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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.

When the medications failed to relieve his symptoms, Julius took the advice of Dr. Alonzo Walker, one of the elders in his congregation, and sought treatment from Dr. Douglas B. Evans, M.D., F.A.C.S., at the Medical College of Wisconsin. Dr. Evans performed an X-ray and another biopsy. Upon reviewing the results, he determined that Julius’ symptoms were the result of pancreatic cancer. Julius received a Stage 3 pancreatic cancer diagnosis December 31, 2013.

“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.

The technique his medical team performed was perfected at MCW and involved removing the celiac artery and pancreatic tumor before restoring blood flow to his upper abdomen. His team did so by “direct anastomosis of the common hepatic artery to the proximal celiac artery,” a rare procedure only considered for patients who show great promise of a full recovery. His team considered his positive responses to chemo and radiation before placing him in this category.

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.

When Annie started having chest pains, the pair knew to seek medical intervention. Doctors ruled out heart issues and a host of other health problems but were unable to pinpoint the root of Annie’s symptoms. After about two years of back-and-forth to different doctors and specialists for tests and scans, a physician identified a spot on Annie’s pancreas and ultimately determined that she, too, had Stage 3 pancreatic cancer.

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.”

Now, he continues to share his story to honor his wife, educate others about pancreatic cancer and help listeners navigate their own grief, hardships and anxieties. He’d authored a book in 2016 ahead of his surgery, entitled, “Going Through the Storms of Life,” and later added a chapter for future editions detailing why he was able to avoid anxiety while offering guidance to others about how they might do the same. While the idea was to help others facing similar circumstances, Julius found that drafting the new chapter – and reviewing and reflecting on what he’d written before – also benefited him personally by helping him realize that “there are certain things God wants to take us through.”

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

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2 thoughts on “Pastor Julius Malone Pancreatic Cancer Survivor Story”

  1. Cheryl Spillane says:

    Dear Pastor Julius: your story caught my eye because mine is similar. I was diagnosed in September 2013 with Pancreatic Cancer. I was given a less than 30% survival but at the urging of my family, I went ahead with 6 months of tough chemo then on May 19, 2014 I had a partial whipple. I am close to my 8 year survival also and I am blessed and very grateful. I am sorry about your dear wife – survivors guilt is a real thing. God bless you and your work. I live in Massachusetts.

  2. VB says:

    Hello .. Because of your success story I have decided to consult with Dr. Evans for treatment

    Thank you very much for inspiration and positivity

    Hope all things
    Believe all things
    Endure all things ..
    Love never fails

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