Another Special Life in Christ
These testimony lives are not stories of "role models". Jesus is the
These are lives wonderfully touched & changed by Jesus!
Tony Michael Watcher
I don't know yet how Tony came to belief in Jesus.
I am originally from Sumter, and my sister lives there (I hope that she will find out for
me). Tony graduated from The Citadel in 1982 (I am a 1966 graduate).
Tony Watcher has had plenty of opportunity to
become resentful and angry and give up. Instead, he's chosen to live a life of gratitude,
partly as a way to fight the cancer that invaded his body and his life 20 months ago, but
mostly, he says, because he is truly thankful for the changes wrought in him by the
And although he doesn't care to dwell on the fact
of his cancer, he consented to talk about its effect on him and his changed
With no cancer in his family history, Watcher's
doctors couldn't figure out what was wrong when he began losing weight and feeling
progressively worse. After several months and several attempts to make a diagnosis, his
doctors found colon cancer.
"The stage of cancer I had was stage four, which
means it had spread outside of my colon," he said, "and my percentage of living more than
five years is 2-5 percent. And so, it wasn't inoperable, but because of not getting diagnosed
earlier, it grew outside my colon and got into my lymph system."
Despite the prognosis, Watcher said, "I was doing
real well. People praying — doctors were baffled by my case. They said, 'Cancer's not showing
up in you where it's supposed to. We don't know what's going on'."
Watcher sounded almost nonchalant Wednesday
afternoon as he added, "I did have a CAT scan last week and it showed a couple of spots on my
lung. We didn't want to see that, but at the same time, I've had a pretty good run. They gave
me about a year after I got off the operating room table, and it's been 20 months, and I'm
not going away anytime soon."
Watcher's optimistic attitude persisted despite
what he was hearing from his doctors. He said, 'It just doesn't matter. You've got two years,
tops.'" Without a trace of doubt in his voice Watcher said, "My two years is up in March ...
but I'm going to go beyond that." His strategy for doing that is to continue the method he's
used in his fight of the past 20 months.
"My kids keep me active, and I think that's a big
thing," he said. "Cancer's a disease that, when you have time alone, you tend to think about
it. The worst time I've had is when my wife took the kids to Florida. I wanted to get some
stress off her, sent her to visit her sister, and I had a panic attack. Nobody was around. I
was lonely, and all I was thinking about was cancer, and that'll mess you
Watcher is such a busy person, he's rarely alone —
and he has a large family, not just his five children and wife but his extended family as
well. His parents and five siblings are very supportive, he said, and friends play a large
part in his daily life.
"I've got a great chain of ladies whose sons I
coach in baseball that pray for me," he explained. "When I go for my (CT) scans, I call them.
They have been my biggest support. I have a lady, June Rickard, who's been
my mentor. She had three cancers, has been on her deathbed twice, survived that — very, very
faithful. She knows my schedule better than I do. She called me yesterday to remind me to get
my prescription filled." He laughed.
Central to Watcher's philosophy are his sense of
thankfulness for each day, his faith, and his appreciation for others, attitudes he admits he
developed after his cancer was discovered.
It was before the diagnosis, he said, that his
faith was tested by the loss of a dear, elderly friend in a hit-and-run
"I questioned God over that," he said. "I couldn't
teach Sunday School and resent God. That hurt me. It took me a year to get over that. I went
out to her grave and talked to her. I said, 'I've got to get back and quit resenting God',
and then the cancer came into play. I'd kind of drifted away, and that got my attention real
quick. I was kind of leading a life where I was teaching Sunday School, but my heart wasn't
in it, and I was just kind of going to church Sunday to Sunday and I wasn't participating. I
just wasn't motivated. I was just kind of living day to day.
"You kind of take it for granted you're going to
be alive that next day. After, you ... look at your days a little bit different. They're more
special. My skies sometimes are bluer than other people's. My flowers are more colorful,
because I notice a lot more about living than I did (when I was) just taking it for granted.
Just being alive — I think that's the biggest thing. Instead of saying 'in a year I'll do
this,' I go day by day. Then hopefully that day is a good day, and then there's
His experiences helping other people with their
problems have improved his insight, Watcher believes.
"Some people, I think, go through life like
they're going to be here for a long, long time, like nothing can happen, and they're wrong —
accidents and diseases and all kinds of things can happen," he said.
