Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Lessons from a Cancer Scare

Two weeks ago I finally went to see an ENT (Ear, Nose, & Throat Doctor) about a growth I've had on my neck for about eight months.

I had been to another family practice doctor several months back and been told that it was probably a thyroid issue because my blood tests came back that I had a VERY under-active thyroid. I thought was either something that would either go away or that I would need medicine for that I simply couldn't afford. While I noticed it and was slightly concerned about it on a daily basis I wasn't concerned enough to really seek out assistance. It is kinda like the story of the dog on the porch that howled in pain because he was laying on a nail, but it didn't hurt enough to actually move.

Well I finally decided to go to the doctor since I had some minor insurance (really terrible, but better than nothing) begin. The ENT was quickly able to see me the next day and I was happy and anxious to finally get down to the bottom of the growth.

The doctor quickly made an initial assessment that I might have an enlarged salvatory gland or a stone, but after telling him the length of time I had it he changed his opinion.

After another brief examination of it and some questions he stated that “options 1,2,3, & 4” were that it as Hodgkin's lymphoma aka cancer.

I'm not really certain how I reacted at the time. I think I made a joke about chemo being a great weight loss drug, but I do remember a slight breakdown on the road home.

Since my insurance is so bad he referred me to a financial assistance clinic and I made an appointment for two weeks later.

I let everyone know about the news and was grateful for the sympathy and prayers. My mother of course cried and freaked out as mothers do.

I think the most difficult part, besides the waiting, was having almost every person you met tell me how I could avoid or beat cancer. I love the heart to help, but while I know many alternatives are great ultimately I believe in trusting God to guide to doctors He would send so I would politely nod and gather information.

I briefly researched Hodgkin's and discovered that it was every curable with an extremely high survival rate. I was honestly more concerned about the cost and the chemo and radiation than the actual cancer.

After two grueling weeks of waiting I finally had my appointment yesterday with the ENT clinic to which I was referred. I was immensely thankful that my brother in Christ, Matt Walton, was kind enough to drive me and stay with me. I hate waiting rooms. You're called a patient in a hospital for a reason because beyond any other test they'll have for you, the one you can count on is testing your patience.

Eventually the doctor saw me and gave me an examination. The first test she did was to stick a very long light and camera down my nasal cavity. She relax my throat, but what an extremely odd sensation. It made me think of the Magic School Bus for some reason.

The results were clear. I asked if I could keep the deep voice so I wouldn't be called ma'am at the drive thru but it wore off. The bitter taste stay for quite a while.
Then she ordered a FNA (fine needle biopsy) and I waited on them for about thirty minutes. I don't know why, but the idea of a FNA biopsy team made me think of ghostbusters and strangely enough four of them showed up to stick needles in my face. They gathered cell sample to test the growth. I don't know if this is what acupuncture is like, but if so I think I'll pass. After the fourth needle I was starting to feel like Hellraiser.

While waiting on the preliminary results I had to go have a blood sample drawn and schedule a CT scan that I'll have next week.

When I made it back to the clinic from the blood lab they had the preliminary results from the biopsy...

It isn't cancer!

According to the results and symptoms they believe it is just a benign tumor that can easily be removed through surgery. I was and am ecstatic! I still have a couple more tests, but great relief washed over me with that news.

After leaving the clinic I started making the calls to let everyone know the results. What great fun it was to deliver that news! My mom of course cried again, but this time it was with great joy, my dad gave me a hard time for scaring him, and many others cheered with praise to God.

So while I must still wait to have it removed I went around yesterday with a great smile on face and so much joy. I even announced it several times as I wen to a few places which must have been odd for them, but I sure was enjoying it.

I'm sure it is a rare thing for people to react to the news they have a tumor, but compared to what it could have been I welcome the tumor like an old friend (one I'll be happy to see leave of course).

I even went about singing “I have a tumor” at times throughout the afternoon.

I share this with you, not just to tell you of this great news, but to share with you a lesson I was reminded of through this experience: Always give the bad news first.

Learning I have a tumor is a great blessing because what I thought I had was so much worse. The same thing may be applied to sharing the gospel.

When we share the message of Christ the only way it can be great news is if they understand the bad news. Unlike the bad news of my cancer, the bad news of the gospel is completely true and that is that all of us are sinners and we are separated from a Holy God and are under His wrath.

We all deserve Hell. We all have lied, cheated, stolen, lusted, and committed a number of other sins against the law and character of our perfect and Holy God.

That is the bad news. It is absolutely true and unless you fully understand that you are a great offense to God then the good news is worthless.

But if you understand that you a sinner and deserve Hell then the news of the cross is eternally joyful. The only way that God sending Christ to be crucified and to take upon Himself the wrath we deserve is to understand your standing with God outside of Christ.
Christian, whatever you happens you must never share the love of God without properly explaining the holiness of God and His hatred of sin.

The gospel is meaningless unless God is holy and must punish sinners. The horror of Hell magnifies the beauty of Heaven.

Not only is important to understand for the one outside of Christ to know His glory, but also for the Christian to be reminded so they know the need to share the gospel.

If those outside of Christ were to simply die and end then missing the gospel is sad, but if we understand that they are headed for wrath and judgment then it will lead us on in proclaiming the gospel message.

Remember this as you face the bad news in your own life and how much sweeter the good news becomes.

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