The Day Everything Changed
About the Guest
Thanksgiving Day 2009 is forever etched in the mind of Lauren Chandler. That's the day her husband, pastor Matt Chandler, experienced a series of violent seizures that marked the beginning of Matt's two-year battle with brain cancer. Listen to an exclusive interview and update with Matt and Lauren Chandler.
Thanksgiving Day 2009 is forever etched in the mind of Lauren Chandler.
Bob: It was almost three years ago that Pastor Matt Chandler was taken to the hospital after having a seizure. He did not expect to hear what he eventually heard.
Matt: I thought, and some people who had seen the scan said, that it looked like it was just going to be like some sort of low-grade glioma; and they were going to have to watch it. I was probably going to have to be on anti-seizure meds. So, going into Tuesday, my expectation was to hear those kinds of things.
We walk into Barnett’s office, sit down. He pulls up that scan; and, I mean, very quickly says, “This looks bad.” I mean, I felt like I got punched in the soul. That was the first time, maybe in my life, that it felt like the floor dropped out from underneath me.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, October 4th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Matt and Lauren Chandler join us today to recount the day the bottom dropped out in their lives. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Thursday edition. You have to have a little bit of a flashback when you hear stories like that. Young husband and wife wondering—
Bob: —in your case, it was whether your wife was going to make it back when Barbara—her heart was racing 300 beats a minute; right?
Dennis: Right. As we start today’s broadcast, I just have to read a verse because there is a listener who needs to hear this verse today. James, Chapter 1, verse 2, “Count it all joy, brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
Trials come in all kinds of packages. The one we’re going to hear about today is a big package. Matt Chandler—we’re coming up on the third-year anniversary, this Thanksgiving, of receiving news that he was diagnosed with brain cancer and was given two to three years to live by the doctor. He had a brand-new baby joining two other children. He and his wife Lauren are in ministry at the Village Church, north of the Dallas/Ft. Worth area.
I mean, here is a guy in the prime of his life. Is he supposed to count it all joy when he hears news like that? The Scripture says, “Yes.”
Bob: I had the opportunity to talk with Matt and Lauren about this event—that took place, now, almost three years ago when I was down in Dallas, meeting with Matt about the Stepping Up™ Super Saturdayevent that is going to take place on February 2, 2013. That’s the day before the Super Bowl, when we are rallying men, all around the country, to participate in a one-day video event for men—a rally point for guys to call them to step up and be men.
While I was there, I asked if we could just have a conversation about Matt’s brain tumor—about how they’re doing, about the ongoing treatment, and where they are today. This week, we’re going to let our listeners hear Matt and Lauren share the story and give us an update on how they’re doing. Rather than leaving it as a cliffhanger, I think we can go ahead and say all of the news right now is very good. All of the scans are clear, and there’s no cancer that the doctors can find in Matt’s body. We’re grateful for that.
Dennis: I think listening to his story is going to bring some perspective to listeners. Let’s listen to Matt Chandler.
Matt: On Thanksgiving morning 2009, I woke up a little bit later than Lauren. Lauren had been in the kitchen, kind of preparing breakfast and some dishes to take to our in-laws. We were going to do Thanksgiving dinner with her parents. They live just a few blocks from us.
I got up and poured myself a cup of coffee and was headed to my chair—think I’ll mention I have a chair—then, ask Lauren if I could do anything to help. She said I could feed Norah, our youngest daughter. Norah was about six months at the time, still on the bottle. I made a bottle, and sat down with Norah and fed her the bottle, and burped her, and put her in her Johnny Jump Up®—which is kind of this springy contraption that, honestly, looks like a blast, that hangs in a door frame.
I put her in that, and she immediately began to jump. I was headed back to my chair. Then, I’m probably just going to have to default to Lauren here because I don’t have any other memory of what happens next. I wake up in the hospital, but Lauren can kind of fill in the gap. I only know the story because I’ve been told it, whereas she experienced it live in HD. So, you want to pick up from here?
Lauren: Like Matt said, I was getting some dishes ready in the kitchen while he and the kids were in the living room. I could just hear the normal sounds of a normal morning and could hear the kids playing, could hear the TV humming, could hear Norah just bouncing. All of a sudden, I hear just this crash that interrupts the normal sounds.
I was just waiting to hear Matt say, “Don’t worry about it, Lauren. I’ve got it,” —waiting to hear something. The only thing that kind of breaks the silence is Audrey saying, “Dad! Dad, are you okay?” I walk into the living room. The kids are kind of sitting on the couch. All looks normal. Then, I come around the side of the couch. I see Matt on the floor, just in a grand maul seizure—just his whole body shaking.