"I think the other thing that's changed my life,
after, is really looking at people for what they are. You know, I can look at people and try
to be friendly and converse and understand the problems they're going through because I've
been through a lot, especially with the cancer people I've been with across the country. I
understand. It also made me realize that a lot of these problems we have in our lives are
insignificant. They don't mean anything because they're not life and
Watcher spends a lot of his time with young
people, and he said he feels called to help them whenever he can. To him, feeling grateful
and expressing it requires action, not just words.
"I coach teenagers a lot," he said, "and I see
teenagers that have relationship problems, that break up or make a bad grade or something,
and I tell them, 'Look, that's a problem you can overcome. That's not a life-and-death
"I love baseball, and I love working with the
kids." Even without having a winning season, Watcher finds success. "This past season we were
10 and 11," he noted. "We didn't have the best season, but I had a great team. The reason was
a lot of them looked up to me like a big brother — and I want them to have someone they can
talk to about grades and relationships, things other than baseball. I love getting inside
kids' (heads) and helping to make them a better person. That's what I can give
"That's therapy for me — getting on a baseball
Watcher has thought a lot about the reasons for
his seeming good health and attitude. A conference he attended recently brought it into
perspective, he said.
"A lot of these cancer patients look tired and
gray," he explained, "and I walk in kind of like joking around, clowning around, and
everybody looks at me like 'Golly, you've got colon cancer'?
"The reason is, one, I have a big faith. I've
turned this over to God, and he's going to decide when I go. The other thing is that I just
have this feeling that I need to be an example for people, just say hey, let me beat this
thing, let me win this battle, let me be a testimony to others that you can overcome
"You've got to surround yourself with friends and
faith. I do. The faith I have with the church and my support groups and the prayer groups all
over the country, it's unbelievable. Then family, with my wife, first, being supportive and
helping. It's hard enough to go through life with five kids and a husband with cancer. It's
tough, and she's done a tremendous job. And my mom and dad have just been real supportive,
all of my brothers and sisters."
He also thinks a lot about his role in other
"I think, as far as being an example, yeah, that's
what I want to be, what I need to be, to tell young kids and older people, hey, there's
problems, mine just happens to be cancer," Watcher said. "But other people have relationship,
debt problems, addiction problems that they can overcome, but they can be just as bad as
cancer. They can ruin families, they can ruin you personally.
"So, I'm fighting cancer. At least, I know what
As Thanksgiving approaches, Watcher considers the
meaning of being thankful. The day for him is far from just a dinner with turkey and pumpkin
pie. In fact, in talking about the holiday, he doesn't even mention food — or
"This will be my second Thanksgiving since the
diagnosis [about 2003], my second Christmas," he said. "Thanksgiving is a special time
because all my family does come in. My sisters, my brothers. My parents have, I think, 18
grandkids. That's really the only time during the year my whole family gets together.
Thanksgiving is really special."
And on the day when heads of household all over
the country are offering elaborate thanks, Watcher said, the Thanksgiving blessing will be
different for him.
Typically "I bless first of all the fact that we
can get family together, that everyone arrived safely. Normally I start with blessing the
troops in Iraq. They're the ones that aren't home at Thanksgiving. I give thanks for my mom
and dad because they have been wonderful parents. I don't bring the focus back on me. We
don't want the kids to hear about cancer during Thanksgiving."
Watcher emphasized that, although he's more verbal
in his thanks on the holiday, his gratitude is far from confined to that
"I try to make a conscious effort to express
gratitude," he said. "It may not be every day, but I do it through a series of hugs, whether
it's my kids or baseball players, or I eat lunch with my kids at school. I take candy in
there to the other kids, and I just have a good time, sitting and eating
"I check up on people I've coached. If I see them
in the mall the first thing I ask them is 'How are your grades?' and they know I care. I
think for me to just go up and hug someone is a way to say 'Hey, you're doing great'. I try
to encourage them."
His gratitude through actions extends to his
"We try to do a family thing every week. My
favorite thing is getting away with the family, putting Sumter and everything behind us. I
think it kind of shows them their dad's all right. My kids get scared, and they have a right
to. They hear a lot of things at school. People say, 'Oh your dad, is he going to die?' and
they hear a lot of rumors. And it kind of puts it out of mind, when I do things with them —
'Hey, Dad's all right.'"
