I’ve intentionally not written much about my experiences with prostate cancer since the initial diagnosis and subsequent surgery. I won’t go into the reasons for that other than to say that there’s really been on earth shattering developments that I thought y’all would be interested in.
So let me backtrack a bit to set this up properly. Since the beginning, with the initial diagnosis, I’ve never felt the need to shake my fist at God and say “why me, Lord?” Quite the contrary; why not me? It’s not like cancer is some rare, exotic malady, like Dracunculiasis (click that link at your own peril) or Blue Eye disease (OK, that one applies pretty much only to pigs). I suspect that every person reading this knows at least a handful of people fighting cancer, and that possibly includes you, dear reader. The National Cancer Institute estimates that almost four in ten people in the United States will develop some form of cancer in their lifetimes. So, again, why not me?
As I said in a prior post, the surgery was almost completely successful, but “almost” is is problematic when it comes to cancer treatment. The surgeon said that there were likely cancerous cells that he was unable to remove, and this was somewhat confirmed by the first ultra sensitive PSA test I had three months after the operation. The results were still quite low, however, and after a bit of negotiation, the doctor agreed that we could wait three months for another uPSA test before deciding whether radiation treatment would be needed.
During that three months — which ended earlier this week — I was encouraged by a multitude of people, a number of whom I’ve never met, who were praying for me. My own prayer was pretty straightforward: Lord, I pray boldly that You’ll remove all traces of cancer from my body, but regardless, not my will but Yours be done. I pray that whatever my situation, I will not cease to give You the glory, and that I will be an encouragement to others and a witness to Your love and grace. I truly was at peace with whatever my lot might be.
Let’s cut to the chase, shall we? I got the results of the second uPSA on Thursday around noon. I won’t claim that opening those results via the hospital’s app wasn’t done with a certain amount of trepidation. Perhaps you can imagine my relief when the test results showed a PSA level that essentially falls into the category of undetectable…much lower than the first uPSA results.
Now, I have to wait for formal confirmation from the surgeon, with whom I have a videoconference on Monday, before announcing that there will be no required radiation treatments in my immediate future…but I’m positive that that will be the decision. What a blessing!
In the under-appreciated movie Joe Versus the Volcano, at the end of the film the main characters have just made a miraculous escape from the titular volcano and are floating on a raft in the middle of the ocean after the volcanic island sinks into the depths. Patricia (Meg Ryan) rejoices in their salvation, but Joe Banks (played by Tom Hanks) points out that they’re still floating in the middle of the ocean, far from civilization. Patricia responds to his pessimism by saying “it’s always going to be something with you, isn’t it Joe?”
I’m Joe Banks. Even amidst my relief and joy at the good news, there are two undercurrents of conflicting emotions flowing the other direction.
First is the knowledge that the test results, while extremely positive and encouraging, do not mean that I’m cured…that I’m cancer-free. There will inevitably be periodic tests in the future, and I’ll wait with bated breath for the results each time. Lord, I believe; help Thou my unbelief.
Then there’s this: the reason for the title of this post. Maybe I’m not cured, but maybe I am. And regardless, at this point in time, I can honestly say that prayers have been answered in the affirmative and life is good. So…why me, and not the dozen or so people on my prayer list (as well as the countless others I don’t know) — many of whom are dealing with cancer that’s much more serious than mine, and whose faith is much stronger than mine — who are not getting the same affirmation and good news? I guess I’m experiencing a bit of survivor’s guilt, and I don’t know how to feel about that.
God is sovereign, the omnipotent Creator and Ruler of all that was, and is, and ever shall be, and His ways are as far above mine as Heaven is above Hell. I won’t pretend to understand His plan for me, much less for others, but, dang…sometimes it’s hard to contemplate.
So, all I know to do is to do for others what has been done for me: continue to lift them up in prayer every day, not only for healing but also for peace, strength, and the assurance that God’s grace is sufficient. That’s my pledge to you folks, who are either actual family, or feel like family to me, even if we’ve never met; for you, Jerry… Larry… Lynellen… Audrey… Janice… Jennifer… Frank… Jim… Jacquie… Kayla… Kevin… John. May God provide you with everything you and your family need, and may you rest in the sure knowledge of His love and grace.
I’ve said it before, but I don’t really know how prayer works, even after six plus decades of doing it. I have only the vaguest, most rudimentary understanding of the mind of God, but I have the assurance that one day, it will all become clear. Until then, I hope you’ll join me in worshipping the God Who cares and heals, and in praying for those who need that care and healing so badly. Because, whether or not we understand how or why…He answers prayer.