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PASTOR JULIUS MALONE
How Pastor Julius Malone Became An 8-Year Pancreatic Cancer Survivor
Written By Julia Brabant
March 11, 2022
Diagnosed: December 31, 2013
Status: No Sign Of Cancer
From Pastor to Patient & Back: How Julius Malone Became an 8-Year Pancreatic Cancer Survivor
Less than 2% of Americans receive pancreatic cancer diagnoses in their lifetime, so it was unusual that Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s Pastor Julius Malone would receive one in 2013 – and then his wife, Annie, another, just seven years later. And while members of Julius’ church congregation have long turned to their pastor when they needed strength, guidance or support, his congregation was among those that showed up for him when he found himself in sudden need of all three.
Julius, a senior pastor at the New Testament Church of Milwaukee, suspected he might have cancer after experiencing stomach pains in 2013. He went to see his primary care doctor, who promptly ruled out lung and several other common types of cancer. Suspecting Julius was dealing with a serious case of acid reflux, the doctor referred him to a specialist who performed numerous tests. Not seeing anything unusual, the specialist started Julius on prescription medications to treat the suspected acid reflux.
“Dr. Evans knew right away after looking at my X-ray,” Julius said. “I’d already had a biopsy that had come back negative – that just goes to show how good he is.”
Julius’ case was unique in that his tumor encased the celiac artery. After reviewing their options and taking into account the pastor’s wishes that they do everything possible to eliminate his cancer, Dr. Evans and his team, which included Dr. Kathleen D. Christians, M.D., Dr. Paul S. Rich, M.D., and Radiologist Beth Erickson-Whittman, M.D., decided to begin with an aggressive chemotherapy regimen they’d otherwise reserve for younger patients (Julius was 73 at the time of his diagnosis).
Julius went through nine cycles of chemotherapy, and while they didn’t shrink the tumor, the tumor didn’t grow or spread, either. After undergoing a CT scan to help determine if he could tolerate radiation, Julius’ team started him on it during June and July of that year. The radiation relied on imaging to precisely target the problem areas while avoiding Julius’ healthy tissue.
By August, after a four-week break so that he could build up his physical and mental strength, Julius’ team was ready to move forward with surgery.
Surgery went better than anticipated, and Julius learned afterward that it was highly successful, leaving no sign of residual cancer behind. After the procedure, he continued to see Dr. Evans and his team for follow-up visits. Yet, as those visits continued to show no signs of cancer, Julius’ follow-ups became further and further apart.
As his recovery continued, Julius was able to maintain a mostly normal lifestyle. He’d continued to preach every Sunday since his December, 2013, diagnosis, taking only a brief break in August and September of 2014 before returning to the pulpit again in October, 2014.
When he wasn’t at his church, he spent much of his time with his wife, with whom he shares four adult children, seven grandkids and six great-grandkids. But by 2018, his wife began having some health issues of her own.
Within a few months of her diagnosis, and about five years into his own recovery, Julius lost his wife to the disease Feb. 15, 2020.
“The thing that is so frustrating is that she sought so much treatment,” he said. “It turned out she was being treated for everything but the right thing.”
Initially, Julius planned to retire from the church so that he could devote more time to caring for his wife. Yet, in the wake of her death, he decided to stay on. “I’ve traveled the world; I’ve seen everything that I wanted to see,” he said. “Now that she’s gone, I plan to preach until I die. I don’t plan to retire until I can no longer function.”
Losing his wife and fighting his own pancreatic cancer battle helped steer some of the pastor’s messaging for his church services. One of his goals for the year is to help his congregation understand that, while God is sovereign, they also need to play an active role when it comes to their own medical care. Part of this involves taking advantage of available medical screenings that might indicate cancer or other serious health issues, such as colonoscopies and mammograms.
Julius has also started connecting with congregation members and others who watched a video featuring Julius, his son and his care team at the Medical College of Wisconsin. The video details Julius’ journey and surgery and caught the eye of many patients facing similar circumstances, some of whom have reached out to Julius after viewing it.
“I’ve had people praying for me, not only from my own church, but from all over the world,” he said. “I wanted to make the video to as a way of saying thanks to everyone who sent me well wishes ahead of surgery.”
Julius has also continued to be a fixture on Milwaukee TV and radio, appearing on WVTV My 24 Milwaukee every Sunday morning at 9:30 a.m. and on Joy 1340 AM and 98.7 FM at 1:15 p.m. and 6:15 p.m. Monday through Friday. He also helped steer future research efforts by donating blood samples taken during his cancer battle. Julius looks forward to continuing to serve his congregation well into the future, and as an eight-year survivor, the chances of his pancreatic cancer returning are almost nonexistent.
“I attribute a lot to prayer,” Julius said. “After all, I am a pastor, and I believe that when the servant of God is in the will of God, obeying the word of God, he or she cannot die until his or her work is done here on earth.”
Pastor Julius Malone has shown no signs of cancer since his surgery Aug. 22, 2014. On Sept. 7, 2021, he learned he no longer needed to see Dr. Evans for follow-up visits.
Pastor Julius Malone: The beginning of his his journey with pancreatic cancer