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Teen finds faith & a testimony amid extended battle with cancer

SANDUSKY, Ala. (BP)–No one could have predicted the impact a broken leg would have on Brandon Jones’ life or the opportunity it would bring for ministry. Jones — a self-proclaimed country boy — was living the life of most teenagers, attending classes at Hueytown (Ala.) High School and partying with friends. But then he broke his leg during a fight in January 1997.

The bone appeared to have healed when Jones, now 18, visited doctors a few months later. By the following month, though, five inches of bone had disappeared and doctors diagnosed Jones with cancer on July 11, 1997 — 10 days after his 16th birthday.

“When I first found out I had cancer, it made me numb,” Jones said. He prayed; he went to church.

It was during one of his hospital visits that Jones’ father, Frank Jones, minister of music at First Baptist Church, Sandusky, Ala., told his son God would give him peace about “stuff.” It was then the younger Jones realized he wasn’t saved, that he was a hypocrite.

“I had a lot of hate in my life. I grew up thinking if you were different, I hated you. I apologized for everything,” Jones said.

And while his health has only worsened since his conversion, “it seems like the tougher times get, the more miracles I see,” Jones said.

Sensing the impact his testimony could have, he began to visit churches and talk to youth groups about his experience.

“Let folks realize waking up every day is a miracle,” Jones said. “People get caught up in thinking God owes them.

“God wakes you up every day with a heartbeat and breath,” he continued, emphasizing that God owes no one anything.

Despite Jones’ enthusiasm, the prognosis continued to worsen. A medical exam in November 1997 revealed 60 percent of his lungs were cancerous and a tumor in his leg was growing, with doctors estimating he had three to six months to live.

Jones noted how doctors told him “if I lived a year, it would be the lowest quality of life a human being could have,” but more than 90 percent of the cancer in his lungs was gone by February 1998.

Still, the news was not all good. Jones’ right leg was amputated March 4, 1998, because of a 15-pound tumor that stretched from his hip to his knee. The surgery resulted in two more nicknames for Jones, already known in his church youth group at Cottage Hill Baptist Church in Pleasant Grove as “Bubba” — “Uno” and “I-lean,” both references to his having only one leg.

Some people might be offended by the name, but “if you can’t laugh about it, you cry about it,” he said.

Jones left the hospital six days after his amputation, although doctors had predicted he would be there at least two weeks. On the seventh day, he drove himself to church.

Repeated tests over the next five months found no cancer, but a checkup in August 1998 showed cancer was back in his lungs.

“I quit all treatments. I was tired of everything,” Jones said. Even though some people might let losing a leg slow them down, Jones continued to hunt and even climbed trees. But doctors banned him to his room after he broke his arm in a hunting accident in January 1999.

In February, doctors found the bone was disappearing in his shoulder. He didn’t let the cancer slow him down though. He promised his parents he would finish high school. He graduated in May 1999; two weeks later, a tumor was found affecting his spine and both hips.

The doctors put him on a pain pump. Jones said he was tired of it after one week.

He talked to God about his situation, saying, “God, if you want me to keep traveling and speaking, you’re going to have to ease the pain.”

In three years, Jones has only missed one speaking engagement.

A Civil War buff who collects knives and belt buckles, Jones underwent another round of radiation during the Christmas holidays. His truck was totaled after a Jan. 17 accident in which he hydroplaned and landed upside down in the passenger floorboard.

No problems were found except cuts from the glass.

His shoulder bothered him after the wreck, but he thought the soreness would go away. He went to the doctor in March, and they found signs of bone deterioration.

He now has a rod and two screws from the ball joint in the shoulder to the elbow. While he was in surgery, the doctors cut into a vascular tumor and he lost a lot of blood. With his history of reactions to blood transfusions, doctors were skeptical about his making it through the surgery.

Most recently, Jones has undergone treatment for tumors in his stomach.

“When you go through what I’ve been through,” he said, “you listen to your favorite hymn [‘It Is Well With My Soul’] a different way. If we could just all live appreciating what God’s given us today and making sure we do what God wants today, there’s no need to fear tomorrow.

“Live life every day; you never know what’s coming next,” he said.

To Jones, there are two reasons humans are on earth: “to find salvation and to lead other people to salvation.”

Being in the hospital, Jones said it is hard to think about anything other than death. But death is not something Jones fears.

“In one breath, I [will] get my leg back, the use of my arm,” he said. When he goes to heaven, Jones said he knows he will be able to walk again.

“I used to ask, ‘Why me?’ he said. “‘Why not somebody else?’ Maybe God knew what I’d do with it.”

Jones’ theory is God only allows those he has faith in to be tried by the devil, like Job, who brought glory to his name.

One of his favorite verses is Isaiah 41:31: “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (NIV).

For updates on Jones or his speaking schedule, call (205) 491-9393. The messages are kept up to date. Brandon also hopes to open an Internet site so people can check his speaking schedule.
Cagle is a writer for The Alabama Baptist newsjournal. (BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at www.sbcbaptistpress.org. Photo title: A FIGHTER.

    About the Author

  • Dianna L. Cagle