Where the Rubber Meets the Road
About the Guest
When Bobbie Wolgemuth discovered she had stage four ovarian cancer, she realized that God had given her more than a trial. He had provided a platform for her to proclaim God’s goodness in the midst of suffering, and a way to preach the ultimate healing power of the gospel, firsthand.
When Bobbie discovered she had stage IV ovarian cancer, she realized that God had given her more than a trial.
Where the Rubber Meets the Road
Bob: Bobbie Wolgemuth sees her diagnosis of stage four ovarian cancer as a blessing. She says, “It opened doors she could not have gone through otherwise.”
Bobbie: The most amazing thing to me was—and I told this to Robert—I said, “If it hadn’t been stage four, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to be asked by MD Anderson to go and visit other patients, that are stage two and three, that need a role model for what it means to have peace—for what it means to not be hysterical.” I was, literally, able to go visit women in the hospital that had just had surgery for ovarian cancer.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, May 9th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. We’ll hear today about how God took Robert and Bobbie Wolgemuth down a difficult path to show them His glory. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Thursday edition. We’re going to get to spend some time today with some friends of ours who are going to give us a unique insight into what the Bible has to say about marriage, from a little different perspective—looking at different couples who appear in the historical sections of Scripture—but before we get to that, we’re going to have a chance to hear a little bit about the journey that God has had them on over the past year.
Dennis: And how God has shown up in their marriage and their life. Robert and Bobbie Wolgemuth join us on FamilyLife Today. Bobbie—thrilled to have you here.
Bobbie: Oh, thank you. I am—
Robert: Yes. Amen.
Dennis: And our listeners will understand why I’m singling you out, in a moment.
Bobbie: —I am so grateful to be here.
Dennis: We are thrilled to have you here.
Dennis: Robert is my agent, who is the founder and President of Wolgemuth & Associates. He represents authors—
Robert: I do.
Dennis: —all across the Christian community. Some of the other authors—
Robert: I won’t go there. Don’t—
Dennis: Don’t do that?
Robert: Dennis Rainey.
Bob: He’s the only one. [Laughter]
Dennis: That’s the only one.
Robert: That’s right.
Dennis: I knew you would answer it that way.
Robert: That’s right.
Dennis: But they are the proud—
Robert: I’m glad I didn’t disappoint you.
Dennis: —they are the proud parents of two children. They have five grandchildren. They have written a book called Couples of the Bible—and that’s what Bob was referring to. It’s a one-year devotional study for couples who want to get in the Scriptures together.
About a year ago, though, you guys were thrown into a valley of your own that—take us back to Valentine’s Day of 2012.
Bobbie: Well, who—
Robert: Well, Bobbie was unconscious.
Bobbie: That’s right.
Robert: So, we went for surgery at 11:30 on the 14th of February, 2012. We knew that there was something. Bobbie thought it was endometriosis; but we really—and we—an oncologist at MD Anderson, in Orlando, did the surgery. So, we were suspicious but not to the level that actually it turned out to be.
So, that was 11:30. About 7 o’clock that night—it was supposed to be three hours. It was over seven hours. Our older daughter, Missy, and I sat down with Dr. Veronica Schimp. She said, “Barbara has”—Bobbie’s real name is Barbara—“Barbara has cancer. She has stage four ovarian cancer.”
And those words—it was so surreal to sit there and hear that about my wife! This is something that happens to your—maybe, some of your friends and extended family, perhaps, or people that you know at church. Those words just aren’t spoken to you about the woman whom you love.
Bob: And for those who don’t know, there are only four stages for cancer; right?
Robert: That’s right.
Bob: Stage four means the worst kind there is.
Robert: Yes, that’s right. That’s right. There are only four stages. In fact, in recovery, as Bobbie was waking up, I was standing, there, right next to her. She said, “Do I have cancer?” I said, “Yes.” She said, “How bad is it?” I said, “It’s stage four.” And she said—
Bobbie: And I said, “How many stages are there?” [Laughter]
Robert: That’s true. And in her drowsiness, as you know—
Bob: In the fog of the anesthetic.
Robert: In the fog.
Robert: And I said, “There are only four.” So, we knew, at that point, that this is a really serious moment.
Bob: Bobbie, when you went into surgery, thinking, “Endometriosis,” you come out from under an anesthetic; and you say, “Is it cancer?” Where did that come from?
Bobbie: It took a while to process what was really happening. The most interesting thing is—I feel like, we had been prepared for this. I’m sure God always is preparing us for what’s next—but having been part of a fabulous girls’ Bible study, being best friends with Robert, having a church support group, and really spending two years working on this project—Couples of the Bible—we had been working and reading about couples. Every time a crisis happened to a couple in the Bible, we get to read what happened to them; but they didn’t get that. So, I feel like I had been prepared and that—it did feel like we were ready for this.
