Cancer – 24 hours

In Matthew 6:34 Jesus tells his followers, “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” As a husband who is watching his wife live through cancer, I am learning the truth about this. It started Wednesday afternoon when Rita went in for her ultrasound check-up. The procedure was supposed to be a routine step along the road to radiation treatment. In a moment it all changed. The medical staff saw something and ordered tests. We were going to have to wait 3-5 days to find out if this was a bump in the road to recovery or a major change in direction.

That was Wednesday. The sun set and the sun came up. I started the 500 mile drive from my meetings in Kansas to Denver. 8 hours, alone in my car, switching between NPR, the best of the 1980’s, and silence. Then the call came, about 24 hours after the first call. They had fast-tracked the biopsies. Instead of 3-5 days, it was 24 hours. The news was good! They didn’t find any cancer.

In an instant I moved from fear to joy.

For anyone who has been touched by cancer or loves someone battling this disease you are well acquainted with moments that seem to spin on a dime. One moment everything seems to be going well and then something unexpected happens. A moment of joy turns into anguish.

I am slowly learning the wisdom of living in the present. Too often I have put important things off until later. I have let the business of life get in the way of loving, caring, and spending time with the folks most important to me.

Take some time today. Call that friend or family member you have been meaning to talk to. Let them know how important they are. Tomorrow will take care of itself.

Cancer – yes but

This weekend Rita got the news we have been praying for. The cancer and pre-cancer cells have been removed. It is out of her body! Now Rita can begin to focus on healing and prevention. Before that can happen there is another mammogram that needs to be scheduled. The doctors want to make sure that the cancer is gone and hasn’t resurfaced. I want 100% assurance. In the world of cancer this is not possible.

We are going to have to learn to live with a certain amount of uncertainty. Every treatment comes with a degree of risk. The risk can reduce the possibility of cancer coming back, but it can’t eliminate it.

In the middle of all this life still goes on. The sun still rises, every day. Bills still show up; interestingly they show up with certainty and on time.

There is this human need to know, to be secure. Yet Jesus suggested that this impulse isn’t terribly helpful. “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life…” (Matthew 6:25). The truth is that none of us are promised anything beyond right now. I always knew this intellectually. Giving witness to my wife of almost 30 years as she deals with this disease has been a powerful reminder about today.

We could choose to worry about what might happen or we can choose to live our lives, to be alive in the moment. I cannot and will not speak for Rita, but the invasion of cancer into our marriage has made me more grateful for what we have today. I am hopeful for tomorrow and the next 30 years. But I refuse to live in the world of what might happen. Quite honestly, even with the cancer, what we have is pretty cool.

“Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself…” (Matthew 6:34)

Cancer – post surgery

Last Friday was the best and worst day. It was an Ecclesiastes 3 day. It was a day of fear and a day of hope. It was a day of darkness and light. I cried to God in anger and offered prayers of thanksgiving. It is amazing how our lives can change in an instant. Shortly after 4 PM last Friday the doctor called me into a private waiting room. I instantly went into worst case scenario mode. Why does he have to talk to me privately? In an instant my mood went from fear to joy. The doctors tested her lymph nodes and the results were negative for cancer. They removed two masses and are 95% sure they got everything. We still need to wait a week to get the final pathology, but everything is pointing in the right direction.

There are still 6-8 weeks of radiation and it will be 5 years before Rita can be declared cancer free. But the outlook is good.

The last couple of months has been an important reminder to our family. Quite simply we do not know what tomorrow will bring. Life can go from wonderful to a disaster in an instant. Matthew 5-7, Jesus’ sermon on the mountain, has always been an important passage for me. It has shaped how I understand and live out my faith. I do not think I ever fully understood the “do not worry” section in Matthew 6:25-34 until Rita was diagnosed with cancer. All I could think about was what the future might or might not bring. It became crystal clear that I could not control the future. One of the unexpected blessings of this diagnosis was a process of beginning to live in the moment.

Christmas was nothing short of perfect. Our boys came home and they weren’t boys anymore; they had grown into men. We talked and laughed around the table. When the boys went back to their homes Rita and I were better together. Things that may have caused tension in the past just didn’t seem quite as important. We went for hikes, drives, and meals together and managed to enjoy the moments.

I wouldn’t wish cancer on anyone. We still have a ways to go before this is behind us. This week I am beginning to thank God for the unexpected lessons.

“So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own.” Matthew 6:34