Charles, Diana, and The Big C:
The Wake-Up Call to Happily Ever After
Written by Jacqueline So
“Love life more.”
Those were the words the doctor said after looking at the CT scan results.
The verdict was out—it was pancreatic cancer. She was dying.
When Charles first met Diana at a high school alumni event over a decade ago, he was one of those guys who grew up knowing that God existed. He had attended a Christian school, but he didn’t believe in Jesus. But Diana was a Christian who was committed to her faith. So, like many guys who fall for Christian girls, Charles began to attend church so that he could pursue her.
Most stories like theirs end with the guy dropping the “spiritual” act, having either won the “prize” or grown tired of putting up the front. But God was at work, and the gospel of Jesus Christ finally reached Charles during a church retreat.
After that fateful encounter, Charles was on fire for God. He went on to join his first mission trip, began sharing his testimony to people around him, and used his tech skills to help out at church. He also strove to glorify God through his business.
And of course, he went on to win Diana’s heart—they got married in 2014 and had two children, Caitlyn and Chloe. Life was good, and business was booming, so much so that it created an opportunity for Charles’s company to expand. Soon enough, work took almost all his time and energy, leaving Charles too tired to do anything else but veg out in front of the computer at the end of the day.
With Charles focused on work, it fell to Diana to take care of the children and run the house—responsibilities that gradually pulled her away from church. As home life consumed Diana, even talking to Charles or spending regular time with Jesus became too hard. She was well on her way to becoming a mum whose life revolves solely around her children and her household.
The pandemic was in full swing by then, and Caitlyn was starting kindergarten from home, which meant Diana had to be on hand to monitor her daughter’s schooling in the morning. She was also working with Charles at his company in the afternoons.
So when Diana started experiencing pains in her abdomen and back, she thought it was just acid reflux—nothing a good antacid wouldn’t cure. She took medication, and it worked…for a while.
But the pain kept coming back, so Diana went to see a doctor. At first, the doctor told her it was nothing but stress, and even suggested that she take antidepressants. But Diana knew that while she was tired, stress wasn’t the problem.
One day, she noticed her skin turning yellow and realised that something was undeniably wrong. After taking a blood test and undergoing a CT scan in March 2021, the results finally unveiled the culprit—a tumour in her pancreas.
Pancreatic cancer usually hits women in their 40s and above. Diana was 29.
“When Charles and I read the results together, I didn’t break down at the time—I was just blank,” Diana recalled. “Charles was the one who cried. I was surprised when he did, so I ended up crying too.”
“I remember praying immediately, ‘Oh God, why her? She’s young, she has a good relationship with You, it’s statistically improbable.’ I didn’t blame God—it was just an honest question. I thought it should have been me,” Charles shared. “Mostly, I asked God to save her.”
Not wanting to let the gravity of the situation crush them, the couple hurriedly shopped the scan results around to other doctors.
When one of the oncologists examined Diana’s CT scan results, he advised Diana not to rush into surgery to remove the tumour, because the chances of her dying on the table would be high. According to the scan, the tumour was touching the portal vein—a critical vein in the body. The oncologist suggested chemotherapy, but warned the couple that it was hard for the treatment to reach the pancreas.
Diana asked the oncologist if there was another way. He responded, “Do you have God’s phone number?”
The reality of the situation hit the couple like a ton of bricks. Charles’s young wife was dying. Diana’s children were facing a future without their mother. In despair, the couple fell before God’s throne of grace.
With Caitlyn being the same age as the son of the pastors at their church, their play dates maintained one important connection Charles and Diana had to the church.
Charles also called on his friends from high school to lift up Diana’s situation to the Lord.
The church quickly came together for the couple, setting up an online prayer meeting one night to call on the Lord together and to speak words of comfort and encouragement from God’s Word. The couple was moved by how the community had come together to support them, even though it had been years since they were active in the church.
“I really saw God at work, even though we were undeserving,” Charles said.
The same day Diana was told to ask for God’s phone number, someone in their network recommended another doctor. This surgeon was renowned in the Philippines, and it was incredibly hard to book a visit. But Charles kept trying to reach the surgeon, until one day, a mysterious tech glitch caused her personal mobile number to show up on a link he clicked while trawling her website. For the couple, this was a sign of God’s grace to them in their situation.
Charles sent a message to the number, not knowing where it would lead. Then the surgeon replied. It seemed that Charles had sent his message at the perfect time—she was just coming out of the operating room when she checked her phone, and his message, which led off with “Emergency,” was right at the top of the notifications list. One phone call later, Diana was booked for a consultation.
“The surgeon receives hundreds of messages a day,” Charles explained. “If my timing had just been slightly off, the message would never be read. Doc said she even got goosebumps because it was too much of a ‘coincidence’.”
The surgeon then advised Diana to do a PET-CT scan, the findings from which revealed that there was just enough of a gap between the tumour and Diana’s portal vein to make surgery possible. And as it turned out, the surgeon was one of just two doctors in the country who was capable of reconstructing a portal vein after cutting it.
“God was helping us through and through—I really felt His hand on us,” Diana said.
But a new challenge came shortly. The couple found out that their house help had contracted COVID-19, which was a major problem—if Diana tested positive, then she couldn’t undergo surgery. Their youngest was already revealed to be positive.
Thankfully, the Lord answered their prayers, and Charles and Diana tested negative despite having been in close contact with their daughter. And while she was positive, Chloe was asymptomatic and recovered well from her brush with the virus.
Diana’s surgery pushed through, and throughout the 16-hour operation, her condition was stable—another blessing from God. However, during the procedure, Charles and the surgeon had to make a difficult call. As malignant cancer cells kept showing up throughout her pancreas, they had to remove more and more of it, until what little was left “wasn’t worth keeping.” Still, removing the whole pancreas meant that Diana would be dependent on insulin and supplements for the rest of her life. Nonetheless, Charles made the choice—which Diana agreed was a good call.
