The Fields family from Vicennes, Indiana, had plenty of challenges already. Lisa had been battling a kidney disease and diabetes, and her 14-year-old son Isaac was diagnosed with kidney disease. Then Ollie found himself unable to continue driving trucks and left his job.
“Life didn’t look good at that point,” he said. “We just knew my health was disintegrating.”
Doctors found a grapefruit-sized tumor
inside Ollie after a colonoscopy and promptly scheduled a surgery in March. Ollie and his family went to the hospital and prayed for a successful operation when doctors informed the Fields that CAT scans revealed cancer in both of Ollie’s kidneys. All told, he had three different types of cancer in four different places.
“We all felt like we were on a downhill spiral,” Ollie said.
Ollie said he found himself playing what he calls the “what if game.” The barrage of bad news caused him to imagine the worst possible outcomes. He was scaring himself.
Doctors first performed surgery on Ollie’s cancer on May 5. They removed his entire colon and three-quarters of his right kidney before serious blood loss forced the operation to stop.
“My doctor said they cut me head to stern,” Ollie said.
Throughout the process, Ollie’s wife Lisa had been researching support organizations, and she found Inheritance of Hope online. She sent an application for the summer Legacy Retreat not expecting to be accepted, but to her surprise the organization offered the Fields family an opportunity to travel to Disney World in June. Inheritance of Hope would take care of travel and accommodations – the only question was Ollie’s health.
Weakened by the surgery that removed his colon, Ollie was unsure if he would be ready physically for the retreat at Disney World. He started walking regularly, testing legs that began to swell. He said it gave him “something to shoot for,” and family provided emotional support. By the time he was able to walk the mile-long roundtrip to the local coffee shop, impressed doctors cleared Ollie to attend the Legacy Retreat.
Ollie had been to Disney World before, but said his experience at the Inheritance of Hope Legacy Retreat was all-new. Isaac, Lisa and Ollie participated in fun and therapeutic activities, each night better than the last.
“I was able to open up at the Legacy Retreat and talk about how I was overwhelmed,” Lisa said. “I realized everyone was feeling the same thing as a caregiver of a spouse that’s sick.”
The Fields also grew close with Inheritance of Hope volunteers who ushered the family throughout the amusement park. They bonded with two volunteers from Lisa’s home state, Texas, and flew back to Indiana with plenty of friends to add online, including Inheritance of Hope’s online Legacy Community. They still keep in touch with people they met at the Legacy Retreat.
In September, doctors surgically removed part of Ollie’s left kidney and determined his tumors were gone. Ollie walked alongside other cancer survivors at a cancer research benefit race. He still gets regular medical checkups, but his focus is now fixed on the health of others.
With experiences of survival and the Inheritance of Hope Legacy Retreat, Ollie has begun speaking with and supporting friends who are dealing with cancer and playing their own “what if games.” The former pastor hopes to someday write a book compiling the lessons he has learned through his trials with illness.
“He has a gift of counseling and a gift of empathy now,” Lisa said.
One of Ollie’s friends was recently diagnosed with thyroid cancer. He speaks with another man who is losing strength after years of battling tumors. After enduring an illness that once caused him worry and fear, Ollie said he now serves to help others overcome challenges in their lives by sharing what he has learned.
“It just seems like everywhere I turn, God is bringing me to people who need this.”