Thursday, April 25, 2013
Words CAN be life-changing. I had life-changing words spoken to me on March 13, 2013. Three little words: "You have cancer." Now I understand that prostate cancer is not exactly a death sentence. When diagnosed early, the survival rate is in the 90+ percentage range. It's not lung cancer or colon cancer or lymphoma or myeloma. But it IS cancer. And when you hear those words directed at you, you know that your life is about to change. It was confirmed that I had, within my body, mutated cells that could take my life if left untreated. It was early, probably localized, and definitely treatable.
SO, there were decisions to be made. Basically, I had three options: 1) Watch & Wait - This cancer (I think it's called adenous carcinoma) might be small and slow. We could do quarterly PSA tests (should be <2 for a man my age. Mine was 3.9) and watch for increases. Then, a year down the road, we would do another biopsy to see if it had changed. 2) Radiation Therapy - There are different variations of this and it does NOT do the more widespread damage to "good tissue" that used to be a major side effect. But there is no guarantee that cancer will not occur in other parts of the prostate in the future. 3) Prostatetectomy - Cut it out. As one general surgeon friend said to me, "You cut, you cure."
With each of the options comes the reality of physical and lifestyle changes. I will be 59 years old if God grants me life until June 24, 2013. Prior to the diagnosis, I would have told you that my life expectancy was another 12-15 years. Now, I'm not so sure. Along with the physical issues I face, I'm also skeptical about the availability and affordability of future healthcare. IF I were to lose my job and/or my health coverage, I'll probably not be a desirable candidate for many jobs and would most certainly be considered uninsurable. I'm too young for medicare, too young for social security, too young for my annuity, and not sick enough for disability. When I look into the future, I see the fight for my health as a drain on my family's resources and one more thing to add to the stress level. For a while, I was stunned, uncertain, and breathless from the competing emotions of fear and excitement.
And then . . . I hear a young theologian named David Platt say, "When the disciples left everything everything to follow Jesus, they didn't always know where they were going or what they were doing, but they always knew WHO was with them." It was like being doused with cold water. It was as if God were saying to me, "Wake up! Don't forget My promise. I will be with you." There was a sense of peace that really was beyond human comprehension. I know I can't explain it well. I wanted to cry. I wanted to say why me. I wanted stress over the future. But I was reminded that in all things, Jesus' call to me was simply to follow Him. Those disciples followed Jesus in the light and the dark, the valleys and the mountaintops, the prayer garden and calvary. Sometimes they stumbled. But even then, Jesus was there.
I was reminded that I just needed to follow Jesus wherever He leads me. If following Him takes me through physical illness, it has not caught Him off-guard. If following Him takes me through financial strain, again . . . He's not surprised. When I look into the future and nothing but darkness, that's OK. I don't really have to know what my destination or how I will get there. I just need to follow Jesus. That's what He called us to do: Matthew 4:19; Luke 9:23; Luke 14:26-27; John 12:26
I'll be writing more on this journey over the next few weeks, hoping to pass along some of the things God is teaching me during this battle. But today, know this! Whatever you are facing, whatever valleys you maneuver, whatever mountains you face, whatever unknowns crush your spirit . . . you don't need the answers. You just need to follow Jesus. And like those disciples, even when you don't know the hows, whys, and whens, you will always know WHO is with you!