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When a Nonsmoker Gets Throat Cancer

My dad has never been a smoker or a drinker.

“Once I passed 58, the age my dad was when it took his life, I thought I was out of the woods.

This is what Ken Ponder said when he started to think about his diagnosis: tonsil cancer stage-two, a form of oropharyngeal cancer. It’s a diagnosis that no one ever wants to hear, but sadly many will hear in their lifetime.

On Wednesday, September 18th, a few months short of his 67th birthday, Dad text us to let us know we needed to have a family meeting. At an appointment earlier that day, the ENT had told Dad that he had a tumor in his tonsil, and it was undoubtedly cancer.




The word no one wants to hear reverberated in all of our ears like a shriek of a fire alarm. But this was not a drill. Where there is smoke there is usually fire.

And Dad is fighting against Cancer.

After three biopsies that all came back suspicious but unclear, three or four weeks, and multiple visits to at least three doctors, Dad has now been diagnosed with Cancer. To be more specific: stage two squamous cell carcinoma in his right tonsil and a couple surrounding lymph nodes.

As some know, our dad, Ken, and his beautiful wife, our mother Marie, have loved each other and served the Lord in the local church body for over forty years. This year, after much prayer and fasting, they decided to semi-retire from their ministry and move to Central Florida to join my sister and me.

This phase of their life is supposed to be a time for rest, relaxation, peace, and joy.  But instead all of our energy and attention is focused in one direction: treating and supporting our father as he defeats, kills, and heals from this Cancer.

According to the doctors, if someone is going to get Cancer, this is the “best” type to get because…

·        It’s early staged

·        It has an 80-90% success rate with treatment

·        It has not spread anywhere except for the tonsil into a couple nearby lymph nodes

·        Dad is an overall healthy individual

We are so thankful for all of these things, but we still know there is a battle that we are just now preparing.

Currently, doctors have prescribed a treatment plan of seven weeks of chemotherapy in tandem with thirty-three treatments of radiation. The radiation treatments will be done five days a week.

We are getting a second opinion for the best plan of action. We would love if it all possible not to have to experience the extremes of the current treatment plan. However, we know God will guide us.

We are also seeking alternative therapies and co-therapies but those, of course, cost money. Money is, as you can imagine, not readily available for a retired minister and Navy veteran. Even if we go with the prescribed treatment plan, Dad has to have $10,000 worth of dental work (not fully covered by insurance) done before they can start radiation on his mouth and jaw. They require this before radiation begins.

We have also already begun buying supplements and various protein sources for him because he needs to gain extra weight before treatment. These supplements are another hidden expense that many don't think of when they are given a Cancer diagnosis.

Insurance does not cover everything.

Mom and Dad are on a fixed income at this time. Thankfully they have been able to work at my sisters company the past few months, but with these treatments, the doctor advises he not work at all.

Having been a minister for so many years, Dad has impacted so many lives. When I lived in Pensacola, there was rarely a week that I didn’t run into someone who told me how much my parents meant to them and their walk with Jesus. 

“I don't know where I'd be without the prayers of your parents.”

“You're father taught me more about Jesus than anyone ever has.”

“I don't know if my marriage would still be intact if it wasn't for your parents' ministry, I could never repay them.”

We are so honored and proud to know that Dad has had such an amazing impact on people. There is an older gospel song called I Give You Jesus, this is what Ken Ponder has done. He has given his time, his money, his energy, his literal blood, sweat, and tears to make sure he could give The Gospel of Jesus to people.

There is no way that anyone on Earth could ever repay that. It's a priceless treasure.

However, with this new journey we are on, there is real earthly money needed. Perhaps those of you, who have said to us over the years, “there is no way to thank them”... well,

If you can give $10, awesome. If you can give more, amazing!

Whatever you can do, we are thankful. We also ask that you share this page near and far. Send it to your email list, share it on social. Prayers and support are all VERY appreciated.




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