A local morning talk show “Russ and Dee in the Morning” had a question and a discussion on modern day miracles.  Russ’ contention was that he hasn’t seen any miracles.  His Wife and co host Dee says there are miracles around us every day… I couldn’t get a line in, but I wrote him this email.  He wanted me to come on his show the next day and discuss Cole’s story… but work prevented it… here’s the email I sent him…



We’ve corresponded before on several subjects, but today I was really compelled to write you. So here’s another long epistle from me to you.   I listened to your show this morning...interesting topic today on miracles in modern day life. I haven’t seen any waters parting or rivers turned to blood. I really don’t know how an epic miracle would be greeted in today’s time.

I’m sure some of the religious organizations would discredit it as a terrorist act while others would start preaching end times. The political armies would either take credit for it or denounce it’ depending of course on whether it was a liberal or a conservative miracle.

I think you were looking for noteworthy occurrences where people were ‘miraculously’ healed or brought back from death’ my story isn’t quite that astonishing because it happens every day and only those that are involved see the hand of God at work.

In January, after 6 months of guessing and misdiagnosis, my 3 year old grandson was diagnosed with a medulloblastoma, a brain tumor at the back of his brain, above the stem. My daughters persistence with a neurologist finally got a MRI done and it showed up immediately and tied all the loose symptom ends together.. to the doctors credit’ he had several common symptoms that could be attributed to anything… nausea, being clumsy, sore neck.  But after his left eye turned in, it all finally came together.

When my daughter called with the news I was totally devastated. I sat in my office at work with the door closed and cried. My work associate finally knocked and asked if I was ok and I told her the story. Without another word she stood up and said ‘We’ll get right on it’ and left. I found out later what she meant. She contacted her ‘Prayer Warriors’ and before the day was out there were hundreds of people from coast to coast… (literally ) praying for Cole. I had calls and emails from California to New York State. From Canada to Texas all saying they were praying for my grandson and his quick recovery.

My wife and I contacted our friends and more chains of prayer began with even a convent of nuns in California offering masses and prayers for young Cole daily. There were some serious voices speaking to the Lord in Cole’s behalf.

A few telephone calls later and a neurosurgeon was located that could see Cole and perform the surgery… had it happened 6 months earlier ??    there would have been no doctor in Mobile to do it. It would be a trip to New Orleans, Dallas or Birmingham for a qualified surgeon.

The surgery was performed a week before his 4th birthday and the celebration was held in the hospital room… Cole didn’t enjoy the party very much… pain and complications from the surgery took most of the fun away.

His parents discussed his follow up treatment with the doctors and they really didn’t sound very promising.   When my daughter said she wanted her son back like he was before without the tumor, one doctor told her ‘well, you can’t have your cake and eat it too !!’ That statement pretty much defined the path we took.

A family discussion with all the grandparents, parents and involved family members was held to discuss options… stay in Mobile for treatment, come to UAB, or find a way to get to St. Jude. We researched the tumor and treatment and outcome. Long hours on the internet.. late nights reading and studying. What we found was that St. Jude Research Hospital in Memphis has the best success with this type cancer. They set the bar that everyone else tries to jump. But it meant uprooting the entire family for nearly 10 months, quitting school, leaving jobs and moving to Memphis.. leaving your support system 600 miles behind you.. not an easy decision for a young couple with a sick son.

My personal feelings were simple…I didn’t talk much in the family meeting.  I let everyone else have their say. When my son-in-law asked for my opinion. I simply said ‘ why use someone who copies what the experts do when you could have the experts.’   My son-in-law smiled and said that was his thought from the beginning but wanted to hear it from someone else.. the decision was made.. find a way to St. Jude.

Both my daughter and son-in-law are full time students and working part time jobs and living on student loans. Health insurance was too expensive and Cole was a Medicaid patient, something that can be a roadblock at certain hospitals and with certain doctors.

My son-in-law called St. Jude and just happened to get the director of patient services on the phone and explained my grandson’s case. There was no hesitation from her… she simply said " We’ll take him, how soon can you get here’. It was just that simple.

Decisions were made and plans formulated… financials were shifted to cover house notes and monthly bills and two week later Cole was ‘in the program’ at St. Jude.

