"Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life." (Philippians 4:6-7, The Message)
By Bishop Robert Hayes Jr.
When I crossed the Red River in September 2004, coming from Texas to assume my duties as the episcopal leader of the Oklahoma Area, I realized I was turning a page in the book of my life to a new chapter. I clearly was leaving behind that which was so familiar and venturing into the unknown, facing a new job, preparing to encounter people I did not know.
Now in 2012 comes another challenge, another unknown, which I want to share today with you. On Good Friday, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer.
I am only one of thousands of men every day who hear those same two words. Hearing that diagnosis can be frightening, yet today’s medical advances make it possible not only to manage the disease, but also to cure it.
My reason for sharing with you my health status is because I want you to know I am not waging this battle alone. Already I feel strengthened by your prayers and concern for me and my wife, Dee.
From that first day in 2004 when Dee and I arrived in Oklahoma, we have been received by you with open arms. We felt immediately embraced as new family members; you have become so much a part of our lives. Friendships have flourished, and lasting relationships have been formed. Soon after arriving, I seized upon the phrase that sums up my delight in being the bishop for Oklahoma: "I wasn’t born here, but I got here as quickly as I could!"
And I want all of you, my Oklahoma family, to know that it will take more than this momentary affliction to dissuade my faith!
I’m in God’s hands! The faith, hope, and encouragement that I try to put on every page and in every line of these articles I regularly write is the same faith that keeps my life in balance! That’s the way I choose to venture into this time of uncertainty.
So, forgive me if I act as I always have. Do not mind if I fail to mention this illness beyond this day. Please overlook the fact that I don’t seem depressed or anxious. Do not be surprised that I seem to be the happiest man alive!
Across almost eight years, I’ve gained such pleasure worshipping in over 300 of Oklahoma’s churches, celebrating your anniversaries, dedicating new buildings, breaking bread with you--listening to your stories of courage, perseverance, faith, and hope.
I’ve experienced awkward and hilarious moments--such as the time I arrived in Okeene to preach, when I should have been in Hennessey. Or the time I found myself in Ada to dedicate the church’s new elevator, and was locked inside it on the inaugural ride! And among the most moving moments have been when I have placed my hands upon those being ordained and commissioned during our annual conferences.
Yes, I have relished exhilarating days, but there also have been times of deep sorrow. In 2006 and 2009 I journeyed back to Texas to bury my mother and father. Last year, my mother-in-law went home to be with our Lord. I have said farewell to a number of precious, faithful people here in Oklahoma.
Yet each time grief has settled upon my shoulders, you--my United Methodist family in Oklahoma--have been there to lighten my load. Words never will express adequately how much your prayers, words of comfort, and loving hugs have helped Dee and me.
I am grateful to the entire Conference membership for already beginning to lift me and Dee in prayers during your recent worship services and in your individual petitions.
I express deep appreciation to all the men who personally have contacted me and shared with me their experiences with this very common disease.
I encourage all men--especially those over the age of 50--to get checked regularly. And if there is a history of prostate cancer in your family--as there is in mine--that makes it even more important you undergo a thorough physical exam every year.
While the Cabinet was sharing joys and concerns during one of our morning devotions, I told its members about my diagnosis. I announced I had two joys to share with them. The first was that I had found out I do have prostate cancer--the knowing is indeed a joy. The second joy: I know it’s curable and I can defeat it!
Fortunately this insidious ailment has been identified early, which greatly increases the chances of complete recovery. I have asked my doctors here in Oklahoma to allow me to receive initial treatment at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, and they agreed to that opportunity. By the time you read this, we will have determined the best method of treatment.
I will vigorously and optimistically go on with my life. Any rumors of Bob Hayes’ early demise are greatly exaggerated!
Do you think something such as this could ever separate me from knowing God loves me? The same God who has written all the previous chapters of my life is busy at work, and not only on these pages. God already has started working on the next chapter, too!
Dear family, I will keep you informed through the steps of this journey.