AMHERST – Better, not bitter – that’s one of Reverend Jonathan Coles’ mottoes in his fight against brain cancer.
“I’m not going to get angry,” said the Pentecostal preacher on the phone.
“We can overcome because we know the overcomer.”
Cole was diagnosed with a brain tumour three weeks ago. He’s already undergone surgery to remove a malignant growth half the size of his fist from his skull. His Moncton surgeon thinks he removed all of the type four glioblastoma, but Cole is still looking at radiation treatments and chemo. Ten years ago, said the pastor, the prognosis would have given him just six to 12 months to live.
It’s a serious situation, some might say grim. Cole is meeting it with faith and social media.
“Right from the beginning, I said ‘God’s got this’…,” said Cole.
The 42-year-old family man has shared through Facebook the story of his medical journey, and the role his belief in God has played in his optimism.
“I have just been absolutely overwhelmed,” he said, by the connections he’s made with people locally and around the world.
He’s heard from people in Africa and Pakistan; stories of challenges and loved ones facing health crises; and a positive response to his optimistic message in the face of tribulation.
It’s been a life-changing month for Cole. Looking back over the past couple of years, he can see what might have been early symptoms of the illness. But it was just a few weeks ago that an event occurred that prompted him to seek medical attention. He was out in the car with his wife when he began talking strangely, His confused speech continued for a half-hour. It was clear to his wife that something was not right. The following day he was nauseous. His head didn’t feel right, said the minister.
A ream of tests came back normal. It was a CATSCAN ordered by Dr. Zaremba that revealed the source of the problem.
Nurses and physicians were very supportive, said Cole, and surgery in Moncton was scheduled promptly.
“Everything seemed to happen very fast,” he said.
Removing a brain tumour carries serious risks. Cole didn’t know what damage might be done in the process of excising the malignant growth. He said he wept when his wife came to him after the procedure.
“I was able to see her,” he said.
He could have lost his vision or hearing, or been paralyzed, He has lost his peripheral vision in both eyes, which will prevent him from driving in the future. And he only recently recovered a normal sense of texture in his tongue (he said water felt thick for a while, like a milkshake).
This “amazing journey” has given Cole a renewed appreciation for the simplest joys.
“Just to be alive,” he said.
He said his church has provided every meal for his family for the past three weeks, and his family has been with him through the ordeal. His wife, Sherry, has stopped working in childcare to be there for his recovery.
“I cannot thank everybody enough,” he said.
An account has been set up at the Community Credit Union to receive donations, or they can be made at the Revival Centre on Robert Angus Drive.