Five years ago this morning, at about 7am, I was reaching my hands as far outside of the window as my IV tubes would allow.
It was a beautiful June morning, full of a slow summer calm that would soon
break into a hearty Kansas thunderstorm. My fifth-floor hospital room had quite
the view. Directly below me was a parking lot; but beyond that, I could see people
walking and making their way to work along tree-lined streets and sidewalks. I longed
to escape the stale coolness of the hospital; but my IVs only allowed my hands
and forearms to reach outside – to be hugged by the comforting humidity.
As I looked down upon those tree-lined streets and sidewalks, I reflected upon
times past, when my brother William and I had pedaled our bikes down those familiar
neighborhoods. I wanted to go biking with my brother again; but for the past several
weeks I hadn’t been able to pedal a bike at all, because of the intense pain in
my abdomen that had been chronically growing for more than 6 months. Never had
I imagined that I would be in the situation I was, looking down on those
streets from hospital windows up above. My Saturday was already planned for me.
Soon my family would be arriving. Then I would be wheeled into a surgery room.
At best, I would wake up to hear that the doctors had removed the third of my
colon that had folded in on itself and died. At worst, I would wake to hear that
the portion of my colon had been removed, and that the underlying cause of all
my pain was confirmed to be cancer.
While waiting for my family to arrive and my surgery to begin, I decided to put
on my headphones to listen to the newly released Coldplay song, “Every Teardrop
is a Waterfall.” It isn’t by any means my favorite song; but I have done my
best to listen to it every June 25th since that memorable morning in
the hospital, back in 2011. I listened to that song a few times; and took a
picture of myself since no one else was there. Soon a heavy rain started to
fall. I took out my headphones, and closed the window only as much as I needed to
in order to keep out the rain. I wanted to hear the thunder. My family arrived;
and shortly thereafter, I was carted away to the operating room.
I don’t remember much from the rest of the day. I do remember waking up in the
most intense pain I had ever experienced, only to hear the nurses say that they
had already given me as much pain killers as a person should be given. Although
I don’t remember it, my mom says that I began crying not long after waking up;
but not just because of the pain, but because the doctor had just informed me
that two large cancer tumors (one 4cm and another 5cm) had been removed, along
with several cancer-infected lymph nodes, my appendix, one third of my colon,
and a portion of my small intestine.
That all happened five years ago today. Generally, a person is referred to as
having beaten cancer, after being cancer-free for five years. I had no idea
what the next five years held for me; but in that moment I knew that I had cancer.
Chemo treatments, genetic testing, huge medical bills, more surgeries, and
plenty of other hardships were to follow. Most people would say that I had
ample reason for concern and worry. The thing is, the past five years have been
full with far more blessings than hardships. The cancer which I had to worry
about, now rarely enters my mind. In fact, I had forgotten that today was the
anniversary of my surgery. It was only when my wonderful 5-month old son’s
crying made it impossible to focus on my sermon preparations for tomorrow, that
I checked my email and found that my mom had wished me a happy five years being
cancer free. Speaking of those sermon preparations, I had better bring this
already-long contemplation to a close.
The conclusion of the story is this:
Serve God and trust Him no matter what troubles the future seems to hold, and
you will find blessings, whatever may come. I am so very thankful to God for
blessing me with a wonderful five-years being cancer-free; and tonight, I hope
to celebrate these five years by eating pizza (which doctors say I should not
eat because of my high risk of getting cancer again).