So about this time, one year ago, I went in for some routine tests and came out a cancer patient. Most will see that as a bad thing. Trust me, it’s definitely not what I wanted to hear. And at first I was in shock. However, within literally minutes, I kicked into survival mode and my thoughts went to, “OK God…here we are… let’s do this.”
Did this really happen? Honestly, it did. I wasn’t expecting to react like that to be honest. I think my reaction is because of two reasons.
First, I realized, it is what it is. What could I do about it? While I tend to stress over stuff, when it comes right down to it, I typically just roll up my sleeves and get to work. So that’s what I did. Even laying in the hospital, I was determined to power through this. That’s typically my reaction to troubles in my life. If I work hard enough, plan well enough, whatever, I can work through the issues. I could have given up, I didn’t. I could have wallowed in self-pity, I didn’t. I could have withdrawn from day to day life, I actually got more involved than I had in years. This improved my mental state, it kept me busy so that I didn’t dwell on the reality of my situation. What else could I do? And it worked.
Secondly, I trusted God even more. Again, what else could I do? I knew it wasn’t a good situation. I know the odds and the reality of people in my situation. I know that there is a chance that no matter what the Dr’s do, no matter what I do, it may end poorly. But I put my trust in God. He’s in control. He cares. He is with me, even when I’m not looking for him. I looked for opportunities to truly be with him.
I truly look at this past year and see an adventure. I see opportunity. I see the beauty of life. I see the joy around me. The joy I have in my family. I’ve learned to love stronger. I’ve learned to express myself in ways I never did (my wife calls it a lack of filter, but I call it a confidence in my expression)
I’ve had days I’ve felt like crap or have been super exhausted. But I know that with God on my side, I can come out the other side of those days and He gives me the energy and the strength when and where I need it.
I’ve had days when I’m scared. But with God on my side, there is no power in fear. Faith over fear is my motto. Fear takes the life from you. Faith gives you life.
So this one year anniversary is cause for celebration. Not just because I’m still here and kicking. But because, it has opened my eyes to so many things. It has made me aware of where God is moving and has made me more attuned into where he wants me to be. If I hadn’t been diagnosed, I may never have realized all of this. My new reality is a blessing. Never forget that.
So with all that in mind…let me share some things I’ve learned and some tips for people going through this as well or for those that love those who are.
- I’m still the same person that I always was, just with a new outlook on life. This is important. When I first came home from the hospital. I had people, some family even, that were afraid to talk to me. They didn’t know what to say to me. Well trust me. I just wanted to be treated like normal. Talk to me like you did before. Treat me like I didn’t before. I haven’t changed, I’ve just grown and am experiencing new things.
- Don’t spend our entire time together reminding me of what is going on. I know what I’m going through. I don’t need the constant reminder. It really doesn’t help. If you want an update…ask, but let’s not dwell on it. I’m happy to share anything I’m going through. But I still want to talk about the weather. I still want to talk about sports, my kids, my work. Don’t forget I’m not just my illness. I’m so much more, it’s just a part of me now.
- I don’t need to be constantly reminded what you’re doing on my behalf. I know you love me. I know you care about me. I know you’re praying for me. This might seem harsh, but being constantly reminded that you’re thinking of me is not really helpful. If I don’t hear from you for a week, I don’t think you’ve given up for me. I don’t say to myself, “Boy, they must not be praying for me anymore because they didn’t tell me they were this week.” I love you all. I know you love me. I love to spend time and talk, but I’m more than my cancer. Let’s talk about those things.
- I need to be gracious. Having said those things, I need to fix myself also. I realize that my cancer is traumatizing to others. My wife and kids may worry about a time when I’m not around. I need to be aware that they are going through their own emotions and fears. We are a team, we will get through this together and I do need their support.
- Don’t take away someone else’s blessing. The community around me is awesome (I truly live in one of the most generous and caring communities). When I was first diagnosed, so many people, many I really didn’t even know, reached out to help with meals, money and prayers. At first, I really didn’t want to accept this help. We were fine financially, I am still able to work so we have no issues. However, people kept giving. I had a close church friend tell me, “Don’t take away someone else’s blessing.” Part of a person’s worship to God is to take care of those in need. Their act of blessing me was an act of worship.
- Take it one day at a time. This may sound cliché, but it’s really true. Enjoy the little things in life. Smile at strangers. Hug your children and your wife. Enjoy the sunrise and sunset. Watch the storms come in and watch them leave. None of us, even those of us perfectly healthy know when God will call us home. It can all be gone in a moment. Our big God, the one who created the universe, deals in the small things. Notice them, share them, love them.
One year and counting. That’s what I titled this post. It’s been a year and God willing I’ll be doing many more of these yearly celebrations. It’s not an anniversary I want to forget. It’s cause for celebration.