Answered prayers

Pankey family leans on faith through father's cancer

They were crammed in the back of a speeding ambulance, rushing Cherratina Pankey's husband, Don, to the hospital. As it raced from her Craig home toward The Memorial Hospital, a paramedic leaned in and asked:

"Can I do anything for you?"

"Yes," she said. "Pray."

"I told them to pray, put him on a prayer list," Cherratina said. "We literally had people praying all over the world, people all over the nation on the first day."

From the moment the ambulance arrived to pick Don up, people were praying for him.

Word spread fast. Cherratina told everyone she encountered.

"Pray."

Nurses and doctors at the hospital.

"Pray."

Her children at home.

"Pray."

Word and prayers spiderwebbed as Don lay in a Denver hospital May 14, 2006. He was there being treated for a seizure, one caused by a brain tumor.

Eight months removed from the seizure that plunged him into a battle with brain cancer, Don gives credit to the silent appeals to the heavens for pulling him through thus far.

"It's very comforting to have people praying for you," he said on Wednesday, now at his home just east of Craig. "And it's working. It gives you something to lean on."

Faith provides a similar foundation for his oldest son, Christopher, who assumed many of Don's adult responsibilities since May.

Before crawling into bed each night, Christopher clasps his hands together, bows his head and offers a silent prayer.

"I pray every night to have the Lord keep me strong," he said.

He said faith has always been a part of his life, but now he leans on it more.

"It's probably the biggest thing to keep us going, the faith we have in the Lord," Christopher said.

One night, Cherratina sat down with Christopher to discuss faith and Don's illness.

"Do you think it could shake your faith, or put you off, if he didn't make it through it?" she asked.

Christopher said it might.

So Don decided to sit down with him, to tell him that no matter what, God will be there to pick him up. That as a Christian, he walks with God, but when he stumbles, God will carry him.

That the prayers of others helped Don is indisputable to Cherratina. She laid out a couple of pieces of paper to prove her point.

"Look at the difference," she said, pointing to the photocopied prints of Don's brain. In one scan, taken Dec. 5. 2006, a large white spot dominates the front left part of the lobe. In the other scan, the white spot, the necrosis, or dead skin cells, have faded greatly. The swelling in the back of the brain, much less.

The new scan was taken Jan. 9 during Don's trip to the Swedish Medical Center in Denver for chemotherapy.

The pressure exerted from the tumor affects Don in different ways. It affects his coordination, the way he walks, even his personality.

As the swelling subsides and the necrosis fades, Don is regaining control of his body and mind.

"It's what we've been hoping for," Cherratina added. "He hasn't had a seizure in a couple of weeks."

Having returned from chemotherapy in Denver on Tuesday, Don's body is about to take another landslide as the chemicals attack his body.

Despite the way it makes him feel, and the rising medical costs, Don plans on continuing chemotherapy.

"I think we're going to do chemo for a long time," Cherratina said. "As long as he's handling it so well."

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