Let’s face it; most of us don’t like change. As creatures of habit we prefer our safe routines. The unknown is fearful…and cancer is full of the unknown.
A doctor friend of mine removed a mole on the back of my leg in September of 2012. A week later as I waited in his office to remove the stitches, he walked in with an ashen face and told me “Rob, it’s a good thing we removed the mole, you have malignant melanoma.” It caught him completely by surprise, and it took awhile for me to understand the seriousness of the diagnosis.
Having lost a brother to pancreatic cancer 12 years ago, I had a general understanding of the damage that cancer could do. Even with a stage 4 terminal cancer, my brother had a terrific attitude throughout his fight with the disease. I remember him telling me that “We are all terminal, some of us just have a better idea of when.” Receiving a cancer diagnosis of my own sparked something in me and helped me recall his words and apply them to my life; “I am terminal.”
Consequent doctor visits and further testing revealed that the cancer had not spread. I keep getting full body check-ups from the dermatologist and make sure that I sun screen-up when I go outdoors. I was fortunate that my cancer was caught in an early stage. But the report that the cancer had not spread has not changed my perspective, whether cancer is rampant in my body or not, I am terminal. It is one thing to have an intellectual knowledge that one day we will all die. It is quite another to understand the reality of that truth.
Whether we are full of cancer, fighting the battles with cancer, or cancer-free, the fact remains that we will all die. The writer of Ecclesiastes states it this way, “It is better to go to a house of mourning than to a house of feasting, because death is the destiny of every man and the living should take this to heart.” My diagnosis of cancer has shaped my “someday I will die” perspective and has helped me take some of these things to heart.
I now take more pleasure in this day. When my mind starts to fret about the future, I take an active approach in seeking out what God has provided for me today, and to take pleasure and gratitude for those things. I remind myself that I have no control over the future, and can do nothing about the past, so I strive to live my life in light of “this day” that God has provided. I am reminded of and sometimes mimic the old Tammy Wynette song, “One day at a time Sweet Jesus”. There is something about a country style twang that helps me keep that one-day perspective.
In the midst of change we lose our perspective of God. God’s path requires us to take one day at a time, one treatment at a time, one stage at a time, one moment at a time. What do the following scripture passages tell us?
- “This is the day the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad therein” Psalm 118:24
- “Give us this day our daily bread.” Matthew 6:11
God asks us to not worry about tomorrow but to trust Him in this day. In the midst of transition we need to focus on what He is doing today. The only thing we have any control of is right now, neither a “precancerous” past nor a “cancer-free” future, we only have this day. We are asked to obey and do what He has empowered us to do. Daily manna falls upon us if we focus on the grace He provides. In the world of cancer, it’s not just another day in your life, it’s a gift. Open your eyes and look at this day. Be grateful for all those who have come around you to be God’s blessing to you this day. And remember, Joshua 1:9, God’s presence will be with you wherever you go, this day.
Rob Strauss, Man of Many Hats and Recipient of God’s Grace