John Tesh vividly remembers the day he contemplated ending his own life.
It was 2015, and the Emmy Award-winning journalist and popular radio host had been diagnosed with a rare form of prostate cancer and given just 18 months to live.
“It was an incredibly painful experience,” Tesh, 63, recalled in an interview with The Christian Post. “I had complications from my first surgery where the opioids they gave me paralyzed my bowels and so my body was shutting down. One day, I looked at my wife with tears in my eyes and said, ‘You have to kill me.’”
“They couldn’t find a way to get rid of chemo-induced nausea, so I rigged up a system where I took an oxygen generator, plugged it in, and it had a regulator and weight belt, and I’d put it in my mouth and sit at the bottom of the pool for two hours,” he continued. “It was the only thing that would stop me from being nauseous. I remember thinking, ‘if I’d pull the regulator out of my mouth, it would look like an accident, and all of this would be over.’”
At the time, Tesh admitted, “I couldn’t see God’s faithfulness.”
“I was crying out to God, asking, ‘Why have you done this to me?’ I was starting to feel like Job. The devil comes to steal and destroy, and I began to act like a cancer patient. I wasn’t in a place where I was connected to the Word of God; I couldn’t see that I could have abundant life.”
Tesh’s cancer continued to return, ending up in his lymph nodes. With nowhere to turn, Tesh and his wife began to delve into the Scriptures.
“We read Mark 11:23 which says in part, ‘Whatever you ask when you pray, believe that you'll receive it and you will have it,’” he said. “We started studying Scriptures about the promise of healing that came from Jesus. I believe that during this time, we entered a period of divine healing.”
Around this time, doctors told Tesh they needed to radiate his pelvis with 62 different radiation treatments in a three-month period that could cause him to lose all bladder and sexual function.
“At that moment, my wife and I looked at each other, and faith was born," he said. "We realized we were done with treatment.”
Today, the Grammy-nominated composer and concert pianist is completely cancer-free — a miracle he attributes to both his Christian faith, his wife of 28 years, actress Connie Selleca, and the wisdom of doctors.
“If it had not been for my wife, Connie, I probably would’ve taken myself out,” he admitted. “When faith was born, I was healed of not just cancer, but arthritis as well. I realized, for the first time, the difference between faith and unbelief.
"Romans talks about the renewing of your mind, and Jesus talks about being ‘double-minded.’ You can have faith, but what happens at 2 a.m. when you think the cancer cells are multiplying? Or you think God is going to take care of your depression and sickness but doubt creeps in?”
“God,” he continued, “wants to lavish blessings on His people; He wants them well. Ending your own life is never in His plan for you. Churches will preach that Jesus took your sins, but there’s a second part to that, and that is that He took your grief and sorrows and sickness on the cross, as well.”
Tesh documents his recovery from cancer in his latest and most personal memoir, Relentless: Unleashing a Life of Purpose, Grit and Faith. He also gives readers an intimate look at his rise as a television anchor, his musical career, and his decades-long marriage.
“I think a lot of us, when we actually sit down and think about it, have interesting stories to tell and can see God’s faithfulness when we begin to connect the dots,” he shared.
“As I wrote this book, I noticed a pattern of saying ‘yes’ when situations were risky and well-beyond my training. Patterns of fighting through suffering, stoicism, and obstacles. I wanted to tell my story to encourage others to have relentless faith, no matter what they’re facing.”
In his book, Tesh documents his unlikely path to success. Suspended from college for forging a professor’s signature (while trying to change majors), he was kicked out of his family home and found himself living in a tent in a North Carolina public park.
“I got suspended indefinitely for breaking the honor code, and my dad, who was the vice president of Hanes and a very proud and honorable World War II veteran, kicked me out of the house,” he recalled. “I burned all of my ships. My mother wasn’t allowed to talk to me, my girlfriend broke up with me, I was homeless — the only choice I had was to do something creative.”
Determined to fulfill his dream of being in radio, Tesh talked his way into a part-time job at the local radio station. In what Tesh referred to as a “shockingly short period of time,” his career in journalism took off.
Over the following decades, Tesh served as an award-winning CBS News correspondent in Nashville and New York City; hosted network coverage of international sporting events (1992 and 1996 Olympic Games, Tour de France, Wimbledon), and eventually became the co-host of "Entertainment Tonight," a gig that ended up lasting a decade.
Additionally, his wildly popular radio show, "Intelligence for Your Life," now airs on 350 stations and reaches 14 million people each week.
“It’s funny, because looking back on my life, the successes I found should have been impossible. But Scripture tells us that with God all things are possible,” Tesh said. “I had a big imagination; I always imagined myself sitting at a desk next to Walter Cronkite. I believe that, through Christ, the setbacks I experienced were used as fuel for persevering to personal greatness.”
Today, Tesh said he is “whole and well.” More than ever before, he’s determined to encourage others that their challenges and failures can become learning opportunities — and prays his book inspires others to find hope and healing through Scripture.
“Words have power,” he emphasized. “Proverbs tells us that life and death are in the power of the tongue. We are called to speak life over ourselves and others. Understand the power of faith-filled words and stop speaking doubt over yourself. Remove yourself from people who doubt and rebuke the doubt.”
“It’s then,” he added, “that everything can change.”