The LaRue County Relay for Life is May 14 at Hodgenville Elementary School. This is the third in a series of cancer survivor stories to bring awareness to this cause.
Numerous types of cancers attack practically every organ and physiological system within the human body. The reactions to a diagnosis of cancer can be just as varying. So, as I ponder the question, “What does it mean to be a cancer survivor?” I can only draw one conclusion, there is no absolute. For some, being a cancer survivor means there has been a wakeup call placed in their lives. Another may see it as a reminder to cherish every day or every moment. For me, however, it was a reminder to die to self on a daily basis.
As long as I can remember, I have felt a clear call to be in a “Christian” church. I have, in some degree, always believed in God. It was not until my teenage years though that I accepted Jesus Christ as my savior. Nevertheless, as most teenagers turning young adults, I began to ignore this call. I thought I knew it all. By my mid-20s I was married, driving a tractor-trailer and you probably would not have recognized me as a believer in Christ.
During the summer of 1996, I began to get tired easily and my abdomen began to protrude. In my male stubbornness, I refused to see a doctor. That fall, I finally gave in and went to the doctor. I was about 150 pounds and looked like I was nine months pregnant. My general practitioner felt my enlarged spleen and he immediately sent me for blood work. Those results prompted him to send me to an oncologist and within a few days, my oncologist diagnosed me with chronic myelogenous leukemia. For most diagnosed with cancer, there are various stages a person goes through to deal with this type of news. Me, I fell into God’s hands.
I do not know how to explain my reaction only to say that I accepted it in that moment. My sister-in-law, a registered nurse, thought I was in denial. It took a great deal of convincing her that I was simply at peace. It was not so much a peace that I could be dying due to cancer, but rather an unsurpassed peace that I was in God’s hands regardless the outcome.
Over the course of the next two years, my oncologist treated me with various medications. My white blood cell counts continued fluctuating and never allowed my leukemia to go into remission. Eventually, I went to the James Brown Cancer Center in Louisville where they began preparing me to have a bone marrow transplant. On Oct. 2, 1998, I received bone marrow from my sister and began my road to recovery as a cancer survivor.
It was during this two-year journey, from diagnosis to my bone marrow transplant that God had revealed to me what he was doing. Now, I am not here to debate how God works all things, including bad things, together for his glory; all I am going to say is that God used this leukemia to break me in order to remake me. God took me to Jeremiah 18, which was a prophecy to the nation of Israel by which God would have to allow the destruction of Israel in order to bring Israel back. The image used in Jeremiah was that of a potter working clay. The vessel the potter was making became marred and the only way the potter could fix the vessel was to tear it down and begin anew.
This is what I meant when I said being a cancer survivor is a reminder to me to die to self on a daily basis. I was reminded that my life is not my own but God’s. I surrendered my life to him through my faith in Christ Jesus, and I must remain in God’s hands so that he can use me as he sees fit. For me, being a cancer survivor goes hand in hand with the very call God has placed on my life. It is for this reason I survive, so that I can die to self.