In that moment—I had taken a lifeguarding class in college—in that moment, I remembered what I was supposed to do with a victim who was seizing. I pulled him away from the edge of the fireplace, yelling at the poor kids to go get dressed, telling Audrey to go get my phone. I yell at Audrey a couple of times to get dressed. Finally, she’s like, “I’m already dressed, Mom!” I felt so badly for her, but kind of using my body to shield the kids from Matt and him shaking.
Finally, Audrey brings me my phone. I call 9-1-1. We’re really close to the fire station. I can hear the sirens go on. The EMT’s come in. I call my parents. I call Matt’s mom just to say—tell them what’s going on. My parents are there—like Matt said—they live just around the corner—within seconds. Audrey goes upstairs with my mom, and Mom’s just comforting her. I’m just sitting there in the living room with these EMT’s coming around, examining Matt. By that time, Matt had just stopped seizing and was just really breathing heavily, almost kind of like a snore. Audrey and Reid talk about, “How when Daddy was snoring funny.” That’s all they remember of this seizure; and they remember the EMT’s coming in.
I just remember looking down at Matt and seeing him just in the most vulnerable state I’d ever seen him in—which was difficult for me because he’s always been just the rock and knowing what to do in an emergency. In these unfamiliar situations, he was who I would just cling to and really count on, just as support and guidance; and here he was— just vulnerable and incapacitated.
He’s conscious at this point but not lucid. He kind of looks at me but not—but kind of looks through me. There is no recognition in his eyes when he looks at me. So, we get in the ambulance. I’m sitting in the front; and I’m just wondering, “Is this what my life—am I going to have a husband who will no longer know who I am—that I’ll have just a brain-damaged husband for the rest of my life?” I don’t know how long this is going to last—effective of whatever just happened.
I hear just this wrestling going on in the back of the truck. I was like, “What in the world?” I can hear this one EMT saying, “Sir! We’re trying to help you. Sir! Calm down. We’re trying to help you.” He had punched one of the EMT’s because they were trying to restrain him, and calm him down, and give him some drugs, start an IV. He was just not cooperating. So—
Matt: Story of my life.
Lauren: —they finally give him something. They were able to stick something in his arm to calm him down. I go back into the front of the ambulance, get to the emergency room. They unload him. It’s the first time he recognizes me. He’s finally lucid; and he’s like, “What happened?!” I said, “Well, you had a seizure, Hon.” He starts apologizing. I’m thinking, “Are you kidding me? Why are you apologizing? You had no control over this.”
They took him back to the CT scan, and they see something on the CT scan. So, they put him in for an MRI. They see something on the MRI. The doctor comes in and just, really, compassionately, sits down at Matt’s side and says, “There’s a mass in your brain that we think caused the seizure. You need to contact a neurosurgeon and get this checked out.”
Matt: Yes. So, really, where I pick back up is post-CT scan. I have no memory of the CT scan at all, but I do remember them coming in and talking about a shadow that they saw in the CT scan and that they wanted to do an MRI. So, did the MRI; and then, remember the doctor coming in and sitting down. He was very gracious, and gentle, and wasn’t abrupt, wasn’t—just kind of warm and said, “You’ve got a mass, a small mass, in your right frontal lobe. It’s our recommendation that you go see someone about this.”
He was encouraging, honestly, “Hey, this looks encapsulated. This looks”—so, we, through a series of connections, decided upon Dr. Barnett at Baylor downtown. Went and saw Dr. Barnett on Tuesday. The seizure happens Thursday; then, on Tuesday, we go see Dr. Barnett.
I thought, and some people who had seen the scan said, that it looked like it was just going to be like some sort of low-grade glioma; and they were going to have to watch it. I was probably going to have to be on anti-seizure meds. So, going into Tuesday, my expectation was to hear those kinds of things. We walk into Barnett’s office, sit down. He pulls up that scan; and, I mean, very quickly says, “This looks bad. We’re going to have to do surgery as soon as we can. In fact, I’ve made a hole for you on Friday.” I mean, I felt like I got punched in the soul. That was the first time, maybe in my life, that it felt like the floor dropped out from underneath me.
Then, to—I guess—try to encourage me, he said, “I know a guy—we had a patient here who had a glioblastoma and made it ten years.” Well, I’m going, “That’s encouragement?! I’m 36, and the encouragement you have for me is that maybe I’ve got another 10 years.”
