What I Am Learning From My Cancer

Today I got the results my 4th CT scan . When I started down this road almost 3 years ago. November 17th 2006, I found out I had a tumor the size of a cantaloupe in my colon. Well it didn’t stay contained in the colon. It had attached itself to the abdominal wall, small intestine, another section of the large intestine and the bladder. December 4th, 2006 I had surgery to attempt to remove this beast. The surgeon was successful in removing the tumor along with a bladder resection and colon and small intestine resections. On December 7th, 2006 the pathology report showed that there was no cancer to be found in my system. Nothing in the margins, and 22 out of 22 lymph nodes completely clean. Since then, I had six months of intensive chemo. My oncologist termed that preventative. I have been since visiting my oncologist every three months. I was scheduled to do that for 5 years. I have been informed if my results come back like all previous results that I can be declared “cancer free” by the oncologist. That would be two years earlier than the best case scenario I was given in January 2007.

The results today showed a spot on my liver that has never been there before. They are not sure what it is. It could very well be nothing, or just a cyst. It could be a metastasis. So right now the course of action is to wait for a few months and retake a CT Scan. We will find that A) the spot is gone, B) the spot has not grown, or C) the spot is growing. If the spot is there, or if it’s growing, surgery is in play. Then we may have to look at treatment options again.

While yes, they found a spot ALL other labs, blood work and markers are “exceptional”. So what are we to make of this. Well, this journey has never been about me. This is not “Why me, why now.” Honestly why not me. It has always been about God and His glory.

Here are some lessons I am learning from having cancer. (The catalyst for this was something that John Piper wrote. I would encourage you to read it.)

  • I am learning that cancer is the best thing that has happened to me.
  • I am learning — and continue to learn — to rely on God for everything. Only God can continue to get me through this. We can only LIVESTRONG™ if we’re GODSTRONG™
  • I have begun the process of getting my affairs in order. No matter how long I live, it makes sense to know that my affairs are in — and remain — in order.
  • I am learning that dying is not a loss and that staying alive is not the ultimate goal.
  • I am learning that having cancer is a great way to develop deeper relationships with other people.
  • I am learning that this is a process and not a destination. Cancer will always be a part of me.
  • I am learning that sin is worse than cancer. Some of the things I have excused away as “just who I am” are sin.
  • I am an unkind jerk to many people including my wife and my boys. That needs to change. I am quite arrogant.
  • Having cancer has greatly humbled me, but I seek more humility.
  • I am learning that I don’t need to sweat the “small stuff”.
  • I am learning that it is better to influence others rather than simply inspiring them.
  • I am learning that I can be just like the Israelites of the Old Testament. I was given a miracle 3 years ago and the further away I get from that, I find I can forget the miracle.
  • I am learning that every day I wake and my feet touch the floor, it is a great day!
  • I am learning that God has a purpose for me, my wife and my boys with this journey that He’s placed us on. May we be faithful.
  • I have been given a platform to share what I believe and I am learning to use that.

“What’s the next step?”

Cancer’s Unexpected Blessings

Commentator and broadcaster Tony Snow announced that he had colon cancer in 2005. Following surgery and chemo-therapy, Snow joined the Bush administration in April 2006 as press secretary. Unfortunately, on March 23, 2007 Snow, 51, a husband and father of three, announced that the cancer had recurred, with tumors found in his abdomen — leading to surgery in April, followed by more chemotherapy. Snow went back to work in the White House Briefing Room on May 30, 2007. CT asked Snow what spiritual lessons he has been learning through the ordeal one year prior to his death July 12, 2008.

Being a colon cancer survivor and a Christ follower, I wanted to share these thoughts. Even though I did not write them, I have lived them these past 2 years. I was diagnosed with Stage IV Colon Cancer on November 15th 2006. Surgery was performed on December 4th 2006 to remove a cantaloupe sized tumor that was metastasized. December 7, 2006 the pathology report showed no cancer in my system. I have lived with this unexpected blessing for the past 2 years.

Blessings arrive in unexpected packages — in my case, cancer.

Those of us with potentially fatal diseases — and there are millions in America today — find ourselves in the odd position of coping with our mortality while trying to fathom God’s will. Although it would be the height of presumption to declare with confidence What It All Means, Scripture provides powerful hints and consolations.

The first is that we shouldn’t spend too much time trying to answer the why questions: Why me? Why must people suffer? Why can’t someone else get sick? We can’t answer such things, and the questions themselves often are designed more to express our anguish than to solicit an answer.

