By Sonny Jones
Randy West says he experienced ‘a true God-given miracle’ as he leans against a railing under the carport at his home just outside Clarkton on a hot September morning.
It’s the home he shares with his wife Sharon, daughter Jessica, a few chickens, purple martins that fly in and out of nearby nests, a few dozen goldfish, a cat, and a newly created rock garden in the backyard named “Amazing Grace”. ”
It’s an appropriate name for the garden after what this 64-year-old retired parts, service and branch manager of an equipment company has been through for the past two years. Twice he has had contact with death, but he is still very much alive and dynamic.
“It’s amazing that I have the strength to do this,” West said. “It was only by the grace of God that I was able to do this. That’s why we put up the sign and called it our “Amazing Grace” garden.
The rock garden contains 12,000 pounds of river rock, nearly a ton of brown rubber mulch made from old tires, a bench with a blue ribbon on it, and broken glass style blue rocks looking like they came from a spill pot that gives the appearance of a stream passing through the “Amazing Grace” rock panel that is exposed in the middle. There is also a Japanese pagoda, a Japanese lantern, and a variety of plants. All the blue in the garden has a special meaning.
The rock garden sits next to a man-made pond and in front of a fire pit that West built earlier.
“I wanted to prove to myself that I could still do things that I was able to do,” West said.
West had a lot to overcome to be able to spend four weeks in the summer heat, gobbling down bottles of water brought by Sharon during frequent breaks.
In 2020, West contracted COVID-19 and spent eight days in a Concord hospital hooked up to a ventilator. He was told that on average, anyone on a ventilator for more than six days at that time did not live. He was hospitalized for three weeks.
In January of this year, West was diagnosed with colon cancer. He felt, at best, that he had one year left to live. At least that’s what he was told. He was discouraged and disappointed.
“I didn’t want to plan for next week because I didn’t know if I was going to be here,” West said.
West found another doctor who offered treatment and, just as importantly, hope. Today, West is in remission, although chemotherapy treatments will continue to be needed.
With the hope of a new doctor and the support of family and friends, West said he decided to fight cancer instead of giving in.
“I’ve had enough of my wife and family telling me I’m going to be okay,” West said. “I said, ‘Well, I think I’ll go.’ That’s when I started doing things like that (rockery) and planning for the future.
Now, West’s future looks bright. “At one point, I didn’t expect to see one more birthday.” he says, “Now I bought a caravan because we plan to go camping. I have a little work to do on it.
West is also back to singing in the Clarkton First Baptist Church Choir. He had to be absent for several months due to cancer treatment.
“It was amazing,” West said of the first Sunday singing with the choir. “I love singing. I’ve had so many people say it’s a blessing to them that I’m up there. Not only do I love it, but I think I’ve blessed a lot of people by proving that God brought me back to church and brought me back to choir.
West is often seen wearing his blue “God is stronger than colon cancer” t-shirt and he constantly wears a blue wristband. Of course, there’s the blue ribbon on the rockery bench and the blue rock glass flowing through the garden. Blue signifies colon cancer support and awareness, just like pink is used for breast cancer.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that the amount of people praying for me, coming to my house, sending me cards, I could just feel it,” West said.
Now for West, it’s on to the next project around the house or yard – maybe fix that RV and go on an adventure – or soon gather the kids and grandkids around the fire pit and do toast marshmallows.
Randy West knows that the grace he has shown in battling his illnesses over the past two years has been incredible. He now has a garden in his backyard to prove it.