They start to kind of walk through, “This is maybe the dangers of having a craniotomy and the right frontal lobe spatial reasoning.” Well, I mean, that’s what I do. I look at information, and let the Spirit kind of put it in different parts of my mind, and then, proclaim it.
So, we’re going into, now, eight days after the seizure and an eight-hour craniotomy. That pushes us up to that point. We geared up for surgery.
Lauren: When Dr. Barnett sat us down, and showed us those scans, and said, “This is something that needs to be dealt with and quickly,” I just had this conviction that it was supposed—we needed to remove it.
Bob: Did you move to fear at all?
Lauren: What I feared in those days—I feared more that a seizure would happen again. That was traumatic to see him helpless; but as far as the brain surgery goes, up until he had the surgery, there wasn’t fear. I can only explain that by the Holy Spirit. Like I said, I think he insulated my mind of, “Let’s just—today.”
Matt: I headed into the surgery—I had several concerns. So, I can—I mean—I can still name them. They still—because this isn’t over, actually. They are still things that I have to continually lay at the feet of the Lord.
One is that I would come through, but I wouldn’t be me anymore—that I would come through and not be the father that I am to my kids now, that I wouldn’t be the husband that I am to my wife right now—that here they would be stuck with this new guy, and all of the hopes that were in my heart about what God might do in me and through me to reestablish a line in the Chandler’s bloodline of men who loved Him, served Him, and followed Him, and served their families well might be eradicated.
Post-surgery—really, after the surgery was over—I didn’t have a lot of residual effects. I had some weakness on my left side, but it was pretty clear, early on, that I was still in there. I had a flat effect, which means I wouldn’t—I wouldn’t respond—even if I was making a joke, I would do it with a real kind of just flat, sober-kind of look on my face. But every day, I was getting stronger. Every day, I was getting—my personality was returning.
Finally, it moved to, “Hey, we’re going to let you know what we’ve found.” Correct me if I’m wrong here—the pitch was, “Why don’t’ you get some family members and some friends? Let’s meet up at my office and we’ll go through—” Now, Lauren already knew the diagnosis. They told Lauren before they told me. Then, bless Lauren’s heart. Lauren decided to not tell anyone else and just kind of carry that on herself—outside of Brian Miller, who is chairman of our elders, who also knew, because she felt like it would have been just a disrespectful thing for everyone in the world to know but me. So, until I knew, she just wasn’t going—she didn’t tell my parents. She didn’t tell her parents—just what a beast of a woman to be able to carry that by herself for that period of time.
Lauren: Dr. Barnett had Brian Miller, the chairman of our elders and me meet him in the base—in a conference room in the basement of the hospital. He told me anaplastic oligodendroglioma, which means it’s malignant—it’s grade three. So, it’s not the absolute worst form—glioblastoma would be the most aggressive form of brain tumors—but still life-threatening.
I remember walking out of that room. We have friends and family there, and seeing couples together and thinking—it just—it stung to see even just my parents sitting together, thinking that here they are decades into marriage, decades into life with grandbabies, together. I thought, “That is not guaranteed for me;” and I just found that out—that very well, I could be half-a-couple in the next two to three years. So, that, for me, was the hardest part of the whole process—harder than finding out that he had a brain tumor, harder than the seizure, harder than chemo or radiation—but just that point, right there, was the toughest.
Matt: When we walked into Dr. Barnett’s office, I remember he opened up the envelope. I think they took seven swatches. He basically starts walking through the swatches. This was grade one; this is grade one. This was grade two; this was grade two. This was—and then, you get to three. Now, we’re in anaplastic—now, we’re in malignant, non-encapsulated. “This will kill you.” The question now is, “When?”
At three, was bad news—it wasn’t good news. It wasn’t what we were hoping for. It wasn’t—and I don’t know if it was post-surgery stuff or if it was—but I shed some tears and then, geared up. I don’t know how else to explain it. I just felt like I shed some tears; and then, we were like, “Okay, let’s see what the Lord is going to do.” I was just having a strange sense of confidence that this was going to be alright—maybe that was naivety. I know the seven steps—maybe this is denial. Maybe this is—you know?
Ultimately, from there, we went out to a conference room, where some people on staff—some very good friends of mine were. We were able to sit down and give them the news. At this point, still no one has said to me, “Two to three years.” No one’s said that to me. They’ve just said this is bad news. This is going to be a fight and that there is going to be radiation/chemo in my future.
