Feature

In His Hands

One man’s miraculous healing demonstrates God’s perfect timing

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Fred Bassler was at a Penn State football game in November 2018 when he began experiencing severe difficulty in swallowing. After a visit with his doctor at the Veterans Affairs hospital, he was referred to a gastroenterologist at a nearby medical center and finally underwent an endoscopy on August 13, 2019.   

His wife, Cheryl, remembers being in the waiting room when two medical personnel came out to get her. She followed them into the recovery room, where the doctor reported they had found a large mass in Fred’s esophagus and an abnormal lymph node. She and Fred looked at each other—Fred coming to from the anesthesia just in time to hear the news.   

“It practically broke my heart,” Cheryl said, “because I don’t think he fully understood what the diagnosis meant.”   

The following week, the results were in. The tumor was malignant.

Strong Foundation

A Vietnam veteran, Fred is no stranger to close calls. During a six-month deployment to the war-torn country, he was piloting an airboat when a piece of the boat’s propeller flew off and the engine quit, leaving him stranded on the river. By God’s grace he was close enough to land and was rescued by his fellow soldiers. On another occasion, he was in a firefight and remembers seeing a flash just before his tooth was shot out. In both instances, he credits God with sparing his life.   

Throughout Fred’s life God’s hand has been on him, long before he was a soldier—like when he was adopted at six days old. And when he heard and responded to the gospel at age 12 at a church camp in Doubling Gap, Pennsylvania.   

His strong foundation of faith gave him the strength to withstand this cancer diagnosis.   

“It takes a while to understand it, to digest what you’ve been given,” Fred says, holding back tears. “Knowing that Christ is with me, that made it much easier—I didn’t have to go through it myself. If you’re a believer, you have Someone to depend on. And I had a wife who was always there, watching after me.”   

Cheryl’s background as a retired medical technologist helped her in caring for Fred in the months of treatment ahead, but it was still difficult. “I remembered my vows, ‘in sickness and in health,’ but I had no idea what this was going to involve,” she says. “I don’t think anyone is ever fully prepared for a cancer diagnosis.”     

A Time of Waiting and Uncertainty

On August 23 further testing revealed some good news: the cancer had not spread to any other organs. But the formal diagnosis from the oncologist came September 10: Stage 3 adenocarcinoma—esophageal cancer with a grim 30–40 percent survival rate.   

The following day, with bittersweet emotions, Fred and Cheryl celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary at a party their daughters organized.   

   Fred was excited to still enjoy long-awaited trips to two Christian conferences before starting treatment. He and Cheryl requested prayer at both and knew many were praying for him. When they returned home, Fred endured six weekly treatments of chemotherapy, in conjunction with 28 straight days of radiation.   

“It was day, after day, after day,” Fred says. “I felt weaker as I went through the process.”   

“When Fred came home from his treatments, he would just go to bed,” Cheryl says. “He was barely eating, barely drinking. He got so dehydrated.”   

Fred finished his treatment on Thanksgiving week and was grateful for the small joy of eating ice cream during the holiday. But then in December, Cheryl noticed he was becoming more lethargic, pale, weak, and dehydrated. That’s when his oncologist recommended infusions of IV fluids four to five days a week for the next two weeks. Fred grew too weak and lost too much weight to safely undergo major surgery to remove the tumor. He needed more strength to endure the invasive procedure that would require a feeding tube for four to five months afterward.   

But during this time of waiting and uncertainty, the Lord showed Fred and Cheryl He had a better plan.      

God’s Healing Touch

On January 5, 2020, they gathered with family at a noisy restaurant to celebrate their grandson’s seventh birthday. As they sat and talked, a man came over, saying he noticed Fred’s Vietnam veteran’s hat and that another man he was with wanted to pay for Fred’s meal.   

Fred stood up to thank the man for his generosity, and Cheryl told him this blessing came at the perfect time since Fred was battling cancer. The man turned to his friends and soon they all appeared next to Fred and asked if they could pray for him. Fred said yes, and the men proceeded to surround him, lay their hands on him, and pray for healing.    

That’s when Fred noticed how uncharacteristically quiet the restaurant had become. All eyes were on them.   

“People were amazed,” Fred said. “Waitresses were crying. It was amazing.”   

At one point, the men stopped praying and asked Fred if he felt any differently. He said he felt comforted and at peace. The men began praying again, but this time praising the Lord for healing Fred.   

To this day Fred and Cheryl still don’t know who the men were, but they certainly left a lasting impression.   

“We don’t want to put the praise on the men, but on the Lord,” Cheryl says. “They were the vehicles. The fact that they had that courage in a very noisy restaurant on a Sunday evening makes me ask the question, ‘How willing are we to be bold?’”   

Fred looks back at this incident and sees God’s sovereign hand. “It was the Lord’s plan,” he says. “God touched me. It was a blessing.”   

Increasing Faith

Two days later, a PET scan confirmed God’s healing touch. “Would you like to look at the scan?” the physician assistant asked.   

Months earlier, the scan revealed cancer that was so bright it shone like the sun. But this time, it was totally black.   

The doctor’s response to whether or not Fred would need surgery was: “You can’t operate on something that’s not there.”   

Fred continues to show no evidence of metastatic disease. He and Cheryl are humbled and thankful to God and don’t waste any opportunity to share the good news of Christ, their Healer. “Everywhere we go, it is so easy to bring the conversation back to how God has ministered in our life,” Cheryl said.

The Basslers’ pastor, Steve Wiggins of Immanuel C&MA Church in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, has been encouraged by their experience. “I’ve seen a fresh love and affection for God in these past few months that is clearly evident in their countenance every time I talk with Fred and Cheryl,” Steve says. “He has healed the body but also blessed their souls.”   

Their testimony has also increased Steve’s own trust in the real and tangible transformation that Christ provides. “Seeing the Lord Jesus heal increases my faith that He still has power, He still cares about our struggles, and He still heals sickness today,” Steve says.   

During the cancer journey, Cheryl said they clung to the promises of Scripture and met friends and encouragers everywhere, even in the radiology waiting room. They are thankful for the prayers and cards from friends and family, which Cheryl says have “carried us through when we didn’t know if we were going to make it.”   

Cheryl often thinks of others who don’t receive the healing they long for but has come to realize that God may heal in different ways—sometimes it’s physical (whether through medical or divine intervention) and sometimes it’s spiritual. In eternity, it will be complete for all who trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.   

In the meantime, she says, “I don’t think I can question God. I just have to be very thankful that we have the diagnosis we have—that we can share this with everyone we meet for His glory. We praise God that people could be saved through this.”   

Fred encourages those who may be going through a similar health battle: “If you don’t have God with you, get Him with you. Because all things are possible with Him.”   

The Lord has indeed touched Fred in both body and soul. Fred says his faith is undeniably stronger now than ever before: “How could it not be?”

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