Friday, November 30, 2012

Leaving A Legacy

One of the local radio stations where I live switches over to a Christmas music only format around the middle part of November each year.  I enjoy listening to the station, although it seems like some songs get much more airplay than others.

For example, one song I hear frequently is "It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year" sung by Andy Williams.  It's a great upbeat song, extolling the excitement of the Christmas season.  It is also sung splendidly by Andy Williams and is certainly a holiday favorite.

However, this year the song has a special meaning or significance.  If you recall, Andy Williams died this year of bladder cancer, the same illness that I fought and overcame.  As a matter of fact, when I heard Mr. Williams had bladder cancer, I tried to contact him directly through one of his fan sites but never heard back.  Nevertheless, this song and, in particular, his singing voice are now part of his legacy.  Although I'm not very familiar with much of his music, it seems like the songs I have heard are fairly positive and uplifting.  His songs are his legacy.

On the other hand, I am saddened to hear of the failures of Lance Armstrong.  He is a cancer survivor with many Tour de France victories.  His catchphrase, "Live Strong", can be seen on bracelets and other sports items.  Yet, due to his drug usage, his Tour de France victories and his commercial sponsorships have been removed.  He has gone from hero to zero in a short period of time.  His legacy is now the image of one who took substances to secure his Tour de France wins.  In other words, he cheated.  Not the best way to be remembered.

When dealing with cancer, I am faced with a choice regarding my legacy.  Do I want to be known as someone who fought cancer bravely and tried to help as many people as possible cope with the disease or do I simply want to get by?  To me, the choice is clear.  I choose to write, to speak, to encourage, to do whatever I can to help others.  Although I fall short in so many ways, being able to assist others with cancer or major illness is certainly a good way to be remembered at the end of my days.

I mention more about my cancer battle and subsequent victory in my book, "A Place I Didn't Want To Go: My Victory Over Cancer".  Check it out at: 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Compensatory Damages

Recently, while traveling on the interstate, I saw a billboard featuring an attorney which stated, "In a wreck?  Get a check".  Apparently, if you're in a wreck, all you need to do is contact this guy and he'll find a way to get you some money to compensate for your loss.  Of course, I imagine this is not a free service.  Surely the guy on the billboard gets a cut from your reimbursement.  Maybe his advertisement should more accurately read, "In a wreck?  I'll also get a check". 

Yet, this advertisement appeals to part of our nature.  If we are given a raw deal, we feel like someone should make it better.  If our steak is undercooked at the restaurant, we feel that the cook should cook it some more, or maybe even give us a free dinner.  If our washing machine breaks down shortly after purchase, we feel the company should repair it or replace it without cost.  If our car is a lemon, we think the dealer should make amends in some form or fashion.  In whatever situation, the compensation helps overcome the sting of our discomfort.

Perhaps one of the greatest examples of compensation in the Bible is the story of Job.  As you recall, Job was a wealthy man.  Yet, within a brief period, he lost his family, his servants, his livestock, and, worst of all, his health.  However, in chapter 42 of the book of Job, it is exciting to see how "...the Lord restored the fortunes of Job...and the Lord increased all that Job had twofold" (verse 10).  In addition, "the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning" (verse 12).  Eventually, Job "died, an old man an full of days" (verse 17). Maybe, on his deathbed, the terrible losses Job experienced in his life were just a distant memory.

I know that for me, personally, having had cancer, I am constantly seeking ways to compensate for the damage it inflicted upon me.  My book, my blog and speaking engagements are part of this process.  Mind you, these activities may not ever totally restore my losses.  Yet, there is great joy when I see how God is using my affliction.

Furthermore, God may not give me a check like the billboard says.  However, the wisdom, insights and ministry He has provided me due to my cancer are truly invaluable.  In addition, just like Job, He may one day allow me to die an old man and full of days.        

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Finding Peaceful Moments

Since I work downtown, I have to walk about two blocks to the hospital where I'm employed.  It's not really a long walk.  However, as the weather turns cold, the walk can be somewhat bitter.  I've noticed a few days recently where the walk was quite chilly.  Of course, it can only get worse as the winter is fast approaching with plunging temperatures.

Thankfully, though, when the weather is cool, I've discovered a door about halfway during my walk that makes all of the difference.  Going in this entrance actually lengthens the walk to my floor by a couple of minutes.  Yet, it has one great big advantage....a heater.

It's not a fancy looking heater.  Just a wall heater with a thermostat and a blower.  It reminds me of the type of heater you might find in a high school classroom or a hotel room.  But, when I go through this special entrance, this wall heater is usually at full force with the fan turned on to the maximum setting.  As I enter the door, I am compelled to stop by this heater and soak in a few minutes of its warmth.  From this point, I can walk completely indoors to my final destination.  As you can tell, I am extremely grateful for the wall heater, making the cold walk from the parking lot less bitter.  The heater is a wonderful respite from the cold.

