“This is hopeless.” I said, after the doctor left the room. My diagnosis was grave and I really could only think that I would soon be dead. The first thing I did when I got home was go to the cabinet and grab the bottle of scotch whiskey that was there and pour me a drink. I gulped it down with little care for the burn, maybe even craving it. What did it matter now, the famous lines came to me, “Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die…” “One drink deserves another..” Soon the bottle was empty, now what?
Over two years before I had been diagnosed with an enlarged prostate and was being treated for it. Still the issues I was having were not getting better. When I moved to Oregon from the Bay area of California I had gotten a new Urologist and it was he that I had just seen. His diagnosis was stage four Prostate Cancer. No cure offered and not much hope.
Soon I was talking to a Radiologist Oncologist to see if radiation treatments would be an option. His opinion was even bleaker than my Urologist. Basically, he told me, “Why put yourself through all the treatments. They won’t cure you and could lessen your quality of life.” Of course, he left the decision up to me but did not recommend it. Again, I could feel the cold grip of impending death.
Over the next week’s I received a lot of sympathy and I most certainly felt sorry for myself. Here I was 52 years old and probably was never going to see 60. Why was this happening to me? I knew I had not lived a healthy lifestyle but I was no worse or better than most the guys I knew. None of them has just been told that they should get measured for a coffin. It was not fair. Maybe the best thing to do was just end it all right now. I was a sorry guy without an ounce of hope.
Benjamin Franklin said, “…nothing can be said to be certain, except for taxes and death.” And in truth probably nothing leaves us feeling more hopeless than either one of those.
Up until the time I was diagnosed with cancer, I lived life with little concern about death. I had seen it in other’s lives but it was not a factor in mine, so why should I care. The problem was, once I was given a death sentence I really had nowhere to turn except to sink even deeper into my addictions.
There was one night I remember while drinking to excess that I had thoughts about God. I had most of my life refused to believe in His existence yet in my drunken state that night I was looking for some kind of hope. But the God I knew back in Catholic school seemed vengeful and at that moment, in my mind, I was living proof of that. “Why me, if You do exist, answer me that…” I slurred out in hopeless rage. Nothing, I didn’t hear an answer. But that did not surprise me. “There is no God!” I said bitterly. Eleven years later, I am here to say I was wrong. Not only does God exist, but if you are touched by His grace every day is a day of hope.
Some who have followed this blog know my story. From addicted to redeemed. But I was not a believer when I needed to make my life and death decisions about my cancer and its treatment. I know for sure those decisions would have been easier if I had known the hope I now have in Jesus Christ. For three years or more after my first diagnosis I walked in fear of death almost daily. I kept those fears at bay by self-medicating with alcohol most the time. It always led to even deeper fear and hopelessness. It was a painful time.
In 2010 a friend of mine was working with me as I was beginning to open God’s Word. She told me that her hope came from claiming God’s promises. At the time I told her, “That was very nice, but I am still not sure I believe in God.” Her answer was one of the things that changed my life. She said, “That is the perfect time to claim promises. Claim them even if you don’t believe just yet. God wants to show you His promises are true.” I shook my head and said to myself, “Yeah, right!” But you know what, she had given me a promise to claim and a day later I found myself reading it. “But this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning, great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:21-23) and without real knowledge of how to do it or pray it or whatever, I simply said, “I want to believe this, help me.” Then I remembered a line from Mark’s gospel I had just read and mumbled it, “I do believe, help my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24b) With the Bible still on my lap I felt a peace I had never experienced. It was awesome.
I have claimed that promise many times since. Whenever my hope is waning, I recall that first time and smile. Because as a cancer survivor, I know in it I am safe. I believe God’s promises are true and that is how I survive with joy and hope no matter what the outcome.
I went through the radiation treatments, 48 of them to be exact. I have been blessed to have the great results from the hormone drug I have taken for 11 years. Recently there are some signs that my cancer may be making a comeback but unlike years ago, I have no fear and live in great hope. You see, I know now this world is not my home. I and you, if you so choose, have been given a promise by our Savior, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away,” (Revelation 21:4)
Why not join me today and claim the promise of Lamentations 3:21-23 in this prayer, “Lord my hope is in your steadfast and never ending love. I need your mercy that is never ending. This morning I bow to your faithfulness, knowing that in you is all my hope.” If you are living in fear give it a try. Hope is yours to claim!