Hear a doctor use it to describe your condition and your life is instantly changed. It alters your life physically, emotionally and spiritually. The enormity of the challenge also impacts the lives of those closest to you.
I know because my wife, Bernadette, and I had that reality come crashing into our lives three weeks ago when I received an unexpected Friday phone call from my doctor. He said I had cancer. He could not tell me if it had spread beyond my left kidney where an MRI revealed it to be located, but there was a shadow on my left lung that concerned him as well. Additional tests would be required, so in the meantime we had to wait over the weekend – with uncertainty and angst enveloping our lives.
I waited to tell other family and friends until we had more definitive information. The weekend gave Bernadette and me time to absorb the unanticipated punch to our guts. It also gave me time to think and spend quiet time with God. Where else could I go but to the Lord?
When a person does not know how much longer they will live in this world, one’s perspective toward what really matters changes. I found myself thinking less about me and more about those closest to me. I began thinking more about heaven than earth.
As I talked with the Lord in the quietness of our home, three important things happened. First, I affirmed my faith in Him, trusting Him for my future, no matter what that entailed. As I talked to Him, peace filled my heart and I felt His love. He assured me of my eternal security. Jesus commands my destiny.
I promised God that as He walked with me through this valley, that I would, with as much enthusiasm as I could muster, praise Him and tell everyone that I fear not; for my life is in the hands of His only Son who hung on the Cross as payment for my sins, rose from the dead, sits at the right hand of the Father in heaven and will return in great glory to establish His eternal kingdom where I will live with Him forever. This ought to be our testimony at all times, but certainly when facing trials. If I am whom I claim to be (a follower of Christ), then I must not allow sickness or death to shake my faith. I draw my strength from Him and I want the world to see Him.
The second important thing that happened was once I found God’s peace that surpasses all understanding, my attention turned toward Bernadette and my family. They felt pain and anxiety. This is understandable, because next to Jesus, they love me the most. Our family saw cancer kill dad and as mom said after I finally told her my news, “This is a mother’s worse nightmare. First my husband and now that one of my children would also have cancer.” Just as dad demonstrated, I wanted them to see my confidence in God and that He would draw near to comfort them, too.
Bernadette knew I had everything in order for her should God call me home. We are both grateful to God that He provided us with the resources to take care of Bernadette should something happen to me and to manage our financial affairs in a way that glorifies Him. The burden for loved ones, serving as caretakers, is heavy enough without having to worry about finances.
The third most important thing I learned was a shortcoming. I have not always loved others like I should. God told me to love others more deeply, to care for others in ways I never have before. I want to give freely and abundantly. I also want to walk more humbly before my Lord.
Three days after receiving the cancer phone call, I was referred to a surgeon who ordered a CAT scan, which further confirmed the cancer and its location. He told Bernadette and me that the cancer was contained, that it had not spread and was encapsulated in my left kidney. He recommended removal of the kidney. That surgery took place April 5. The pathology report confirmed the cancer and offered no evidence that it had spread. Since the entire kidney was removed, no chemo or radiation will be needed. The shadow on my lung turned out to be an old, cracked rib from an injury I sustained as a teenager playing baseball. The doctors have told me that I will have regular checkups to keep a close watch. They believe my chances of being cancer-free are excellent.
I am resting at home where my recovery is ahead of schedule, according to my surgeon. I return to work April 24 (perhaps limited office hours with some work accomplished at home). I am grateful to all who prayed for me and for all the emails, cards and acts of kindness extended to me and my family.
God has extended my time in this world and He will reveal to me in His time what this trial means for my time here on earth. I love my wife and our families more than ever. Every day is sweeter and my love and confidence in my Savior has never been greater. To God be the glory.