When Pastor Byron Graham, leader of the Gold Coast’s Highway Church, started feeling unwell during a trip to India, he had no idea what was ahead for him and his family, but he knew something wasn’t right. His wife Anne arranged a check-up with their GP upon his return, and that lead to a specialist appointment. A biopsy soon revealed that Byron had inoperable throat cancer.
Anne told Vision’s Shelley Scowen that the only treatment available was a severe regime of radiation therapy. “The types of drugs that they wanted to use on him to save his life, we were told were some of the most potent on the planet, and that some people did not survive the treatment. And so we knew that we were in for a rough ride.”
They drove home from the doctors in shocked silence. “You don’t really know what to think, what to feel, what life’s about to look like. You have no idea what the journey will bring to you. In my head I was thinking we need to call a family meeting, let all our kids know.”
That practicality pulled Anne from one task to the next. After diagnosis came a barrage of appointments and tests from a panel of Doctors. Meanwhile Anne’s mother had also been diagnosed with cancer at the same time, so Anne drove back and forth between hospitals in Brisbane and on the Gold Coast, trying not to imagine losing two people she loved.
Byron and Anne had signed a contract to build a new house just before his diagnosis, so Anne found herself at his bedside in ICU, answering questions about where to install power points. Shelley asked her how she survived this ridiculously tough time. “Whatever we need to do, you just do it,” she said. “I don’t know whether I gave a lot of thought to what that looked like.”
Even with everything else on her plate, Anne still showed up to Church almost every Sunday, not just to participate, but to preach. “We’d made a real stand that Byron would come through this. And so to me, Sunday services were a real opportunity to enter a time of worship with Church family. And knowing that this journey is not done alone, but we do it together.”
As he battled to tolerate the cancer treatment, Byron also struggled to hold on to the certainty that he could make it. “There were hills and valleys of emotions that went on,” he admitted. “But the thing that helped me the most was my kids, and of course Anne. They had no doubts, and when I saw the fact that they were so adamant that I was going to survive, I actually started to believe it myself.”
They were so positive, and they were so faith-filled, that I thought well maybe they’re right. Maybe I will pull through this.
By Boxing Day 2008, things were looking very grim. Byron had contracted septicemia, and medical staff, certain he wouldn’t make it, had moved him to a small, private room in ICU, to hide his imminent death from other patients.
But in his darkest hour, Byron found peace, and the strength to pray. “I don’t know if this is my last night,” he said to God, “but the one thing I do know is that I love you. I just love the Lord. And that was the only thing that I could hold on to,”
Byron and Anne Graham are clearly faith-filled people, and God has been working out great things in their lives. Listen to their conversation with Shelley Scowen to hear more of their testimony, and how they stayed strong through their ordeal.
Tune into The Story on Vision for true testimonies from extraordinary people. Click here for your local times.