Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)
I awoke at 3:30 this morning to a dark, quiet, peaceful house. As I lay in bed, drowsily assessing my condition, I slowly realized that for the first time in over a week I had no pain and no nausea. I was a little thirsty and knew I should sit up and drink some water…hydration is very important right now…but chose, instead, to simply lie still for another hour. Sitting, swallowing, even moving could easily lead to pain or nausea, and I wanted just another hour simply enjoying the peaceful pleasure of being free of both, no matter how temporary. So, I lay peacefully still, thankfully pain free, reflecting on how recently this was my norm.
To put it in proper perspective, you have to understand how healthy I was prior to my cancer diagnosis in December. I had so few prior health issues the nurses acted skeptical of my correct completion of the various new-patient medical forms. The entry interview for my first CT-scan was typical.
“Mr. Pote, it looks like you skipped the current medications section. What all medications do you take each day?”
“None? No blood pressure medicine? No pain medicine? No acid reflux medicine?”
“No, Ma’am. No medicine.”
“You don’t ever take any medicine at all?”
“Well, sometimes I take a Tylenol or ibuprofen if I have a headache, but no daily med’s unless you count the caffeine in my coffee.”
“Hmmm! Well that’s good. Now, what about this prior surgery section? You didn’t list any surgeries.”
“You mean to tell me you’ve never had any surgeries? Not even a tonsillectomy?”
“Well, in my early twenties I had a wart removed from my little toe, and I’ve had a few other similar outpatient procedures for ingrown toenails and such, but I assumed the form was asking about surgeries requiring general anesthesia and I’ve not had any of those.”
“Well, that’s good! That’s real good! Now, what about this section on pain? Where all are you experiencing pain?”
“No pain. I feel great!”
“Mr. Pote, if you don’t have any pain or any complaints or medical issues, why are you even here doing a scan?”
“We’re just trying to figure out why this lymph node is swollen,” I responded touching the swollen area on the right side of my neck.
The scan showed a tumor, which led to biopsy surgery, which showed the tumor to be malignant. A second surgery followed to remove the tumor along with the lymph nodes on the right side of my neck.
A couple of weeks later, we began a rigorous seven-week treatment plan of weekly chemo treatments combined with twice-daily radiation treatments. Having just completed my 3rd week of radiation and my 4th chemo treatment, I’m counting myself as half-way through.
The first two weeks weren’t too bad in terms of side-effects, but this last week has been a lot tougher. Some days are harder than others. I keep reminding myself that I’m half done…and I keep counting my many blessings…while praying for strength and wisdom.Do you realize how much faith it requires to undergo cancer treatment based solely on a doctor’s word? Click To Tweet
Remember, prior to my diagnosis I felt great! I was active, energetic, and pain free. I had an excellent immune system and was rarely ill, even when the rest of my family came down with whatever bug was circulating. Other than the apparently-minor-issue of a swollen lymph node, I was the very picture of good health!
And remember, I have never personally seen or felt the cancer. Relying solely on the word of medical professionals and the results of medical tests and scans…”the evidence of things not seen”…I submitted to surgery.
And remember, the cancer was surgically removed. The surgeon reported successfully removing all visible signs of cancer. The post-surgery CT-scan showed no abnormalities.
However, the biopsy showed this to be a very aggressive cancer, likely to return unless all microscopic traces are eradicated through further treatment. And this particular cancer is known to be very responsive to the combination of radiation and chemo treatment. Medically, my prognosis is excellent if I complete the prescribed treatment plan.
I sought a second opinion and was told the exact same thing by an independent expert. I argued, “You don’t understand how healthy I am. I am in excellent health. I have a very robust immune system. I hardly ever get sick. Why can’t my immune system eradicate any remaining microscopic cancer cells, if there even are any?”
“It possibly could, but this is a very aggressive cancer, and it may not. Left untreated, you have a much higher likelihood of the cancer returning. With the prescribed treatment plan, you have a very low probability of the cancer returning. Yes, you are young. You are healthy. You have a strong immune system. You have a high expectancy of many more years of active health. These are the very reasons you need to follow the treatment plan, because you are strong enough to handle it well and young enough to maximize the benefits.”
Logically, that makes perfect sense. Rationally, I know the cancer treatment plan is the right decision. Emotionally, I still sometimes struggle with it. On my worst days battling pain and nausea, I ask myself, “Why am I putting myself through this? I don’t even know if there is any cancer left to kill. For all I know, I may already be cancer free. And until I started this treatment, I felt great!”
Then I click back through the data…the research results…the accumulated histories of patients fighting the exact same cancer I’m fighting…and I know the right decision is to keep going until it’s done.
That requires a lot of faith! …faith that my doctors have a correct diagnosis…faith in the medical technology…faith in the medical research…faith in medical knowledge and wisdom. It’s easy to intellectually accept these things based on scientific evidence. It is much harder to act on that accepted knowledge when the action carries a very burdensome path of lengthy treatment. It’s still all “evidence of things not seen.” My only knowledge of the cancer is my doctors’ word. I am relying completely on the medical community for both the diagnosis and the best treatment plan.
That requires a lot of faith in the medical community!
If I can have that much faith in the medical community, how much more faith can I have in my Heavenly Father? How much more faith can I have in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who continually displays His faithfulness and lovingkindess? How much more faith can I have in Jesus Christ, my Savior, Redeemer, and Deliverer, who, for our sake, submitted Himself to be tortured, crucified, and killed? How much more faith can I have in the Holy Spirit, our Comforter, sent by Christ Himself, to comfort, teach, instruct, and bestow wisdom?
By faith, I choose to believe my doctor when he tells me this treatment plan is going to be very tough, but is ultimately for my own good and the best thing for me. How much more can I believe God when he tells me:
…all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
If God be for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)
Fear not for I have redeemed thee
I have called the by my name; thou art mine.
When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee.
When thou passest through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee.
When thou passest through the fires, thou shall not be burned.
Neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.
For I am the Lord thy God. (Isaiah 43:1-3)
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.
He leadeth me beside the still waters,
He restoreth my soul.
He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His namesake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil.
For thou art with me.
Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me, in the presence of my enemies.
Thou anointest my head with oil.
My cup runneth over.
Surely, goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord…forever! (Psalm 23)