MIAMI – There’s a Bible parable about the “pearl of great price” that has intrigued Angie Douthit for years.
“I’ve always read that and thought, ‘What is that pearl of great price? I don’t get it,’ and God opened my eyes, It’s His peace,” Angie said in an interview at her big dining room table. “To live in peace is the most amazing thing ever.”
That’s an amazing statement from a woman just diagnosed with stage four cancer.
Angie, 48, is well known in Miami as a runner and fitness buff. She has been running since she was 15 years-old. It’s common to see her jogging around town, or taking part with her family in a fitness event.
“I just started getting shortness of breath and my running was slowing down. I ran a 5K in November, and I was so upset because I got second place in my division. I was just sucking air,” she said.
Her physician first thought Angie might be suffering from bronchitis.
“I thought, I’ll take antibiotics and it’ll be okay,” Angie said. “All my bloodwork and everything always came back perfect. There were no red flags at all. I wanted to make it through the holidays, but I knew things were getting really bad. I remember running outside and I heard myself wheeze out loud, and I couldn’t do a long run anymore.”
After more x-rays, Angie was sent for a CT scan of her lungs and she says that was her first clue her illness was something more than antibiotics could fix.
“When I went in here at Miami the sweet radiologist asked if I read the report. I went, ‘Kind of, but I don’t know what any of it means.’ The radiologist said, ‘This is really scary’” Angie said.
A few days later while watching a football game with her family is the moment Angie says she realized something was seriously the matter with her health.
“We’re huge OU fans. I remember sitting on that floor at my Mom’s watching that game disappear from us and I’m not yelling or screaming or anything – and I knew,” she said.
With results of the CT scan in, Angie was referred to a pulmonologist and faced a month and a half long wait for an appointment. A friend advised her to go to Freeman Hospital with her records and sit in the ER until she was seen.
“We sat there for six hours and I told Brad (her husband) three times, ‘Let’s just go’,” she said. “But here’s how God worked – because I sat there for six hours, when they called me back it was shift change, so I got a brand new fresh doctor. The first thing he said was, ‘We need to check your brain.’”
The Douthits were told the doctor would be back in 45 minutes.
“He was back in two minutes,” Angie said. “ The doctor said ‘Look at this’ and he starts showing me. At first, we found three tumors.”
The full medical report indicated 8 inoperable cancerous tumors in total in Angie’s brain, and a tumor the size of an orange on her lung that has branched around her windpipe and esophagus.
“God gave me wonderful doctors. When they saw my head, they said, ‘We can’t believe you’re alive, we’re going to check for aneurysms and brain bleeds, why are you not having seizures, other symptoms’ but there was nothing,” Angie said.
Doctors immediately put her on steroids and anti-seizure medications.
In hindsight, Angie says she did notice subtle symptoms that something wasn’t quite right. At times she couldn’t remember how to type.
“I knew my brain was foggy since around January of 2017, because every year I start in January and read the Bible through in one year, well I couldn’t remember anything I read in the morning,” Angie said, laughing. “ I thought, is this menopause?”
Growing serious she said, “I did have signs, but never in a million years would I have thought this.”
Her oncologists and doctors have explained the cancer in her lungs was caused by a mutation that entered her body and went through her entire bloodstream
“It went through my body looking for the highest vascular place to live, which was my lungs,” she said. “But the cool thing is, it likes it there so well it hasn’t went anywhere else but metastasized to my brain.”
Radiation to Angie’s brain was the first step. A special radiation mask was molded to her face to enable the radiologists to tack her down to keep her still during the targeted treatment. Already petite and super fit, Angie lost 20 pounds in one week.
“That’s why I have no hair,” Angie said, wearing a cap to cover her now bald head.
Friends helped her shave her head and supported her through the difficult process of hair loss.
Cell targeting chemotherapy has caused Angie to lose her appetite and have shortness of breath, but she says she knows the chemo is necessary to fight her tumors. She believes her level of fitness is helping her sustain the treatments better.
“God had to put me completely on my back, completely drain all my strength so that I could be quiet and listen to him,” Angie said. “I try to explain that to people because I haven’t been scared. I haven’t been worried. No stress. It’s the most amazing incredible peace I’ve ever had in my life. The only times I have cried is when I was praising Him and realizing how incredible God is, and it wasn’t tears of sadness.”
Her Christian faith and commitment to her faith are well known to those who know Angie, so none are surprised by where she finds her strength, but the depth of her faith has inspired thousands.
“I believe, fully believe, that my entire life from day one has been choreographed for such a time as this and God was preparing me completely. But I was the typical American, I call it the hamster on the wheel. I was on the wheel, I was going, going, going, being productive I thought, but was I really getting anywhere?” Angie said. “My plan was to retire at 62 and live out my retirement, and I went, 'That was my plan?’ So what! God said we’ve got so much more to do.”
