I attend church with Ray & Rita Wolf. I have admired them from afar and have known that they have a deep faith in God. It has only been recently that I’ve had the opportunity to watch their faith in action. Some of the past Inspiring Hope Stories have been about people with health challenges. What makes their story inspiring isn’t that they have health challenges, but it’s how they choose to respond when faced with their circumstances. We always have a choice in how we can respond to a difficult path that is placed before us. We can curl up in a ball, check out of life, & shake our fist at God; or we can trust, believe, keep the faith, and allow Christ to shine through our situation. When I see someone respond to a difficult situation with grace and dignity, it makes me sit up and observe closely. I can’t help but think that God is saying, “Well Done, My good and faithful servant” even though we can’t audibly hear Him say it. Today you’re going to hear one of those kind of stories, the kind that makes you want to cheer for and give a high five to the family that responds well when life throws them a curve.
Ray & Rita Wolf’s Inspiring Hope Story
This is a story about my wife’s battle to defeat brain cancer. A story about some unbelievable setbacks along the road, but also with each setback we are able to see and know that God is alongside us. He is comforting us, guiding us, giving us strength to fight the good fight, and in the process we are able to advance His kingdom. Praise God.
Let me start by telling you about my wife. Rita is the most inspiring and wonderful woman I have ever known. We met over 22 years ago and have been inseparable since. She was a woman who trusted and believed in God which is exactly what I needed at that time. Her strength and will brought me back into the fold. We celebrated our 22nd wedding anniversary on June 19th of this year. The first 21 years of our marriage were, I think, typical of a 2nd marriage. Issues with children and ex-spouses but all the time we were extremely happy and in love and trusting God to lead our lives. I have now been retired for four years and we were so looking forward to Rita’s retirement in another couple of years. We planned on traveling, visiting our kids and enjoying grandchildren (fifteen and counting) and most importantly becoming more involved with the church as we would then have more time. Lesson number one, there is no such time as the right time, we are on God’s time.
All of our exciting and well planned life and retirement plans came to a crashing halt on the last day of August, 2013. Rita had been experiencing frequent headaches throughout the summer. We thought is was her sinuses as she has had problems with them for a large part of her adult life. On the Friday before Labor Day they scheduled an MRI. We were also leaving on vacation for Colorado on Saturday. We thought there would be no problems and went onto Colorado as we already had a cabin rented. We left for Colorado and had a wonderful weekend dining out and enjoying the beautiful scenery. On Tuesday after the Labor Day weekend we received a call from Rita’s primary doctor. They told her that they have the results of the MRI and that Rita has a brain tumor. After the phone call we were speechless. We felt as if we had just been punched in the gut and were left breathless for what seemed an eternity. We cried for a long time. Finally as we began to collect our thoughts; the first thing we did was pray to God. We asked Him for wisdom and strength to help us deal with this new part of our life. We asked for His healing touch that only he can provide. Immediately a calm came over us and we began to discuss our situation and how to go about dealing with it. It seemed as if God was in the room with us and telling us, “IT’S OK, I am with you, you can trust Me.” We then decided to go ahead and finish our vacation and enjoy the rest of our time there.
We returned from Colorado and met with the neurosurgeon. We were very nervous and scared as he showed us the MRI and there it was, what looked like an enormous tumor on the left side of her brain. After spending time talking with him, we came to feel very comfortable with him as if we could put our total trust in him. We scheduled the surgery for the 17th of September. It wasn’t until several days later when we were telling someone (I can’t even remember who) about the neurosurgeon that they said they knew of him and that he is a Christian and he would pray for Rita before he performed the surgery. Here was God just as He promised us, He would comfort us and guide us and send his angels to protect us. We could trust in Him. The surgery went without a hitch and the neurosurgeon was able to remove most of the tumor.
The next bad news came from the biopsy that was taken during the surgery. Rita has a Grade IV Glioblastoma Multiforme. This the worst possible kind of brain tumor. When we met with the Oncology and Radiology doctors in Topeka they very bluntly told us that Rita has between 12 months and 18 months to live. Go home get your affairs in order and enjoy your family as long as you can. We were again speechless. We left there feeling as if a Mack truck had just run over us. We went home and cried and felt sorry for ourselves. We then reached out to God again for answers. We called my daughter, Tisha, who is simply an angel from God. She is a breast cancer survivor and she said, “Dad you need to get a second opinion, the doctors don’t know everything; they don’t know God’s plan and there is always hope.” Again God was comforting us and guiding us.
We went to Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Chicago. They were such wonderful people, full of hope and encouragement. We felt as if this was the place where God wanted us to be. They recommended six weeks of radiation and chemotherapy. We decided to come back home for this as we did not want to be away from home that long. A follow up at CTCA was scheduled for six weeks after radiation and chemo to see if the tumor had shrunk. An MRI revealed that the tumor was still growing. They recommended we start a regimen of radiation twice a day for three weeks. It didn’t work. Two weeks before we were scheduled to go back to CTCA for review Rita had an episode where she became disoriented and fell during the night five times. We took her to the emergency room. They performed a cat scan and MRI which disclosed that pressure on the brain was causing her to fall. They put her on a steroid to reduce the swelling. The doctors in Topeka again stated very bluntly that she may not have very long. Another Mack truck.
God again stepped forward to lead us. Rita’s daughter, Julie, came across an article about a young female who had a brain tumor just as Rita who participated in a clinical trial at Duke University Brain Tumor Center and months after the trial she was in complete remission. With the help of Julie, Tisha and myself began making phone calls to Duke and talking to the doctor’s there. They reviewed Rita’s medical records and thought they would be able to help her. We went to Duke and visited with the doctor there. Rita did not qualify for the clinical trial because of the swelling. But since there was clear progression she now is able to qualify for the drug Avastin and insurance would now cover the cost. It’s a very expensive drug. They recommended Avastin and CPT-11 be given intravenously every two weeks. Since we couldn’t afford to travel to and from Duke every two weeks, we called KU Med center and they agreed to do the treatments. So through God’s direction we now have two new avenues of hope for further treatment. Both Duke Brain Tumor Center and KU Cancer center are on the cutting edge of treatment for cancer and brain tumors.
This is not the end of the story. We are 11 months and counting. We don’t know if God will choose to call Rita home. What we do know is if you trust in God, He will never leave you. He will guide you, He will comfort you, He will give you strength, He will give you hope. Oh yeah, an MRI done several weeks ago revealed that the Avastin and CPT-11 are working and the swelling is going down and no growth of the tumor. PRAISE GOD, WE HAVE HOPE!!
May God Bless,
Ray & Rita Wolf