I was recently hospitalized for an acute case of Viral Gastroenteritis. Prior to being admitted to the hospital last Thursday, the ER had me undergo a CAT scan of the abdominal region. After the test, with a worried look on his face, the ER doctor informed me about two small masses in the lymph nodes, within the abdomen and pelvis area. He looked a bit surprised when I responded with a lackadaisical tone … “Oh, they’re just melanoma tumors.”
It is hard to believe that I’ve grown accustomed to having these two tumors inside me. This third bout with cancer started in July 2017, nearly four years in the fight. And altogether it has been 7 years, 4 months, and 19 days since the first diagnosed with cancer. But who’s counting 😉
When I look back at my initial response, I was an emotional wreck. What initially kept me from sinking into despair was my loving wife, Teresa, a supportive community, and most important my faith in God and His Son, Yeshua.
Today, my life is no longer defined by “Alex, how are you doing with your treatment?” Or “What’s the latest update on your cancer?”
It is no longer defined by the PET scans or oncology visits. In fact, they are more of a distraction.
And it is certainly not defined by the last two small masses in the lymph nodes within the abdomen and pelvis area.
This walk with cancer is now defined by His mercy, my response to His mercy, and in gratitude of His mercy, help others.
- His mercy. Who I am today is the man He made me into—from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted (1 Peter 2:10, ESV). And with God’s mercy, He has kept me within the 22 percent of those who live nearly five years after being first diagnosed with Stage IV Melanoma cancer. The way I figure it now: each day…each hour…each minute is a gift of time from Him—a merciful gift, indeed!
- My response to His mercy. Since I am a blessed recipient of His mercy, the only proper response is to become an offering for Him, which is aptly stated in (Romans 12:1, MSG): “So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.”
- In gratitude of His mercy, help others. My gratitude that comes from knowing His mercy and giving a proper response is not tied to the current good state of my health, but on the contrary, it is knowing that He can adequately use me now for others. Moreover, I have learned through this trial, and many past others in my life, that when a person’s faith is tested, they grow in strength and endurance, but only achieved through the embracement of their struggles. Like a tornado ripping through a home, tearing apart its walls and structures, one would think that the jagged edges of an affliction might do the same to a person’s life. On the contrary, the storm itself creates a deeper well of wisdom and knowledge of the one afflicted. They are not torn down, instead they become a comforter and nourishment for others facing similar afflictions.
But what do you do with this new strength and temperament? In 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 (MSG), Paul writes, “All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.”
My walk with cancer is now defined by His mercy, my response to His mercy, and in gratitude of His mercy, help others. This is a proper response for not just me, but for you as well.
Be safe. Be well. Be strong.