The staff at this hospital is totally committed to treating/curing pediatric cancers and they are truly amazing at what they do for the children and the families. Cole has finished 31 radiation treatments now… half of which I refer to as ‘super-whiz-bang stuff’’ it’s actually called 3D conformal radiation.  It’s a three dimensional treatment that only radiates the tumor bed and 1 cm around it … he’s had a month off and he’s headed back next week for 4 months of Chemo.   Lots of side effects from the surgery have been overcome. Severe weakness on his left side left him without use of arm and leg on that side. His eye is still turned but getting better. It affected his speech and even his swallowing… but every day we see improvement due to the therapist and technicians working so hard to help him.. He still has a long way to go… but every step… every fork in the road… every treatment decision has had a positive outcome. This type tumor does something called ‘throwing off mets’ which is actually releasing more cancer cells that attach to the spinal cord in other places. A serious concern to the doctors and one reason why they wanted to begin the treatment so quickly.

The second round of MRIs and spinal taps showed no further sign of tumor or cancer cells in his spine. He’s responding well to physical therapy and his walking and balance are improving. 99% of this is due to the caring dedicated people at St Jude. They truly do God’s work there. Cole and his parents stayed at the Memphis Grizzlies or Ronald McDonald house thru the treatment and this next trip they will be at the Target house. All provided free to the family of patients at St. Jude. As is his complete treatment at St. Jude. They never charge more than insurance will cover and if you have none (as in Cole’s case) there is no charge at all.   I’m sure you Russ, of all people, can estimate what 9 months of cancer treatment would cost.. It would bankrupt two or three families.

They also have the prayers and support of 50 other families living there at the McDonald house..parents that have kids with the same or much worse conditions. My daughter knows how much a hug can help… especially from someone with the same pain that you feel.

We fully believe that Cole will recover with no lasting side effects or losses from this 9 month ordeal.

As for the miracles .. My thinking on miracles has changed since January. I used to think that God didn’t perform miracles any more’ perhaps this world doesn’t deserve his intervention… although it certainly needs it.

I was taught a long time ago that all you have to do is ask God for what you need... and he will give it to you. Note that I said ‘need’ and not want. When I pray, the first thing I do is thank God for all his blessings and interventions in my life…my needs are being met daily and my list of thank-you’s to Him is longer every day

I truly believe that the hundreds of voices talking to God daily in my grandson’s behalf have been what has brought about all the positive results we’ve seen.

I have no doubt that miracles have been performed in Cole’s case. There are many people who are much closer to God than I am asking Him for his help… asking Him to lay His hand on Cole and heal him… I see it happening… not as quickly as I’d like to see.. it’s happening in HIS time… but the miraculous thing ??? it IS happening.

So, now miracles to me have come down from the grand scale of water to wine…
Here’s the list of miracles I’ve witnessed.

A neurosurgeon (who has done this procedure a thousand times) that just happens to move from a big practice in Atlanta to a smaller hospital in Mobile.

A persistent mother that won’t let a doctor give up on her son.

A resection of a tumor that the surgeon calls ‘the cleanest one I’ve seen in years’.

A department head answers the phone to hear my family’s story instead of the receptionist .

Companies and hospitals that offer free care and free housing for cancer patients and families (God bless McDonalds, the Memphis Grizzlies and Target)

A report from a spinal tap that my grandson’s spine is cancer free.

A man who saw a need and used his celebrity to make it come true (God bless Danny Thomas and his family... this man has a chair at the head of God's table I'm sure)

Little or no bad reaction or side effects from 23 radiation treatments (other than a slick head)

A little extra money that comes in unexpectedly, not a windfall but it filled an urgent need.

Friends and especially strangers that have been so loving and supportive, both emotionally and financially. There are more than preachers doing God’s work on this earth.

Doctors and therapist and technicians that are dedicated to healing sick children and do it untiringly day after day’ many times with no recognition of their efforts at all.

A grandson that’s getting stronger every day… more like his old self… that still can climb up in his granddaddy’s lap (with some deal of effort) hug him and tell him he loves him.

Russ, I think that if you keep looking for your ‘Lazarus’ type miracles you might one day find one.. or not. But you’re going to miss all the wonderful ones that happen every single minute of every day. Listen to Dee’ she knows what I’m talking about.

Sorry this is so long but thanks for reading it’ it’s therapeutic for me to write it all down…take care and look for the little ones’ they are worth so much more !

John Niolon

If you care to read my detailed thoughts on St. Jude, I’ve written an epistle on that too… it’s on my web page click on the St. Jude logo in the center of the page.