Flier and sports adventurer says knowing His Creator carried him through fearful times
They say if you want to truly get to know someone it is a good idea to take a long walk with them. For keen pilot and cancer survivor Eric Dobbie that lesson has proven to be true.
Life was pretty good for Eric's first 50 years, as he had a good marriage, two daughters, good friends and a rich variety of hobbies.
"I enjoyed good health and boundless energy. I travelled, learned to fly both gliders and powered aircraft, and enjoyed boating and water sports. My wife used to call me action man," Eric explains with a smile.
A week after scuba diving in Vanuatu in 2005 an unusually strong pulse sensation in his lower abdomen warned Eric to visit his GP. He knew he was at risk of cancer after his mother died from colon cancer two years prior.
Following a CT scan, doctors told Eric that he had extensive tumours from his oesophagus through to his stomach.
"I was diagnosed with stage four Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma and my condition was inoperable," he soberly remembers.
"I had a 50:50 chance of surviving 12 months and was placed on six months of chemotherapy."
Before the treatment began, Eric prayed with his pastor to ask God for a miraculous healing.
Then a Christian believer for three decades, he says that God answered his prayer in an unexpected way.
"There was no instantaneous healing, but this prayer gave me peace to continue walking and trusting Jesus to guide the doctors."
Eric explains that he had good grounds to continue to trust God.
"Through business difficulties and career hiccups, Jesus was always there walking along with me, helping me with good guidance from His Word, the Bible," he says.
In this situation he knew Jesus would still sustain him because of a decision he made decades earlier.
As a curious 14-year-old staring into a log fire on an inter-school Scripture Union camp, Eric was unsure what to do about the reality of God. He knew an eternal Intelligent Creator must have caused and sustained the Universe, just as every building requires an architect or builder, but he was unprepared for any commitment.
Fittingly, a science teacher on this camp chatted with Eric about the reasons he needed to know Jesus personally.
"Mr Joyce kindly pointed out that unless I believed and received Jesus' forgiveness of my sin, I was headed for separation from God and His goodness in hell forever. From the Bible, he explained that all those who reject God and forgiveness through Jesus will end up in a fiery judgement 'where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.'"
For a week, Eric recalls deeply contemplating where he was destined for eternity, and read a Christian tract Mr Joyce gave him.
"After much thought, after the camp I invited Jesus to be the Lord of my life."
In the 45 years since, Eric says, "I have come to know Jesus as a truly faithful friend and Saviour."
Following an initial strong chemo dose, which "mercifully" did not stop his heart, Eric recalls, "It was a special time for our family and for me spiritually, as I was able to meditate and understand God's Word better."
Five months later, February 2006, Eric was in remission when he contracted deadly septicaemia. A nurse accidentally flushed bacteria directly into his blood stream through the catheter that delivered his chemo. After his wife rushed him back to hospital, he and his wife and Christian friends prayed for most of the night and he was unexpectedly released from hospital 24 hours later.
Before he was discharged, Eric recalls, "A cleaner said to me, 'What is it with this room, the light is strange in here this morning.' I said it was probably me."
In the eight years since that course of chemotherapy, Eric has learned that his remission was indeed a miracle.
While lamenting to his oncologist about the pain of chemo Eric was surprised when the man said, "You've had an almost miraculous cure of your condition."
Eric recounts: "Comparing my diagnosis CT scans with later ones, the oncologist showed me the scar tissue where tumours had been healed but in other areas where there had been a lot of tumours they were all gone and there was no scarring at all.
"So God gave me the miracle I asked for after all! I just had to trust Jesus and take that long walk." •