I remember it like it was yesterday. The doctor waltzed into the exam room and matter of factly said, “Well, you have a cancer in the prostate.”
As he stood there flipping through and staring at the sheets on his clipboard, I was thinking—Huh? What? Wait a minute—Huh? Then my face turned to a frightened stare as I looked at this guy who in the briefest of moments had changed my life with unexpected news about me. Cancer? No way! Hearing you have cancer is an indescribable moment. Talk about a “bombshell” going off.
He calmed me down and, as I slowly cleared my head, he said, “Don’t worry, Larry. We did 12 cuts when we biopsied and there was cancer only in one. I think we found it early. I recommend you get it out now and you will most likely be finished with it.”
That was in March of 2007. On May 10 of that year I underwent a radical prostatectomy. Robotic surgery was brand new and unavailable to me so I had it done the “old-fashioned” way. They took it out. And got all of it. I have been cancer free ever since, with some residual side effects (another story for another day).
But all of this is still a faith challenge. Why?
More to read: How having cancer brought me closer to God
September is here and my annual checkup is in two weeks. The anxiety is building in me. I cannot help it. I have never forgotten that initial announcement about my having “a” cancer. I go for a PSA test next week and the following week I see the doc for the results.
The results should be zero and then I can breathe easy and go home for another year. So far, the results have been zero, nine years in a row. That is considered “probably” cured. Praise the Lord, right?
That is my challenge. I like to consider myself a man of faith. “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart.” I have the illusion that I do trust him wholeheartedly, but when it comes to this damn yearly test I get weak in the knees. I can’t shake it. Am I a “man of faith” only when everything is hunky-dory? In other words, my “faith” is not nearly as strong as I may think it is. Am I a “faith-faker?”
I don’t know. I just want to go to the doctor like I’m going for a haircut and not give it a second thought. I tell myself God has my back. I think I believe that no matter what happens, it fits into God’s plan. Jesus loves me, I’m sure of it. So whatever is my problem? Is my faith journey all smoke and mirrors?
Here are a few numbers. One in seven American men will have prostate cancer during their lifetime. It is the second leading cause of cancer death among American men. Every 20 minutes another American man dies of prostate cancer, which factors out to 71 deaths per day. That means 26,120 men will die this year from this type of cancer. Early detection is the key to survival.
Next March I will be 10 years out from my diagnosis. I should be kicking my heels and jumping for joy. Don’t get me wrong, I do thank God every day for my good health and cancer-free existence. But if he were to allow that my test results come back differently, I don’t know how I would react.
More to read: “God Did It, But He Has a Reason” — Really?
Maybe it is all part of the human equation. We just can’t help recoiling when confronted with our own mortality. My faith has, without a doubt, carried me through this and all aspects of my life. I have been blessed and I hope the Good Lord has patience for a “faith-wuss” such as me.
There is one glaring fact arising from this, as obvious to me as the sun shining on a clear summer day. Until I breathe my last breath, my faith journey will always be a work in progress … and I shall never take it for granted.