On July 30th at 3:30 in the afternoon, it became official. Five years ago on that date and time is when I heard the words, "The pathology report confirms lung cancer." That evening I thought, "Well, okay, I'll take this on as hard as I can and beat it. Then I will go on and enjoy the rest of my life." I was terribly naive. A few weeks later, I sat in an exam room to get the results of all the tests done the previous week. The cancer had already spread throughout my chest and there was a brain tumor. Stage IV--with those words, thirty-five years of life expectancy were swept away. I had a 50% chance of living possibly one more year and a 1% to 4% chance of living another five years. However long I live, barring a miracle, I will be in some kind of treatment. Having now made it five years, I have made it into that top 1% to 4%--the highest ranking I have ever achieved in anything.
The night that I was diagnosed, I knelt in prayer and asked for three things. Now after five years, I thought it might be a useful exercise, mostly for myself, to revisit those three prayer requests and see how God has chosen to answer them.
The first thing that I prayed for was for healing. We have now beaten back lung cancer three times. Only by God answering many, many prayers is that possible, and some people would consider that this request has been answered. However, in my own way, I do not consider myself healed. I believe that when I am healed, I will no longer need to take drugs and that my collapsed lung will be restored. I have really been drawn to the story of the man with the withered hand told in Matthew 12. In that story, Jesus tells the man with the withered hand to stretch out his hand, and in an instant, the man's hand is completely healed. Even after five years, I still believe that it will be the same with me. In an instant, when Jesus says the words, my lung will be healed. But after five years, I have to admit that I now have to consider that it may not be part of God's will to completely heal me. Even though that may be the case, I still go to bed each evening persistent in my prayer for complete healing. The longer the wait, the bigger the miracle will be.
The next thing that I prayed for was that God would place the right people in the right place at the right time to help us fight lung cancer. Looking back through the years, I can plainly see how God has answered this prayer and still does. From people at the Cancer Encouragement Group we attend, to the doctors and medical staff who have treated me, God has placed each of these people there to help us. We have even had people at the hotel breakfast buffet pray for us, once they knew our story. I can't leave out the friends and family who have stepped in when we needed them. There have been many times that these people have just sat and listened to me whine about how I feel. I try not to add my problems to other people's problems, but I always feel better after I have had a chance to unload a little. There have been too many right people to list them all, but they are all very special to DeLayne and me.
The last thing that I prayed for was that this cancer would not go to waste. This is why I still consent to clinical trials and extra tests. Some of them have been painful and unpleasant experiences. Being first to find out the side effects is not fun, but I want the doctors and pharmaceutical companies to learn as much as they can from me. Meeting someone who is experiencing good results from a drug or treatment you were one of the first to test makes it worth it.
Along with the doctors, I also wanted to learn. I have learned a lot in five years, but there are still some things I am trying to figure out. I have heard several ministers say that we should never ask God, "Why the trial?" He will not answer that question, but He will answer the questions about the purpose of trials. I will admit that this is something that I wrestle with almost daily. If God has answered the question of what the purpose of this trial is in our lives, either I have not heard or I am as dumb as a box of old rusty hammers. I still just am not getting it, and it is quite possible that I never will. There is a song on the radio now by Casting Crowns that I hear at least once a week, and the chorus is, "One day I will stand before You and look back on the life I've lived. I can't wait to enjoy the view and see how all the pieces fit." It is quite possible that I will not understand all of this until I open my eyes and see Jesus.