Like most people, I am concerned about my health. As I’ve grown older, more and more of my peers have had to deal with things that I think we probably never thought were down the road when we were younger. Those were things that happened to “other people.”
I did have one incident, in my mid twenties, that caused me some problems down the line. I had a bad case of pneumonia, and a doctor who was treating it mis-diagnosed it. The pneumonia spread to the pericardial tissue around the heart, and eventually to the heart itself, causing a chronic atrial fibrillation to develop, and leaving me with permanent, regular medications to take for the rest of my life. It has progressively been treated to the point where it is a minor annoyance, now. I stepped into the world of diabetes in 2008. That was sobering, and so was the surgery I had to have on my leg to remove an abscess caused by it. But bouncing back, taking medication and being good with measuring blood sugar and using insulin has seriously reduced the effects of the disease. The biggest fear, though was still in the background.
For years, I’ve clung to the assurance that I have good heredity when it comes to cancer. No one in my family has had it. Until now.
A week ago Wednesday, I visited an emergency room because I thought I had a bad case of the stomach flu. Without a fever, they were sure I didn’t, and fortunately, there was a doctor there qualified enough to realize that the pain I was having, along with fluctuations in the blood chemistry, indicated some kind of bowel obstruction. They took me to surgery that afternoon, to run a camera down and see what was going on, and I emerged from the recovery room with about half of my colon removed. The next morning, my wife told me that the obstruction had been a tumor, and we would wait three days for the pathology results to come back.
When they did, it was determined to be cancerous, but all of the other indicators of further issues were not present, the lymph nodes were clear, and the doctors are sure they “got it all.” I’ve heard that before, and watched, within a two to three year period of time, the person die from a tumor that formed elsewhere. That’s scary enough. Even though the survival odds of this particular tumor are high, and recurrence is low, the bridge has been crossed and there’s no going back now.
I’d like to think of this as an isolated incident. After all, the prognosis is good, and the long term prevention plan may not include chemotherapy. Even the odds of recurrence of this type of tumor, cited by the doctor as a point of good news and comfort, are quite low. That’s what I’d like to think. And I know that a lot of people who’ve had cancer, even in higher stages than mine, are treated and survive it. That is very encouraging. It is entirely possible, about a 90% chance according to the medical experts, that I will never face another cancerous tumor or growth anywhere else in my body. That is also very encouraging.
But I have crossed the threshold. I’ve had cancer. And that scares me. I imagine that over the next weeks and months, I will go through several stages of reacting to this news, from fear of what could be down the road, to relying on my faith in Christ to get me through it. I’ll admit that sounds like a crutch, but that’s probably because it is. And that’s OK. It will help me get through this. I already know a dozen or more cancer patients who are in remission, or have been delivered from its curse altogether. And I think that’s the way faith in Jesus works. He sends people your way, maybe well in advance of the time you’ll need them, so they’ll be ready to minister to you when the time comes.
Living one day at a time is no longer a cliché.