Monday, June 30, 2008

Reason To Rejoice

As reported here last Monday, I had my scheduled abdominal and pelvic CT Scans and my semi annual PET Scan. These tests are routine in following up on my treatments for stage four colon cancer. When Linda and I saw my oncologist, Dr. Jain, on Friday, we were pleased to hear the news that "nothing remarkable" showed on the scans and that my blood work showed the CEA level to be in the "normal" range with a reading of 1.6. (When my chemo treatments began in January, 2005 the CEA level was nearly 1500). All of this indicates that the "incurable" cancer is not presently active. This, of course, is news we had certainly hoped to hear, although I was prepared to hear otherwise. Dr. Jain's previous comments have made me understand that there is a very good likelihood that the malignancy will return a third time. So far, so good.

I immediately made some phone calls to family and close friends to share the news, and sent out an email to many friends. Many of them were aware of the tests, and wanted to hear the results. Naturally, I was happy to have good news to share with them. A number of friends replied to my email, advising of the fact that they were rejoicing with me - which I certainly appreciate. While I am happy to get a clean report (and I certainly don't relish any more chemotherapy) I began to wonder if we were all really placing the right take on the whole thing.
Today marks three years and seven months since my malignancy was discovered. I have survived a good deal longer than the "average" survival time of 18 - 22 months. For this I am truly thankful. I have had more time to spend with my wife. I have seen two little grandsons growing into bright, handsome young men, and have come to know and cherish two others who were not even here when I was diagnosed. God has given me more time and opportunity for ministry. The sky is bluer, the grass is greener, the sun is brighter, and my friends are more dear to me. Every day is precious, and I am so thankful for all of God's blessing.
My question is this - do we judge success by how long one survives the disease - or is it more than that? I am of the opinion that success in the fight is not based on how many days one survives, but in HOW one lives each day of that survival time. Not quantity, but quality.
It's very easy to get things out of perspective. In the Bible we read about Jesus sending out 70 disciples to proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom. He gave them supernatural power for the journey and for the task. When they returned to Jesus they were jubilant! "Even the demons were subject to us!" they told the Master. (certainly reason to rejoice - one would think). But do you remember how Jesus replied to their fantastic report?
"Don't rejoice because the Demons were subject to you." Jesus said. "Rejoice because your names are written down in Heaven."
How often do we rejoice over "victories" that He sends our way? We are not wrong to speak of them, but should we dwell on these victories? Absolutely not. Jesus makes it plain that the greatest victory is to KNOW HIM. Nothing trumps having a personal relationship with Almighty God through Jesus Christ. THAT is what we have to rejoice in. THAT is what matters most.
The cancer survival is a wonderful thing, but that in itself is not the greatest blessing. The one who has chosen to leave me here a little longer is the one who is worthy of praise, honor and glory. Paul tells us that "we glory in tribulations". He reminds us that the "light afflictions that we suffer is only for a short time" and that God is using those things to bring about a greater glory. He tells us that "God's Grace is sufficient for us and that His strength is made perfect in our time of weakness."
The fact is that all of us are "terminal". We just do not know the date, the time, or the circumstances of our home going, but the fact is that we ARE going! Therefore, will you join me in committing the remaining time we have (however long or short that may be) to serving God like there is no tomorrow?
Veda Young was a precious lady who went to be with the Lord at the very end of last year. Veda had a long battle with cancer. She knew suffering, blessing, set backs, and the eventual final victory of going home. Several years ago, I heard Veda's testimony that went like this, "I'm not going to spend the rest of my life dying!"
Now that's what I'm talking about!
I thank you for your prayers on my behalf. I thank God for granting me these extra years and months, and will certainly relish every day He grants me in the future. But I also look forward to that day when my "change" is coming. In the mean time, I rejoice. Not because I can attend the Cancer Survivors Picnic - but because my name is written down in Heaven!
I'm not going to spend the rest of my life dying. How about you?

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