Part Six on facing cancer
(Links to past posts are below)
CUYAHOGA FALLS, June 15 — In a couple of weeks, a urological surgeon whom I’ve come to know and trust – Dr. Joshua Nething — will put me into an operating room at Summa Health in Akron. He and his surgical team will then make a handful of small (1 to 1.5 centimeter) incisions into my stomach and abdomen area. From there, Dr. Nething will use robotic arms to conduct laparoscopic surgery on me for 7 to 10 hours.
When the surgery is done, the bladder, prostate, some lymph nodes, tissues and other parts will be removed from my body. These parts now contain, we hope and pray, any remaining cancer which was discovered inside of me back in January. It’s serious business.
How do you feel? Are you worried? What’s going through your mind?
Those are three common questions I’ve been asked as friends, family members and loved ones learn about this upcoming procedure. They are really wondering, “John, how are you making it? How are you doing now, day to day?”
There’s a simple answer to all these questions.
God through His Son, Jesus Christ, and through the Holy Spirit, has given me great confidence and even a sense of peace as my date with this surgery approaches.
In a real sense, God has been preparing me for this surgery for almost all of my adult life. How? Through His Word, the Bible.
If you had five minutes with my study Bible, you’d see it’s dripping with ink from underlined passages and notes in the margins. It holds a bit of what I’ve learned in 20+ years at Cuyahoga Valley Church (CVC), and in my faith journey even before Kathy and I joined CVC. My Bible is a time machine in a sense.
There is a great benefit to listening, taking notes, and gleaning insight – or what some call “Aha moments” – from Sunday worship messages and from Bible readings. These have strengthened me, and deepened my relationship with God. It is a great source of comfort and assurance as my trial – the surgery – approaches.
This is all planned according to God’s will. Paul writes in Ephesians 4 how Christ gave “…the apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints (us) for the work of ministry, for the building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” (Verses 11-13)
So, just as squirrels stockpile food in autumn for the winter, God has been “stockpiling” me with wisdom and insight from church leaders and parachurch activities I undertake, such as Bible Study Fellowship, for these trying moments in my life.
So, what truths from God’s Word have I “squirreled away” that are helping me now?
1. God loves to give life. I can look at the notes on Ezekiel, Chapter 37, for example, and my mind goes back to sermon messages at CVC on March 20 and March 27, 2011, when pastors Chad Allen and Rick Duncan were teaching us about how God restores and gives life to even dead and dry bones.
2. Jesus can be trusted. Like many churches, CVC has a regular Bible reading plan. So I can “travel” back to April 2014, when this plan had us all reading the book of Mark. Sleeping in a boat one evening on the Sea of Galilee, Jesus was awakened by His disciples. A fierce storm arose on the lake, and the boat was taking on water. Jesus stood, said “Hush, be still.” The winds died down and the waves dissipated. Then Jesus went to the disciples and asked, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4: 35-41)
3. My life is in His hands. In late December 2019, my wife Kathy and I worshipped with our friends Barb and Pete Metzelaars at Steele Creek Church in Charlotte, NC. The message that day came from Matthew 7. In my Bible I boxed and highlighted verse 27 “And who of you, being worried, can add a single hour to his life?” Little did I know how powerfully those 14 words and that morning’s sermon message would resonate with me just 18 months later.
It is God who has carried me and Kathy through so much since my cancer diagnosis back in January. I’ve mentioned this in previous blog posts, but I’ve been through multiple surgeries (including one removing the tumor in late January) and four cycles of neoadjuvant chemotherapy already. I’m blessed that so far, I have been able to bounce back from these many challenges.
Below is a part of a “cancer by the numbers” glance which I shared with family members and close friends last week. On January 1, 2021, I had no knowledge whatsoever that I would be facing any of these difficulties and trials.
MEDICAL TREATMENT BY THE NUMBERS IN THE LAST SIX MONTHS
14 “Hospital outpatient” visits where chemotherapy treatment was administered and/or scheduled (this includes follow-up steroids and fluids)
11 Visits to a doctor’s office (almost all to urologist or oncologist)
4 Diagnostic examinations (four different locations)
3 Surgical procedures (two at Summa, one at Parma)
46 Medical claims submitted to health insurance in the last five-and-a-half months (John alone)
0 Number of days overnight in a hospital (this will change soon)
$177,500 plus Total of medical bills received thus far for my cancer diagnosis and treatment. We thank you God for good health insurance.
So my heart is filled with gratitude towards God and to the goodness of so many others as well. Family members, friends, even strangers have filled our mailbox with cards and notes. People have provided meals, gift cards, devotional books and more, outpouring in support of me. Thank you seems so underwhelming, as these expressions of gratitude have deeply touched my heart. This all helps keep me strong.
Kathy and I continue to keep our focus on friends we have known and new friends we’ve met who have been on much longer paths and roads in their cancer journeys. We also pray for the successful launch of a Cancer Support Group at our church, Cuyahoga Valley Church. The church initiated a monthly prayer ministry for this, and its next meeting is Wednesday, June 16 (virtual) at 7 p.m. If you know of someone whose life is touched by cancer, ask them to connect with Greta Smith at Cuyahoga Valley Church at email@example.com for details about us. We want to pray for, and help, as many struggling with cancer as possible.
Finally – Vin Scully is a national treasure. He was the voice of Brooklyn Dodger and Los Angeles Dodger baseball games on the radio and on television for 67 seasons. Prior to calling a 1991 Dodgers vs. Chicago Cubs game, Scully described Cubs outfield great Andre Dawson as having a bruised knee and “is listed as day-to-day,” he said.
Then Scully paused and added these words: “Aren’t we all?”
So, since you, too, are living day-to-day, what will you do daily to access God’s Word in order to stockpile His wisdom to face some challenges that are sure to come your way someday?
As I face the robot and the knife, I take great comfort in that sentiment. Jesus’ words in Matthew 7 remind me not to worry. I’ll be day to day, every day, until the Lord wants me to spend day after day for all eternity someplace else besides on earth. I’ll be with the One who eliminates all reasons for worry, who calms every storm, and who gives life to dry bones forever.
Link to Part V https://wp.me/p9toG-r1
Link to Part IV https://wp.me/p9toG-qf
Link to Part III https://wp.me/p9toG-q1
Link to Part II https://wp.me/p9toG-pA
Link to Part I https://wp.me/p9toG-p5
Next — after surgery — in the margins