For whatever reason, the Lord kind of zoomed me in on, “We’ve got a fight on our hands. So, let’s fight.” I remember, back in those days, I just really had Nehemiah’s prayer, “Now, Lord, strengthen our hands,” in my heart and head. That had been my prayer, “Strengthen my hands. Let me do well. Let me glorify You well in this.” That’s kind of that night. Then, we headed home. We were going to start radiation, almost immediately after that.
Lauren: That was partly why they told me before him—was so we could get started getting all that lined up— the neuro-oncologist said.
Bob: Well, we’ve been listening to Matt and Lauren Chandler from the Village Church in Dallas, Texas, as they’ve been reflecting on a tough road that God put them on, almost three years ago. It’s a road where they’ve learned to walk by faith in a way that you can’t learn it any other way than to go through a valley like that.
Dennis: Here’s the issue. Are you going to believe the Scriptures in a set of circumstances like they were facing? I want to reread the passage I read at the beginning of the broadcast because, again, there is a listener who needs to hear this again. That listener needs to embrace this passage. The key word, Bob, is the word you used, “by faith”. It’s by faith. “Count it all joy, brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
Some time ago, I had lunch with a businessman. He told me a story. He said, “I was meeting with a Christian leader. I told the Christian leader that my life was really pretty easy—that I really hadn’t ever really endured any major suffering in my life.” He said the Christian leader looked me in the eye and said, “You will. You will.” He said it wasn’t a matter of a few months before he was facing a number of trials in his life that he needed to step up and face by faith.
The issue is not if you’re going to encounter various trials that test your faith, that prove your faith. The issue is you will face those trials. You will run into circumstances that remind you—you’re not God, and He is. The issue is, “Will you respond in faith when those circumstances occur? Will you trust God that He knows what He’s doing and that He is a God who loves you and who can be trusted in any and every circumstance?”
Bob: We still have more to hear from Matt and Lauren this week. I had the opportunity to have this conversation with them, and to get the update on how they are doing, when I was down visiting Matt and making plans for the upcoming Stepping Up Super Saturday that will take place on Saturday, February 2nd. That’s the day before the Super Bowl.
There are going to be hundreds of churches, all around the country, that are going to be joining with us in this Super Saturday event—where men are going to be going through a video event that we have put together that features, not only Matt Chandler, but Tony Dungy, and Bill Bennett, and Dennis Rainey, and Crawford Loritts, and Voddie Baucham, James MacDonald and other guys—all calling men to step up and be men.
Matt’s a part of that event. We were down there shooting some video with him in preparation for that event.
We want to encourage you to consider hosting a Stepping Up Super Saturday event in your local church. You don’t have to be the pastor to do this. You can go to your pastor, your leadership team, and say, “Hey, I’d like to do this at our church. I’d like to be involved. I’ll be the host. I’ll put the event together.”
It’s an all-day men’s event, Saturday, February 2nd, the day before the Super Bowl. You can get more information about the Stepping Up Super Saturday event when you go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, and click on the link that you find there for Super Saturday. If you get in touch with us now and let us know that you are in and that you’ve got the location locked in, we’ll send you the event kit for free, with the DVD’s and with the workbook. All you have to do is cover the cost for the shipping and the handling. We’ll make the arrangements to get it sent out to you as soon as it’s available.
It’s the Stepping Up Super Saturday event kit. Again, you can find out more about the event when you go online at FamilyLifeToday.com. If you’re ready to call and order the kit, our toll-free number is 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY”.
Let me also mention that we have copies of Matt Chandler’s book, The Explicit Gospel, in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. It’s a terrific book that, I think, helps all of us think through the Gospel with fresh eyes. If you don’t have a copy of Matt’s book and you’d like to order it from us, our website, again, FamilyLifeToday.com; or call, toll-free, 1-800-FL-TODAY.
Now, we want to say, “Thanks,” to those of you who make FamilyLife Today possible. You know who you are. It’s those of you who have gotten in touch with us from time to time to help support the ministry—make a donation to help cover the costs of producing and syndicating this daily radio program. Some of you are Legacy Partners. You are in touch with us on a regular basis, each month, helping to support the ministry. We appreciate you.
If you have never made a donation to help support FamilyLife Today, we’d love to have you join the team. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com, click the button that says, “I CARE”, and make an online donation. You can request which of the resources you would like to receive. Or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. Make a donation over the phone. We just want to say, “Thanks,” in advance, for your support of the ministry. We appreciate your partnership with us and your belief in what we’re doing, here, at FamilyLife Today.
We want to encourage you to be back with us again tomorrow when we will hear Part Two of our conversation with Matt and Lauren Chandler. Hear about where God has them and about what things look like for the future for them. I hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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