My Brush With Cancer

As I write this, I’m very sensitive to the fact that a very good friend and brother in Christ is dying from cancer.  He is suffering in a way that I hope I will never suffer, a way that I had hoped he would never suffer.  So I do not want to be melodramatic about my own brush with cancer.  I am not suffering, and I am not (as best we can tell) dying.

But I did have cancer.  That’s what I learned yesterday morning.  This was an unparalleled shock to me and to Allison.  I have never been anything but healthy, and even though I know that previous good health is not an assurance of continuing good health, I think it’s human nature to just assume that if you have always been healthy, you will continue to be healthy.

Unfortunately, that’s not how cancer works.  This post is to update you on what has taken place in my life so far as it concerns this cancer.

As I wrote before, on Labor Day weekend I went to the emergency room with bad stomach pain.  It was determined that I had appendicitis – not the worse case appendicitis, but it needed to be removed.  So, that night they did an emergency appendectomy.

I spent a few days in the hospital.  I recovered quickly.  I went back to work that Friday, and as of today, I feel pretty good.

Yesterday was my scheduled post-op visit with the surgeon who removed my appendix.  He came into the room with another person, which I thought at the time was odd. He checked my incisions, which were fine.  Then he sat me down in a chair, and told me that they had found cancer in my appendix.

Without going into several paragraphs of text here, this had an immediate and unexpected impact on me.  I write this just to help others who may hear the words, “You have cancer.”  I was not at all prepared for feeling the things that I felt and continued to feel over the next 24 hours.  Be very gracious to someone who has recently heard these words.  They are not themselves.

The cancer that I had was extremely rare, called “carcinoid”.  Appendix cancer in general is very rare.  It is normally not discovered unless someone has an appendectomy.  Otherwise, it grows unnoticed, with no symptoms, until it is too late.

Today I learned from my doctor that my carcinoid tumor did not cause my appendicitis.  That developed due to some other infection.  So, both of the surgeons I spoke to, as well as my own local doctor, agree that my appendectomy probably saved my life.  Without the appendicitis and the appendectomy, the cancer would have continued to grow, unnoticed, in my appendix, eventually spreading to my colon and/or my liver.  At which point, the symptoms would have become apparent, but far too late for any reasonable treatment.

“For most cancers,” the doctor told me, “by the time you have symptoms, it is already too late.”

I have learned a lot about myself over the last 24 hours, and I have grown in my faith and understanding of my God, but I will save all of those observations for another day.

What’s important for all of you, my friends and family, to know is that I had cancer, but it was removed with my appendix.  As far as the doctors can tell, I do not have cancer anymore, and there is not a logical reason to anticipate having cancer in the future.  There will be no required testing or scanning moving forward, other than whatever my family doctor decides to pursue.

I am always very hesitant to explain why God does the things that He does.  The truth is, we do not know all the reasons why God does what He does, and the Bible does not encourage us to guess.  It encourages us to trust in His goodness and His promises.

But I will say, that it might be true that God, in kindness to me and my family, allowed me to have appendicitis so that a cancer tumor we knew nothing about would be removed from my body.  If that is true, praise the Lord who is good beyond all measure to His people.

Alternatively, it might be true that this is the beginning of some great trial in my life…that cancer, or something worse, resurfaces in my body in the years ahead.  If that is true, then praise the Lord who is good beyond all measure to His people.

What else am I to say?

God has always been good to His people, and He will always be good to His people.  There is suffering, and then there is death, but both are swallowed up by life, eternal and incorruptible (1 Cor. 15:54).  We are all dying, but those who have trusted Jesus for forgiveness and life, will live.

So please pray for me, and I will pray for you as the Lord brings you to mind.  And thank God for His goodness to us in both life, and then death, and then life again.