By Lisa Cone
When they married, Doug and Janet Belden looked forward to years of healthy living. They loved the outdoors, especially hiking and skiing in their hometown of Boone, NC, in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
But in the winter of 2004, Doug and Janet received shocking news that changed the trajectory of their lives forever. Doug was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor.
Doug Belden, in the prime of his life, was running two successful businesses as President and Owner of Hidden Creek Management & Boone Realty. He was a devoted husband and father of three. He was respected within his community and church.
“Doctors found a golf ball-size tumor in Doug’s brain. We prayed for the best way to treat the tumor and after much research decided rather than surgery and possible paralysis, gamma knife radiation was our best option,” explained his wife Janet.
In 2005, Doug underwent radiation treatment, which did help initially with shrinking the tumor, but Doug continued to have side effects of optic nerve swelling and kidney stones. He began to develop trigeminal neuralgia which causes extreme, shock-like pain and spasms. Doug’s pain was severe, dropping him to the floor in agony and despair.
Under massive amounts of anti-seizure medication and amid great pain and fatigue, Doug continued to work in an effort to keep his businesses – and his family – going. Enter The C12 Group–an organization geared towards empowering Christian business owners to follow best business practices based on Biblical principles and marketplace ministry. At the time, he had no idea how important the relationships he’d been building were going to be.
Doug had joined The C12 Group in 2012 thanks to the invitation from C12 Chair Bill Maddox. He would soon discover, that his C12 Group Advisory Board – who had helped him keep focused on being accountable in his businesses and improve his personal relationships – would make all the difference in his not too distant future.
A Time for Change
After years of altering his life to cope with his daily pain and discomfort, Doug made the decision to end his suffering and seek further medical help. The couple met with a world-renowned surgeon who advised surgery to remove the tumor and restore Doug’s quality of life.
Janet recalled, “The surgery was scheduled on January 15, 2014. Doug was so nervous and unsure. He joked if I woke up in the morning and found him missing, that he took a bus out of town.”
The surgeon calmed their nerves, explaining that Doug would be back at home in just three days and back to work in about three weeks after the surgery. That Wednesday, Surgery went without a hitch – but Doug never seemed to turn the corner – he experienced extreme pain in the back of his head. CT scans revealed nothing. On January 22, just 7 days after surgery, Doug was discharged from the hospital and headed home.
“We returned home and that same night, Doug was moaning with pain. His eyes were unfocused, his speech was unclear and he was drenched from head to toe in sweat,” explained Janet.
Doug was having a massive seizure.
Janet called 911, then she immediately called one of Doug’s fellow C12 Group members. Boone had been hit with a winter snow storm and the ambulance estimated 20 minutes to arrival. Janet couldn’t wait. She drove Doug to the local medical center. They discovered that he was having brain bleed. Doug was airlifted to Duke Regional Hospital in Durham, NC. Their discovery? Doug had a massive blood clot that must be immediately removed. The clot was causing his brain to compress so much, that oxygen-rich blood was prevented from flowing to his brain tissue – which in turn caused more swelling. Doug was in a life-threatening situation.
“The doctors were able to remove most of the blood clot, but he was starting to bleed out so they had to remove 4 ounces of his skull. He was placed on a ventilator, within minutes of dying,” explained Janet.
Clot removal took the doctors several hours, and Doug was finally taken to the ICU for recovery. “After three days, Doug was starting to make some progress, but we had no way of knowing his true condition until he woke up. I was exhausted. We had been to four hospitals in 36 hours. I was so frightened. I remember just thinking, ‘God why, what am I going to do with the business and everything else that Doug managed?’ We have three kids. I worked as a Labor and Delivery Nurse and knew nothing about Doug’s business. The grief and fear were so heavy,” Janet remembered.
And then came Bill…
Janet received a phone call later that day from a man who she refers to as “her greatest blessing,” Bill Maddox. Bill is the C12 Group Area Chair who leads Doug’s local C12 Group in Western NC.
“Bill asked me for an update on Doug’s condition and told me that everything was going to be okay. He told me not to worry at all about the business, he would help keep things running and wanted me to focus on Doug. It felt like a huge burden had been lifted,” told Janet.
