My Cancer Journey: The First Week
Now that news is getting out of my cancer diagnosis, I thought it was a good time to post. I was unsure how to do it, so I did it journal style. Here is how my week went.
Tuesday night, or rather early Wednesday morning, on August 24 around 3am, I went to the Emergency Room with pain in my groin and abdomen area. I had had the pain before, a dull ache in my groin, lower back and abdomen, but it would come and go. But this time I could tell something was not right. So I went in. A few hours, and several tests, later I was diagnosed with testicular cancer, and was informed that it has spread to my abdomen and that there is a 9 cm growth near my spleen.
I admit it.
I was scared.
When the ER doctor said, “You have cancer.” My brain heard,”You are going to die.” And my body reacted to the news…I was shaking!
The ER doctor tried to allay my fears and told me it was highly treatable and that I was young and strong and had a good chance of beating it. That was of little consolation to me, I was just told I had the big C…and it was spreading! Cancer took my dad from me and I began to think about my wife and kids, and I cried.
While I sat there in the hollowness of that sterile room, I cried out to God, “Have I not been tested enough?” His answer is obvious – no.
I called Teresa, “I have cancer. Please come, I need you.” I told my boss I wouldn’t be coming in to work because they wanted to keep me in hospital to run more tests. He came right away..in fact, he beat Teresa there (but he didn’t have 3 kids to pack up.)
I called my mom, who came and read from Ezra and Malachi. Then my brother came, who cracked a joke about buying an RV and moving to the desert (#badbreakingbadjoke), which made me laugh.
I think I went through all the stages of grief in about 12 hours in that hospital bed. By the end of the day, I had accepted that I had cancer. For some reason, unknown to me, the Lord saw fit that this should happen. And the words of Job echoed in my head, “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.”
At around 4:30pm the Urologist came for a visit, and told me I would be going for surgery, but he had to consult with the oncologist due to the mass in my abdomen, which complicated things.
I was free to go.
Around 6pm we went home.
But not before a pic…
We went home exhausted, both of us. We received a number of phone calls, texts and messages from family members, but I really don’t remember much else that happened that day between kids and just being totally emotionally and physically exhausted.
Sleep did not come easy, and when it did, it was sporadic. When I awoke from my tossing, sweaty, “sleep”, I spent the day doing chores around the house. Heavy things that I wouldn’t be able to do after the surgery and that Teresa would have difficulty with. My pastor came for a visit, even though he was on vacation. We talked for about an hour and then he read from Psalm 23 and prayed. I really appreciated that.
At the advice of the doctor, I dropped my classes for this semester.
I was really looking forward to returning to my studies, full time. I wondered what God was doing. Why would he open this door so wide, and then slam it shut it like this? I messaged a professor friend at CRTS and let them know that the Lord had put a rather large speed bump on our road to seminary. Our 5 year plan had just become a taking it a day at a time and focusing on the Lord and getting healthy.
At 4:11 pm I received a call from the urologist who had a cancellation and asked if I could be there for 4:30…I made it. I was told that I was a high priority patient (which is both good and not good). Good that they are fast-tracking me, but they are fast-tracking me for a reason…anyway. I learned that on the following Wednesday, I would be going for the radical inguinal orchiectomy (surgery to remove the testicle) and they gave me a ton of paperwork to fill out.
I had to drop off that pile of paperwork at the Urologists office, and then we went to Science World for the day. It was nice to enjoy the family, and to get our minds off the giant elephant following us. Yet, that elephant wouldn’t leave us alone. While we were at Science World I received a concerned voicemail from my GP’s office, who had received the ER reports…I had forgotten to inform his office about all this. Oops.
Saturday. Just Busy. Lots of messages from family. Lots of errands. No time…gotta get set up for when I am on Chemo…
Sunday. Being an introvert I was not looking forward to all the people poking into what was going on, but actually, I quite appreciated it. It helps to talk. My cancer diagnosis was announced off of two pulpits, and prayed for…so now it is out there.
In the afternoon we witnessed the baptism of our niece in our old congregation in Chilliwack. Lots of questions, lots of hugs and handshakes, lots of prayers. A number of people came to me telling me about their own journeys with cancer and how good the Lord is. It was a good day of enjoying the communion of the saints.
I also noticed that many people had no idea what to say. Some people even voiced it. That is ok. You don’t need to say anything. As I have said before, sometimes all the theology a hurting person needs is a hug.
Monday. The day I find out whats going on inside of me.
All day I felt like I was waiting for a big interview…I felt confident in the Lord but I was nervous none-the-less.
My friend Fletcher stopped by with a friend of his, a Christian man from Pakistan, and they prayed for me. Fletcher prayed in English and his friend prayed in his own language, which was really cool. God hears all prayers.
My mom came by to watch the kids while Teresa and I met with my oncologist. I admit that I was nervous when I went in. My hands were a bit clammy. I felt a little ill from the anxiety of waiting to find out what was going on inside of me. But our oncologist put me at ease, she has an amazing bed side manner. She was very caring and answered all of our questions. She is confident of a positive outcome – though she cautioned nothing is guaranteed and it will be a hard road.
So I have testicular cancer. They are not sure yet which kind I have – seminoma or non-seminoma. (One has a better cure rate.) They will find that out when they send the testicle to pathology after surgery. The good news is that the cancer appears to have only spread to the one lymph node, but it’s size is larger than 5cm, which puts me in the intermediate risk category. We won’t know until next Friday which type of testicular cancer it is, nor what the “odds” are. Good odds are nice, but my faith is in God, not the odds.
Afterwards, we had family pictures taken at the Aldergrove Regional Park. I thought it would be good to have family pics done while I still look healthy before the chemotherapy wreaks its havoc on my youthful, beautiful, appearance and my lush, full, head of hair…
When we got home, I actually had an appetite and ate a full meal without forcing myself for the first time since the diagnosis.
It is 8am on Tuesday. The day before Surgery. I am writing this post, my girls are in bed. I am enjoying a hot cup of coffee.
Tomorrow I go for surgery and on September 12 I begin Chemotherapy.
This week has been a roller coaster. If I have learned anything this week, it is that the Lord is faithful. He has strength for even this difficult journey. I have grown closer to Him over the past 7 days, or rather he has drawn me nearer to himself. I have no fear of this valley of the shadow of death, for he is with me. That does not mean I am looking forward to this journey, certainly not, but I know who is leading me. I have also experienced the communion of the saints like never before. It is a beautiful thing. You are all amazing and I love you all.
The second thing is that my wife is beautiful, inside and out. I did not really realize it, but I have taken her for granted for years. It is amazing how we just coast in the busyness of life, and it is amazing how the Lord will use a crisis like a cancer diagnosis to put things in proper focus. Husbands please take a minute, put down the tools, put down the work, the phone, the computer…and look at your wife.
Don’t wait for a crisis.
Really look at her.
Oh and check your nuts.
Seriously. I am NOT trying to be crude or funny, seriously, check your nuts, and don’t ignore that dull ache…
Anyway. This is week 1 of my cancer journey. Thanks for reading. Thanks for your prayers.
God is good. Jesus saves. Look to him.