It was the week of Thanksgiving 2013 when I finally went to get a check up on my health. Over the few months prior I had dropped 25 lbs and developed a few odd symptoms. One was that I had a major cough for about a month. The other was a little more grotesque. At night I was sweating. Not like I had a bad dream about falling and woke up sweating, but my back was completely soaked every morning. Not only that, the sweat smelled terrible. I felt like I was leaking acid through my pores every night. I know that this is gross to think about, but it truy was awful. I refused through the months of September and October to go to the doctor, because as a teacher, I could only go get a physical after 4 at MEA and it is always packed. So I waited. We bought new clothes because my old ones didn’t fit anymore. I was actually excited from my great slim down. Of course now we all know why I had those things going on, but at the time I was just fine…..except those night sweats geez. But the week of Thanksgiving rolled around and I couldn’t wait any longer. I made an appointment for a physical at my local MEA Medical Clinic and waited for a few hours to get in. Once in I had a typical physical and bloodwork done and yet there was something wrong. I was anemic and really nothing else was showing signs of issues…..just my blood. So I stayed and took a quick X-ray. That’s when something went wrong…or right if you look at it like that. I was released with a bit of unease that day. Something was going weird and my doctor scheduled me to have a CT Scan done on the Monday after Thanksgiving.
Frodo: I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.
Gandalf: So do all that live to see such times but that is not for us to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.
– The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
I spent the rest of the time that week enjoying family and even made the trip to Starkville for last year’s Egg Bowl. Ironic now that I look back, during the Egg Bowl there was a Stand Up to Cancer add where it said 1 in every 5 people will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. I felt that my odds were pretty good to not have that happen to me since my father had cancer only 15 years ago. The monday after Thanksgiving I went to get a CT Scan done. I went during the early afternoon and had no wait at all for the scan. This was my first major scan of any kind. I had to change into a medica gown and they put me in a big donut scanner and I laid down and held completely still for about 20 minutes. The machine also told me how to breath during the entire process. Easy as pie. After the scan was done I headed home, which was a good half hour drive. They told me the scan would be ready later that day so I was expecting to hear something the next day. I missed a call on the way home. It was my physician. He had the scan.
By this time I was at my house with my wife, Carly. I will always remember that phone call back to the doctor. I was standing next to our bed with my cell phone pressed to my ear. I called back and got my doctor on the phone. All he said was, “I got your scan back and I see lymph nodes.” Now to most people this would mean nothing. But my father also had swollen lymph nodes. That was his sign of cancer. His doctor that found the lymph nodes was the same as the one I was on the phone with. At those words, “I see lymph nodes,” I sunk to the ground, Carly by my side. He told me that he was scheduling a visit to a oncologist in Jackson for me to see ASAP. I told him thank you and he said just how sorry he was for delivering that news, but that he was glad to have answers for me. I hung up the phone with him and that moment was the one moment where I probably lost it the most. There was no wailing or screaming, just silent weeping from myself and Carly. I vaguely remember saying, “I don’t want to have cancer,” with Carly’s response, “I know, me either.” We sat for a while just trying to grasp how to feel or react to the news. At first you just want to break down and think about how many people lose their lives from cancer every year and how bad the stories are. Then you step back and realize that this is a great opportunity to see what you are really made of. Either I could feel despair and anger from this news or I could embrace it and use it to strengthen not only myself but others around me. Plus I didn’t even know the depth of the news. All I knew was there were lymph nodes.
As I sit here typing exactly one year from these events, it is easy to see what decision I made. In the moment though it was a bit unclear. I chose to embrace the challenge. I was almost excited if that is even fathomable. I was ready to see what challenges were ahead and how I would face them. But I really only think that the reason I felt that way was my deep belief that Christ would lead me through it all. That He would take me in His mighty right hand and heal my cancer wounds no matter how they appeared.
As the holiday season is upon us, take time to see where Christ wants to lead you through your trials. Take the opportunity to be excited about the challenges ahead, because you know that His plan and will are good. We might not be able to stop the trials from coming our way, but we can absolutely decide how to face them.