I never expected to hear the word cancer, especially when there had not been cancer as far back in the family tree as we could remember.  As I sat there, denial washed over me and I thought:  Mistake!  Can’t be!  Yet, there it was.

My wife and I had watched as the thoracic surgeon played the results of my PET scan and Bang! a nodule, bright and shining popped up before our eyes, and we heard his words:  “It’s as hot as a light bulb and it’s got to come out, now!” Surgery should be scheduled soon, he says, and we found it difficult to process those words.

My mind raced:  Wait!  Can’t do that.  We have leased a place on Lake Michigan for our family reunion.  I have my golf league to run.  We have so many plans.  Then the word “now” sank in and I realized that all those other things were not really important.  But there were things that had to be done, as they say, to “get my affairs in order!”

But, for a while those practical steps take a back seat to “woe is me”.  And for a day or two, depression and self-pity interferes with thinking and planning.  Then one morning I happen to think of “Mary” whose mastectomy was months before, and I recall her courage and her resilience.  My thoughts turned to my grandson who successfully fought leukemia at age 11.  I think about friends and in-laws that have walked  this same path I’m about to walk, and I take courage from their courage, and I begin to see more clearly.  My faith makes a subtle adjustment from the ethereal and spiritual, to the very practical reality that even in this God is in charge, and I am not!

Trying not to think of the “worse-case” scenario, I busy myself with the very practical of bank accounts, life insurance policies, wills, “power of attorney” and such.  I find myself strangely at peace and with a sense of confidence, ready to get this surgery over.

Over the years I have supported others who were going through difficult times, encouraging them to put their trust in God who loves them and is in charge of all that befalls us.  Now, here I am, on the other side, so to speak, at that point where I know that it will be my faith that will carry me through this difficult patch.

As I write this, it has been one month since my lung surgery.  The procedure was a success, and I am now adjusting to the loss of a lobe.  The pain has abated, except for those few times when I cough, sneeze, or, heaven forbid, laugh too hard!  I do try to do too much, and am cautioned that I have four more months of recovery before I am back to “normal”.

The experience has been a reminder that friends and family are part of God’s gift to us. Without that network, we are not sure how we would have gotten through the early weeks of this odyssey.  The transportation to and from the hospital for my wife.  Our daughter flying in from California for a week to help when finally I am home.  Members of our family taking time to be here despite busy work schedules. The errands run on our behalf.  The meals that just appeared.  The cards, the visits, the calls, and through it all the prayers, all served to keep us strong when strength and resolve was needed.  How do you adequately thank all those angels?

A passage from Matthew 25 comes to me:  “When did we see you sick and comfort you…?”  Jesus replies:  “When you did it to the least of these, you did it unto me.”

This experience has left me with a thought:  Pay it forward!  Having gone through this has actually been a kind of training ground, a deepening of empathy and awareness of the difficulties of walking this walk.  Before I knew only dimly, now I know with clarity from experience.  I sense the Lord is saying to me:  Go and do likewise.

My heart-felt thanks to all of you.

For What It’s Worth