I’d never seen tears shoot straight out of someone’s face. But that changed a few weeks ago.
After bumping into a close friend at a Christmas Eve service, I decided to tell her what I’d recently learned myself: I have thyroid cancer. The news was so sudden and raw that her tears just shot right out. She grabbed my arm and declared, “You can’t just drop the C word!”
Hearing the Word “Cancer” is Hard
It had only been the week before when my doctor had dropped the C word on me. A routine checkup led to the discovery of a lump on my throat, which led to an ultrasound, which led to a biopsy, which led to the life-altering pronouncement: we found some cancer. Papillary thyroid cancer to be exact.
Over the past month my emotions have been on a roller coaster. Not the mega-thrill-ride variety, but more like the community carnival type: nothing completely overwhelming, but still enough to bring about a noticeable increase of anxiety (just ask my wife and kids!).
My variety of thyroid cancer is highly treatable, with an excellent prognosis for the future. But it’s still life changing. I’ve come to discover that the thyroid gland is a completely necessary piece of equipment, controlling the body’s energy and metabolism levels. It impacts nearly everything, from sleep and weight to the ability to concentrate. To compensate for the thyroid removal, I’ll take a hormone replacement pill every day for the rest of my life.
While all this information has taken my emotions for a ride, there have been two other C words that have more positively impacted me and deepened my experiences over these past weeks.
Compassion — What I’ve Received
As immediately shown by family and my tear-shooting friend, many have expressed genuine care and love for me. They have been a healing force, letting me know that I’m not alone. The phone calls, texts, emails, and face-to-face conversations have all been significant in evening out the low spots of my emotional roller coaster.
Three conversations in particular have helped to encourage me (literally putting courage back into me). These have been with others who’ve had similar diagnosis and surgeries, and who came to me to share their stories and to let me know I’m going to make it through this. Thank you!
Other friends have prayed over me or sent me scriptures. Craig sent me this great promise from the first verses of Isaiah 43.
But now thus says the Lord, he who created you… “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”
And Dennis, a friend who is recovering from his own cancer surgery, sent me this prayer that’s been deeply meaningful to him on his journey.
O God, the source of all health: So fill my heart with faith in your love, that with calm expectancy I may make room for your power to possess me, and gracefully accept your healing, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
This concept of “making room” for God’s work has become important in my own story as well. So many things want to crowd out what God is up to in my life — especially this final C word.
Control — What I’m Giving Up
The one thing this cancer diagnosis has forced me to deal with more than any other: I’m a control freak. The thought of “losing control” of my energy levels has been jarring to my psyche. I don’t want a pill to be in control. I want to be in control of my life!
Can any other control freaks relate?
But what I’ve been settling into is the truth that I’ve never fully been in control anyway. Sure, God allows each of us to shape much of our environment by the choices we make (including our relationship with him). But ultimately he is in control — and that is a good thing.
Long ago, King David penned lyrics that remind me of this reality…
The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.
The world and all its people belong to him. Psalm 24:1
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures throughout all generations. The Lord is faithful in all his words and kind in all his works. Psalm 145:3
Not only is God in control, but he sees the big picture and his faithfulness and kindness toward us is complete. He is fully worthy of our trust no matter what we’re going through.
So, I’ve made the choice to view my pills as daily reminders that God is in control — not cancer, medication, or any other circumstance. I’m placing my life once again in his very capable and loving hands. I hope you’ll join me there.
What’s Next for Me?
- Surgery: January 29, 2014
- A lot more life ahead.