Cancer means many things to many people, but for me, it means life. That may seem strange, but the truth is, the impact cancer has had on my life goes far beyond the surgeries, the chemotherapy, the radiation and the scars.
Cancer meant to bring death to my body but instead it became a vehicle for life to my soul. Oftentimes in today’s culture we find ourselves floating through life, bound in uncertainty about what the future may look like. The haziness of old age seems to be so far in the future of our lives that we don’t see it clearly until it startles us by staring back in the mirror one day.
Cancer in my life at the age of 14 years old forced me to stare into that scary distant future and realize that tomorrow may, in fact, be the last day we have. It forced me to understand that all of life is a gift and we are not guaranteed anything. In my life, at that time, it spurred me on towards even wilder and more reckless behaviors. It wasn’t until about two years after my treatments that I was forced to recognize that all of my life both before and after cancer had been a struggle with emptiness and anger.
Cancer was the spark that lit the fire of desperation in my soul. I believe that we all have a soul that yearns to be known and loved. Jesus met me in that desperation and gave me his life and joy. He came to me and loved me and KNEW me. He knew everything about me and LOVED me.
Cancer carries many sad and awful memories for most of us, and rightfully so. It is a disease that eats away at life and, at varying speeds, brings death to many. My relationship with cancer carries a different word in my life, gratitude. I am thankful for my cancer. I am thankful that it forced me to wake up before I was ready. I am thankful for the life it drove me towards and the death it drove me from. I am thankful for the doctors and the medicine that was used to keep me alive. I am thankful for the family that stayed by my side. I am thankful for so many things.
My cancer diagnosis came as an absolute shock and total surprise. I was a healthy albeit rebellious teenage boy who showed no previous signs of illness. My cancer was stage 1-2 Hodgkins Lymphoma. I had a tumor located on or above my thymus gland that required surgery. The surgery was the same surgery that is done for what is commonly referred to as “open-heart” surgery. I was 14 years old when my cancer was first found in February of 2000. I required the aforementioned surgery as well as over a year and a half of chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Following my treatments I was diagnosed as being in remission and have as of today no relapses of any form of cancer.
I hope that my experience may be able to help others engage with the difficult and terrifying reality of cancer and the fear of death that comes along with it.
Thank you Dennis for sharing your incredible journey with us.