When a young man leading a writing session said nobody would read ordinary people's cancer survival stories, Don Davis thought otherwise.
"He said, 'Those books don't sell,'" said Davis, a retired minister who lives in Concord. "I said, 'I think we do need them.'
"The keynote speaker said (later) if God is leading you to write a book, write it, even if it only sells one copy. I thought it was God speaking to me.... "
Davis, 73 and a two-time cancer survivor, and his wife, Barbara, 70, recently self-published "Man's Diagnosis, God's Prognosis," the story of Don's experience with melanoma.
Don Davis said he turned to books detailing people's cancer stories during his ordeal.
The Davises are now trying to get their book - which can be read in about an hour - into medical waiting rooms, to cancer support groups and to cancer patients and survivors.
"I believe it's going to help people," Don Davis said.
Struggle took its toll
The Davises moved to Concord about 27 years ago, after Don retired from the Air Force and took a job as an information services manager at Cannon Mills.
In the late 1980s, he said, he felt God calling him to ministry. He left his job in 1990 to be interim pastor at Memorial Baptist Church in Kannapolis. He was asked to be a full-time pastor there six months later.
One Sunday in 1993, a church member told Don he should get a spot on his nose checked. It was melanoma.
Surgery removed the cancer, but it came back four years later. This time, it was stage three cancer in lymph nodes in his neck.
Don had another major surgery, then he and Barbara spent a year administering interferon, a form of chemotherapy. He gave himself 156 shots in a year.
Don could insert the needle, but couldn't bring himself to push the plunger, so Barbara did it for him, she said.
"It was worth the effort," she said. "The interferon worked."
Don has been cancer-free since 1997. But the struggle took its toll; he had a heart attack during interferon therapy and went through four unrelated surgeries.
"He went through a time when, I think, he thought he was going to die," Barbara said. "But I never lost faith. I never lost hope.
"I could see ... that he was depressed. But he ... knew God was with him and would see him through."
Don recovered and retired from Memorial Baptist in 2000, too weak, he said, to lead the church in growth and new ministries.
Strength to face cancer
The Davises had talked about retirement for decades. They wanted to stay active and go on mission trips.
Don's health hasn't changed that. They've gone to South Africa on 13 missions in 10 years and written three books. Don has been interim pastor at three churches.
Their first two books are a daily devotional and a collection of Don's newspaper columns about his life and faith.
Don said the struggle with cancer is no different for a pastor than for anyone else.
In this book, Davis writes about lying awake at night, unable to sleep because of painful sores in his mouth due to the interferon. He prayed that God would get him through the night, often reciting Bible verses in his mind.
He also writes about the encouragement he received from his friends and congregation, including a child he saw at a restaurant who gave him a hug.
"There are just so many things that lifted my faith," Don Davis said.
Davis knows his book won't help everyone. He hopes, however, it will show people God can give them strength to face cancer.
All three books, including "Spirit Led, Spirit Fed" and "A Fresh Sip of God's Word," are available at www.dondavisministries.com, at 704-788-2034 or at Footsteps Christian Books and Gifts in Concord.