Have you read this week’s Featured Story? “The Man without a Face,” by Andy Axtell, is a startling story about a young man ravaged by Hodgkin’s lymphoma who discovers hope when he meets another man whose medical condition has cost him his face. If you haven’t read it yet, you need to head over there right away—we’re sure it’ll touch your heart. Then come back here, since God Makes Lemonade recently had a chance to catch up with Andy.
GML: What are you up to these days?
Andy: I have an apartment in Tulsa, Oklahoma, but I’m on the road 3-5 weeks at a time driving a truck for Tyson Foods. I’ve been with Tyson for about 6 years. I’m ready to get off the road soon, though, because my fiancée is in mainland China. I met her online and just visited her this last summer to ask for her hand in marriage. [Chuckles] I had to ask a couple people what the Chinese customs were for me to ask her to marry me first. We’re set to marry as soon as we work out the international paperwork. I might end up teaching in China. I’m also looking to go back to school. I’m throwing it into the Lord’s hands and looking to Him to show me what to do.
I’m divorced, and I have an older step-daughter and two younger daughters that were adopted from China.
GML: What inspired you to write your lemonade story?
Andy: I never thought I’d ever do anything like this, to be honest with you. I’ve been carrying these stories for many years and I never thought anyone would want to read about my experience. I had written several stories about my time in the hospital. When I was going through some tough experiences last spring, I heard Don Jacobson talking about lemonade stories on the radio. At the time, a friend had been encouraging me to let go of some things in the past and suggested I submit some of my stories as part of that. That got me thinking, and I told my friend that I didn’t know if it was a sign or what, but when I heard that guy talking on the radio, I just knew I needed to share my story in God Makes Lemonade.
GML: What was it like to see your story printed in the book?
Andy: This was my first attempt at writing. It was a thrill to see it in print and to think that people might be interested in hearing what I went through. My future sister-in-law has even been talking about helping me get more of my stories published in my own book.
GML: Have you had a chance to read other stories in the book? How have the other stories impacted you?
Andy: I think it is safe to say we have all had our lives turned around in unexpected ways. I’ve read all of those stories. One of the main things I got out of God Makes Lemonade is that when trouble starts and you start asking why this or that had to happen, eventually you’ll realize that life can cause you to end up in places you wouldn’t believe so that your life can have more meaning. I had to write this story before I felt capable of tackling the next one in my life. At this point, I look back and I think that if I could change things, I wouldn’t. As rough as it’s been, I’ve learned a lot from my experiences.
There’s another story that I’d like to tell you. The hospital gave me a book about some of the meds I was on during my Hodgkin’s lymphoma treatment. There was a merchant marine ship after WWII that sunk while it was transporting mustard gas. Basically, the States violated the Geneva Convention by sailing the ship and not telling anyone—not even the people on the ship—about the dangerous gases onboard. So the ship sank off the coast of Italy and it became clear what kind of cargo the ship had been carrying when doctors started running autopsies and treating survivors in the area. Those doctors were able to set the foundation for powerful drugs derived from mustard gas, and that was how they developed the medicine that saved my life. I became a military history buff recently and I’ve read that story a hundred times because it’s so amazing to me.
GML: Do you have any updates on your lemonade story since it was published?
Andy: Still cancer free after 34 years!
GML: And just for fun, if you could “do it over” what would be your dream job and why?
Andy: I would like to be a good enough figure painter to make a living at it. I’m part of the Historical Miniatures Society of Northeastern Oklahoma, which showcases at a number of big shows.
Thanks for stopping by and getting to know Andy a bit better. Come back next week—we’re already working on another interview with the author of our next featured story. Or you can pick up a copy of God Makes Lemonade, where you’ll find more than eighty inspiring stories like this one.