What do you think of when you hear the word cancer? Would you ever consider that cancer might be a blessing in disguise?
In October 2012, we were waiting for the results from a colonoscopy. Mark was still feeling the effects of the anesthesia, and was incoherent. The doctor entered, head down, eyes focused on the chart in his hand, not meeting me eye-to-eye until I heard him say, “It’s cancer.” I jolted, not expecting it. I wanted to see the pictures. I wanted an explanation. How could this be happening? I was stunned, fearful, with so many emotions churning in my brain. Visions of mounting medical expenses, the financial impact on our family, and questions filled my mind: “Will Mark be able to work? Will I need to quit my job to care for him? What about our commitment to the Church and other charities counting on our financial support? Will we lose our home?” I felt so alone, nauseous, buried in my thoughts of an uncertain future of life with a spouse with cancer.
“FOCUS,” I heard my brain cry… “you must listen for the next step.” The Doctor told me that our primary care physician would be calling to set up an appointment for a CT scan: “We’ll check to see if the cancer has spread.” More fear, more uncertainty and feelings about financial fears crept in; as if hearing the word “cancer” wasn’t enough, now I heard two words: “cancer” and “spread.”
Mark was still a bit incoherent as I directed him to the car. I gripped the steering wheel and headed home, still reeling from the news that my husband had cancer. In my head I keep repeating, “Think of the blessings, think of the blessings,” and then I felt some comfort repeating it out loud. Later, Mark didn’t remember a thing about the ride home or the next few hours. I just knew that I wanted to get home so I could cry -- no, more like sob uncontrollably. I was waiting for directions from our physician about scheduling more appointments, a CT Scan, surgery, not knowing what would be next. I was processing the news, wanting to pray; but pray for what, and with whom? A little voice said, “You need to pray with someone,” and Amy Meyer popped into my head. Why Amy? I needed a calming voice to help me process this unexpected news. What unexpected plan did God have for our family and why did it involve colon cancer?!? Colon cancer, you know, the cancer that just so happens to be one of most common and deadliest cancers. So I called the Church and Amy just happened to be there. We prayed, and I cried, and we prayed some more. I couldn’t tell you what we prayed about, but I can tell you that her calming voice is what I needed to hear.
The next day we went in for the CT scan. I didn’t know how long it would take, so I was prepared with books and my smartphone. I thought I’d try to get familiar with the Bible app that Mark downloaded because it might come in handy. As I was waiting I thought, “I’ll check out the New Testament, something short and sweet to get my mind off of things.” I’d never read 1 Peter, so I zeroed in on the 1st chapter. Tears streamed down my face as I read verses 6-8:
You rejoice greatly in this, even though you have to suffer various kinds of trials for a little while, so that your genuine faith, which is more valuable than gold that perishes when tested by fire, may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus the Messiah, is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him. And even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, because you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
I kept reading, the words in print appearing blurry due to my still-streaming tears, and at the end of the chapter I read, “All human life is like grass, and all its glory is like a flower in the grass. The grass dries up and the flower drops off but the word of the Lord lasts forever. Now the word is the good news that was announced to you” (1 Peter 1:24-25). I felt RELIEF and was uplifted; this was the good news I was longing to hear. Though I felt my faith being tested, I also felt so much comfort in my new go-to good news verse from 1 Peter.
And then an amazing thing happened. That very next Sunday, the selected reading was from 1 Peter 1. I listened with renewed ears to this faith-rebuilding message. As the days unfolded after the diagnosis and successful surgery, the financial fears subsided, and God provided so many blessings:
I learned that Mark’s chemo was covered at 100%. The cost for the first treatment was over $17,000. Mark would need 12 treatments and he was able to withstand all 12 chemo treatments.
Surgery was covered at 100%, as was a week in the hospital.
I was promoted to senior retirement plan consultant, which included a significant salary increase.
Mark missed very little work during chemo which started mid-December, 2012 through May, 2013.
We increased our contributions to the Church and continued supporting other charities.
We started regularly attending faithBuilders, and received spiritual support from our lifeGroup.
I shared more prayer requests and this continues to provide me with peace and comfort.
Mark’s health continues to improve. October 11, 2017, will be 5 years since his colon cancer diagnosis.
God put people in place at just the right time during our faith journey. And when we put our trust in God, we realized that, yes, a diagnosis like cancer could be a blessing in disguise.