Thanks Be to God

I saw my doctor yesterday to hear my detailed pathology report and begin discussing a treatment plan. God is so good to me. Dr. Thacker said my type of cancer is very rare (spermatocytic seminoma). They are confident they got it all through the surgery and there is no need for any other treatment. I will have a CT scan and other tests in six months just to make sure. To God be all glory, honor, and praise.

I had gone to bed Wednesday evening and awakened Thursday morning with the same nervous feeling. It was that feeling I use to get in Junior High PE class when we were picking teams. “When will I get chosen? I know I will not be first, but please don’t let me be last.” I had plenty of faith the prognosis would center on a very high probability of survival and complete recovery. I was nervous that the cancer had metastasized and would require radiation therapy. I didn’t want the sickness that went with that treatment; neither did I want to live with the possibility that radiation therapy could cause other types of cancer to emerge. I was holding on to the hope it was stage one and I might be given the option of waiting to see if it had metastasized. That would require scans ever three months for a couple of years and less frequent scans after that. I wanted to be picked first in this game of life or death.

As my doctor gave his report it just kept getting better and better. My cancer is so rare they don’t even have a protocol for when to do follow-up scans. “We’ll say six months, if that’s all right with you.” If hearing for the first time that you have cancer is surreal, hearing such a phenomenal report is equally so. It was like winning the door prize when you have never won anything in your life. As he unfolded the layers of good news the thought kept bouncing around in my brain “this must be a good feeling for Dr. Thacker.” He has never had a case of spermatocytic seminoma. I wondered how many times he had given a bad prognosis. I could see a hint of excitement deep in his eyes and in the ever-so-slight smile on his face. It was as if he was playing his own internal game of wearing a doctor’s poker face, the one they begin teaching on the first day of classes in medical school, circa “Patch Adams.” “We’re going to educate the humanity right out of you and make you into scientists.” I was contrasting his calm demeanor during the bad news of my office visit exactly two weeks and six days earlier with that of this day. There was a difference, and I was glad for it; it made his words ring with the tone of truth.

I was also carefully monitoring Cheryl. She sat across the small examining room with notepad and pen in hand as if attending a lecture by some prominent scholar. She didn’t want to miss anything important so we could do our research when we got home. She doesn’t wear a poker face, but neither does she show much expression in times like these. It is more like she had slipped into the persona of being a graduate student discerning what might be on the qualifying exams so as to take the notes in the best way possible for future study. It is not enough to take notes; you have to take good notes. Her relief was seen more in her body language than on her face. She relaxed, sat up a little straighter, and just seemed more open and free.

As for me, I was competing with Dr. Thacker for the best dispassionate demeanor. I can be just as calm, cool, and collected and he. I lost. I could feel the smile cracking open no matter how dispassionate I wanted to appear. I shifted gears and tried to look confident, sort of, “I’m a man of faith. I knew this is what you were going to say all along.” Mostly my thoughts were prayers of thanksgiving and awe. Why is God so good to me? Others are more deserving, but that is why it is called grace.

I am confident this encounter with cancer has indeed painted a new backdrop against which I will live my life for quite some time. What is not clear is exactly what is painted on that canvas in my soul. The power of backdrops is not their artistic beauty but their ability to set a scene. They can set a tone and create an ambiance, but it is what is done in front of them that captivates the audience. May my life now be lived as one who knows better than ever the beauty and power of God’s love for us all?