Cancer Scare

cancer-checkmark-horiz

A few months ago during my annual physical my doctor wasn’t happy with my PSA number. All middle-aged men watch that number like a hawk because it provides at least some information regarding the prostate gland. “Prostate-Specific Antigen” is what the letters stand for, meaning a male enzyme that gives an indication of prostate gland health. For my age group, when the number gets above four you have to take notice because it may point to problems. My doctor used the “C” word—cancer—and got my attention in a hurry. I’ve talked, counseled, consoled and prayed with many cancer patients. But I’ve never had the word used concerning my personal health. The long and short of it was because of my elevated PSA count and some other things, my doctor said I needed a biopsy.

“A biopsy doesn’t sound good, doc.” I said. “No problem,” he replied, “It’s the standard next step we need to take. The urologist will do it right there in his office. It’s not painful and you’ll be in and out with no problem.” I agreed and his office scheduled an appointment with a local urologist.

I liked him immediately. Young and engaging, he talked to Pam and me straightforwardly about prostate cancer—what it was, how it was diagnosed and what to expect from the procedure. “The biopsy isn’t a bad experience at all,” he said. I agreed to have it done a couple of weeks later.

My doctor is first-class, but he didn’t tell me all the truth. OK, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and say he didn’t represent things exactly as I found them to be. Without going into all the sordid details the biopsy was something I hope never to have to go through again. Any man who’s ever been through one will vouch for that. In fact, I’ve done some research since (don’t ask me why I didn’t do my research beforehand but it’s a good thing I didn’t because I might have decided against it), and my experience wasn’t unusual.

The cycle of blood tests, doctor’s visits and biopsies led straight to the most trying time of all—the waiting. Everyone who’s had any experience with cancer knows that this stage is as integral part of the process as the more formal medical procedures. The only difference is you don’t have to pay anything for it. You wait for the results of the biopsy. Sometimes it takes hours and other times days. In my case it took two weeks. Regardless of how long, though, it’s the waiting that gets to you.

Your normal life goes on. You get up every morning and do your job. Talk with people. Take care of issues. The pace of family goes on without let up. But underneath all the ordinary things a kind of internal monologue goes on. Do I have cancer? If not, how grateful I’ll be! If so, how far advanced is it? How do I talk with God about this? What is his will for me? What’s the next step—more tests or other kinds of treatment? Chemo, radiation, surgery? What about some of the alternative treatments—should I think about trying those? How will this affect my family? My work? My quality of life?

I didn’t find myself dwelling on those questions. In fact, both Pam and I had a sense of peace throughout the process. We’ve experienced far too much of God’s provisions in our life to grow anxious about almost anything. But in those moments when other things weren’t clamoring for attention, those kinds of questions bubbled up to my conscious mind.

We returned to the doctor earlier this week for the biopsy results. He came into the office and the first words out of his mouth were, “I have good news for you.” I felt a huge weight come off my shoulders. Some folks might ask, “Where was your faith?” And I wouldn’t argue with them; I could have had more faith. Still, when the pronouncement was made and the official ruling was in, I was overjoyed.

No problems with my prostate gland were found. I needed to come back periodically to be re-checked (note to self: make your next appointment far into the future because it will be a long, long time before I go through that again) but didn’t need to worry about the situation any longer.

Not everyone receives such good news. In my own church at any given time, many are wrestling with the long-term challenges that cancer brings to their health, family, finances and faith. Now I know—even if my brush with the disease was so brief—a little better what they go through.

13 Comments

  1. Kimberly Gibson on August 29, 2013 at 6:49 pm

    Thank you Pastor Mike for sharing. I would say my dad is facing cancer again for the 3rd time with bladder cancer. Your blog spoke to me and thank you for writing it. Our family is always praying and hoping for those words “we have good news”…however we also know God has a plan and for many times before (not just this cancer but he’s had others as well) we KNOW without a shadow of a doubt that God has bigger plans for my dad’s life than we can expect. He’s 81 years old and has been dealing with this bladder cancer for 8 years now. Now dad has to decide after his bladder cancer surgery in September will he have QUALITY of life or QUANTITY of life. Of course as his daughter I want both, but we know we don’t live in a perfect world, now do we?!

    • pastor@lexingtonbaptist.org on August 29, 2013 at 7:39 pm

      No, Kimberly, we don’t live in a perfect world. Blessings on you, your dad and your family through all this.

  2. John Taylor on August 29, 2013 at 7:26 pm

    Thanks be to God that the news was all good. So glad that it turned out that way.

    In my experience, I describe the waiting as staring down the barrel of a gun. Not knowing if it would just “click” or if it would “pop”. After I started chemo and was awaiting the first set of scans (about half way through my treatment) I found myself constantly in fear. Is the chemo working? If not, how bad is it? How long do I have? What will happen to my family? So on. The waiting was almost as bad as getting the diagnosis to begin with.

