Hope, Strength and Peace: Inspiring Others Facing Cancer
Chris Lawrence has experienced a rare miracle in his life — returning to a healthy, active life after stage 4 cancer.
In 2015, Chris faced stage 4 bile duct cancer, and he beat it — thanks to genetically personalized treatment at Avera Cancer Institute, and his personal, hope-filled relationship with God.
Chris’ diagnosis came after he experienced searing back pain. He had been told at three different cancer centers that his condition was incurable before coming to Avera for another opinion.
Chris recalls the transforming moment when his Avera cancer team told him and his family that his diagnosis was potentially treatable. “Of course, they made no promises, but it felt like hope walked into the room,” he said.
The potential of effective treatment allowed hope to blossom. His father, Craig, marked the optimistic moment by scrawling “HOPE” across a marker board, which honored that arrival of hope.
Unbeknownst to Chris at the time, his father also reserved the web address hopehasarrived.com that same day — perhaps intuitively knowing this experience would someday bring hope to others.
Hope Has Arrived
Within a few months of the targeted, multi-drug treatment guided by genomic testing, scans showed that tumors on his liver, ribs, back and pelvis were blackened and dying. Several months later, his cancer was in full remission. In March 2021, Chris felt well and confident enough to move back to Colorado.
By analyzing the results of comprehensive molecular profiling including DNA, RNA and protein information, Avera’s Precision Oncology team collaborates with our physicians to prioritize what alterations are driving the cancer. “Cancer is a genetic disease. Precision oncology is often very complex, but in simple terms, it’s determining which molecular changes are driving the growth of the tumor and matching a treatment to it,” said Casey Williams, PharmD, Chief Scientific Officer and Executive Director of Cancer Research at Avera.
“In the past, this approach has allowed us to give patients — who were otherwise out of options — a treatment,” Williams said. “Presently, we’re expanding access to genomic testing so we can help more cancer patients this way, earlier in the disease process.”
“Seeing a person with stage 4 cancer get back to living a normal life is exciting and generally unlikely. Yet, as the science matures and advances, we hope there will be more stories like this. And, by doing comprehensive molecular profiling at diagnosis and including this information in treatment decisions, it’s our ultimate goal to cure more patients. This is more than a dream — it’s an emerging science that’s demonstrating real hope,” Williams said.
After Cancer: Staying Healthy, Serving Others
Chris Lawrence and his family
Today, Chris continues a healthy, active lifestyle with follow-up screenings that have reported no signs of reoccurrence. Along with his family, he’s particularly thankful to be back living in Colorado where he pursues his passions of rock climbing, skiing and mountain climbing. He even guides others through rock climbing, whitewater rafting and backpacking.
“One year after my diagnosis, my wife and I climbed a rock tower in Garden of the Gods to celebrate how far I have come on this journey,” said Chris.
He recalls one particular moment five years ago sitting in Gregory Canyon, in pain and feeling unwell. Recently, he stood in the exact spot; this time, feeling good. Reflection brought a new perspective and a grateful joy of giving hope to others.
“My life has been redeemed,” he said. “I’ll never forget all I’ve learned through the cancer journey. It feels like it didn’t happen, but it totally did.”
Spreading Hope to Others
When he was ready, Chris used the reserved web platform of hopehasarrived.com to inspire hope, strength and peace in patients, survivors, caregivers and anyone else affected by cancer.
“The physical aspect of cancer is painful,” said Chris, “but when your hope is devastated, the suffering is even greater. Hope offers light in seemingly hopeless situations.”
“For me, hope is found in Jesus Christ. It was my personal relationship with him that carried me through even the darkest moments,” Chris said. During the development of Hope Has Arrived, he discovered that, no matter your beliefs, hope is a universal thing.
“Hope is undervalued until it’s threatened; that’s when you see the value of hope,” he said. “People who face cancer are in tune with how vital hope is.”
Chris has shared messages of finding hope during cancer through a podcast, church speaking engagements and to various cancer groups.
Personalized Cancer Care
If you or a loved one are diagnosed with cancer, Avera offers specialized cancer care in six state-of-the-art facilities around the region. Talk to your provider about recommended screenings for your age.