Thursday, May 18, 2017

Perfected By Cancer

Perfected By Cancer
On my blog today, I’m going to re-post “Perfected By Cancer,” one of my most popular posts since I started this blog a little over two years ago. 

It was my honor to be asked to accept an award for my younger brother, Tommy, who died of cancer 44 years ago, at the age of 22. He was being inducted into the sports hall of fame of our high school alma mater.
As the inductee fill-in I was expected to give an acceptance speech and I’d like to share it with you to honor Tommy and the God he loved.

RHS Sports Hall of Fame 2015 − Acceptance Speech for Tommy 
                                                                       −Delivered Sept. 5, 2015

I can’t tell you how honored I am to receive this award on behalf of my brother, Tommy.  All of our family is so pleased and proud. Our parents, Rudy and Edith Edwards, would be beyond thrilled for this occasion.  

I appreciate all the intense work done by the committee to make this possible. And thank you Doug and Kenny for your introduction of Tommy. As you already heard, Tommy excelled as an athlete and accomplished much in Bobcat sports.

But I want to tell you about another side of Tommy. In fact, this side of him didn’t shine through much until he left RHS and was diagnosed with cancer.
Tommy’s dream was to play football for VA Tech and Coach Jerry Claiborne wanted Tommy on his team. But, needing to pull up his GPA, Tommy took a detour to Massanutten Military Academy and then to Ferrum Junior College, playing football at both places. 
Tommy Edwards - Radford High School - 1968
But Tommy’s dream of becoming a Hokie football player never came about. He was 19 years old when doctors at Duke University Hospital diagnosed him with cancer.

This athletic, popular, talented, handsome, and seemingly healthy young man was stopped in his tracks that day. The doctors told us that the lump beside his eye was malignant and his eye would have to be removed. To add insult to injury, they also said there was no hope of him using a prosthetic eye because some tissue and bone also need to go. Therefore he would have to wear a patch for the rest of his life.   

ll this, Tommy played football at Ferrum the next season (1972).  He did get ticked off at his coach for not putting him in the games due to pain he was having in his neck. We soon learned that cancer had damaged his vertebrae, thus causing pain.

Did God give Tommy cancer in order to stop him in his tracks?  No.
God does not put cancer on people. But God does use bad circumstances to bring about His ultimate good.
Back in the first century when Stephen was stoned to death because he was a Christian, the believers in Jerusalem scattered, and the Gospel was spread throughout the known world. God got lots of mileage out of the tragedy of Stephen—thus turning it for good.

So for Tommy, on that sunny September day, his path suddenly changed in two very powerful ways. Instead of playing college football, attending classes, and enjoying campus life, he experienced surgeries, pain, affliction, and fear. And instead of living the life of a self-indulgent college student, he turned back to the God of his childhood and the Savior he knew he could trust. 

My precious brother battled cancer for 2½ years before he went to Heaven on Good Friday of 1973.  As we attended the Easter sunrise service two days later I knew my dear brother was alive and well, and even better yet−he was with our risen Lord.

In Tommy’s situation, there was bad news and there was good news. He had cancer and died at the young age of 22−terrible news.                                                                                 

Tommy Edwards - Ferrum Jr. College -1970
But that affliction put him on his knees at the foot of the Cross. He turned back to God and encouraged his friends to follow Christ as well. Again, as God does so well, He took a bad situation, and turned it for good, building up His Kingdom in the process.

In a newspaper article, written by Charles Fretwell, a few days after Tommy died, he wrote:

“As outstanding as his accomplishments were in High School athletics, earning many letters in three major sports as well as area wide recognition for his athletic ability, all this fades into the background compared to the last two and a half years of his life. Years in which he demonstrated to his friends, his family, and his associates what it means to be a Christian and how a Christian should react to whatever life has in store for him. As all of us who knew him well realized, he never complained. He made the burden for his family and his friends easier by his acceptance of fate.”

“The last months of his life were spent, not in self-pity nor giving in to pain but in talking to, and writing to, his friends telling them how Christ had strengthened his life and had helped him to bear up under the burdens. He urged them to look anew at their own lives and to allow Christ to be a part of their lives too. He gave to many of them a copy of his favorite book−a Bible.” 

“What have we learned from the experience and the example of this fine young man? Courage has taken on a new meaning for each of us.    We all face life with its uncertainties and grope for the means to deal with these uncertainties as they appear on the scene. Courage is not easy to come by nor is it easy to maintain once adversity sets in, but Tommy demonstrated that Christian courage can overcome the cruelest blow and Webster’s dictionary now has a new meaning to add under that word – Tommy Edwards.”     

SO− all the honors and accolades a person can accumulate in a lifetime are nothing in light of Eternity. But they can give a person a platform from which to proclaim the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which is what Tommy did in the last days of his life.

The writer of Ecclesiastes said, God has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts.

As I said earlier, cancer knocked Tommy to his knees and he chose to land at the foot of the cross. When he looked up he saw Jesus and came face to face with Eternity.