Dennis: And I think that’s really important because it’s not an, “If the storms are going to come”—
Robert: That’s right.
Dennis: —the storms will come; but in the preparation and the writing of the book, you had been thrown into analysis of how God shows up in the storm, how people respond in the storm, and how God uses the storm in their lives.
Bob: Yes. What He’s up to, yes.
Dennis: So, here you are in the midst of it. How did you begin that journey, at that point? I mean, after you got out from under the anesthesia and you really—it really did settle in—what happened then?
Bobbie: One of the things that I found out is that my theology is more important than my oncologist. I say that because your mind and what you believe is so critical for capturing every thought for saying: “Okay, if this is what God has allowed in my life, then, how am I going to handle this?” and, “Do I believe God is good?” and, “Yes, I do.” “Do I believe this was a surprise to Him?” “No, it was not.” “So, does that mean He will gift us to walk through this?” and that, the answer is, “Yes.”
Dennis: Did you have fear—any fear—at that point?
Bobbie: The biggest wall that hit is when you say, “Stage four.” It’s usually a death sentence. So, I think both of us, and our children, and grandchildren had to look right at death. That’s why I’m saying my theology is important. “What do I really believe about death?” Well, I’ve been reading what God says about death. He is saying, like Paul, “To live or to die, does it matter?”
If I could get to the point where I said: “Lord, I trust You enough that the day of my birth and the day of my death has already been settled in eternity. I’m not going to change that. What do You have for me?” and, “Can I live each day that I do have to honor You and glorify You?”
I would say, “Yes, I did fear.” Fear is something that I’ve always had to deal with. I kept thinking, “There’s no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” Well, God is the perfect love. So, hymns helped me a lot. The singing—we basically sang our way through all the treatments—the months of treatments. So, yes, there’s always the tension between the fear and what is. I think we did settle on, “Yes, it’s scary; but God is there.”
If I had a fear, it was, “What is going to happen to my daughters?” My granddaughter said to me, “Nanny, I want you here where I get married.” You know, that kind of thing is like, “Whoa! I want to be there when you get married.”
But when—I would sit a long time with my journal, with my Bible—and my fears about my daughters was, “How are they are going to do?” “How is Robert going to do?” Then, I thought: “Wait! Do I think that I know more than God does? Do I think that He doesn’t know how to take care of my daughters?”
Well, as the months progressed, my daughters were the women of faith that rose up. They’d call and say: “Here’s our hymn for the day. Here’s a verse for the day,” or they’d text me. They are the ones—that their faith just deepened, same with Robert—and our love deepened for each other. I didn’t think that was possible. Everybody talked about it as a battle. I really never thought of it as a battle.
Dennis: You say your theology was more important than your oncologist and what he or she was saying about your disease. You expressed that hymns—and you didn’t say this, but I know this to be true—hymns became an expression of that theology because—
Dennis: —they reminded you of the truth.
Dennis: And I’m going to ask you a real tough question.
Dennis: If you could only sing one song, from the past 13 months, what song would you and Robert sing together?
Bobbie: Well, the one that I sang, in the middle of the night, the most—when fears would try to take me down—the hymn that I had memorized the year before—and I memorize a hymn every year—sort of an unusual one that I don’t know if Robert knows all the words to this one is [singing]:
Sing praise to God who reigns above,
the God of all creation,
the God of power, the God of love,
the God of our salvation.
With healing balm, my soul He fills,
and every faithless murmur stills.
To God all praise and glory.
Every verse of that hymn I had memorized the year before—speaking of preparation—and the Holy Spirit would bring that to me. I would lie in bed; and when anything would come try to assail me—I mean, those words were just like a blanket—and in the car trips to MD Anderson—every chemo treatment—we picked a hymn, and we sang it.
Dennis: The words of the hymns—and these are the great hymns of the faith. These are words that contain the radiance of Christ, and who He is, and the reality about God. Speaking of great theology, these hymns remind us of the truth. Speak to that—why the words of these hymns are so important to you.
Bobbie: They were crafted by theologians who understood the character of God—the eternal, the infinite, the unchangeable nature of His power, His perfection, His goodness, His glory. You can’t be saturated with that and either be—murmuring and complaining, or sad or not trusting. I felt like the future is totally in His hands. He doesn’t do anything that’s a mistake. If I believe that He’s good and He’s gracious, I believe He is working through me.