I don’t know why I have cancer, and I don’t much care. It is what it is — a plain and indisputable fact. Yet even while staring into a mirror darkly, great and stunning truths begin to take shape. Our maladies define a central feature of our existence: We are fallen. We are imperfect. Our bodies give out.

But despite this — because of it — God offers the possibility of salvation and grace. We don’t know how the narrative of our lives will end, but we get to choose how to use the interval between now and the moment we meet our Creator face-to-face.

Second, we need to get past the anxiety. The mere thought of dying can send adrenaline flooding through your system. A dizzy, unfocused panic seizes you. Your heart thumps; your head swims. You think of nothingness and swoon. You fear partings; you worry about the impact on family and friends. You fidget and get nowhere.

To regain footing, remember that we were born not into death, but into life — and that the journey continues after we have finished our days on this earth. We accept this on faith, but that faith is nourished by a conviction that stirs even within many nonbelieving hearts — an intuition that the gift of life, once given, cannot be taken away. Those who have been stricken enjoy the special privilege of being able to fight with their might, main, and faith to live — fully, richly, exuberantly — no matter how their days may be numbered.

Third, we can open our eyes and hearts. God relishes surprise. We want lives of simple, predictable ease — smooth, even trails as far as the eye can see — but God likes to go off-road. He provokes us with twists and turns. He places us in predicaments that seem to defy our endurance and comprehension — and yet don’t. By his love and grace, we persevere. The challenges that make our hearts leap and stomachs churn invariably strengthen our faith and grant measures of wisdom and joy we would not experience otherwise.

‘You Have Been Called’

Picture yourself in a hospital bed. The fog of anesthesia has begun to wear away. A doctor stands at your feet; a loved one holds your hand at the side. “It’s cancer,” the healer announces.

The natural reaction is to turn to God and ask him to serve as a cosmic Santa. “Dear God, make it all go away. Make everything simpler.” But another voice whispers: “You have been called.” Your quandary has drawn you closer to God, closer to those you love, closer to the issues that matter — and has dragged into insignificance the banal concerns that occupy our “normal time.”

There’s another kind of response, although usually short-lived — an inexplicable shudder of excitement, as if a clarifying moment of calamity has swept away everything trivial and tinny, and placed before us the challenge of important questions.

The moment you enter the Valley of the Shadow of Death, things change. You discover that Christianity is not something doughy, passive, pious, and soft. Faith may be the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. But it also draws you into a world shorn of fearful caution. The life of belief teems with thrills, boldness, danger, shocks, reversals, triumphs, and epiphanies. Think of Paul, traipsing though the known world and contemplating trips to what must have seemed the antipodes (Spain), shaking the dust from his sandals, worrying not about the morrow, but only about the moment.

There’s nothing wilder than a life of humble virtue — for it is through selflessness and service that God wrings from our bodies and spirits the most we ever could give, the most we ever could offer, and the most we ever could do.

Finally, we can let love change everything. When Jesus was faced with the prospect of crucifixion, he grieved not for himself, but for us. He cried for Jerusalem before entering the holy city. From the Cross, he took on the cumulative burden of human sin and weakness, and begged for forgiveness on our behalf.

We get repeated chances to learn that life is not about us — that we acquire purpose and satisfaction by sharing in God’s love for others. Sickness gets us partway there. It reminds us of our limitations and dependence. But it also gives us a chance to serve the healthy. A minister friend of mine observes that people suffering grave afflictions often acquire the faith of two people, while loved ones accept the burden of two people’s worries and fears.

Learning How to Live

Most of us have watched friends as they drifted toward God’s arms not with resignation, but with peace and hope. In so doing, they have taught us not how to die, but how to live. They have emulated Christ by transmitting the power and authority of love.

I sat by my best friend’s bedside a few years ago as a wasting cancer took him away. He kept at his table a worn Bible and a 1928 edition of the Book of Common Prayer. A shattering grief disabled his family, many of his old friends, and at least one priest. Here was a humble and very good guy, someone who apologized when he winced with pain because he thought it made his guest uncomfortable. He retained his equanimity and good humor literally until his last conscious moment. “I’m going to try to beat [this cancer],” he told me several months before he died. “But if I don’t, I’ll see you on the other side.”

His gift was to remind everyone around him that even though God doesn’t promise us tomorrow, he does promise us eternity — filled with life and love we cannot comprehend — and that one can in the throes of sickness point the rest of us toward timeless truths that will help us weather future storms.

Through such trials, God bids us to choose: Do we believe, or do we not? Will we be bold enough to love, daring enough to serve, humble enough to submit, and strong enough to acknowledge our limitations? Can we surrender our concern in things that don’t matter so that we might devote our remaining days to things that do?