Bill explained, “When I first heard about Doug’s situation my response was one of shock and disbelief. As I thought about what we could do to come along side Doug and Janet, my first thoughts were about his businesses. Almost immediately, The Lord impressed me with the idea of carving time from my schedule over the next few months to help keep things going at Doug’s office. Doug and I had just defined his 2014 Key Performance Indicators for the companies so it was clear what goals needed to be reached. Certainly, my concern was ‘where will I find the time?’ One of C12’s often repeated sayings is ‘God always provides all we need to do all he wants.’ As far as I could tell, that included providing the time that would be needed.”
As a C12 Group member, Doug was required to conduct a business presentation in confidence among his peer C12 members and Chair, Bill Maddox. One of the great opportunities for peer feedback comes with C12’s annual Core Business Presentation where members present their business in detail, diving into key drivers of the business from financials, goals, targets, operations, strategies, HR issues, and personal challenges to the group. It’s a circumspect look at what’s working and what needs to change. Doug had just presented to the group in December of 2013, providing Bill with knowledge on every aspect of his business.
The next week, Bill drove to Boone and arrived at Hidden Creek Management to meet with the staff. Doug’s team of employees had lost their captain and were uncertain about the future. Bill’s presence was reassuring and provided a calm and nurturing environment. He assisted with critical questions, decisions and conflict resolution. He encouraged Doug’s team and prayed with and for them.
Three months after Doug’s life-threatening event, Bill came into the office to meet with “Janet’s Team” consisting of her brother, brother-in-law and her father, an attorney in Knoxville, TN. Bill brought spreadsheets and documentation on Hidden Creek Management based on the metrics Doug had established prior to his surgery.
Janet recalled, “We needed a broker-in-charge. Bill had reviewed files Doug kept on past applicants and referrals. He put goals in place and helped us hire a broker who is doing a fantastic job – the answer to our prayers. He worked hard to help us carry on the excellence of everything Doug had built.”
For several weeks, Doug recovered in ICU and stayed in the hospital for 6 months, while his C12 Chair, Bill Maddox, continued to provide support and guidance for Doug’s businesses. Meanwhile, Doug’s fellow C12 members showered Janet and Doug’s family with support and encouragement. One member who is a pilot, flew Doug and Janet to Knoxville, TN, for Doug to begin acute rehabilitation.
“None of us know what the future holds. Yet, one significant outcome from Doug’s circumstances has prompted everyone around the C12 table to develop a strategy for dealing with such a life changing event,” said Bill.
“I was so touched by the sincere gestures of love and support from Doug’s fellow C12 members. It struck me that they were a true brotherhood of Christian business leaders who not only pray together and bare their hearts with the joys and pleasures of life – but also with the struggles that a business owner can suddenly face. These men were our prayer warriors and have helped me immensely,” said Janet.
Facing the Future with Hope and Optimism
This past September, C12 Group members and the Belden’s church hosted a fundraiser event. Over 200 people attended the worship and silent auction, raising more than $15,000 to help the Belden’s with medical expenses and to make modifications to the Belden’s home to accommodate Doug’s wheelchair. Janet publically recognized Bill Maddox for his grace, dedication and servant leadership and for sharing her journey with those who attended.
Doug has made tremendous progress in the last 12 months. Today, he is walking while at rehab and using a wheelchair in his home. His company and legacy, Hidden Creek Management, has experienced significant growth in the total number of managed properties during 2014. Doug meets regularly with a neuro psychologist to develop a treatment plan to bring him back to work and contributing to his business.
“I have seen the devotion and immense support of the C12 Group lived out before me, not only locally, but across the country. Doug is looking forward to engaging with his fellow C12 brothers this spring. The journey is not over, and we will have challenges ahead, but we trust God with grace, peace, and the determination to honor Him in all things,” said Janet.
About The C12 Group
Founded in 1992, The C12 Group is America’s leading provider of executive roundtables for Christian CEOs and Business Owners. C12’s mission is to “change the world by bringing forth the Kingdom of God in the marketplace through the companies and lives of those He calls to run businesses for Him.” For more information about The C12 Group visit C12Group.com or call 336-841-7100.