Carol Garlow loses cancer battle after extended fight

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LA MESA, Calif. — Carol Garlow, pastor of prayer and intercession at Skyline Church in La Mesa, Calif. where her husband, Jim Garlow, serves as senior pastor, has lost her nearly six-year battle with ovarian cancer. She was 62.

Garlow died April 21, 2013 at home, surrounded by her family. After extensive cancer treatments in San Diego, Houston and Tijuana, she stopped treatment and entered hospice care on April 16.

Carol's extended—and often heart-wrenching—journey with cancer was chronicled in a transparent blog maintained by Jim. He made the announcement of her passing with a simple post.

"Forty two years ago, we ended our wedding vows with the words, '...until one of us shall place the other in the arms of God.' I just did that."

More than 5,000 people followed her journey on his Facebook page, while hundreds of others kept up to date on Skyline's website. Followers were educated in such medical terms as gadolinium contrast, markers and cyberknife radiosurgery,

Jim announced the news that Carol was entering hospice care in an April 16 post on the church website.

"Although no doctor can ever predict (and he was quick to point that out), it is believed that Carol has approximately one to two months of life left on this earth," her husband wrote. "I am typing these words through tears and, candidly, in a bit of disbelief and shock."

Much of his postings this year have chronicled setbacks in her pursuit of healing.

In a blog post on Feb. 13, Jim Garlow shared their despair that treatment options for Carol appeared to have run out.

"For the first time in our home, the word 'hospice' was mentioned in a conversation with Carol," Jim wrote. "Through many tears, discussion regarding 'what do you want in a memorial service?' occurred for the first time. From 5:30 p.m. on, each of our four children came by, each with much to say, and tremendous amounts of tears.

"Tuesday morning arrived with a sense that the previous night had been a horrible nightmare. However, it was not a dream. It was for real. We were numb."

By the following day, however, doctors had come up with yet another treatment protocol. The turn of events mirrored her entire cancer journey, as Carol valiantly fought the disease while family, friends, Skyline members and the greater church community watched in awe.

In an extensive interview with the Christian Examiner in March, Carol said the source of her strength dated back to her first surgery in the initial stages of her battled.

"While I was in the hospital, just before surgery the Lord spoke to me and it was very clear," she said. "He said, 'Carol, you are going to have to go through everything, but I will be with you through it all.'"

She went on to attribute her trust in the Lord with giving her courage.

"I had no idea what 'everything' was going to be," she said. "And, at this point, after five years and six months, I feel like I've been through an awful lot of things, just a lot of things. I don't know if I've been through everything, but I've been through enough."

Although a committed Christian for decades, Carol said she was never one to concentrate too much on heaven while in service for the Lord, though she understood that for many people, heaven would be the ultimate place of healing.

"At times now, I'm at a place in this new year of 2013, where I have more pain, and having to do more chemo, and this last chemo that I'm on is making me sick," she said. "It gives me the feeling of I'd rather be in heaven than have to endure this anymore. This is the first time that I have felt this way because I've been a strong faith woman. It seems like my strength, my faith have diminished, but they really haven't because when I have strong days like this I see myself going on for as long as I can, but those days when you don't feel well, it's just really difficult and heaven looks very, very good."

On the issue of miraculous healing, Carol admitted to being disappointed that her physical struggles has persisted, but said she has clung to Psalm 16.

"I've just accepted it," she said. "I've accepted that this is the journey that I'm on. I guess that's how I make it through each day, the acceptance that this is what today is and I'm just going to walk in it with what God has for me. And if one more person is challenged to go in a deeper way with God because of my experiences, then my life, so far, has been worth living."

Carol was diagnosed with primary peritoneal carcinoma, an aggressive form of ovarian cancer in July 2007. At the time of her diagnosis doctors discovered more than 100 tumors, one the size of an orange. Her treatment was just as aggressive as the disease itself, using both traditional and alternative medical practices, that sent the couple to Mexico and Texas to see specialists in the field.

She entered her first of remission in 2008.


A Midwest girl
Carol Jane Luckert was born 1950 in Enid, Okla. to parents Richard and Vivian. An accomplished pianist, Carol graduated from Westminster Choir College in Princeton N.J. and was trained in the Suzuki style at the Manhattan School of Music in New York City. Prior to heading to the Northeast, Carol attended the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma Wesleyan University.

The Garlows were married in January 1971, while Jim was attending Asbury Seminary. They later moved to Oklahoma where Jim took a professorship at her alma mater, Oklahoma Wesleyan University.

The Garlows moved to San Diego from Dallas in October 1995 to assume the senior pastor's position at Skyline Church. In Dallas, he was the founding pastor of Metroplex Chapel, where he served for 13 years.

Before moving to Dallas, they served together at churches in Oklahoma, New Jersey and Kentucky.

In San Diego, Carol went to work expanding the church's prayer and intercession ministry, facilitating prayer groups and leading training. One of the teams prays regularly for members of the California legislature.

In 2005 she teamed up with her husband to write "God Still Heals."

After serving alongside her husband in ministry for 39 years, Carol was ordained by the Wesleyan denomination on July 6, 2010.

"(I) was rather emotional when Carol was ordained, as many people in the packed-out auditorium knew the story of what Carol is facing at present. Thanks to the efforts of so many people, it was a truly awesome event," Jim posted the day after her ordination. "How we thank God for this event being realized. It brought such joy to Carol."

On March 16, 2009, Carol was presented the "Woman of the Year" Award, representing the 77th Assembly district, in a ceremony at the California State Capitol. Carol was nominated for the award by then-Assemblyman Joel Anderson, who said he wanted to honor her for how she fought cancer.

"My mother died of cancer," Anderson, now a state senator, said at the time. "I saw what she went through. I know what it takes to continue in the midst of such challenges. Carol was an inspiration to our community as she braved her disease."

The day after receiving her award, the Garlows learned that that Carol's cancer had returned.


A fitting tribute
In honor of her longstanding ministry to the church, the congregation surprised Carol with a stone "Healing Wall" in the atrium of Skyline's new worship center, which opened in March 2012. Without letting her in on the secret, contractors managed to have Carol install the foundational stone of the prayer wall on Christmas Day 2011. The wall is patterned after Jerusalem's ancient "Wailing Wall," with nearby kiosks where parishioners can write down their prayer requests before placing them in the cracks of the wall.

While her husband has become a national player for upholding America's biblical worldview, Carol's legacy centered on the strong prayer ministry at Skyline, even when she could no longer do the job on her own.

"I've been teaching people to pray because they have had to pray without me teaching them," she said. "The Lord has been teaching them to pray. He's been doing the teaching. I'm just giving them the problem to pray."

Her hobbies included rooting for the Dallas cowboys, shopping and collecting antiques.

The couple has four children Janie McGarity, Joshua Garlow, Jacob Garlow and Josie Garlow and five grandchildren. All boys.


Related story: When healing doesn't comeCarol Garlow clings to Christ, family in protracted cancer battle