    I have never known fear like the fear I experienced so often upon diagnoses, and all throughout my treatment and other issues that we had to work through. And yes, I definitely could have had more faith. I quite often questioned God’s motives during that period of time. But I came to learn that there is nothing wrong with fear. There is nothing ungodly or not christian like about fear. I believe Christ himself even had his moments in the garden before he was arrested. Are we to believe that he had absolutely no fear about his coming Crucifixion? That a mortal human being did not have any fear? I think he did. But he also knew the will of God and how much more powerful it was. He knew the ultimate outcome of it.

    For us, that can be something that is hard to see. The outcome that is. And we experience fear for a number of reasons. We are unable to move past the now and look forward into the future, because of the uncertainty of the outcome.

    For me, I can look back and see it all now. It wasn’t a test from God. He knew the outcome all along. But it was something I had to go through as a part of His plan. It is an experience that showed me that faith is mightier than fear.

    I think of it simply as this: You never know how strong you can be, until being strong is all you can be. Having faith doesn’t mean having no fear. It simply means having a belief that God is stronger than us, He is bigger than us, and His will has a purpose. Sometimes if that purpose is just to restore our faith, or make it stronger.

    • pastor@lexingtonbaptist.org on August 29, 2013 at 7:43 pm

      John, you articulate the cancer experience so much better than I do! Staring down the barrel of a gun is right on the money, I think. So glad that you’re in a better place now. Blessings on you, my friend.

      Mike

      • John Taylor on August 30, 2013 at 3:21 pm

        Thank you Pastor Mike. And thanks for your prayers and support during that time. God Bless you!

  3. Nelson Yount on August 29, 2013 at 8:28 pm

    Well stated, Pastor Mike. I’ve been through almost the exact same process, except that I got to do it all in a foreign country with language barriers thrown into the mix. You’re not kidding about the biopsy — not fun at all! But through it all we too had a sense of peace that is impossible to explain to someone who doesn’t have the hope of Christ in their lives.

    • pastor@lexingtonbaptist.org on August 29, 2013 at 8:34 pm

      I wouldn’t want to go through that in another country, Nelson. Glad to hear the results were positive for you, too. Hope you guys are doing well.

  4. Angel Estigoy on August 29, 2013 at 8:34 pm

    “We returned to the doctor earlier this week for the biopsy results. He came into the office and the first words out of his mouth were, “I have good news for you.” I felt a huge weight come off my shoulders. Some folks might ask, “Where was your faith?” And I wouldn’t argue with them; I could have had more faith. Still, when the pronouncement was made and the official ruling was in, I was overjoyed.”
    This paragraph stuck out to me because the sigh of relief (or the weight being lifted) does not reflect “Faith” or a lack there of, in my opinion. It reflects the normal human response of knowing that you will not have to go through treatments, experience pain, have your wife take on more responsibility, possibly take time off from preaching, etc. Thankful that you do not have to go through this. Miss hearing you preach Pastor Mike.

  5. Bill Janning on August 29, 2013 at 11:41 pm

    My experience was different. I looked down that gun barrell 12 years ago and it went off. My biopsy confirmed the big “C” was indeed present. I was one of the guys with a normal PSA but a problem showed up on a physical digital exam. We don’t like those exams but it was a good thing for me!! I am thankful for a good surgeon and good results. I’ve been cancer free for 12 years. You may have read this already but just in case; “around 80% of men will die of prostrate cancer or with it if the live long enought” scary thought. Get those check ups.. Blessings

    • John Taylor on August 30, 2013 at 3:20 pm

      Amen for your 12 years cancer free Bill! I currently sit at 6 months free of the “C”. You’re right, get those checkups!

  6. Sally Wallace on August 30, 2013 at 3:02 am

    Hi Mike, Just “happened” to see your blog and read it and thanked the Lord with you for the blessed results that you received. Thankful, too, that the comfort which you received from the Holy Spirit is now yours to comfort others who are walking that path you started. Can’t quote that verse–need to re-memorize that one!! But you know what I mean. God bless you and your ministry in Lexington. Sally Wallace, Charleston
    (Nancy and Michael’s friend–will forward this to them) Say hey to Pam for me.

  7. Nancy Blakeley on August 30, 2013 at 2:13 pm

    Hey to you and Pam…Sally Wallace sent us your blog and we are grateful all is well with your scare. Ironically we rode by your church last Sat. We were on the way to Carol Ann Brown’s mother’s funeral in Greenwood. Jan Bostick was with us. We wished we had called and made plans to meet you and Pam for supper on our way back… We have a couple , the Hams, in our Sunday School class that is going to move to Columbia whenever their home sells here. We want y’all to meet them. He is chairman of Deacons at our church and works so hard to get our church growing. We told him he MUST attend your church before he even decides where to buy a house!!! We so miss your sermons and broad winning smile! Love to you and Pam, Nancy Blakeley

    • pastor@lexingtonbaptist.org on September 2, 2013 at 8:00 pm

      Nancy, great to hear from you. We actually met two friends of yours yesterday at church. They knew you from Hartsville and were visiting their son and his family. Sorry that I can’t remember their names. I’d love to meet the Ham’s. If they’re here in town sometime, please have them get in touch with me.

      Blessings,
      Mike

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