When our faith flags, he throws reminders in our way. Think of the prayer warriors in our midst. They change things, and those of us who have been on the receiving end of their petitions and intercessions know it. It is hard to describe, but there are times when suddenly the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, and you feel a surge of the Spirit. Somehow you just know: Others have chosen, when talking to the Author of all creation, to lift us up — to speak of us!

This is love of a very special order. But so is the ability to sit back and appreciate the wonder of every created thing. The mere thought of death somehow makes every blessing vivid, every happiness more luminous and intense. We may not know how our contest with sickness will end, but we have felt the ineluctable touch of God.

What is man that Thou art mindful of him? We don’t know much, but we know this: No matter where we are, no matter what we do, no matter how bleak or frightening our prospects, each and every one of us, each and every day, lies in the same safe and impregnable place — in the hollow of God’s hand.

Copyright © 2007 Christianity Today.
 

 — Scott

We can only LIVESTRONG™ if we’re GODSTRONG™.

Updates


I have visited with all of my physicians in the last few weeks. Got a clean bill of health. All my tests are looking great. After my March visit with my oncologist we’ll decide on the frequency of my follow-up visits.

We spent Christmas in south Florida. It was an incredible time. The weather was absolutely perfect. Lori & I and Austin & Cyndi had so much fun. Josh & Dusty celebrated their first Christmas together in NC. They had a wonderful time together in their new home.

Austin is trying to narrow his college selections down. He has several auditions for the various music schools in the next few weeks. The first one on the 19th will be the test. He’ll do great but this is his first choice. Hayes School of Music at Appalachian State University.

Thanks again for all of the prayers, cards and calls.

Anniversary of Sorts

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A year ago today my doctor called to inform me that the mass he found was Stage IV Colon Cancer. Wow the time has passed so quickly. I’m doing well. I’m healthy and I’m very blessed. I just wanted to say thank you to for your prayers and your support during this last year. You have been such a blessing to me and my family. This journey has been such a blessing to us. We’ve been able to encounter so many individuals that got to hear of God’s miraculous love, grace & mercy.

I am very fortunate this evening to be able to spend time with my family. Josh & Dusty, Austin & Cyndi and Lori & I will be attending a concert. Steven Curtis Chapman is in Asheville tonight. It’s very appropriate that it is the Miracle of the Moment tour. We are definitely celebrating the moments that we have. The kids are looking forward to seeing a concert with me especially with an artist that I had the privilege of working with during my time at EMI. They just wish I could still get backstage passes. It should be a great time together.

I hope this finds you all well. I pray that you all have a blessed Thanksgiving. Give thanks for He is good.

— Scott

We can only LIVESTRONG™ if we’re GODSTRONG™.

Here’s the lyrics to the song

Steven Curtis Chapman — Miracle Of The Moment

From the album This Moment

It’s time for letting go

All of our if only’s

’Cause we don’t have a time machine

And even if we did

Would we really want to use it?

Would we really want to go change everything?

’Cause we are who and where and what we are for now

And this is the only moment we can do anything about

Chorus:

So breathe it in and breathe it out

Listen to your heartbeat

There’s a wonder in the here and now

It’s right there in front of you

And I don’t want you to miss

The miracle of the moment

There’s only one who knows

What’s really out there waiting

In all the moments yet to be

And all we need to know

Is He’s out there waiting

To Him the future’s history

And He has given us a treasure called right now

And this is the only moment we can do anything about

And if it brings you tears

Then taste them as they fall

And let them soften your heart

And if it brings you laughter

Then throw your head back

And let it go, let it go

You gotta let it go

Listen to your heartbeat

A New Day

Good morning,
I first wanted to thank you all for your thoughts & prayers during this time. It was one week ago that I was in surgery to remove a cancerous tumor this size of a cantaloupe from my colon. Unfortunately, the tumor had attached itself to my small intestine, bladder, and abdominal wall. My surgeon was able to remove the tumor along with part of my bladder completely. There was a great concern after the surgery on what the pathology report would show being Stage 4 cancer and the tumor attaching itself to other organs.
We received the news on Thursday that the pathology came back and showed that the margins were completely clear where they removed everything, and that they took 22 lymph nodes and that all 22 were clean and cancer free. Our surgeon sat there and told us that this was our miracle. We could not have hoped for any better news. What an awesome God we serve.
As I sit here and type we don’t know what treatment plan the oncologist will be looking at so, we still covet your prayers as we continue on this journey.
Thanks again for your continued prayer and support during this time.