And the joking response goes: “Today, I just wish He didn’t think so highly of me.”
I know for me personally this last year with cancer has been the most challenging time of my life. Despite that, almost 30 years ago, my first doctor told me I would be dead of AIDS before I reached 25 (I was 22), this recent cancer was, by far, my worst experience.
In my 51st year, a surgeon cut out a tumor, along with about a third of my tongue. I went through chemo and radiation (which devastated my immune system I’d so arduously worked to rebuild). It’s affected my speech. Sometimes when I listen to myself, I think sound like Harvey Fierstein with a lisp. (Not attractive.)
And though my friends say I don’t sound that way at all, I often wonder if they’re just being kind.
Last month I had a PEG (Percutaneous Endoscopic Gastrostomy) tube placed surgically into my stomach. This clear plastic tubing, almost identical to aquarium tubing, extends out of my abdomen wall and hangs about 8 inches. I tape it up to my skin, so as it doesn’t hang beneath my shirt line.
Aside from feeling like one of the Borg (human-machine cyborgs) on Star Trek, it’s been a big adjustment psychologically. I feel mutilated. The closest I can imagine it to be like is a woman who has had a mastectomy. For a guy, I can’t just take my shirt off in public, like at a beach or swimming pool party, anymore. Or I can’t without stares. Overall, I lost 45 lbs of muscle mass during this entire process. I went from a gym bunny to a slim Jim.
I’ve got many more physical and psychological complaints (from thrush to depression) I could add to this list, but I already sound like I’m feeling sorry for myself—pitiful, as we’d say in my home state of Texas—so I’ll stop.
I’m usually pretty good at balancing this very slow healing process. (Because I am, after all, a year later still cancer free.) I don’t go into a self pity mode very often.
So where does God fit into all this?
I was speaking on the phone to my Cousin Sydney a couple of days ago and she said, “God gave you sobriety and a year living sober before the cancer struck. You wouldn’t have been able to handle the cancer if you’d been high.”
My clean date from crystal meth is June 10, 2011. Exactly one year and eleven days later, I had surgery on my tongue, the beginnings of my cancer treatment. Chemo and radiation would follow in a month or so. Just one year of sobriety. I had never put these two together before. But now I truly believe I was graced by a year to get my life and head back together before cancer came calling.
For that year, I am truly grateful. Had I been deep into my addiction, I probably wouldn’t have sought treatment until it was too late. Instead of stage 2, I would have been at stage 4, it having metastasizing throughout my throat, nose and head.
My sobriety, my parents, and the fellowship of sober friends in my new city of Palm Springs held me up through this entire ordeal—and I survived. Clean and sober. So, I’d like to end today’s post with a question:
What life challenge has God given you that you were, to your surprise, able to handle with complete sobriety?