In the spring of 2009, my husband came home from work, stood in our bedroom with a quivering lip, and informed me the doctor said the biopsy did contain cancer after all. We held each other and cried as uncertainty draped its heaviness around our shoulders.
Bob was only 46. Most doctors don’t even test for prostate cancer until men are in their fifties and their PSA is over 4. My husband’s had been only 1.7. It was just one of those “let’s make sure” sort of deals.
Due to his doctor being out of town, it would be a week before we could get the full report. That was a tough week. I remember praying, “Lord, if You take him too soon, I’ll be more interested in seeing him than You when I get to heaven.”
It wasn’t a threat—just honesty.
During that week we met with a friend who had battled cancer himself. He spent hours teaching us how to adopt a healthier lifestyle. Bob spent the next six months preparing his body for surgery. On October 6th, two of the top surgeons in the country tediously removed his prostate. Between their amazing skill, the prayers of many, and the work we did to shore-up his body, Bob has recovered well—so well the urologist calls him his poster boy. Seven years later, he’s in perfect health.
It’s interesting what happens to us when faced with immortality. I felt a loss of innocence that’s hard to explain.
Not moral innocence, but the innocence of life without the reality of death. The ugly face of disease had plastered itself onto the portrait of my world.
I know many are not so fortunate.
Bob’s brother Dan was one of them. After Bob’s diagnosis, Dan learned he also had prostate cancer, with a worse prognosis. He did everything the doctors said, but in February 2015, at the age of 57, Dan entered the glorious presence of his Savior. Bob and I had the blessing of spending Dan’s final months caring for him in his home.
Cancer seems to have kicked it up a notch for our generation as two of my sisters have had cancer (one has had it twice), and my sister-in-law recently joined Dan in the heavenly realm. It’s a vicious beast that has snarled its teeth at most of us.
But I wonder how our heavenly Father sees this animal? I have a feeling He’s not nearly as bothered as we might think He is. You see, He can use anything to draw us into His embrace. He can turn any attack of the enemy into victory. He will always—always—gain the upper hand.
So what do we do when our doctor utters that nasty word, cancer? What do we do when death threatens our world? The answers are personal. Each of us has our own journey—our own unfinished business to address.
I can tell you for sure, though, God has beautiful plans—even in this.
He has a marvelous story yet to write. He has miracles yet to perform. He has a measure of love He can’t wait to bestow—a measure unequal to anything we’ve yet experienced.
Whether it’s like my husband’s road toward more years on earth, or my brother-in-law’s toward eternity in heaven, it’s a path rich with treasures yet to be discovered—glorious treasures found only at the precipice of eternity.
Paul was so right when he wrote,
O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? (1 Corinthians 15:55)
God is so much bigger than death and the grave. And sometimes staring death in the eyes is the only way to learn this unshakable truth.