Eugene Finney of Fitchburg, Mass., and I have something in common. Before I share what it is, let me provide some background.
In case you missed it recently in the news, while visiting his parents, Finney was swimming in the Pacific Ocean off Huntington Beach in Orange County, Calif., with his 10-year-old daughter Temple. The two of them dove into a, 7-9-foot wave and as they plummeted 20 feet underwater, Finney felt a strong force plow into his back, according to the San Jose Mercury News.
Dizzy and dazed, Finney managed to make his way back to shore with Temple, who told her father he had a long, bleeding gash in his back. When he looked out in the water, he saw shark fins. Lifeguards immediately began pulling people out of the water.
When Finney returned to work a few days later, a coworker urged him to see a doctor. Following X-rays and a CAT-scan, doctors determined Finney’s pain was due to “interior bruising of the thoracic cavity, due to blunt-force trauma,” the San Jose Mercury News reported.
But they discovered something else: a walnut-sized tumor on his right kidney that indicated Stage 1 cancer. They told him it was genetic, and Finney said he likely inherited the malady from his maternal grandmother, who died of stomach cancer.
“If they hadn’t made this incidental find, I wouldn’t have known until it was too late,” he told the San Jose Mercury News. “I could have ended up with cancer metastasizing all over my stomach area, and you don’t come back from that.
“It (the shark) could have bitten me, but it nudged me just enough,” he said, causing him to seek medical attention. Surgeons removed 20 percent of Finney’s kidney and he is considered cancer-free.
This is what I have in common with Finney – minus the shark attack. About two years ago, I was experiencing an upset stomach and went to the doctor. I will never forget what happened next.
“Don, I am going to order an MRI. Let’s take a close look at your stomach.”
“Whatever you think is best,” I replied.
Then he hesitated.
“I tell you what,” the doctor said, “Let’s take a look at your kidneys, too, just for the heck of it.”
The MRI showed that my stomach was clear, but it also showed a tumor on my left kidney. Two weeks later I had surgery to remove my kidney. The biopsy provided confirmation: Stage 1 cancer. Fortunately, since they removed the entire left kidney, I did not need chemotherapy. I resumed a normal life with one kidney – except for six-month checkups.
Earlier this year while getting one of those checkups, my urologist detected a small mass in my bladder. He later removed a small, non-invasive tumor – again Stage 1 cancer. Three months later, he found another and surgically removed it before flooding my bladder with chemo. Again, it was non-invasive, Stage 1 cancer.
All were caught early enough so that the doctor says my chances of survival are very good. I will have checkups, however, every three months for the rest of my life. I am blessed.
By the way, we never figured out what was upsetting my stomach since that portion of the MRI came back clear. It subsided a day or two after I visited the doctor and has not returned.
I am not an infallible creature, so I could be mistaken, but I believe God allowed my stomach to be upset so I would go to the doctors and they would discover the cancer in time so that it would not kill me. I know that God loves me. He is in control of my destiny. He has a purpose for my life. My life in this temporary world will not end until that purpose is fulfilled.
I am a two-time graduate of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and at every commencement since 1860, students have sung the Seminary Hymn, “Soldiers of Christ, in Truth Arrayed,” by Basil Manly, Jr. The final verse goes like this:
“We meet to part, but part to meet,
When early labors are complete,
To join in yet more blest employ,
In an eternal world of joy.”
I thank you for your prayers and support. I thank my staff who have picked up the slack and kept The Pathway running smoothly. I feel great and look forward to many more days as your state newspaper editor. There, apparently, is more that God wants of me before I go.
I am also thankful that I did not have to encounter a shark for the opportunity.