When cancer intrudes into your life it comes with a boatload of baggage. Some of it you’d expect: anxiety, an in-your-face mortality smack, physical symptoms, warring hell’s vermin, lifestyle changes and a profound desire to live and love as you never have. Some of the luggage catches you off guard. Shame for example, “Why am I so ashamed of myself, my life, my health, and every choice I’ve made in life?” Then there are the waves of confusion; hopelessness and despair that you thought your long storied walk with God would insulate you from. It didn’t for me.
Another piece of cancer’s luggage is the “unknown”. The “unknowns” about your specific cancer’s “personality”, the staging of your disease, the multiple treatment options and ultimately your prognosis. All too soon your cancer seems to metastasize to your marriage, children, finances, plans for Christmas, career and interest in UCLA Basketball.
Hoping a “Second” opinion from the best cancer center in the world, M.D. Anderson, would bring greater clarity, rid us of the unknowns and calm our troubled souls; Lori and I flew to Houston earlier this summer.
How do you describe the experience of God coming for you through a hundred different people over the course of three days? That was our experience!
In ways it was a rescue. We were anchored again, reoriented, saved, “found” and now rooted in some borderless circle of God’s grace and presence
I came to this research center expecting scientists to view me as a specimen from which to draw blood, poke, prod and take tissue from; brainy nerds focused on numbers, levels, and statistical categories more than me… my heart… my life.
We stayed at the Jesse H. Jones Rotary House, a Marriott “Ronald MacDonald” like hotel that is attached by sky-bridges to MDA. Given that the hotel is limited to cancer patients we feared it would be a horrifying combination of a convalescent hospital and battlefield surgical recovery room, with the walking dead moving through the halls. We’d been told it wasn’t that; I’m not sure we believed the reports.
Our fears were totally unsubstantiated.
Every, and I literally mean “every” person we interacted with, on any level, was Christ to us. From the hotel Staff, the other patients/guests (some who looked like they’d been on the battlefield), the MDA team, the shuttle drivers, bartender, food service, housekeeping…
In a hundred different ways and encounters God came for us.
We sat with those suffering greatly and found Jesus in their words, stories, prayers and example. We cried and found hope. The weak spoke of strength. Death’s curse and threats seemed strangely silenced. One day I had a couple of hours free and was excited to spend it walking the halls and sitting in the lobbies so I could simply be with Jesus.
My friend John Moorhead shared a quote of Dallas Willard with me, “Where there’s Goodness, God is there”. We lived and breathed, swam in, drank in and were covered by Goodness… by God.
This next week I begin a new part of the journey.
I’ll be in an “Infusion” room with a few fellow sojourners for my first chemotherapy cycle… four days of cancer killing kick ass drugs through an IV. I’ll be chillin’ in a brown Barcalounger, covered by a blanket with an igloo packed with snacks nearby. Lori will be on one side of me, Jesus on the other as we pass the hours watchingPlanes, Trains and Automobiles, just sitting and talking about “stuff”, listening to my “Worship A” playlist, napping or flipping through the out dated People magazines laying around.
I’m so glad I’m not going through this alone.
There’s still a lot of unknowns and tears, but at this moment, full of hope and strength I can say, “I’m good, God is good, I’m alive and free… and cancer sucks!”
- Craig McConnell