Psalm 139:14 tells me, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” This verse in the Bible makes it very clear, regardless of physical or mental condition that God’s work is wonderful. This verse juxtaposed against the reality of having a serious chronic illness such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, or one of many auto immune diseases that pose a threat to life can be a monumental challenge to one’s faith.
Being a long-term survivor of a life-threatening disease is an opportunity for growth in many ways. Most of us, unless we’re blessed to have a level of spiritual development that’s closer to Christ than many, are traumatized when we get the news of some disease diagnosis that could take our lives in short order. Many of us listen to the doctor, who provides contemporary information on treatments and survival rates, while simultaneously being aware of the survival statistics we just read on the internet. Thoughts of all the things that are still on our bucket list seem most important. We ask ourselves if we’ll be around to accomplish some of these things before we involuntarily move over to the other side.
I was one of those blessed individuals who was able to continue working after being diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma. Of course, I had to take a considerable number of hours off from work for initial treatments, designed to push me into remission. For a few years after then, I had several bouts with illnesses such as pneumonia, sepsis, necrosis of a hip (resulting in the need for a hip replacement), and a few other illnesses. With all I’ve experienced, I was able to see my career blossom to its fullest to the point of retirement. My eighteen years since diagnosis have taught me one thing with certainty, I’m not defined by my cancer.
Cancer is one of the more freighting auto immune diseases. It colors the mind with the most horrifying images of death. My personal experience, however, has been one of living and thriving with cancer, along with all the other accoutrements of life as every other so-called healthy person on the planet. I’ve been blessed with being a husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, brother, uncle, and a few other familial titles despite the cancer. I’ve been able to make the normal mistakes all humans are prone to do, and to suffer the consequences that follow. I don’t think I’m the same person in many ways as I was almost two decades ago, when I was diagnosed. My life has continued to move forward, oftentimes without any conscious effort on my part. Thoughts of having cancer have gotten further apart than they were during the early years after diagnosis. I reached a point when it became obvious to me that I had a life to live, one day at a time.
As I write this piece, I’m aware of the fact that I’m currently in relapse. This reality was made known to me by my oncologist the latter part of 2016. My top-notch medical team has been trying to push me into remission during the year of 2017, with no success yet. Although I’m not in remission, my quality of life is good. I don’t feel as if I have relapsed. I take each day as it comes, doing all the things I enjoy, exercising, reading, sharing time with family, meditating on the blessings of God. If there was a life that defines normality well, it’s mine.
I’m blessed to live life as I do, despite my chronic health condition. Focusing on those things I can do, which are many in number, makes me aware that all life is seasoned with opportunities to live and to live well. These last eighteen years have brought with them a perspective that I don’t think would have developed had I not been a Multiple Myeloma patient. I thank God daily, because I’m wonderfully made.
I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.