactivation of an old thyroid cancer to actually being a primary metastatic bone cancer—one that rarely afflicted adults and had a much poorer prognosis. Besides the mental anguish, J. Patrick Thomas describes in detail the physical suffering and rigor of being treated for cancer. Being a gregarious type, Skip made friends with a number of the other people in his shoes, some of whom lost their battles. Often more difficult to deal with than the treatments are the reactions of one’s friends and family upon a diagnosis of cancer. Although one would normally expect love ones to be supportive and helpful, not everyone reacts that way. Some just want to get away from a painful situation, while others try to ease their misery through depraved behaviors. Thomas gives a very honest appraisal of the complex interactions of himself and his loved ones as they reacted to trials and tribulations of cancer and its aftermath.
When one hears the word cancer, blessings are not something that naturally come to mind. However, the blessings are there for those recognize them and take advantage of the opportunities God provides. For Skip, his nominal belief in God became real, along with opportunities to serve others through the insight obtained through his own experiences. Skip became an advocate and supported of others through a volunteer ministry to cancer patients. Another blessing for Thomas was the writing of this book, which he hopes will encourage other cancer patients to persevere through the trials and discover God’s blessings in spite of the pain.
Having been involved on both ends of a serious medical diagnosis, I can relate to much of the content of A Call to Faith. I received a diagnosis of Crohn’s Disease (an incurable autoimmune disease of the intestines) in 1985 and suffered for many months before I was miraculously cured. The physical pain was intense and the prospect of spending the rest of my life in such a condition was nearly as unbearable as the pain. On the other side, I have been a caregiver for my wife Carole, who was diagnosed with an astrocytoma grade 2/3 brain tumor in 1996, with an life expectancy of 3-7 years. Like Mr. Thomas, we had young children (3 boys, age 5, 3, and 1). The idea of raising three active sons alone was quite a concern. So, not only the patient suffers, but the loved one of the patient must deal with their own issues. Despite the challenges, we have experienced blessings as a result of the diagnosis. Carole went from being somewhat materialistic to being a mature, evangelistic believer intent on helping all those who God led her way. Her prayer was that God would help her “grow up.”
Conclusions Top of page
A Call to Faith is a personal, honest story of a cancer survivor. The writing style of the book took some getting used to, since you are thrown into several parallel stories and characters that are interwoven. Eventually, I got everything lined up and became “part of the family.” Even though J. Patrick Thomas survived the cancer, the story did not have a fairy tale ending. None of us know how long we will live, so we should live as if today is our last. “Cancer” is the last word we would ever want to hear, but sometimes it wakes us up to what is important in life. J. Patrick Thomas found God and a calling as a result of his experiences. Still, being cured didn’t solve all his problems. Yet God gives us the time we need to accomplish His purposes for our life. God bless you, Mr. Thomas. May God inspire you each and every day until He calls you home.