Mercer was two chapters from completing his thesis when he suffered a seizure on the morning of Nov. 12, 2010. Mercer learned that he had an oligodendroglioma brain tumor.
“When the sun rose that day, life was no longer innocent and predictable, but chaotic, dark and uncertain,” Mercer said.
Because of his illness, Mercer was not able to complete his thesis that year. He went through a year of treatments including brain surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. After a second year for recovery, he was ready to get back in the ring.
“I called my group back together to see if I could complete my degree, and by the grace of God and profound support from my family and friends, I completed the requirements for my degree and walked across the stage in my funny looking hat to receive the Doctor of Ministry degree,” Mercer said.
A lesson in perseverance
The motivation to complete his thesis came from a personal desire to defeat his illness and to inspire his four children.
“I wanted to complete my degree as an act of defiance toward this cancer, to not allow it to beat me,” Mercer said. “I also wanted to teach my kids what it means to persevere through adversity. And, I wanted to be called, ‘Dr. Danny.’”
The tough journey proved to make Mercer stronger and has changed his perspective on life and the divine.
“One might say the life before cancer was much more victorious,” Mercer said. “But there is an ominous long shadow cast over my new life that says, ‘Maybe victory in life is not what we think it is.’ The shadow is the cross of Jesus Christ. It reminds us that victory is sometimes found in the most unlikely of places.”
The graduate experience at ACU
Not only did his battle with cancer change Mercer’s life, but so did his experience at ACU.
“I am thankful for my mentors at ACU in the College of Biblical Studies, and specifically, the Graduate School of Theology, for making the graduate experience a safe space of exploration, discovery and transformation,” Mercer said. “They didn’t just give me tools to ask and answer questions, but gave me a vision for how to walk in the way of Jesus and gently guide others along the way.”