The Worst Day of My Life So Far
Maybe I'm overstating it. Nope. I'm not.
Monday, June 20th I went for a test to get it out of the way. An ultrasound. Reminded me of happy days with my expectant wife. We were expecting a baby and a healthy happy one at that. Ultrasounds offer those rare expressions of joyful expectation. I can still remember with clarity the whoosh, whoosh of a tiny heartbeat. This one was not that.
I had asked for the results to be given to me directly at the end of the test. They do that at this lab. And I was thankful for it. Better to get it straight out and go on. So the guy walks up to me and says, "I'm sorry." And in next 3 sentences of his my world comes completely apart. "We found a tumor on your left kidney, spots on your liver and nodules in your lungs. It looks like you have cancer in each of these and that it is metastasizing. You should see your doctor." I nodded and smiled and shook my head like I understood. I didn't understand at all.
He sent over the results to my doctor who asked to see me immediately. So I left the lab and stepped into my car. Where do you go? You've just been told you have spreading cancer and your whole world doesn't fit right anymore. I went home.
I grabbed the wheel of my car and made it go home - crying and praying! "God?" "Where are you?" Physically I could see to drive. Spiritually I was blind. The world went dark and empty and void. My prayers echoed in the emptiness.
Last time I told my wife and we went to the doctor for grim news she really fell apart. Loudly. Emotionally! It was horrible. I feared the worst. But I had no other options. I needed her so badly. So I walked into the house tears streaming down my face. No bravery. No stoic front to put on. I'm a broken man in need. I don't think she's ever seen me quite like that. And she knew it all from the look on my face.
When we got to the doctor's office and he faced us with the news - it's like I went into shock. Maybe I just can't process things as fast as others. Maybe I just process them afterwards. "It's cancer of the kidney, liver, and lungs. We have to biopsy to be sure. But we're cancelling the other tests for now. We're pretty sure."
Renal cancer, I'm told, doesn't respond well to forms of treatment. It can hide in your system without much for symptoms for quite a while before spreading. It's one of the "bad" forms of cancer. The doctor was "hoping" for testicular cancer. It's more treatable. Not this one.
What's next? A biopsy to confirm it.
How soon? It could be a couple of weeks.
Can we rush that? We'll try.
Monday was the darkest day of my life. How do you tell your children that you have cancer? There's no books for that. No one teaches you how. We knew we had to. We cried. "How, God, do you tell your children?" We cried some more.
As a family we gathered and I spoke the unspeakable. I couldn't stop the tears from running down my face. I wanted so badly to be brave while I told them. I wanted so badly to show them my faith in God in this. But tears and faith come hand in hand. So they saw them both. My utter weakness and my faith. And somehow God did what only God can do. And while we all cried and our worlds came apart, God held us. I had prayed that He would, but my faith was so weak that I could never see it happening. Is that faith? When you can't even visualize what you're asking for? You have enough faith to ask for it, but you can't really see God doing it? Doesn't sound like faith?
There's a story in Mark 9 that I find myself drawn to so often. A father brings his son to Christ to be healed. The boy has an evil spirit that does nasty things to him and tries to kill him. Horrible. I can hardly get my mind to imagine it. I guess I'd be desperate too. So the father says to Jesus, "If you can do anything take pity on us and help us." Not a real statement of great faith. Just desperation. Pure desperation. Jesus is looking for more. Isn't desperation enough? I guess not.
"If you can?" said Jesus. "Everything is possible for him who believes." Jesus is looking for some faith. It seems Jesus is always looking for some sign of faith in those He heals. "Show me some faith." But if you don't feel it.... If you can't really see it.... If you can't visualize it.... Where do you get faith from?
So the man calls out (I imagine in exasperation, frustration, desperation), "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!" So often that's my prayer life. I'm crying out for the faith to believe my own prayers. I'm asking for things greater than my imagination. But I'm asking.
And God answered. Somehow the kids were able to understand that their father likely had cancer, they understood all of what that meant, and that we were going to continue to live our lives. But in a new way. Matthew 6 has this powerful stuff at the end of the chapter. It blows me away every time I really ponder it. On Monday it became a rock that I clung to in the crashing surf.
"Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?"
"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."
Now we live in a new way. We live in today. Today God has provided for us. This moment has enough oxygen. Breathe.
Life is an adventure, a journey we travel. And God walks it with us - hand in hand if we let Him. Guiding, shaping, and molding us through the circumstances. I seek to journey more intentionally here.
Wednesday, June 22, 2005
The Worst Day of My Life So Far