Has the Death of Friends Been a Subtraction from My Life?

At sixty-five years of age, and being a cancer survivor for almost sixteen years, I’ve experience a lot. One of those is the harsh reality that there are so many, who suffer from chronic illnesses. Estimates are that one in three Americans has some form of a chronic illness, according to the National Health Council. I recall when I first started attending clinic for my treatments, sitting and fellow shipping with others, who also had had cancer come into their lives. There were a number of times I would arrive at my clinic appointment and discover that someone I had routinely shared the waiting room with had succumbed to the ravages of our shared disease. At some point-not sure when-I began to realize that even with the cutting-edge treatment we were all receiving, all bodies don’t react the same.
Another harsh reality I’ve had to adjust to over the last three years or so is that chronic illnesses take friends from my life. I’ve had to mourn the death of a number of friends and associates, whose lives have been cut short due to cancer. Many of these individuals were some years younger than I. When this happens, one can often find themselves asking the almost unanswerable question: Why are they leaving, and I’m still here? We all know death is the unwanted visitor that will eventually knock at all of our doors. Mortality has brought me to the point of accepting another reality: the exit of my friends isn’t necessarily a subtraction.
All of my friends, who have left this realm, have been believers in Jesus Christ. They’ve all exhibited the conviction of their faith in the way they lived, believing that the Lord will take care of them no matter the outcome. Their faith and accompanying testimony remains with me. The fact that I’m still here, having been a witness of their faith, and yet being a strong testimony through my survivor-ship, make for an undeniable formula to bring glory to God. Although my friends corporal presence is no longer with me, their spiritual presence still lingers and I’m the better for having had them in my life. As a believer in Christ, I’m confident that I will have them visually in my life again, eternally. Suffering from a chronic illness can be viewed as a subtractive factor in the lives of those with an illness, as well as the care givers, family and friends, who eventually grieve a death. However, if we recall the answer Jesus gave to Apostle Paul, when he questioned why he had to suffer an ailment, we just might realize that suffering, and surviving along the way, can be a powerful testimony. Jesus told Paul in II Corinthians 12: 9a, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Our bodies might just be chronically ill, but we can be spiritually healthy. It’s the spiritual health of my friends, who’ve gone before me that will remain for me to admire.

Some of the Best Years of My Life

I was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma fifteen years ago. Multiple Myeloma is a cancer that attacks the Plasma Cells of the blood. It used to be known as rare, but I wonder about that designation these days. There is no cure; however, research and treatment, over the last two decades, have resulted in significantly longer survival rates. Realizing that God guides the hands of researchers and medical professionals everywhere is why I feel the last fifteen years have been some of my best.
I received word of my diagnosis on March 10, 2000 at 2:00 PM. That moment will always be fresh in my mind. As I look back now, I couldn’t have been in a better place, spiritually and literally. I had faith in God, and I worked for the University of Arkansas Medical Sciences, which has one of the leading Multiple Myeloma research and treatment institutes in the world. There, I was able to be enrolled in a leading clinical trial that to date has a 75% survival rate, compared too much lower survival rates of trial groups before.
Although I have experienced numerous health issues over the last fifteen years, among them, pneumonia, sepsis, (resulting in a five-day coma), a hip replacement, and more, God rewarded me with the most productive years of my career. I am now retired, living a good life, enjoying my grandchildren and looking forward to more years of joy. I’m still being seen regularly by doctors, but my life is good. Furthermore, one of the greatest by-products of my experience is that I’m now one of the best testimonies God could ever have for His glory and honor. You can’t imagine the hope my very presence in the Multiple Myeloma clinic brings to recently diagnosed patients, when I tell them of my journey. St. Paul said it right, “My grace is sufficient for my strength is made perfect in weakness…” (II Corinthians 12:9a)