Angie’s diagnosis caused her to reevaluate her plan and purpose.
“He showed me what a good, incredible God He was and He showed me how simple it can be. My whole goal is I want people to know my Jesus and I want to share the love of Christ,” Angie said. “He’s a God of blessing – we are to praise and trust. For the first time in life, my body and mind are at rest.”
Her intimate faith in God is restoring her peace, which is healing and a gift according to Angie.
“I want healing, but I want to seek the Healer,” she said. “I want His perfect will. My prognosis was four to 12 months. I have eternal life. I see life so differently. I can sit for hours and look out the window without the TV on, I can listen now. He said ‘Do not fear.’ How many times did God say, ‘Do not fear,’ it’s all through the Bible. He said trust me, let me give you my peace and then you go share it with other people.”
Angie has been posting daily devotions and messages of hope and of her progress on her Facebook page.
“It takes me so long every morning just to type that post, but it’s all God coming out. It’s not me,” she said.
Angie was born and raised in Miami, but attended Wyandotte Schools from Kindergarten through her freshman year of high school and then graduated from Miami High School. She met her husband Brad of 30 years in high school.
“My sophomore year we moved to Miami and that’s how we met. We rode the school bus and we couldn’t stand each other, I was obnoxious and he was mean,” Angie said smiling at the memory. “It was destined.”
Brad has also worked for Miami Public Schools for 22 years as Rockdale Elementary custodian.
“He’s five blocks away. It’s so convenient, especially right now because he can come home from lunch every day. It was so hard for him to go back to work,” Angie said. “It’s good for him to keep his mind busy.”
(During our interview Brad called to check on her and recent photos of the couple show him literally wrapped around his wife.)
“Brad took it the hardest,” she said.
After raising her four kids, Whitney, 30, Kaylee, 27, Zeke, 25, and Mackenzie, 23, while running an in-home daycare Angie then earned a teaching degree. She has taught second and third grades in the Miami Public School system at Wilson Elementary for 11 years and the past three years at Roosevelt Elementary.
“When my youngest started first grade I had my Associates degree and I said, ‘Mom’s turn,’ and it just worked out where I got to go back to school and went to Pitt State,” Angie said. “I was so glad I stayed home with my kids.”
Angie says her third-grade students are like “sponges” and added with a laugh, “They still think you’re cool.”
Her family forms the perfect team and each family member provides support and help in their own unique way using their talents and skills.
“The kids have been troopers. Whitney and Tim are staying with us and that’s super helpful and she’s my secretary and her husband’s my tech guy. Kaylee is a PTA so she’s my medical soundboard and her husband can fix anything. Zeke is a personal trainer and Jordan is a licensed dietician. Mackenzie has been helping with all my social media stuff and her husband Josh is a great help. All their personalities just came out in this,” Angie said, as her voice breaks with emotion for the first time. “It’s been hard, but it’s helped for them to see I’m not scared.”
“All four of my kids married wonderful people, and we had six grandkids in six years,” Angie said. “My first thought when I got my diagnosis was ‘Thank you, God, it’s not one of my kids.’ Then I thought of my parents (Jack and Jayne Trask). My Dad’s taken me to every appointment.”
In this time of great strife, the community’s support overwhelms Angie and her family.
“Miami, Oklahoma, this place, it’s hard to even come up with words for what this community has done for my family,” she said. “They immediately started shining - brought food, money, fundraisers. Me, my family, and Brad were just blown away. They are amazing. God opened my eyes to see all the kindness in people.”
Three back-to-back appointments with her oncology team on Monday revealed the results of testing after the whole brain radiation treatments and chemo. The doctors found just seven tumors instead of eight originally indicated and the swelling in her brain has gone down significantly. The treatment plan is to now target the three bigger tumors with radiation for five days starting Feb. 12.
Radiologist believes there's a good chance they can destroy the tumors. If radiation doesn't kill the lung cancer mass, chemo will follow. If all goes as planned doctors believe Angie will be able to resume most of her normal activity.
“It’s all in God’s control,” Angie said. “We are praying for 20 more years and if God gives me 20 more years I’ve got a lot of work to do. Now I know how to pray for others. My life purpose is that people will know my Jesus and I will share the love of Christ no matter what happens. He is so real and He has given me this amazing, incredible peace, and I wouldn’t go back. I know that sounds strange, but He has changed me so much and opened my eyes to so many things and I want to share and share and share until my last breath.”
Melinda Stotts is the associate editor of the Miami News-Record. She can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or followed on Twitter @MelindaStotts1.