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A Cancer Story: From Cussing to Trusting

**Just a reminder . . . To celebrate Colon Cancer Awareness Month and my six-year anniversary being cancer-free I’m giving away a book a week this month. To enter to win, just leave a comment on any of my “Cancer Story” posts.

We spent the night before the big surgery at my parents’ home. They live twenty minutes from the hospital and since we had to be there so early it allowed the kids to go back to bed once we left in the morning. When I said my goodbyes to my darling daughters and my parents I honestly didn’t know if I’d ever see them again. The surgery, which would consist of removing a portion of my colon and giving me an ileostomy, is something the surgeon had done many, many times but it was still major surgery and anything can go wrong.

I was also told they wouldn’t know the true extent of the cancer until after the surgery when they biopsied the lymph nodes around the site. I had no idea what kind of news I’d wake up to.

I still have very vivid memories of the hour leading up to surgery but they’re sporadic. I remember the nurse shaving the surgical site and being careful to maintain my modesty. I remember her getting me a blanket from the warmer. The anesthesiologist came in, explained everything, and asked me if I had any questions. I told him to make sure I stayed asleep; I didn’t want to wake up with my guts all hanging out. He assured me he’d put me way under and keep me there.

But the most vivid memory I have is when they rolled me down the hallway to the operating room. Jen walked beside the gurney and held my hand. I remember them wheeling me into the room and watching Jen in the hallway, staring at her, wanting to take in all I could. She forced a smile but I could see the fear in her eyes. Then the double doors swung shut and she was gone. Less than a minute later I was asleep.

And fortunately I didn’t wake up and see my guts all over the bed.

I woke up less a man than when I went in. Over a foot of my colon had been removed and I think I lost several pounds just in those few hours in the operating room. Jen said I was gray, emaciated, and cold and limp as a dead fish. She stroked my hair and asked me how I felt. I said I felt like s**t. It was one of the only times in my life that I’ve cussed in public and I’m not ashamed of it because that’s exactly how I did feel. I felt like someone dragged me to the edge of death, cut me open, fiddled with my guts, sewed me up, and brought me back to the land of the living.

But little did I know at that moment that my hospital stay would push me to the limits of my faith, that I would cry out to God like I never had before. It would be my moment of truth, where I decided if I trust Him or not, where I run from Him or turn and fall into His arms.

What was your moment of truth? That moment where you had to make a decision: do I trust God or don’t I?


Reflecting on My Cancer Journey (Part 8: Celebrating 3 Years)

Often times the caregivers have it harder than the patients. Surgery is one of those times.

When Jen watched the nurses roll me into the operating room and the doors close she wondered if it would be the last time she’d see me alive. She wondered what they’d find in there. She wondered if there’d be any complications, any surprises.

And she prayed there wouldn’t be.

For three hours she sat in the waiting room, walked the halls of the hospital, and distracted herself with friends and family that came to wait, pray, and comfort.

But the questions persisted, the fears, the doubts.

A colon resection is no walk in the park. As with any surgery, things can go wrong.

For three hours she waited and prayed and talked and walked . . . and hoped. In the midst of such uncertainties there is always hope.

Finally the time came when she could see me. If she was expecting to find the same husband they wheeled into the operating room she was wrong. What she found was a shivering, emaciated, glassy-eyed, pasty gray man who only resembled her husband. She said I looked like a holocaust survivor, a walking corpse. I think that scared her more than anything.

Jen’s thoughts from April 17, 2008:

I’m Mike’s other half. And I know you are all wondering how things went. I will keep you in suspense no longer. His surgery went well. Praise the Lord! He made it through. He’s recovering, he needs more rest than he’s getting, but by God’s grace, he made it through. The surgeon said that he was “very happy” with the surgery and that it went “as well as it possibly could”. Good words to hear after all this.

I know many of you have been keeping up with Mike’s thoughts and experiences during this time. Here are a few of mine, in case you were wondering. And even if you weren’t.

This is me, Wednesday night after surgery, and up for nineteen hours straight:

I am afraid Michael will not come home.
I am afraid the cancer has spread into his lymph nodes and tissue.
I am afraid the time allotted him on this earth is not long enough.
I am afraid. I am afraid. I am afraid.

“I sought the LORD, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.”

I sought. HE heard. HE delivered. All my FEARS. All MY fears. ALL my fears.

Psalm 34:4 becomes so real when your healthy, God-driven, fully alive husband gets side-swiped by an unseen, unwanted, unwelcome foe whose mindless mission on the earth is to seek and destroy, and whose only earthly foe is a radical elimination by either surgery, radiation, chemo, or a toxic dose of all three. It becomes real even when, after surgery, the next hurdle is there, and the next, each with the potential for a fall . . . or worse. Where does the fear end? Right here, with a healthy dose of God’s Word, and with prayer.

Prayer has been a sustaining source of comfort and power during this time, and especially the last few days. There’s something to be said for exchanging fear for trust and anxiety for peace. There’s something to be said for being completely exhausted and overwhelmed, but having enough strength to hang onto just one verse. It is not only our prayers to the Lord that have brought comfort, but yours. We cannot thank you enough, but thanks anyway. God bless you all. I hope the next words you see will be from the love of my life–MY other half!

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