I have been blessed throughout my life. I was raised by loving parents who supported my passion for water skiing. I married the love of my life, and together we raised four beautiful daughters. Our daughters gave us wonderful sons-in-law and four adorable grandchildren. And I have a dream career in the boating industry. Aside from numerous tears, rips, punctures, and broken bones over the years, I have enjoyed good health. That is, until March 2014, when I became extremely ill and in desperate need of healing prayer.
We were on a trip to attend a friend’s wedding in Pensacola, Florida. On the way, we stopped at a quaint seaside restaurant and enjoyed some fresh seafood.
Later that night, my stomach began to cramp. I began vomiting, and my digestive system just went haywire. At 2:00 a.m., I found a local Walmart for over-the-counter medication. It didn’t help. At 4:00 a.m., I texted my friend and told him I had to cancel the fishing trip we’d planned for that morning because I’d eaten something that wasn’t agreeing with me.
I felt awful the whole next day, but by evening, the symptoms had subsided enough that I could attend the wedding. The six-hour drive back to central Florida the next day was tolerable. I would’ve rather been curled up in my bed, but we eventually made it home.
My schedule for the next several weeks was jam-packed. I had no time to be sick. My oldest daughter was getting married. I was being honored at the USA Water Ski Hall of Fame induction ceremonies, and I’d scheduled a three-day off-road dirt bike adventure with some riding buddies. I intended to be at all three, so I needed to shake this food poisoning.
Days went by, and I didn’t get any better. As a matter of fact, my body was changing in ways I’d not experienced before. I had no appetite; I was losing weight; I was physically drained. My skin color was unhealthy, ashen green and yellow! But I’m pretty stubborn, and I headed off to work instead of the doctor’s office. I had zero energy. I spent several unproductive days at work, just looking forward to going back home and falling asleep on the couch. I finally succumbed to the illness and spent some time off work.
I finally concluded that this was not food poisoning. I reluctantly made a doctor’s appointment, determined to get to the bottom of this. After a routine physical exam and blood tests, the doctor ordered an ultrasound. The ultrasound came back with reason for concern, so my primary physician referred me to a gastroenterologist.
By now I couldn’t function. My clothes didn’t fit anymore; I wasn’t eating; I was continually exhausted. Day by day, life was draining from my body. I honestly believed I was dying.
My daughter’s wedding was a week away, and I was praying God would allow me to remain on this earth long enough to attend her special day.
During this time, I was also in contact with Tracy Mattes, executive director of USA Water Ski Foundation. From my perspective, there was no way I’d be able to attend the Water Ski Hall of Fame induction ceremony two weeks after my daughter’s wedding. I had already written my acceptance speech, and I told Tracy that one of my family members would be there to give my speech and accept my award if I couldn’t.
That off-road dirt bike adventure with my buddies was no longer of interest. Forget dirt bikes…my life was hanging in the balance! It’s funny how things that used to be important no longer are when your health is compromised.
My first visit to the gastroenterologist was scheduled a few days before the wedding. By now, I was used to my wife driving me around. I no longer had the energy to drive. The doctor began with the usual small talk. Then she said something heart-stopping.
“Did your primary doctor go over these test results with you and tell you what we found?”
“No,” I said. “What did you find?”
“Well, we are not sure, but there is a mass in your gall bladder blocking your bile ducts. There is also something on your liver, and we need to send you out for tests to rule out cancer. Your bilirubin count is 11, nearly ten times what it should be.” (Bilirubin is a waste product of the normal breakdown of red blood cells.) “We need to get you in for an MRI immediately. I’ll get you set up there,” she concluded.
Cancer! Everything the doctor had said after that word fell on deaf ears. Annette and I sat there in stunned silence. Finally, we made our way over to the medical imaging center. It was a quiet ride, but we did talk about how good life had been to us. We reminded each other that God was in control. Philippians 1:21 says, “for me to live is Christ, and to die is gain,” and we determined that, no matter what happened, our faith would not be shaken.
Brittany’s wedding was two days away. We would not have the MRI results before that. Honestly though, I didn’t need MRI results to tell me I was very sick. By now, all I was eating—well, actually drinking—was Ensure, a nutritional supplement. Even that was difficult to swallow. I had to force myself to drink it, but I knew I needed some nutrition in my body.
