I still remember where I sat when the doctor said, “You have cancer.” Lea hadn’t even come with me to the doctor appointment, because neither one of us felt “the lump” was going to be anything serious. I remember going outside to call Lea and tell her that the doctor had just told me that it was cancer. The rest of that month, and summer for that matter, is still like a bad dream.
When it comes to the fact that I’ve had cancer, I try not to wear it on my sleeve for the sake of pity or sympathy. But I do like to be vocal about it from time to time, celebrating the fact that God has blessed me in my victory over cancer. I also think it’s important to talk about it for the sake of being pro-active in cancer research and support.
Seven years ago after being told I had cancer, and after my first surgery, my doctor presented me with three option…
- I could start a long hard road of chemotherapy and radiation immediately.
- I could take a HUGE gamble and possibly bypass the chemotherapy if I was willing to have a second BIG surgery. IF that surgery showed that the cancer had not spread, I could miss out on all the chemo and radiation and just do follow up (cat scans, blood work & x-rays). I still laugh when I remember how the doctor described the “BIG” surgery, as he called it. He said, “I’m going to make an incision from just below your sternum all the way to your pelvis. Then I’m going to literally lift your intestines and organs out of the way, so I can remove your lymph nodes. Your lymph nodes will tell us if the cancer has spread. It’s going to be one tough surgery, but you’re young and you should make it fine.” I remember thinking, “What? I should make it fine?”
- The third option was having the “BIG” surgery, and if it showed the cancer had spread, I would still have to have the chemo after I recovered from the surgery.
Seven years ago today, I took a huge gamble, and I had my second surgery 3 weeks after the first one, hoping to miss out on chemo and radiation. My doctor went into my abdomen and pelvis and removed the lymph nodes to see just how far my cancer had spread. After 2 days in ICU and 4 more in the hospital recovering from having everything in my abdomen moved around, my doctor told me that he’d found no cancer anywhere else. The gamble had paid off, and I was going to be able to miss out on the chemotherapy.
I spent the rest of the summer recovering from that big surgery, but I got to miss out on the chemo and radiation. The summer of 2003 challenged me and changed me in many ways. Cancer made me refocus and re-prioritize my life in amazing ways. It made me a better husband, father and Christian man. It strengthened my faith.
I’m not sure I could ever say, “I’m glad I had cancer,” but I am glad for what I learned. I would never wish cancer on anyone, but it’s amazing how God can take a bad thing like cancer and make good things come out of it.