My name is Erik Gray. I am 19 years old, a three-time cancer fighter, a runner, and a Mormon— meaning that I am member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I was born in California, but have lived in Cedar City, Utah, my whole life. Growing up, I loved to explore new things and make new friends. I grew up with a large number of Mormons and was always surrounded with good examples. I was born into an active and involved Latter-day Saint family. This means that since I was born, my family has been involved with our church and attended meetings weekly. My faith and testimony — what I know and what I believe about the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ —have helped me in my lifetime, especially with the challenges I have been faced with.
In December 2008, when I was a freshman in high school, I noticed a lump on my neck under my right jaw. I didn’t really think anything of it at first, but I had a feeling it needed to be checked out. My doctor prescribed some antibiotic, and it changed a little bit but mostly stayed the same size, and the doctor dismissed it. A year later, in December 2009, I went back to the doctor after noticing a few miniscule lumps along with the lump already there. My doctor set up for a biopsy and removed the lump. On December 22, 2009, I was officially diagnosed with Mucoepidermoid Carcinoma —or in simpler terms, cancer of the salivary glands.
I underwent a major surgery in January 2010 followed by three months of radiation to the affected area in my neck. In July of that year, I officially achieved remission. But only a year and a half later, in January 2012, I noticed a few lumps in my neck, this time close to my Adam’s apple. My fear had been realized; I was again diagnosed with Mucoepidermoid Carcinoma. I underwent a surgery followed by scans every few months.
I thought that my trial with cancer was over, but in November 2012, I was found to have a recurrence of the cancer. This time, it was a little more severe. A month later, I went through a 13 1/2 hour surgery. Because the cancer was found in my jaw bone, the bone was replaced by the fibula taken out from my left leg. I am currently in the middle of reconstructive surgeries, and I look forward to the day when I will again achieve remission.
This trial has strengthened my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ immensely. I have faith that trial was allowed to happen for a reason. I have faith that the Lord has a plan for me. Although I do know what it entails and that it may not be exactly what I want, I am willing to go and do whatever the Lord has planned for me. Yes, at times I am scared, especially with my diagnosis, but I have faith. Faith guides me through the hard times, and I know that everything I’m facing has a reason, and either I or someone around me will be blessed because of me keeping my faith in the Lord.
It has also shown me that our Heavenly Father, and His son, Jesus Christ, are mindful of our situations and are watching out for us. It seems almost unheard of that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ would allow such trials as mine to happen, and although it must be hard to watch me suffer, it happens because this trial allows me to grow. I know this because I look to the example of Joseph Smith, Jr., the first prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. With the help of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, he restored the true church of Jesus Christ back on the Earth. The true message had been lost from the Earth for a long time, because it had been changed so much from the truth. Joseph Smith was persecuted by many, called foolish and visionary. He received instruction, guidance, and scripture from the Lord, called revelations, which were recorded and are today called the Doctrine & Covenants.My trials have shown me the importance of family. As Mormons, we believe that families can be together forever, even after death. I know that despite what happens to me or any other family members, if we obey God’s commandments and live righteously, we can live together again after this life on Earth.
One revelation was received by Joseph Smith during the winter of 1839, while he and others were imprisoned in Liberty Jail, and his followers were being driven out of the state of Missouri. He was pleading with God because of his own suffering and the suffering of the Latter-day Saints. In the 122nd section, verse 7, it lists a numerous amount of bad “what if” situations, such as “be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers… and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee,” but then the Lord says, “all these things shall give thee experience, and be for thy good.” The Lord allowed bad events to happen to Joseph Smith because he grew from those experiences. This scripture gives me good comfort. Instead of thinking, Why me? I realize that the Lord wants me to grow, and once my trial is over, I will be a better person because of it.
My testimony has grown substantially. I can testify that we are literal children of our Heavenly Father and that He loves us, no matter what we do and no matter the mistakes we make. He is mindful of our situations. We are put on this earth to grow physically and spiritually, and I am grateful that the Lord loves me enough to allow hard challenges to come my way, knowing that I have the ability to overcome them. I know for myself that I am a member of His true church and that my life is important. I am not just another kid, another cancer patient, another boy. I am Erik Gray, and I am a son of God.
This article was written by Erik Gray, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
My name is Erik Gray. I’m 19 years old live in Utah. I’m a college student and three-time cancer fighter. I love running, graphic design, and being with friends and family. My favorite sports are football, basketball, and of course, running. In my spare time I like to watch movies, be with family, and spend time with friends. For my future career, I want to be a graphic designer or a motivational speaker, or maybe both. I know that Jesus Christ is my Savior and that by being a member of His church and living righteously, I can return to live with Him someday. I hope to use my testimony and experiences to help others with what they’re going through and share the glorious message of the Gospel.