What the most amazing thing to me was—and I told this to Robert—I said, “If it hadn’t been stage four, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to be asked by MD Anderson to go and visit other patients, that are stage two and three, that need a role model for what it means to have peace—for what it means to not be hysterical.” I was, literally, able to go visit women in the hospital that had just had surgery for ovarian cancer.
Bob: Yes, I want to ask you about this because you go to the hospital so they can fix you; but you were going to the hospital as much as a missionary—
Bob: —as you were a patient. In fact, the patient-side——it seemed like that was almost secondary to the mission that God had you on in that hospital.
Bobbie: I didn’t know that, at the time; but I did ask my doctor, and the other doctors’ assistants, that were in there—I would—every time, I’d go—I’d say, “How can I pray for you?” After a while—at first, they said, “Oh, anyway you want.”Then, I said, “No, I need you to tell me what concerns you.” Usually, it was: “We need more help at the hospital. We need peace. We definitely need peace because we’re dealing with life and death matters every day.”
I said, “Well, that’s something I know about.” I said, “The Lord”—when I’d leave, I would usually say: “The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face to shine upon you and give you His peace.” I would just go like this—like over them, with my hands—like peace in the air. I think that made a difference because they were counting on the peace of God, sort of coming in the door, with Robert and me.
Robert: They actually sent a patient to Bobbie, while she was getting a chemo treatment. So, there’s this poison going into her system; and she’s praying with a woman—standing there, next to her—encouraging her, who had just gotten the news that she had cancer.
Robert: So, MD Anderson has been an amazing friend to us. There are some believers there, and there are some folks who are seeking; but they know that there is something in Bobbie’s spirit that they want, and they want their patients to have the same. So, they’ve just opened their doors to us—done videos of Bobbie—and given her a chance to talk about her faith. It’s been pretty remarkable.
Bobbie: Well, you know, if we had asked the Lord to give us a platform to talk about Jesus and salvation to others, this cancer has been definitely a platform. I have been in Wal-Mart, when my head was naked, and it was too hot in the summer to wear a wig or even a scarf. I’ve had people come up to me. I had one lady come up to me; and she said, “Can I hug you?” I said, “Yes!” She said, “I’m a survivor!”
It is an amazing community of people—of women—that have been through ovarian or breast cancer—that have gone through losing their hair. That was just one symbol—that the hair loss was sort of a big deal because women and our hair—it’s really a big deal—but that has given me an opportunity to be fearless about sharing what Jesus has done for me. That’s really all we are. We’re just all sharing what God has done in our lives, and that’s the best testimony you can give.
Dennis: There has to be a listener, who is hearing you—you two, talk right now. They are going, “I feel like I don’t have any faith, at all, compared to you, Bobbie, or Robert.” You—I want you to talk with them about, “How can they grow their faith?” and frankly, I think that’s what your devotional about the Bible is all about. It’s about couples growing their faith in Christ together, not separately—
Robert: That’s right.
Dennis: —but growing it together.
Bobbie: I’m aching for that person. I just want to go and put my arms around them and say, “If you can just ask God to protect your joy,” because, really, what problems—what fear takes from us—it tries to rob us of the joy that we have and of the peace that we have. So, if the attack is on our joy and our peace, “What will bring joy and peace to me?” It’s being so positive that this is in the hands—the very capable, very loving hands—of God. “What do I believe about God? Do I believe He is loving? Do I believe He allows me to go through very difficult situations, but that He will be with me? If I know He’s with me, then, I’m okay.”
I got a strong word from Scripture, and I sang it. In my case with hymns, I sang it. And then, I really enjoyed the prayers of other people. I had 31 precious, young moms that I teach in a Bible study. They signed up to pray for me—an hour on the hour. The whole day I had prayer going around me. That is something you can either give to someone else or ask God to give someone a thought about you to pray for you.
The other thing, someone sent me, every three days, a card with a handwritten Bible verse on it. By the time I finished several months, I had Scripture cards all over the house. The joy was on trial, but we didn’t let the devil take our joy.
Robert: And there were things that we did every single day. The wonderful thing the Lord has done is given us night and then a new day—new every morning. Every morning, I make oatmeal for Bobbie. Then, we sit down, eat the oatmeal together; and then, we read through the Bible. Bobbie has read through the Bible 26 times. In the last 26 years, she has read through the Bible every year. So, what you are hearing now is just a continuum of what’s already been there.
We sent this manuscript in for Couples of the Bible, actually, from the hospital. The writing of the book preceded this crisis, if you will—so, prayer every morning together, Bible reading every morning together—just the basics. The Lord speaks to you while you’re soaking in His Word. God is so present. He’s so faithful, day after day.
