Shared from the 2018-03-24 Chattanooga eEdition

Her journey of hope

Seven-year survivor starts cancer ministry

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Joyce Dean, left, and Charlaine Price will lead Our Journey of Hope training at Tucker Baptist Church.

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CONTRIBUTED PHOTOS

Charlaine Price is a cancer survivor. She was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2011 and given two to five years to live.

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Charlaine Price wrote the book, “He Restored My Soul: In the Valley of the Shadow of Cancer” to encourage others suffering from the disease to have hope.

As a licensed professional counselor, Charlaine Price’s life’s work has been helping people talk through their problems.

But when her oncologist diagnosed her with multiple myeloma and estimated that she had two to five years to live, Price’s voice fell silent.

She felt like her doctor shot a bullet through her head, says Price, who was diagnosed in July 2011.

Multiple myeloma is a blood cancer that develops in plasma cells. By September 2015, Price learned hers had metastasized, or spread, to her spine. Yet nearly seven years after her death sentence, at age 70, she’s still standing, with no sign of being paralyzed or crippled as doctors anticipated.

“I said, ‘Get behind me Satan. You are not going to stop this program,’” she recalls.

Concerned that there was no support for cancer patients once they get their diagnosis, Price started PCO Cancer Care, a counseling service for people with cancer, and incorporated it into her established counseling practice. PCO stands for Preventive Counseling Options. She focuses on counseling patients on how to avoid the downward spiral of depression and loss of interest in living.

March is nationally recognized as Multiple Myeloma Awareness Month, so Price scheduled a book signing for her new autobiography, “He Restored My Soul: In the Valley of the Shadow of Cancer.”

She attributes her recovery to her faith in God and hope. She wants to share that hope with every person fighting cancer, she says.

Price’s latest service to those battling cancer is a cancer ministry at the church she attends, Greater Tucker Missionary Baptist. The program, Our Journey of Hope, is based on a national model developed by Cancer Treatment Centers of America, a network of five hospitals that serve cancer patients throughout the country. The national, for-profit organization combines conventional approaches, such as surgery and chemotherapy, with integrative therapy, which is open to multiple treatments in the belief that what works for one patient doesn’t necessarily work for another.

Price and church member Joyce Dean will launch the program at the church at 6 p.m. Tuesday. Price expects 10 to 15 people to participate. Most will come from the 450-member congregation, but she expects a few people will come from other churches. Attendees will participate in an eight-week training course about ministering to people with cancer.

Senior Pastor Gary Hathaway says he believes the church can do more for people with cancer.

“Historically in most cases, the church says we’re going to pray for you, and we do,” he says. “But we’d like to offer something more. The Bible teaches [that] faith without works is dead. We’d like to provide some tools to them.”

The Rev. Percy McCray, national director of spiritual/faith-based programming at CTCA, started Our Journey of Hope 15 years ago after he began seeing a patient who was doing poorly. She soon rebounded under his care. She was so uplifted and inspired that she asked McCray to speak with her pastor about ways to minister from a clinical perspective to people with cancer.

McCray’s conversation with the minister and his associates revealed that although ministers may have a desire to be more engaged with people dealing with cancer, they are not equipped with information or a relationship with a health-care organization that could show them what they need to do.

McCray says most church members would bring food to the patients because they didn’t know what else to do. He developed Our Journey of Hope to inform lay ministers how to meet the needs of those with serious illnesses.

Outreach to cancer patients can vary depending on the church’s resources. A men’s ministry might offer yard care. Retired seniors might be willing to drive patients to appointments or run errands for them. All churches can offer encouragement, says Connie Singleton, CTCA’s spiritual outreach coordinator.

To train leaders for Our Journey of Hope, Cancer Treatment Centers of America invites two people from participating churches to a two-day training session in Newnan, Ga., a suburb of Atlanta. Price and Dean represented Greater Tucker. They completed the training last spring.

The training, books and food for the event are all free. Participants only have to pay for their transportation to the site and hotel arrangements. The training includes talks from clinicians and caregivers. And the CTCA equips participants with a curriculum for leading an eight-week training program at their home churches.

Then all who participate in each church’s eight-week program are paired with someone in the church or the community battling cancer.

It’s different than a support group because the work with cancer patients is one-on-one. Sometimes the immune system of cancer patients gets so compromised that they can’t come out to group settings like church. So they must have ministers or church leaders come to them, says Singleton.

Price says everything that happened in her life, including her career in counseling and her diagnosis of cancer, prepared her for the job of ministering to people with cancer — and training others to do so.

She got firsthand experience working with cancer patients during her visits to Vanderbilt University Medical Center, where she received chemotherapy. During her visits, she made it a place for prayer and encouragement.

She recalls praying for one man who had been given only six months to live. She also taught his wife to pray for his healing.

That first meeting with them was three years ago this month. He is still alive, and his cancer is in remission, Price says.

Price sees the program at Greater Tucker as just the start of the church’s outreach to people with cancer.

“We want this training to mushroom out,” she says.

Contact Yolanda

Putman at yputman@

timesfreepress.com or

423-757-6431.

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