"You Have Cancer"-Reflections On My Cancerversary

James 1:2-4 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Today is my “Cancerversary”. A lot of cancer people use this term differently but for me, it was the day that I heard the words “You have cancer” for the first time. For me that day was November 6, 2001.

It was supposed to be just a routine colonoscopy to confirm internal hemorrhoids. Well, things didn’t go like they thought they would go. The doctor couldn’t get the scope past the 2 tumors in my colon. It had already gone through the wall of the colon and after surgery and examining the lymph nodes, it would confirm that I had stage 3-colon cancer.

Following my diagnosis, surgery, and chemotherapy, I started going to a support group made up of people around my age who also had advance stage colon cancer. When you are in your early 30’s with colon cancer, you belong to a pretty elite group. Well, I am the only one still here. I have attended all of their funerals.

I have said many times that I hate cancer yet I have a tattoo showing that cancer was a gift to me. Sometimes I need a perspective adjustment and that came in a conversation with one of my absolute favorite people. A good friend and brother-in-Christ sent me a message and I would like to share a few portions of that conversation. I spoke to him and got his permission to share this.

“I often read your posts and you know I read your blog. There is one thing that I often question. You typically refer to a ‘hatred’ towards cancer. I question the hatred because when I watch your God at Work story, you tell me that cancer was a gift. I watch that video and I actually thank God for that trial because it brought you to Christ. It also brought you to Harvest. Last but foremost, cancer brought you to Amy. I understand you feel the loss of those who suffer with this same trial and eventually succumb to it. God made you special Steve. He made you a survivor to show others of His grace and love for us. He blessed you with a story to say ‘hey, cancer doesn’t suck, I don’t hate cancer, why, because thanks to cancer I am born again and alive in Christ.’’

I love that my friend reached out to me to speak that kind of truth! I have actually thought about this exact thing. I know that my friend knows people with cancer and have suffered with it. He understands the pain and the hurt that goes along with cancer. I understand that he was pointing out some things that cancer has brought  me to. It truly was the combination of brain tumor, cancer, then finally my divorce that brought me to Harvest and Amy.

I do hate cancer because I see people suffering from it daily. It did work out ok for me, but in fact I have plenty of “survivor’s guilt” regularly, because it may have been a gift for me, I see that it is far from that same gift for most people.

It’s kind of like getting a divorce. I’m so blessed with my marriage to Amy but divorce is a horrible thing and I will try to discourage married people from getting a divorce. Does that make me a hypocrite because I got divorced and am now happy? Maybe in some people’s eye but I know that I am not the same person now that I was in my first marriage and my belief system is not the same now as it was then.

I guess all that to say that I’m thankful for God’s faithfulness in my trials and I’m thankful for the trials that I have gone through. That being said, I don’t really know another way to describe my feelings towards cancer and the suffering it causes most people other than hating it. I understand that cancer is certainly an opportunity to share God’s love for us and I certainly try to use my gift to show people that cancer isn’t always a death sentence and can be a great opportunity, especially to get people to Christ.

My friend went on to finish our conversation with this:

I do see and agree with what you said and I too feel and pray for those that are suffering. I think about Paul and the suffering he endured here on Earth. He was able to stand up under it all because of Christ and the faith he had in that he was going to a better place.

Don’t feel survivor’s guilt but rather feel blessed by God to carry the message of hope in Christ to all who believe in Him. You can relate to those who are suffering in ways that I cannot. I guess all I was trying to say is try not to hate what God actually blessed you with. Love you bro.

What an absolute blessing that conversation was! What a great reminder in what God has blessed me with. So much has happened in the 12 years that have followed that day back in November of 2001. To say that day changed my life would probably be the understatement of all understatements. I have learned so much about life. Learned so much about people. Learned so much about faith. Learned so much about myself. I have finished 21 marathons, an Ironman, done public speaking, met some amazing people, and so much more. None of that would have happened if I had not gotten cancer. So as I sit back and reflect on everything that has happened over the last 12 years, I will also look forward to whatever God brings my way. To God be the Glory.

How have you been touched by cancer?

1 Peter 5:10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

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