Every day, sunrise comes up—you do that again, and you do it again, and you do it again. God changes your heart and allows you to see this experience, really, not as a trial—that sounds really crazy—but it really isn’t a trial. It’s just one more opportunity for Him to get the glory through your life. We’re not making that up. That’s real. That’s our experience.
Bob: Bobbie, when somebody is diagnosed with stage four ovarian cancer, what do doctors say is typical in that situation?
Bobbie: I don’t think there is a typical case. They talk about the possibilities of treatment, but they really—at least—I’m sure a doctor needs to be very careful not to take away a person’s hope.
So, I never googled or went on the internet to find out what my chances are. I don’t think I was being Pollyanna and sticking my head in the sand. I think I really wanted to handle this without being a statistic. I said, again: “The day of my birth and the day of my death has been settled in eternity. I’m not going to change that.” So, I didn’t want to have things in my head that would rob my joy, rob my peace, or rob my hope.
Bob: So, do you know what the doctors are saying today about—after six treatments?
Bobbie: Yes, I’m in remission. The doctor was very careful with her words.
Bobbie: She said, “You are in remission.” I go in for tests—for blood tests—and for scans. So far, my CT scans have been NED, no evidence of disease; but again, every time you go in, you get your blood work and you say: “Hmm? I wonder what today is going to bring.” So, again, it’s that kind of, “You wait and see.”
Dennis: I’ll tell you what there is evidence of—there is evidence of a very simple, yet profound faith in Almighty God—that He knows what He’s doing. It’s not just a faith of a woman or of a man but of a couple. I think what you are modeling, here, for—whether a couple is just starting out their journey together in the first months of their marriage or whether they’ve been married 30, 40, 50 years—the spiritual disciplines that we employ as husband and wife will be the same spiritual disciplines that carry us through the valleys and the storms when they come in life.
I’m grateful that you’re in remission, but that you also are in spiritual growth, and you’re in a dynamic relationship with Christ, and you’re leading other couples in the direction they ought to go. I think the Couples of the Bible one-year devotional guide needs to be used by couples to get them in the Book. And that was my—
Robert: That’s it.
Dennis: —prayer for this broadcast.
Bob: To get them ready for what is ahead because the point is we don’t know what’s ahead. The time to get ready is not when something hits, but it’s before the storms come. I think, for you guys—spending time, looking at how God worked in the lives of married couples from Genesis all the way through the pages of the New Testament—had to be a source of great encouragement for you. Now, because it’s a book, it’s a great encouragement for all of us.
Robert and Bobbie Wolgemuth’s 52-week devotional guide called Couples of the Bible is now available. And you can go to FamilyLifeToday.com to request a copy. Again, our website is FamilyLifeToday.com. Look for the book, Couples of the Bible, when you go online; or call us, toll-free, to order a copy of the book. 1-800-FL-TODAY is our toll-free number, 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY”.
Now, I don’t know when school is out where you live. You know, it starts and ends at different times all around the country these days. For some people, this may be the last day of school; other folks have got a few weeks left to go. But whether it’s now or later, summertime is coming. I think families look forward to summertime—to an opportunity to have a vacation, an opportunity to spend time doing things you don’t get to do during other seasons of the year.
And I know, for a lot of our listeners—that means that the summertime schedule is a different schedule than you have during the school year. One of the reasons we know that is because, over the summer, we often see a dip—a decline in donations that are sent to FamilyLife. I know it’s because folks are busy doing other things.
Well, we had some friends of the ministry who came to us, not long ago; and they said: “We would like to help you guys be prepared for that potential summer slump. The way we’d like to do that is by making a donation. But there is a string attached to our donation. We are offering a gift of $576,000 to FamilyLife Today to help you through the summer; but the condition is those dollars have to be matched by FamilyLife Today listeners, who call or go online to make a donation. Any gift you receive during the month of May,” they told us, “we will double that, up to a total of $576,000.”
So, this month, we’re hoping to hear from FamilyLife Today listeners who can call or go online and make a $20, $30, $40, $50, or $100 donation—whatever you can do. Your donation is going to be matched, dollar for dollar. It’s going to be doubled, and we are hoping to take full advantage of the matching gift that has been offered to us. So, would you go to FamilyLifeToday.com right now—make an online donation—or call 1-800-FL-TODAY and make a donation over the phone? We appreciate your willingness to do that. Pray for us that we’ll be able to take full advantage of this matching-gift fund and that we’ll get through the summer without any bumps; okay?
And we hope you can be back with us again tomorrow. We’re going to continue to talk with Robert and Bobbie Wolgemuth. And tomorrow, I promise we’ll get to Couples in the Bible and talk about some of the well-known and not so well-known husbands and wives in both the Old and New Testament. Hope you can join us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Robbie Neal, 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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