Daphnie Pilgrim's husband, Scott, was having a tough day at work. As a pediatric cardiologist at a hectic hospital in New York City, dealing with stress was part of the job. But that afternoon, he decided to see if there were any other employment options. After an Internet search, the nearest job opening for his highly specialized skill was at Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth, more than 1,500 miles away.
“What if we moved to Texas?” he emailed Daphnie. She replied “no” so quickly that she didn’t even remember the conversation. After all, the two were deeply engrained in New York City with three young children, two medical careers (Daphnie was a hospital administrator), and a strong commitment to their church, Brooklyn Tabernacle. In fact, Daphnie and Scott met while singing in the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir.
Daphnie laughs when she recounts that initial conversation about moving to Texas, in part because Scott was so persistent. He sent his resume to Cook’s, almost on a whim, and received a job offer. Daphnie still wasn’t interested.
“Why don’t you just come down to Fort Worth with me for a day and see if you like it?” he asked her. “You can get your nails done and go shopping.” She acquiesced, and much to her surprise, she enjoyed the trip. “It was a nice little trip,” she says. “I sort of fell in love with Texas.”
That’s when she began to seriously consider making the move. One of her first orders of business was finding a church. “We weren’t going to move to another city without finding a good church,” she says. Gateway quickly turned up on an Internet search and after watching their service online—before they ever stepped foot into the building—it felt like home. “We fell in love with Gateway,” says Daphnie.
“I felt like it was a healthy church environment.” For Daphnie, that was the icing on the cake. She could see that God was using this move to do something specific in her family, and in February 2014, they got the keys to their new home in Southlake—minutes away from Gateway’s main campus.
Several months later, Daphnie and Scott’s new life took a drastic turn when they learned some devastating news. Her doctor diagnosed her with aggressive stage-2 breast cancer, and at 36 years old, the news left her in shock. “It was terrible—just terrible,” she says. “When we found out, we were swimming in a sea of despair.” The fact that Scott is a doctor certainly didn’t help. “Knowing the possible side effects and complications of treatment heightened my stress level,” she says. Both had seen families torn apart by cancer, and in the days that followed the diagnosis, hopeless thoughts flooded their minds.
They received the news on a Friday afternoon, and on Sunday they were at church. Despite not knowing very many people yet, Pastor Robert shared an announcement that would connect them to thousands of other Gateway members. He introduced the myGateway App, saying it’s a great place to connect with other church members. On the way home, Scott and Daphnie each downloaded the app and posted prayer requests for her healing. “The prayers trickled in as other people downloaded the app,” she says. “These are people I clearly don’t know, and I might not ever get to meet them. But they were praying for me and encouraging me.”
She would need all the encouragement she could get in the coming months. The surgery to remove the cancer and subsequent chemotherapy left her feeling weak, and there were times caring for her children was difficult. One morning, on her way to the kitchen to make breakfast, she struggled to make it down the flight of stairs. “While I was going down the stairs, I fell,” she says. “I got on the couch and just laid there for about 20 minutes before I had the strength to get up and fix the kids breakfast.”
Though she was going through difficult trials, Daphnie was a textbook patient. Through the surgery and chemotherapy, everything went as smoothly as doctors could have hoped for and within months, all signs of cancer were gone. It was a miraculous recovery, and she says it was more of a spiritual battle than a physical one.
Now, she’s an active member of the Gateway Worship choir and has regained the energy to keep up with her kids. But when she talks about the difficult time she spent recovering from cancer, she does so with a surprising perspective. “It was a sweet time,” she says. “I needed God every minute—every hour. It was a truly dark moment, but my connection with God was amazing.”
Not many people would have such a positive outlook for such a difficult time. Daphnie attributes her perspective to what happened during the crucial hours after they posted their prayer requests on myGateway. They returned home from church and spent the afternoon doing research on breast cancer. “The information on the Internet is quite graphic and harsh,” says Daphnie. “Taking it all in was the darkest moment in the whole process.” They went to bed too disheartened to even sleep. She describes it as the sink-or-swim moment that would determine the next few months. Would they have enough faith and courage to trust in God? That night, it seemed impossible. “We cried and prayed together all night,” she says. “I would get enough strength to console him and minutes later I would break down and he would pray for me.” It went on like that until the morning, but something strange was happening at the same time. Both of their phones were buzzing nonstop.
“Who’s texting me at three in the morning?” Daphnie recalls thinking. The buzzing came from notifications every time someone prayed for them on the myGateway App. There were nearly 100 notifications by morning.
Just before daybreak, they finally strung together a few minutes of sleep, and when they woke up something had changed. “Scott looked at me and said, ‘We’re going to be fine,’” says Daphnie. “Those prayers carried us through and gave us the strength that we needed to face this trial, and it made me realize that the body of Christ is our real family.”