We’ll all come face to face with Eternity one day. And I so look forward to the glorious reunion with Tommy and other loved ones who’ve chosen to follow Jesus.   
We usually think of cancer as a curse, but cancer perfected Tommy.
It brought out the very best in him and was the catalyst that ultimately brought him to total wellness and wholeness in Eternity. 
So now, with great joy, I accept this award for Tommy.  And on behalf of our family, thank you.

---- We all go through trials of some kind from time to time. Some have cancer or other dreaded afflictions, many have debilitating financial problems, and lots of people seem to have one family crisis after another. We even know folks who have trials in all of the above areas.
Like Tommy, we can turn to Jesus in these tough times. It’s our choice. The Hebrew word for Jesus is Yeshua. I recently read that the root word for Yeshua means safety

We can find safety in Jesus no matter what our trial. There are lots of scary things that happen to people and today’s world has lots of scary things going on in it. No matter what befalls us, let’s look to Jesus for safety and take comfort in His words: “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). 

If you’d like, please comment on how God has helped you through adversity at some time in your life. God bless you and thanks for sharing.
©Connie Wohlford 2015


  1. I know you, your family and I knew your parents. I knew that Tommy had died of cancer at a young age, but I didn't know the details you shared in this blog. Praise the Lord for Tommy's influence. Ann B.

    1. Ann, I'm so glad you read this and learned these few details I shared. I appreciate you stopping by my blog and thanks so much for your sweet comment.

  2. I love this: all the honors and accolades a person can accumulate in a lifetime are nothing in light of Eternity. But they can give a person a platform from which to proclaim the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ...

    We know so many who are struggling with cancer and hope that the light of Christ is what penetrates the heart and soul of everyone they encounter.
    Thanks for sharing about Tommy

    1. You're welcome, Jeanne. AND, yes---AMEN---you are so right. Thanks for commenting.

  3. I am just amazed at Tommy's amazing courage..and He truley gives all honor and glory to our GOD!..I have also known adversity/GLORY TO GOD circumstances..I married Henry, "BoBo" Carr soon after graduating from RHS..It was an interracial relationship, and was not well received by my family. I left Radford and BoBo, also known as "Rock"..and I moved to Ohio..We had a son, Richard, and soon after came our son, Micah, "BUBBA" Carr. At the age of 6 1/2 months, He experienced an episode of SIDs..The Er said, there was nothing wrong with him and that he was fine.they said that we were over-reacting, and overly protective..and sent us home. One month later it happened again..but, my precious baby was revived in the ER of Children's hospital,in Columbus, Ohio. The doctors sent him home after 3 weeks, semi-comatose. One doctor described him to me as, " "a baby who is just here and that's all"..Neither Rock or I had any idea what to expect of his life..but, we began the journey...What Satan meant for harm, GOD turned to GOOD! My sweet son went through special education and graduated with a certificate of completion,,(functioning mentally as an infant. I learned that I could enjoy the life of my son, no matter what..I learned that I could laugh with him, and at him..but always with tremendous Love! Through a very special-special ed teacher..I got to know so much about how to handle so many different circumstances..and, We had many Friday night sleepovers with other students in his school..we also had a couple of pool parties with our little group..the bus school bus would pull up at my house and out cane 5, or 6 special ed students, some in wheelchairs, some could walk..and they were ready for a party! And, a party, we had! WE HAD SO MUCH FUN..We had music and pizza..and danced and laughed..WHAT? With this group of special children!..How can this be, "FUN?".My son has a certificate of completion from Hampton city Schools..There were 5 graduates that year and it was the largest graduating class ever from his school!..So, of course, they had a graduation ceremony and a prom! What fun it was! School days long over, Bubba started at a Day Program..the special bus would pick him up and drop him off..But, one day, one of the other students, pushed him off the curb and over he went; smashing his face, breaking his nose and knocking out his 2 front teeth. I could not let him go back.. The time had come to decide how we were going to handle home care. Rock and I divorced and I was working at Langley AFB. My younger children in their teens. learned to take care of him..And, they did!.Now, my special son, Bubba, has in home nursing..10 hours every single day..He is 46 years old, and, is the "GREATEST BLESSING" in my life! GOD HAS TOTALLY BEEN IN CONTROL OF THIS ENTIRE EXPERIENCE! I don't know what our future holds now..But I have 46 years of knowing pure JOY and LOVE!..God was in it from the very beginning,,and He has coninued to amaze me with the life that I have had with my very, very special son! I could-should write a book..My health is not great, and I am surely not the person that I used to be..but my life again with my "Bubba" has been pure JOY..I know He is of GOD! And, I have been so Blessed, that God Allowed me to be his Mother! AMEN!

    1. Wow! That's quite an amazing story and, Yes, you should write it all down. Maybe it will become a book. It would certainly interesting. I love the way you enjoyed and entertained those precious children. Thank you so much for sharing how God has blessed you through your trial. With God's help we can handle anything that comes our way. God bless you and your family.

  4. What a special tribute to your brother! Thank you for sharing about how God worked good out of his cancer. I look forward to meeting him one day. I have seen God work good out of difficult things in my life, even stuff I brought on my own head. He is so gracious, and He is so good. We can trust Him. Every time.

    1. Thank you, Katy. It's amazing how God can turn terrible situations into something of eternal good. Yes, He's trustworthy in all matters.