I felt a sense of urgency to get our affairs in order. Annette and I called a family meeting with one of our daughters and her husband. I wanted them to know about important documents and financial information in the event of my…continued decline.
Brittany’s wedding day finally arrived. I was at my worst. I called Brittany and told her there was a good chance that I would not be able to walk her down the aisle. We agreed that my brother would stand in for me. We had a little cry and hoped for the best.
We own an RV, and we decided to park it at the wedding venue so I could sleep before and after the ceremony. Hopefully I would have enough energy to give Brittany away, and then I could retreat to the camper.
It’s funny what you think about when faced with the prospect of your life ending. Some things are rational; others are not. One thing I was thinking about that most people would put in the “not rational” category was my tractor. It had been overheating; the thermostat and belts needed to be replaced. I’d purchased the replacement parts and put them in the barn. My son-in-law Mark was at the house that morning. He would be driving me to the wedding. I knew Mark would be using the tractor in my absence, so I asked him to walk to the barn with me so I could show him where the parts were. I knew he could replace them. It was a long, slow walk. My feeble body was barely up for the challenge.
Mark is from England. My daughter Jordan and he met while in college in Tennessee. He’s a big guy at six-foot-seven-inches, but his heart and spirit are as soft as I have ever known. He has a beautiful relationship with the Lord. On the way back to the house, Mark mustered all the courage he could, looked at me, and simply said, “Pop…could I pray for you?”
I’m a believer, but even if you’re not, when the big things in life hit you hard, you are very open to the things of God. I looked at Mark and said yes.
We stopped our walk, and he laid his hand on me and began a simple healing prayer. I don’t recall everything he said, but it was simple and sincere—from his heart directly to the Father on my behalf. I don’t think it was more than a few sentences. I hugged him and thanked him for his prayer.
I went in to get ready for the wedding. Everything was quiet; all the girls had left for the wedding by that time. I remember sitting down, exhausted, no energy, my body bent over with my arms resting on my knees.
All of a sudden, I felt what I can only describe as a low-voltage shock across my chest above my abdomen. I perked up my head, trying to understand what had happened. As a matter of fact, I said it aloud—what just happened? In the next moments, I felt energy return to my body. I felt alert; stronger and better than I had in over two weeks. I wasn’t anywhere near normal, but there was no doubt that something wonderful had happened.
I knew that God had reached down and touched me in an answer to Mark’s healing prayer.
Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t jumping up and down, doing a victory lap. I was still weak and looked terrible, but I knew I would make it to my daughter’s wedding to give her away. Not only did I give her away, but I did not need that RV we’d parked at the venue ahead of time. Amazingly, I stayed at the wedding until late in the evening and watched the bride and groom leave the reception. I stayed on my feet for a large part of the evening. I tasted some of the food and even slow-danced with my daughter and my wife.
I give God all the glory. He’d answered the only prayer I’d been able to muster in those preceding days—He’d allowed me to be at my daughter’s wedding.
From that point, life began to return to my body. Each day I felt stronger. Later that week, we returned to the doctor’s office to go over the MRI results. As we sat waiting in the examination room, my wife and I wrestled with conflicting emotions. On one hand, we knew I was feeling better; on the other hand, we knew the ultrasound had been ominous.
The doctor came in with my charts in her hand. She looked confused as she read the MRI results. Finally she said, “I’m not sure what happened here, but the mass that was in your gall bladder is no longer there. Your bilirubin count is near normal, and the lesion we found on your liver is noncancerous.”
Those were the words we’d been waiting to hear. I was given another chance at life! I tried to explain to the doctor about Mark’s healing prayer and God’s healing touch, but she would have none of it.
That’s okay…I know what happened.
Two weeks later, I was at the USA Water Ski Hall of Fame banquet, giving my acceptance speech and accepting my award of distinction with my family by my side. Two weeks after that I was well enough to go on that long-anticipated off-road adventure. I was so thankful to have my health back and to be enjoying my family and life again.
God has never spoken to me audibly. I think Mark would tell you the same thing. But God does nudge us from time to time to take specific actions. That day, Mark responded to that nudge and said a simple healing prayer that I believe changed the course of my life. If God is prompting you to step into someone’s life and do or say something, don’t ignore that call. He might have something very special to do through you.
by Mike Botti