A post-surgery biopsy revealed that the cancer was in Stage 2B, and it was a rare type of cancer that progressed very aggressively. The cancer was so rare, the couple was told that Diana’s case would be featured in a medical journal.
Diana started chemotherapy to deal with the rest of the cancer cells, and dropped much weight rapidly. After her third chemo session, for the first time since she was diagnosed, Diana finally asked God, “Why?”
“Before, I had never asked God, ‘Why did you give me this disease?’, or ‘Why did You let me go through all of this hardship?’ I trusted Him, put my faith in Him,” she shared.
“But after that chemo session, I had to ask God, ‘Why is my situation so difficult?’ I became jealous of those who ‘just’ had breast cancer—their chemo sessions lasted 30 minutes, an hour, an hour and a half. My sessions last 48 hours.”
God’s comfort came to Diana in songs, especially those about trusting the Lord. On the nights when she couldn’t sleep, she’d play these songs so that she could rest. And as her body gradually recovered from the treatment, her spirits lifted.
Charles was Diana’s rock throughout the struggle. Whenever she wondered if the expensive treatment was worth it, he assured her each time that he would give all the money he had if it would make her cancer go away. And as he pushed her to keep fighting, the couple rediscovered the closeness they had been losing before her diagnosis.
“When I started to lose my hair, I thought, ‘I look so different, so ugly’,” Diana shared. “But to Charles, I was still beautiful. I could see in his eyes that he was sincere, that he was honest when he said that nothing had changed.”
After the sixth chemo session, a scan conducted in August revealed that the treatment wasn’t working. A tumour was found in Diana’s liver, which meant that the cancer had spread, and was in Stage 4.
“It was really devastating,” Charles admitted. “It was like receiving a death sentence, unless we experienced a miracle.”
The couple wept together, and finally talked about the real possibility of Diana dying. Charles asked Diana if she was worried about the kids being left to him, but she assured him that she wasn’t. They also discussed the possibility of Charles remarrying, with Diana stipulating that he had to marry someone who was kind, who would love her children.
The night before her seventh chemo session, the couple reminisced about their past and reflected on the good, funny times they had shared—a precious time that soon found them laughing together.
Before chemo began the following day, the surgeon talked to the couple and suggested the possibility that the cancer hadn’t actually spread from the pancreas. The tumour in the liver could actually have been there from the start, and had just surfaced because of the chemo.
These words lifted Diana’s spirits, and as she was heading into chemo, she realised she didn’t want Charles to remarry. She also didn’t want to leave her daughters behind—she wanted to be there to watch them grow up. She wanted to be their mum.
“I want to keep my position,” she recalled. “So I have to fight.”
In the three months since the tumour in her liver was discovered, Diana’s condition has not worsened. She has since started a new immunotherapy treatment, and a recent scan showed that the treatment caused the tumour to shrink by almost 50 percent.
“Thanking God is an understatement,” Diana said.
The battle with cancer has strengthened Diana’s relationship with Jesus and helped her to experience Him even more. She has let go of her old excuses for not worshipping before, and now makes it a point to attend church virtually. Her goal is to find more opportunities to share her testimony to people who are going through cancer and sickness like she is.
“I want them to know there is a God, He’s there, and He will not leave you. Many say that God will not give you a situation you can’t handle, and I can say that for me it is true—We just need Him to get us through it.”
“I’m physically weaker now. Many of the things I could do before, I can’t now, so I have no choice but to let them be. Although the kids still cling to me a lot and I still take care of them, I can leave them in the afternoons to, say, go read a book.”
One activity Diana and Charles have rediscovered is prayer. Its power, Charles said, is “not to be belittled.”
“When Diana wanted to give up, I’m sure that everyone played a part in reminding her that she’s loved and that people are praying for her—that could have made the difference in her decision to continue fighting.”
Diana is moved when her daughters pray for Mummy to get better and for Mummy to be brave when she goes to chemo. They also pray for Daddy to be safe from the virus when he accompanies Mummy to the hospital, and that he won’t get bored while waiting.
“Our constant prayer is that we want the kids to know God, hopefully earlier than we did. We want them to know that in everything, we can put our trust in God. That whatever happens, our peace and joy is in God,” Diana said.
“If the time comes that God decides to take me, I want them to know that He knows what is best. I want them to not be angry at God.”
For Charles, the experience has been the impetus for him to reassess his priorities and return to the Lord. He has also come to realise that maintaining his relationship with Jesus is “not about willpower”.
“I blamed work for why I fell away, but it was really an excuse. I knew what I had to do, but doing it was another matter altogether. I liked to believe I had strong willpower, but sheer will couldn’t get it done. This cancer journey gave me the push that I need.”
In the nine months since he and Diana first learned about the cancer, Charles has been spending more time with the kids, and has been rebuilding his relationship with Diana to where it was before everyone got busy.
Although he still feels afraid, his renewed faith in God keeps him going. Even in the worst-case scenario, he trusts that God will grant them the peace to face whatever comes. He considers this battle they’re facing to be a testimony to their non-believing friends.
“A lot of my friends are logical people. I am a logical person—I base my decisions on data and science and all that. It seems like the opposite of Christianity. There might be a mathematical model that explains all of the ‘coincidences’ we’ve seen, but as far as we’re concerned, I claim that God exists based on what we’ve been through.
“He’s at work, He provided for us, and we will play our part in His plan. Even if Diana passes away, it doesn’t mean there’s no God—it just means we don’t know why yet.”
Together, they place their hope in the knowledge that God has a plan for Diana and for him as they keep fighting the Big C.