SALT LAKE CITY — Don't tell Laura Pexton her health situation is hopeless.
She'll prove you wrong again and again, just as she's done with the doctors, the x-rays and the tests over the past decade since she was diagnosed with her first cancer.
Four months after delivering her daughter, Pexton, at age 28, found a lump in her breast.
"I had just graduated as a nurse practitioner and knew that anybody who has an MRI of an undefined lump, the bottom line is biopsy. It showed I had a Stage 1 cancer so I did the chemo, the radiation and the lumpectomy," Pexton said. "Three years later, I went in to find out what was causing my back pain. They did a bone scan and found the cancer had spread. It was in my skull, my shoulders, my pelvis. I had been walking around with fractures in my vertebrae."
"I was told it was incurable. The average life expectancy of someone with this diagnosis, stage IV or metastatic breast cancer, is two years. I was devastated."
More chemotherapy was recommended. "But I didn't want to go back to that dark place," she said.
She went into surgery so doctors could put cement into the vertebrae eaten away by the cancer. She was radiated which essentially burned her intestinal tract.
She consulted with seven different oncologists. Every one wanted her to do more chemotherapy except one who suggested a new medication known as Herceptin.
"I've been on it for five years and the cancer has stayed stable. My PET scan this past week was stable. I have a green light (to go ahead with my volunteer medical missions)," said Pexton, who has lived in Salt Lake City since 2008. "Hooray!"
She started going in for healing touch therapy, which is like a massage that improves blood flow. She learned how to stop her mind from obsessing over the physical and mental challenges.
Pexton, who is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, asked for and received priesthood blessings from her husband and father.
"There was a spiritual change, a soul shift. I started listening to that still, small voice," Pexton said.
"The miracle is the incredible peace of mind that comes. To go from the tyranny of cancer to just peace, it's incredible."
She turned to her scriptures. When she read the words in John 14:27, "Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid," she felt her whole body tingle.
"Another time, angels just wrapped their arms around me, and I knew I was a daughter of God and he loved me."
Pexton started to rely on the spirit and her personal testimony of Jesus Christ.
"When you tap into the spirit, it's not of this world," she said."The body has an incredible ability to heal. The mind has power."
She began to feel that she should share her message of hope and faith. "The inner promptings got louder and louder," she said.
"My soul was telling me, get out of bed, live your life. My soul yearned to serve," Pexton said.
She heard a speaker in church talk about serving in leper colony, about the miracles and healing power of Christ, and how it is accessible today.
Her husband was adamantly against her plans. She had been so ill and her daughter was still young.
Her first medical trip was to China in 2007, followed by additional trips, most of which are through Operation Smile, to Peru, Ethiopia, Vietnam and India, where she treats both physical and emotional wounds in people suffering all kinds of tragedies and stress.
She was planning to leave the first of March for trip No. 8 to Vietnam.
"Again, it's all about following the voice. At the time I thought I was losing everything. I was absolutely miserable, but it's not cancer that defeats you, it's your thoughts about cancer.
"I transformed from a bitter, angry cancer victim to a normal healthy-appearing person with a profound inner peace," she said.
"The bottom line is that you follow your soul and you listen to that voice.
"It is an honor to serve the poorest of the poor. Interacting with these children and families in these countries I forget my troubles and I have discovered the healing power of service.
"It has not been easy. I have been diagnosed with a brain tumor, another breast cancer, and have had multiple broken bones, difficult treatments and frustrating side effects.
"I marvel at how interested people are in my experiences. I volunteer for a national breast cancer organization and speak to women diagnosed with stage 4 disease from all over the country. I marvel that through the enabling power of grace, I offer comfort and inspiration to them. It is humbling and miraculous to be a channel through which amazing experiences have come.
"My message: One person can make a difference. Live beyond limits. I am a living testament that miracles are possible. I am in gratitude."
Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company