Don’t Let Daddy Die

charles rockfeller family

Through the unexpected challenge of cancer Charles was never afraid or alone.

Early Years in America

I was born in 1959 in Akron, Ohio USA. When I was six I nearly lost my left hand when it got in the wrapping machine at the family bakery. My father stopped the machine just in time and doctors operated successfully. I believe God protected me, as He knew my hands were a vital part of my future.

The sixties in America were turbulent with the Vietnam War, the assassination of Senator Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. I remember being very afraid and worried about dying. It was made even worse when a boy in my street died of cancer. Overwhelmed with fear, I prayer, “Please God do not let me get cancer … please do not let me die” and peace came.

Australia calls

The assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in May 1968 sparked major racial riots across America and in Akron a complete business district was burnt to the ground including the family bakery. My father decided that Australia was a better place to raise the family, so at age nine I found myself saying goodbye to my grandparents and relatives. It was difficult, but I now see that God was leading us to Australia and our family has truly experienced his blessing.


I attended Geelong College where I had a deep desire to be accepted by others, and sport helped me. I loved running, table tennis and especially Australian Football and wanted to play at the highest level. I remember saying’ “If only my hands were larger I would be a much better footballer.” Later when I chose to study dentistry at Melbourne University, I discovered that small hands are a huge advantage when performing the profession’s practical tasks.

I enjoyed the freedom of university. Drinking heavily on weekends became routine, but I would wander back to my room alone, drunk and feeling empty. “Surely there is more to life than drinking and parties.” Drinking often prevented sleep so occasionally I read a Voice Magazine (a publication of “Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship International”) with stories about men in hopeless situations whose lives were transformed by Jesus Christ. One night a thought came, “Charles you should follow Jesus Christ and become like these men who have found true peace and purpose in life.”

Life changing discovery

Hearing a radio invitation to an evening service, I decided to attend. The tram to the city stopped at the Royal Melbourne Hospital where three ladies about my age got on. I thought one of them was absolutely beautiful. A thought came, “one day you are going to marry that beautiful lady”. They got off at Collins Street and walked into the church! I started to attend a bible study group and during that time I became extremely emotional, as I realised God loves me and had willingly sent His only Son Jesus Christ to me for my sins so that I might have eternal life.

What a relief to accept Jesus into my life. I no longer feared death as I had eternal life. Words from the bible became alive as I experienced a personal relationship with God who knew me intimately and had a plan for my life.

After I became a Christian, God made some changes in my life. I stopped drinking alcohol to the dismay of my drinking buddies, and I broke up with my then girlfriend. My next girlfriend was Leanne, that beautiful lady on the tram. Within a year we were married and I now know the thought that I would marry her was from God.

Power of prayer

During a church progressive dinner, Leanne tripped on the street curb and our first child, six-month-old Stephanie had a skull fracture and ongoing bleeding into her brain. Her crying and screaming was unrelenting. When her eyes rolled back and she lost consciousness, I sensed we were losing her, but fifty people at the dinner were praying. God’s answer was miraculous as in under a minute Stephanie awoke from unconsciousness and has displayed no long-term ill effects.

Dentistry Practice

I owned a dental practice for almost 20 years in Geelong. The practice was dedicated to God and I asked Him daily for guidance and wisdom. I started in 1985 with two surgeries; by 1995 the practice had grown to six surgeries and ten employees. I saw that if you run a business on Godly principals with honesty, integrity, hard work, a fair price and good service then you can experience God’s blessing and provision.

“Don’t let Daddy die …”

In 1998 I thought life was perfect. I was happily married, had two healthy children, Stephanie and Michael, a prosperous dental business and a lovely home. I thought my health was great too, as I was a cross-country runner and I never had a sick day off work in 15 years.

One Friday night in March 1998 the doctor phoned, “Charles the lump in your throat is cancer; you have Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma! You will have to stop working and have treatment straight away.” I started to cry. Stephanie was eleven at the time and she prayed a simple powerful prayer that I’ll never forget. “Dear God, please don’t let Daddy die from cancer.”

Exactly one week later, lying in bed alone at night, feeling apprehensive, I turned the radio onto a Christian radio station. The announcer said I had been diagnosed with cancer and he sensed I was listening. Then he said, “Charles we love and care about you. We are praying for you and believe God is going to heal you.” I knew it was a message from God.

My only chance

The battle with cancer, chemotherapy and radiotherapy was difficult, uncomfortable, at times painful, but I wanted to live for ten more years to see the children grow up. After two years the lymphoma was even more aggressive and throughout my body. My only hope for a medical cure was a successful bone marrow transplant, yet up to 40% who have this die within a year. My younger brother Robert turned out to be a perfect match for the transplant – an answer to prayers.

I spent six weeks in hospital recovering from a huge dose of chemotherapy, which destroyed much of my cancerous bone marrow. The pain, nausea, diarrhoea and infections were so severe on a number of nights that I felt I was balancing between life and death. I wasn’t afraid, because even if I died I knew I was headed for heaven with Jesus. I had this amazing assurance of Him being with me.

Returning home from hospital, I was thankful for many small blessings, particularly a home cooked meal with the family, but I still had severe health problems with my skin, liver, eyes, lungs and bladder. (For six months I had no control over my bladder.)

charles rockfeller family

All clear

Then, six months after the transplant, a CAT scan revealed that my body was normal and free of cancer! It was a special moment.

I thank God and medical science for giving me a second chance. I do not understand why some people are healed from cancer while others die. Jesus was always with me; He is my best friend. All of us face difficulties in life but my advice is not to go through life alone. The best decision I ever made was to invite Jesus into my life. He has never left me and I can testify that God is good and faithful.

Trust in Him,

(Article taken from a FGBMFI pamphlet. Used with permission.)

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