7 Cancer Lessons

Once again, I was sitting in the doctor’s office looking through the blinds at people in cars passing by as their lives raced ahead of them.  The steps and muffled sounds of nurses and doctor’s filtered  through the door.  I suddenly realized that my heart was starting to race.  I tried to identify what was happening to me.  And then it hit me.

It was fear.

It’s been nine years since I started chemotherapy for Stage 3 testicular cancer.  In those first days and weeks, I knew fear intimately as an evil twin who was trying to kill me.  Twelve weeks of chemo left me so weak that some days I couldn’t get off the couch to get a glass of water.  The chemo not only ate the cancer, but also destroyed my stomach lining, brought on migraine-like symptoms and damaged the nerves in my fingers and ears.  And all the time…fear.

The strange thing was that I hadn’t identified the fear and anxiety this year before my check-up.  Other years, I would feel it grab me from from behind weeks before.  This time, it snuck up on me.  I hadn’t seen it coming and then wondered why I was in an emotional funk.

The other strange thing is that as I sat there, I was able to remind my fear of what I’d learned because of cancer…because of fear.  I’m not always able to respond clearly.  But this time, I spoke these things to my fear.  I told it what I was learning from cancer…

1.

Freedom from fear is a process.  Some people might be able to defeat fear and never face it again, but not me.  While it’s hold on me is less, I still have to wrestle with my fear and remind it that…If you’re fighting fear, here here are some further thoughts on fighting it.

2.

I am thankful for going through cancer.  It changed me and gave me so many things that I couldn’t have learned any other way.  And knowing myself better now, I realize I would have run from any pain and suffering so God made me face it head on…

3.

We all die.  I sat next to some amazing people in chemo.  One man was a life-long smoker and had brushed shoulders with the Russian mafia, or so he said.  Another woman was a worship leader and new mom facing breast cancer.  Another man was a life-long farmer newly diagnosed with cancer and you could see the fear in his eyes.  Some survived and some died.  We are all mortal.  Don’t waste your life.  There is bigger story than just your life and you can join that story.  It might mean you get cancer.  It might mean that you son will die, but get in the game for God’s glory.  You are on limited time.

4.

Having your life destroyed will either make you withdraw into your own self or you will learn to  trust God.  We all the desire to control our world, but this is the truth.  YOU CAN’T CONTROL YOUR WORLD.  We are 100% guaranteed suffering in this life and we are promised that God is 100% faithful to meet us there.

5.

I have hope in eternity.  I will be writing on this more later.  All I can say is that I am looking forward to eternity.

6.

Facing cancer has deepened my love for others.  I’m crazy selfish and I’m guessing I’m not the only one.  When facing pain, the temptation is to focus even more on yourself.

7.

Cancer helped me know Jesus better.  Before cancer, I tended to love Jesus for what he gave me.  I loved Jesus because a lot of family and friends loved Jesus.  Cancer destroyed that world and taught me to love Jesus for Jesus.  As author Tim Keller writes, “Sometimes God seems to be killing us when he’s actually saving us.”  It’s a life-long process, but he is saving me from myself.  It’s becoming less about me and more about him.

…And all of that in the space of 15 min.  Because after 15 min, the door opened and my oncologist walked in.  She asked me the litany of questions…

“How would you rate your pain?  How are your side-effects?  Any more pain in your fingers?”

As she was leaving, she almost forgot to tell me about my lab results from my blood work.  But you can’t be too hard on her.  It has been 9 years.

“I’m sorry,” she said, “they’re fine.  They’re all fine.”

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