Over the past few weeks, it seems like everyone is dying of cancer. Two beloved members of my church have passed away. Former White House press secretary Tony Snow tied two weeks ago of colon cancer; Last Lecture professor Randy Pausch died yesterday of pancreatic cancer. I know it sounds paranoid and unreasonable, but when the news of cancer deaths keeps coming and coming, it really feels like EVERYONE is dying of cancer.
And as someone who has cancer — recurrent cancer, even — those deaths don’t just make me sad for the families of the deceased. To be honest, they make me sad for me.
The thing is, though, I’m still alive. On the one hand, I may be dying of cancer. We’re all dying of something. But on the other hand, if I’m more careful with my thoughts and remember the Author of my days, it’s better to think that I’m living with cancer. As I was discussing this with a friend last night, we both decided that there needs to be more news coverage, more church announcements, more email updates and blog posts about people who are doing ok with cancer. Imagine hearing this on your evening news: “This just in, SO AND SO, who was diagnosed with cancer last October, is still alive and doing ok.”
So, in an important sense, that’s what this post is about. To let you know that I’m doing ok — great, even. I’m recovering quickly from surgery (I’m getting ready to go on a bike ride this morning less than four weeks out from abdominal surgery), and I’m ready to fight this disease with a new round of radiation treatments beginning August 4.
Why does it matter to you that I’m doing great? For some of you, it might not mean a whole lot more than just the peace of mind that a friend is hanging in there. And if that’s all this means, that’s good. But for some of you who also have cancer or who know someone with cancer, or maybe you’ve just had a string of bad days lately and you’re feeling down, I’m praying that the fact that I’m doing well today will give you the courage and hope you need to get out of bed and live today.
According to Philip Yancey, in Where Is God When It Hurts!, “Hope is such a crucial ingredient in coping with pain that I wonder if realistic ‘success stories’ can ever be overemphasized. Someone in despair needs a person or an idea, something to grasp onto that may provide a lifeline out of the currents of gloom.”
One day, just hearing that bicyclist Lance Armstrong, a survivor of stage-4 cancer, was running the Boston Marathon gave me a mental boost for several days. And seeing my dad, my grandpa, my aunt, my coworker, and so many others go on living after devastating cancer diagnoses also gives me hope.
Even remembering the people I love who have died well because of their deep faith in Jesus gives me the courage to live well all the days of my life.
In Yancey’s book, he goes on to quote Orville Kelly, the founder of Make Today Count, who expressed this quality of courageous hope well: “I do not look upon each day as another day closer to death, but as another day of life, to be appreciated and enjoyed.”
All this and heaven, too? Makes living with cancer a whole lot easier.
Will you please pray with me for my doctors who will be meeting on Monday to decide the best course of radiation treatment? They will be trying to determine the goals and the scope of treatment now, as well as maintaining options for the future in the event of another recurrence.