News Articles

Brain tumor doesn’t crowd out faith

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–It has been nearly a year since 45-year-old Gary Morey was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, yet as time passes, Morey doesn’t dream of traveling the world or seeing anything new. Instead, he is taking time for the simple things –- fixing up the home he shares with his wife, gardening and, above all, sharing the faith that he rests in.

“I was in the military; I’ve seen the world. I just think the most important thing to do is to be a witness,” Morey said from his Fort Worth, Texas, home.

Morey was studying nursing at Tarrant County College in Fort Worth and was just a semester shy of graduation when he began noticing strange, though not debilitating, headaches. He bought books for his classes in the summer of 2007, but when he began to study, he found himself having to read the same page over and over.

“After doing that for about seven hours, I just felt the Lord said, ‘Take these books back; don’t take these classes. You can take them next summer.’ And I said, ‘Oh, that’s great’; I just felt so relieved.”

Morey was working as a nurse’s assistant at Baylor Southwest Hospital in Fort Worth at the time, so when one headache became stronger than usual on May 16, 2007, he stopped to talk about his problem with a doctor he knew.

“I didn’t think anything of it,” Morey recalled. “I just asked, ‘Can you prescribe me some stronger Tylenol?’ The whole time this thing was growing in my head.”

The doctor ordered a CAT scan on Morey’s brain and discovered a malignant tumor behind his left ear. The cancerous tumor, called glioblastoma multiforme, is considered the most aggressive form of brain tumors and already measured 3.57 centimeters. Nurses who worked alongside Morey began hearing the news and came to the room where he was being seen.

“They were very upset,” Morey said of the change of atmosphere in the room. “They knew it was terminal cancer before I knew it.” As the reality of the cancer set in, Morey’s wife, parents and sisters sat in the room crying over the startling news while his thoughts increasingly were being affected by the tumor that was applying pressure to his brain.

“It just happened within days; that’s how quickly this thing was growing and taking over,” Morey said.

On May 21, a risky surgery was scheduled to remove the tumor -– a surgery that wasn’t likely to eliminate the cancer, but rather allow Morey the chance to live for many more months, rather than merely two to three months. Morey said doctors spoke to him using the phrase “12-15 months,” but he originally thought they meant he would be uncomfortable for 12-15 months.

“I realized … I was going to live 12-15 months, with the surgery,” he said.

Morey awoke after surgery to a clear mind and a body free of side effects, though under doctors’ advice he stopped working, going to school and driving. Doctors followed surgery with radiation and chemotherapy and Morey currently has no major problems with the disease. Subsequent checkups, however, have revealed locations where the cancer cells can grow “and probably are preparing to grow,” Morey said, noting that doctors were able to remove the core tumor, but many “roots” cannot be surgically removed.

“If I get more surgery … I would live two or three more months,” Morey said. “There’s no cure and I’m glad [doctors] told me that up front.”

Morey, however, is far from taking the news badly. He said he is confident in the doctors who have treated him and thankful for their honesty in his diagnosis. Even more, Morey is confident in God. The news, he said, is difficult to understand, but key verses from the Bible reminded him early on of something important.

“The first verse that came to my head was Isaiah 55:8-11,” Morey said. “The first two verses say, ‘My ways are not your ways; My thoughts are not your thoughts,’ and those are the two that hit me right away. Because it didn’t make sense for me to live all my life, and for [God] to take my life now.”

Morey graduated in 1986 from the Air Force Academy and served in the Air Force 12 years in radio and television. In 2003, he completed a master of arts degree in communications from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth. While he worked toward his degree, he worked in various formats of radio and public relations, while also organizing Southwestern’s 2002 and 2003 crisis communications conferences. After graduation, Morey worked in the community relations office of JPS Hospital in Fort Worth, where he first felt a love for the nursing field and learned of the immediate need for nurses. Morey recalled one day when, while doing nursing rounds, he was able to work in obstetrics.

“I’m back there cleaning babies who were an hour old … and I just thought this is where I belong, taking care of people,” Morey said. “I could see the Lord’s hand in this.”

Certainly, one of Morey’s biggest supporters since his tumor was diagnosed has been his wife of nearly six years, Janis. She recalled how God prepared her for the news even before doctors did. The morning of Gary and Janis’ fifth anniversary, May 18, as she prepared to go to the hospital, Janis turned on a local Christian station, KCBI, that Gary previously worked for. The topic of John MacArthur’s 30-minute program that day was widowhood. In extreme vulnerability, Janis lay in her bed, cried and solemnly realized that God was preparing her for her own widowhood. Later, she told her husband about the program. It aired a second time that evening and they agreed to listen together.

“We know that God is preparing Gary for heaven, but our viewpoint is, as Christians, if we really believe what we are saying, this is good news,” Janis said. “I could not in my most selfish moments want to keep him.”

While she has been grieving the thought of her husband’s death, Janis has relied heavily on God’s comfort and has found the strength to say “it is well with my soul” in the midst of her sorrow. She also has found comfort in the knowledge that she is not losing her husband, but that he is going to be with the Lord -– and she is going to join him one day.

“We had our plans, but God’s plans are different, and that’s OK,” Janis said.

The Moreys also are well aware of God’s provision for them down to the last detail, such as insurance that has assisted with Gary’s medical costs; fruits and vegetables in abundance in their garden to add extra care for his body; and their church, Agape Baptist Church, that has walked alongside them through the entire process. But, most importantly to the Moreys, they have been given the gift of time to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with others. Since his diagnosis last May, Morey has spoken to several seminary classes and churches. He has even taken opportunities to help tutor fellow nursing students, offering copies of meticulously taken notes. Morey is hopeful for more opportunities while his body is still able.

“There’s no way of promising I’ll be good tomorrow,” he said.

Doctors told Morey that his age has aided in allowing him more days of relative health, so he continues to enjoy time to complete tasks at home, spend time with family and friends, volunteer at his church and arrange other opportunities to share his story with others. There is no time to waste, and Morey plans to keep planning until God tells him to stop.

“That’s the best thing you can do, is just say ‘OK,’ and, almost in an excited way, say, ‘What’s next Lord?'”
Lauri Arnold is a writer based Fort Worth, Texas.

    About the Author

  • Lauri Arnold