I expected my oncology appointment on 11-15-23 to focus on the blood clots in my lungs shown on the CT scan taken a few days prior. I assumed they were the results of my recent bout with Covid.
I did not expect to hear cancer had returned, this time in my liver, in what appeared to be an aggressive way. The CT scan results also showed several cancerous lesions on my liver (later confirmed by an MRI). My blood lab work showed a couple critical blood markers to be drastically higher than three months ago. My oncologist said gently, “It looks like we won’t have as much time as we had hoped.” Maybe 6 months!
After nearly 7 years of good scan results, this was truly a shock. I knew the cancer could come back, but I wasn't expecting it today. It was hard to know what to say.
“6 months” reminds me of the the bible’s teaching on the mortality of human beings. Psalm 103:15-16 is one of many examples. "The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more." We don’t think about our mortality, except on days like this when we or someone we love gets the grim news.
We also don’t think about what Jesus can do, his power and mercy, and who he truly is until our lives are threatened. As the news sunk in, I thought about the different chapters of my cancer story thus far. Cancer 1.0, when the disease was first diagnosed in my lung. I heard Jesus speaking to me, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” (John 11:4) . A year later the tumor in lung was gone.
Cancer 2.0, when I learned cancer had moved to my brain. I was so disappointed and angry. It took days before i regained my gratitude for what God had already done. I honestly thought the cancer was gone. 40 treatments of whole brain radiation later, the cancer was gone along with all my hair and some of my cognitive aptitude.
And cancer 3.0, when the disease metastasized to my esophagus. My worsening ability to swallow food and liquid signaled something was wrong. Turned out a tumor in the esophogeal lining was pressing in and preventing normal passage. Multiple treatments of radiation eliminated the tumor. Unfortunatley, I continue to have lots of trouble swallowing due to the radiation damage to my esophagus.
At each stage, the diagnosis has been frightening and overwhelming. I’ve wondered How? Each time God has shown up and provided. He has continued to preserve my life in order to use me to glorify him and his son Jesus. God has continued to bless my wife and kids and prosper us as a family. All things have continued to work together for my good (Romans 8:28). God has continued to heal me physically and in countless other ways. (See my book, How Cancer Cured Me.)
The finding of cancer in my liver marks the beginning of cancer 4.0. Biopsy of the cancer. Consideration of treatment options. Maybe a trial study. Or more thaditional, non-targeted, chmotherapy. New challenges for me and my family and new opportunites for God to show up and show off!
In cancer 4.0, I believe I will continue to see God's wonderful works. God will sustain, provide, help, and heal. Our family will continue to thrive. I don’t believe God is finished with me yet. God will continue to heal cancer through the medical community, doctors, treatments, divine intervention, and miracles. Jesus is with us! Or healing will come when I die and join heaven's celelbration cancer-free!
I'm sure St. Paul is right. "to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far" (Philippians 1:23). It would be better to die and go to heaven and be with the Lord, but there's so much to do and see. And I believe there’s still more work for me to do here and that me staying around longer will hopefully be better for you and others. (see Philippians 1:21-26). But we will just have to leave that up to the Lord. God alone knows how much time we have left. Whether we live or die, it’s up to him. He decides when our time is up. My doctor does not know my God. He can give me many more years. He's able!
I hope to continue my story for many more chapters like Tom Cruise’s Mission Impossible series. I will continue to accept the mission Jesus gives us for as many years as he allowsl. ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ and ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Matthew 22;37-39).
Don't worry about me or feel sorry for me. Instead pray for me (Phiippians 4:6-7). Ask God to heal me: the blood clots and the cancer. Ask him to help me and my family. Thank him for all his blessings. Ask God to give me the strength to continue living, engaged and activite, above all lifting up Jesus to everyone especially those facing cancer. Ask for his peace to rest upon us.
“Daily Reflections from Inside the Cancer Journey, a collection of 365 Daily devotionals” will launch January 1, 2024 as a daily text or email anyone can sign up to receive and a searchable online collection of all 365 devotions.
A selection of devotionals and more information can be found here. I have received several copies of a sample booklet that includes one devotional from each author. If you’d like one, let me know, and I'll send you one.