- - Sunday, November 29, 2015

Shortly after Halloween in 2005, I was told I had fourth-stage nasopharyngeal cancer and had only one year to live without treatment. To make matters worse, it was only ten days before I had closed a $330 million leveraged buyout of my company J-M Manufacturing.

My wife, Shirley, and I were devastated, but we decided to tell our children. That night, with tears in my eyes, I climbed into my 6-year-old daughter’s bed while she lay sleeping, and said, “I’m so sorry; I may not be able to walk you down the aisle.”

It was very tough. We went through all the phases — anger, denial, depression what else could we do? The only thing we could do that night was pray.

Somehow the next morning a peace came over us. We said to one another that whatever it is that God wants us to walk through, we will have to walk through, and that He will walk with us and carry us through.

We decided the best place for my treatment was Queen Mary Hospital in Hong Kong, where the best nasopharyngeal cancer treatment was being done. In Hong Kong we learned the cancer had spread to the base of my skull, and that I would need 195 hours of chemotherapy and 34 radiation sessions, each lasting 37 minutes.

We didn’t have many friends in Hong Kong. I got together with an old college friend named Vincent, and another friend, Richard, who visited Hong Kong from Malaysia. While Vincent and Richard were about to flag a taxi, Vincent stopped to help a stranger who was lost. He gave her directions and even called ahead to make sure someone was waiting for her.

Richard was a very busy man but that day he was impressed with how Vincent would have that kind of compassion to stop in the middle of the street and help someone. He prayed asking God for this compassion. Amazingly, God told him to stay in Hong Kong to be with us. Originally, he declined, saying he had a flight the next day. But God said, “Won’t you do this for me?” And he thought to himself, I’d better listen; the last thing I need is to be struck by lightning.

He cancelled his plans and lived in a hotel nearby for the next five months, visiting me and praying for me every day through the long hours of chemotherapy. God was not only helping us, he was changing those around us for the better.

While Richard was praying for us, he said that what is critical to healing is forgiveness. Jesus forgave you for your sins, so you need to forgive others. Grudges are carried wherever you go, even if you haven’t seen the offender for a long time. You need to pay off that debt like Jesus paid for your trespasses, he said. I said I didn’t have a long list of offenders, but I did have a short list. I wrote three names, prayed and forgave them in Jesus’ name.

After that prayer I felt a strong energy flow through me. I’m usually a serious guy, but I began to laugh, roll and shake the bedsheets for ten minutes. Afterwards, I felt light as a feather and joyous.

The first 96 hours of chemo had been devastating. I could hardly sit up. I said, “Please don’t cook because it makes me nauseous.” But after this “holy” encounter, my next round of 96 hours was very different. I expected to be nauseous, but instead I was hungry. Being away from the U.S., I missed pizza. We ordered pizza and had a pizza party in my room when the doctor came in. He was shocked.

Our friends came and asked why are we were so happy when I was dying. We said we’re happy celebrating life — every moment in life — we’ve got today, we’ve got people we love and we’ve got pizza. We’re grateful.

Next was radiation, which was going to be tough. You burn from the inside out, your throat is covered with sores and your neck turns black oozing with pus. The doctors wanted to insert a feeding tube, but I refused.

Richard thought I may not need radiation but rather more faith, but Shirley wanted me to do everything the doctors wanted, and said that only if God told the doctors I did not need to go through radiation, would she be okay with that plan. They argued. That night Shirley prayed, “I repent for arguing with Richard. God, at the end of the day it’s your will whether Walter lives or dies,” she said, “not mine.”

Remarkably, the next day the doctors told us that the scans came out so well that they were changing the course of radiation and I would not have to radiate through my brain.

Two weeks after the radiation, the doctor asked me how much pain I had on a scale of one to ten. I said six. But after he looked into my throat, he was amazed at how well I was doing. He said compared to other cases he would rate my pain level a one.

He said he had never seen such progress after two weeks. He begged me to tell him my secret. I said the only thing I do is pray; this was the power of prayer.

When we were leaving to go home, we thanked the doctors, and they said “Don’t thank us, thank your God.”

God had taken care of my company without my control, too. While I was in treatment it did so well that we were able to repay half of our debt in six months.

Normally people aren’t grateful they get cancer, but I am grateful that my experience with cancer brought me closer to God and strengthened my faith. Today, I am happy to say, ten years later, I remain cancer free.

Walter Wang is president and CEO of JM Eagle Inc., the world’s largest manufacturer of plastic pipe.

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