When I was going through chemotherapy, I can remember looking for those brief moments of peace in the midst of my chaotic life.  One particular instance comes to mind.  One night, I was eating a popsicle when a thunderstorm approached my house.  However, instead of staying inside out of the rain and the wind, I felt compelled to sit out on my porch and experience the storm.  Mind you, the rain was not blowing towards me so I stayed completely dry.  Yet, the rain, the thunder, all the elements of the storm, were comforting to me.  It was just a normal as usual.  You see, when you go through chemotherapy, you long for routine, for schedules, for life to be normal again.

So, when it started raining, I felt at peace.  Even though I was fighting cancer, the world felt like it was still the same.  An average storm on an average night.  At least, for a few waning moments, I was happy.

In Matthew 11:28 Jesus says, "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest."  Coming to Jesus will one day provide eternal rest in heaven, and that's something I am greatly anticipating.  However, I believe Jesus also provides rest here on earth, that is, calmness in the midst of storms.  He doesn't promise us life will be easy, by no means.  Yet, in our darkest hour, we can turn to Him for comfort and strength.

The heater in my workplace provides temporary relief from the cold and I am so grateful for it.  More importantly, my Savior provides permanent relief from the bitterness of life.  For this reason, I will always praise Him. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

God's Timing

"There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven—
2 A time to give birth and a time to die;
A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.
3 A time to kill and a time to heal;
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
4 A time to weep and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn and a time to dance.
5 A time to throw stones and a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace and a time to shun embracing.
6 A time to search and a time to give up as lost;
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
7 A time to tear apart and a time to sew together;
A time to be silent and a time to speak.
8 A time to love and a time to hate;
A time for war and a time for peace." 

Ecclesastes 3:1-8 (NASB)

I noticed how the leaves are really starting to change colors in my neighborhood today.  The magnificence of the orange, yellow, red and green leaves now adorn the trees beside the roads and houses.  Of course, my yard and driveway are also full of fallen leaves after a brief rain.  It's all part of the fall season.  As the old song "Earthmaker" by Farrell and Farrell states, "Seasons always change on time".  It's part of God's purpose.  It is also a comfort to see the weather progress through a typical yearly cycle.

Hard to believe, but there is also a reason for cancer.  It can occur for chastisement, that is, we bring it upon ourselves through poor choices, for example, cigarette smoking.  It can also be part of the natural dying process.  Let's face it.  We all are going to die of something at some time, whether it be cancer, heart disease, old age, etc.  Finally, cancer can occur for God's glory.  Having cancer can open up a new ministry, draw a person closer to God or develop a person's inner character.  The curse of cancer may ultimately be a blessing.

So, there is a time for every event under heaven, even the shocking, horrific diagnosis of cancer.

I talk more at length about the purpose of illness in my book, "A Place I Didn't Want To Go: My Victory Over Cancer" which is available at and on Kindle.  You can access it at:

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Learning To Wait

I went to have my teeth cleaned today.  It was my routine six month visit.  At first, I had to stay in the waiting room and fill out updated paperwork (do I have to fill this out every time I come?).  Finally, the hygienist escorted me to a dental chair in a corner room.  She placed a bib around my neck and then commenced to cleaning. 

Although I didn't have any cavities (I haven't had a cavity since childhood), it was still a tedious process being with the hygienist.  I sat patiently while she prodded, scraped, brushed, flossed and rinsed my teeth. Of course, she also vacuumed out the water with a continuous suction device which hung over my bottom lip.

The process was not overtly painful, but it dawned on me how "stuck" I was in the dentist chair.  I couldn't move, had to open and close my mouth at certain times and also, perhaps the hardest task, tried not to swallow saliva with all of the paraphernalia inserted in my mouth.  Overall, it was a helpless feeling.  You could say I was learning to "wait" while in the dentist chair.  As a matter of fact, this chair was located in the actual "waiting room", not the area where I had filled out paperwork earlier and scanned through uninspiring magazines.  Yet, I could only take comfort in the fact that this cleaning process would be short-lived.  Usually I leave the dental office in less than an hour.

Having cancer is also a helpless feeling.  Although patients can participate in the healing process by a positive attitude, in a sense, there is a limited amount of what a patient can do.  I personally was powerless.  I had to submit to major surgery, scans, lab tests, and chemotherapy.  Just as the powerless feeling in the dentist chair, I was immobile when I had cancer.  There was only so much I could do.  I kept waiting and praying for it to end.  Thank God it finally did.

The Bible also tells us of the value of waiting.  A familiar verse says, "Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired. They will walk and not become weary."  Isaiah 40:31 (NASB).  Although the word "wait" here could mean "rely on", still I have the image of someone "waiting" on God.  In other words, there is only so much you can do.  You must wait for God to act.

You want your cancer to go away?  Might need to wait on God.  In His timing, you'll gain new strength and the eagles' wings will eventually develop.