Jeff Murrow battles cancer just like his father - with faith

Aug. 17, 2013 @ 03:00 PM

A small sign sits in a conspicuous location on Fred Murrow’s large executive desk at Murrow’s Transfer.
“Expect A Miracle,” it reads.
The words seem almost out of place in this setting, where Murrow — the president of the Thomasville-based trucking company — for years has ably guided the business founded more than 70 years ago by his father. Even in this down economy, Murrow’s Transfer does not need a miracle.
“Expect A Miracle,” Murrow explains, once referred to his multiyear battle against cancer, and perhaps it still does. The 71-year-old High Point man has had cancer four times since 2006, and tumors still live in his brain, lung and bones. If he doesn’t need a miracle, who does?
But Murrow doesn’t want a miracle — not for himself, at least. He’ll tell you he received his miracle a few years ago, when cancer treatments left him so weak that he developed pneumonia and nearly died from all of the fluid on his lungs.
“The doctors didn’t think I would make it,” he says softly.
Murrow did make it, of course, a fact he attributes to a loving God, a supportive family, and skillful doctors and nurses.
In that order.
Those who know him best marvel at Murrow’s calm, steady outlook as his diseased body alternately veered toward and away from death’s door time and time again. A soft-spoken but hard-believing man of God — he serves on evangelist Clyde Dupin’s board of directors — Murrow clung, and clings still, to his faith.
“He went through some really tough times, but he never complained and always seemed at peace,” recalls Murrow’s son, Jeff. “It was really powerful to see.”
As vice president of Murrow’s Transfer, Jeff is the heir apparent to his father’s job: The title. The nice office. The big desk.
Maybe even the “Expect A Miracle” sign.
Which could be a good thing, because if anybody needs a miracle, Jeff Murrow does.

* * * *

Cancer runs deep in the paternal Murrow genes. Jeff’s grandfather had colon cancer — and his grandmother, bone cancer — long before his dad’s prostate cancer in 2006.
Later that year, it was Jeff’s turn. He thought he was just having his gallbladder removed, until the biopsy came back malignant. Only 40 at the time, with a wife and three young children, he was stunned. Subsequent scans over the next four years, though, showed the cancer had not spread, and Jeff believed he was in the clear.
Meanwhile, the disease returned to Fred’s body with a vengeance: Lung cancer in 2010. Breast cancer in 2011. Brain tumors in 2011.
“You never know where it’s gonna pop up,” he says with a chuckle.
Each diagnosis triggered a new round of treatment: Surgery. Chemotherapy. Radiation. Fred, now 71, still has tumors today, but a drug called Tarceva seems to be holding them at bay.
“To come through all of this,” he says, “I’m a miracle.”
In March 2011 — ironically, in the midst of Fred’s battle — Jeff got some bad news of his own. A scan had shown tumors in his lungs and liver, and doctors held out little hope for him. A treatment regimen similar to his father’s began: Surgery. Chemo. Radiation.
And prayer — lots of prayer. He may not have an “Expect A Miracle” sign on his desk, “but I have it in my heart,” he says.
By July 2012, Jeff and his doctors thought they had the cancer beaten, but a scan revealed multiple tumors in both lungs.
“That was really hard to hear, because we thought it was going to be a clean report,” recalls Jeff, 46. “Really hard to hear.”
Doctors resumed throwing treatments at the cancer, trying to find one that would work, but Jeff either couldn’t tolerate the treatment, or it didn’t work. He even went to the prestigious Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore for a clinical trial, only to learn he wasn’t a good candidate.
Finally, with his options dwindling, Jeff enrolled this past spring in a clinical trial at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem.
No miracle awaited him. On Monday, he learned he now has several tumors in his liver — one measured at 2.5 centimeters, a couple more at 1.3 centimeters, several more smaller lesions.
“The cancer has really progressed a lot,” Jeff says softly. “That was not a very good day.”

* * * *

Sitting in his dad’s office at Murrow’s Transfer, only a few feet away from Fred’s “Expect A Miracle” sign, Jeff ponders his fate.
“Really,” he says matter-of-factly, “the only way I’m gonna get better now is if God intervenes.”
Fred feels his son’s pain.
“I worry about Jeff more than myself,” he says. “His cancer is harder on me than mine is.”
On his wrist, Fred wears a red bracelet referencing Isaiah 41:10, one of Jeff’s favorite Scripture verses: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
For his part, Jeff worries more about his family — his wife, Angela, and their children Dylan, Chloe and Dalton — than himself. No man dies at Jeff’s age without worrying about his family.
Understand this, though — Jeff doesn’t want anyone’s pity.
“I’m a very blessed person, and I’ve lived a blessed life,” he says. “And the thing is, God has been in this with me all the way — I’ve never felt closer to Him than now.”
If Jeff seems at peace, he is. It’s a peace he’s drawn from two relationships — the one with his heavenly father, and the one with his earthly father. He has watched closely as Fred fought his cancer with faith, and he’s following in his father’s footsteps.
Two weeks ago, nearly 30 grown men wept as Jeff shared his story — and his unwavering faith — at the annual “Jesus Freak Golf Tournament,” an outing of mostly local men who go to the beach for a weekend of golf and Christian fellowship.
“There wasn’t a dry eye in the room,” says Heath Ward of Trinity.
“And I can honestly say this: Even if we didn’t play golf, I’d go back just to hear Jeff speak again. When you see a man going through what he’s gone through and facing it with that kind of strength and character, never getting angry and saying ‘Why me?’, it’s just very inspiring.”
Jeff smiles at the memory of his message that night, and how it impacted his friends.
“I know it was a God thing,” he says, “because I can’t even remember what I said. You can kind of tell when you’re driving and when you’re letting God drive. I drove for a long time, but it I’ve finally given up the steering wheel.”
jtomlin@hpe.com | 888-3579