It’s been several weeks since I posted my last blog. Generally, I start with an idea that evolves over several weeks but I’ve been going through a tough transition that has made this post difficult to land. I finished my chemotherapy treatments on February 13 after four infusions. The side effects were really getting to me so after much prayer and consultation, I decided to skip the last two treatments. I flew to NIH on April 16 for my follow up examination. My PSA was less than .02 which means that for now, the cancer cells are being controlled by the hormone treatments. The bone and CT scans showed no additional growth of the cancer lesions on my pelvis which was good news. For now, my cancer is in remission. The big question is “For how long?” Statistically, it could be two or three years before it shows its ugly head. That’s when the hormone treatments I’m on are no longer effective and the cancer cells will start to grow again but this time, there’s no cure. Mary says we’re in wait and pray mode.
My friend Mark passed away recently. He had the same type of cancer that I have and introduced me to NIH back in September of 2017. Mark was diagnosed five years earlier and knew intimately the feelings I was experiencing He and his wife, Tracy, were genuinely concerned about how Mary and I were handling my illness and were very supportive. Mark was a kind and gentle soul with a great sense of humor and as I listened to his friends talk at his celebration of life service I wished I had known him longer. For the past eight months, we talked frequently about everything that was happening to us. We prayed for each other and for our wives, we laughed at some of the weird things that were happening to our bodies and most importantly, we shared our faith in God. Mark and I had a lot in common and his death affected me deeply. We were both 62, grew up in the Midwest and had led successful business careers. When my friend lost his battle with cancer I saw my future clearly and any traces of my denial that this was really happening vanished. This disease we shared connected us in a way that most people can’t understand and when he died, I felt a part of me die too.
For the eleven months since my diagnosis, my calendar has been mostly consumed with doctors appointments and trips to NIH every three weeks. I was busy fighting cancer but now that my treatments are over I’m faced with a decision; do I let cancer consume my every waking thought until it comes back or do I live every day to the fullest? Nobody knows when they’re going to die and unless you’re given a deadline most people don’t want to think about it. Most people think I’m a pretty positive guy so don’t get the idea that I’ve turned into Eeyore from the Winnie the Pooh story. I have times when I will dwell a little on the inevitable but most of the time I’m still the eternal optimist. It’s just that I have a different perspective than I did a few months ago. Psalm 90:12 says, “Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” One of my favorite pastor-authors, John Piper, wrote a paper entitled “Don’t Waste Your Cancer” on the eve of his prostate cancer surgery where he said “Numbering our days means thinking about how few there are and that they will end. How will we get a heart of wisdom if we refuse to think about this? What a waste, if we do not think about death.”
The title of this blog is Faith. According to one definition, faith is a strong belief in God based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof. Hebrews 11:1 says “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” I believe that God can heal me if it is His will but I also know that if He doesn’t it will not because I didn’t have enough faith. To quote John Piper again “The aim of God in our cancer (among a thousand other good things) is to knock props out from under our hearts so that we rely utterly on him.” If my healing depends on the level of my faith then the credit would go to me and not God!
I don’t let my cancer control my thoughts because my faith in God is strong. Mary and I are living every day doing the things we enjoy only we’re much more deliberate about how we spend our time. We spend a lot of time together just puttering around the house and gardening. We’ve made visiting with friends and family a priority. During our Aflac years, we earned a lot of incentive trips and developed a passion for travel. This August we’re taking a riverboat cruise on the Danube with our good friends Craig and Debbie. To quote one of my favorite rock ballads from the ’80’s, Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing,
Working hard to get my fill,
Everybody wants a thrill
Payin’ anything to roll the dice,
Just one more time
Make every minute of every day count my friends because every day you wait is another day you won’t get back.