Watcher also makes it a practice to talk with
other people living with cancer.
"I talk to people individually about every day.
Like today, I talked to two on the phone, and I email some. When you know someone else that
has cancer, you kind of have a strange bond. I think the change comes in where when I speak,
people are smiling a little bit more. There is hope. It's not all gloom and
Watcher uses that humor a lot in his
"You can't stop smiling," he believes. "I could
have come home from the hospital and ... crawled in the bed back there, and I could have died
in a year ... Or I could say no, I'm going to fight this thing and beat it and have humor
Cancer's not funny, but you can't just let it shut
your daily activities down and be so scared."
Several unusual experiences led Watcher to peace
with his illness, he said. The first was an incident that occurred after a pleasant day out
with his family.
"This is where I think God intervened," he
explained. His wife and children had gone to bed early, and Watcher was alone in the
"Suddenly, it felt like somebody walked up to me
and held a gun to my head. The hair shot up on my neck, a cold sweat, dark, clammy feeling. I
was waiting to hear a click. And there was nobody there. I started pacing the kitchen and the
den. I was just walking back and forth scared to death. And you've got to remember, I was in
the Army. I used to jump out of planes, and I was never scared."
Watcher's pacing woke his wife, Liz, who, after
hearing his story, told him to go read the Bible.
Finding the Bible marked where he knew he hadn't
left his bookmark, Watcher began reading at John 4:46.
The passage tells the story of Jesus' healing a
nobleman's deathly ill son from afar.
"Jesus says something like 'It's a shame I have to
do miracles to make people believe,'" he said. "I read this story, and I'm like 'First of
all, how did my bookmark get here?' Nobody'd touched my Bible. I got on my knees. I'm crying
and praying. I was just fearful. After I prayed, I got up, and it was like this warm feeling
from head to toe. It almost felt like how chemo goes into your body. Before I knew it, I felt
like somebody was going to open my door, and the Holy Spirit just told whatever was in me to
get out of here, and it just left! I was walking on air. I was like 'Man, I was in total
Another incident happened after he'd read a
chapter on surrender in The Purpose Driven Life, a book his church had been
"Now surrender is a bad word to an Army man," he
said. "It means quit, give up, but the book said until you surrender you can't win. Until you
surrender your problems to God, you can't even begin to win."
That was another turning point for him, Watcher
"I'd never really said 'God, this is your problem.
You deal with it. If you want to take me away, take me. If you want me to stay and be a
witness and help, leave me here, but it's your call now. I felt a sense of
Now, part of Watcher's conversations with other
people with cancer includes the advice "... to surrender their problem to God. I did. I think
that's why I stay around. He tells me when I'll go."
And he's made it his goal to "do what I can here.
All I can do is be positive. I have faith that God has a purpose for me and that one of my
purposes is to show this outwardly — to show people that I can beat this and I'm going to
beat it. I just refuse to let it beat me. Forget it, I'm just not going to let it beat
Thinking about the course his life has taken since
March 2003, Watcher said, "I think certain things in life that happen change you, and
sometimes you've got to go through the valleys to get to the mountaintop. I'll get to the
mountaintop. If I can just control those spots in my lungs. I think you have to go through
trials in your life to make you stronger. It does make you stronger. You either deal with it
or give up."
Talking with Watcher, you sense he won't give up
and he'll do what he can to keep others from giving up, as well.
"Cancer's my trial right now," he said. "It's
testing what I have. I'm thankful that I'll spend another Thanksgiving with my whole family
and show people I'm still strong and going."
Above all, he wants people to see him for the
strong and determined person he is, to treat him like any other healthy friend, for to all
appearances, he is the picture of health.
"Don't pity me," he commands. "I don't need that.
I don't want any of that garbage. I want to hear 'Hey, let's go play racquetball and keep you
[by Ivy Moore, The Item, 19 November 2004, long-time daily newspaper, Sumter, S. C.] [Note:
Tony died 14 October 2005] His twin sons, Philip and Jacob, graduated Sumter High School in 2014 and went on to play basaball at The Citadel.
***give me your comments about this
(posted 1 December 2004; last update 20 January
You have just read a very brief example of the
powerful, supernatural transformation of a person's life which is possible through the
acceptance of Jesus as your savior. Are you tired of life as it now is for you? He will
accept you just as you are right this second! Consider accepting Jesus now