Posted on

Carter’s struggle with cancer can be an inspiration for others

The Rev. Greg Carter is one of the toughest guys I know. Carter pastors Grace Tabernacle Assemblies of God Church between Elizabeth and Laconia, and he adminsters the Grace Academy Christian School next door. He started both the church (in 1979) and the school (1985), two demanding jobs, but that’s not what I’m talking about. Carter proved his toughness in another way.
At 50, Carter is still relatively young, full of energy, ideas and a strong desire to serve Jesus Christ in a big way, throughout the world, in fact. Five years ago, however, Carter was given what he called a “death sentence.” His bright, confident world of servant leadership came to a screeching halt when he was diagnosed with a particulary galling kind of cancer, cancer of the bladder, and it appeared to be spreading. He would require immediate surgery to remove his bladder and prostate gland. The surgery didn’t go as planned, and the cancer was worst than expected. The specialists said he had only months to live, and those wouldn’t be good ones. He was only 43.
Carter refused to let it ruin his life; on the other hand, he became obsessed with finding out as much as he could about cancer, wanting to beat it. As he dug for information, however, he became frustrated with the lack of it. He had an insatiable hunger to learn as much as he could from the people who’d been where he was then.
Of course, it wasn’t easy. Carter sometimes shed his pastor’s role because he was desperate. He argued with God and became angry at times. “I wanted the human approach,” he said. “I understand faith, but I also understand the human element. I’m not a spiritual giant all the time. There is some realism in this walk. I wanted someone who would be frank and honest. I needed nuts and bolts information. I wanted to know how to battle depression, how do you battle the fear that grabs hold of you?”
When Carter feared he wasn’t going to live much longer, he took an inventory of his life and made a commitment to God, that if his life was extended, it wouldn’t be his anymore. He vowed to do whatever God wanted. He continued to preach, he learned how to deal with his illness on a daily basis, and enjoyed overwhelming support from his parishioners and close friends.
His second, and last, surgery was in December of 1996. Surgeons removed the urostomy bag that had been placed on his side, and they constructed an “intercontinent urinary diversion device.” Basically, Carter explained, “They made a bladder out of a section of my colon.”
He’s not had any cancer since then. He started chemotherapy treatments the first week of April in 1996, and his last treatment was the last week of July in that year. The three tumors on his bladder “just went away,” he said, with a sense of wonder. He took four more treatments just to be sure.
Near the end of the chemotherapy, Carter’s oncologist told him that there was a nurse there in the hospital who had cancer and feared she would die. The doctor asked his patient for a favor: “Could you just go on up and talk to her? Sometimes you just need to hear a survivor’s story.”
Carter did, and he did something more — he wrote a book about his 18-month battle with cancer. It was a labor of love. He borrowed $4,600 to have it printed (and has paid back $3,000 so far). He wanted to call it “Sometimes you just need to hear a survivor’s story,” but that became the subtitle. Carter’s book is called “My Yesterday Could Be … Your Today.” It’s a testimony to Carter’s faith in Jesus Christ, and a testimony to not giving up. For anyone who is dealing with a similar battle, this book is must reading.
Although Carter graduated from Ball State University in Muncie with a minor in journalism, a couple of years ago Carter probably never would have dreamed that he’d be doing book signings at bookstores, but he is. Carter had 3,000 copies printed (at $8.95, it’s a bargain) in August, and almost 1,000 are already gone. He’s not in it for the money, that’s for sure: he’s given away a lot more than he’s sold. You can get a copy at his church, at the Faith, Hope and Love Shop in Corydon and The Corydon Democrat front office.
“When you see your own mortality, everything changes,” Carter said. “You can’t see life the same way.” For him, the experience was a major wake-up call. “Life is short. You want to make every moment count.”
That’s what he’s doing now, making every moment count.
He said he’s more committed to his life’s work than ever, and he can’t say no to invitations to speak. He’s spoken throughout this region, and he’s been to Haiti, El Salvador and Russia. In the past year, he went to Cuba twice to help the home-church movement gather strength. He and his soul sister-wife, Ronda, and their good friends, the Rev. Bob and Linda Stewart of Elizabeth, are teaching this week at an Assemblies of God Bible college and a pastors’ conference in Ghana, West Africa.
“I’ve never felt better in my life,” Carter said a few days ago after a round of golf with a close friend in Gatlinburg, Tenn., before a speaking engagement there.
In his book, he wrote: “I have tried to share honestly my ups and downs, my highs and lows, my times of great faith and my times of utter despair. I did not win all the battles, but eventually, I won the war.”