Cancer, Chemo, Covid-19, and the Peace that Comes from God
On March 2nd I was diagnosed with a re-occurrence of an early stage of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma that was found in a few lymph nodes in my chest. While a cancer diagnosis is never good news, the weird thing about a lot of cancer treatments is that you never know if the chemotherapy is truly working until the treatment is done. The first time I had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, it was six months of treatment before I got a PET scan, which revealed that the cancer was gone (or so we thought). I can remember sitting with an IV in my arm wondering if the chemo was working or not.
The same worry still lingers this time around. Is the chemo working? What happens if the chemo doesn’t work? Even if this chemo destroys all the cancer in my body, will the cancer return for a third time?
But as of late, the cancer is not the only thing that Rachael (my wife) and I have to be concerned about. With the global pandemic of COVID-19 halting most of the world, there are a whole set of scenarios that we think about. Because of the chemotherapy, I am immuno-compromised. If I get a fever, I would be admitted into the hospital immediately, as any infection is life threatening. There’s a good chance I would end-up in the ICU if I was diagnosed with COVID-19.
Rachael and I wonder whether my treatments might be delayed indefinitely. More and more healthcare resources are being shifted and reorganized to fight the wave of people that are diagnosed with COVID-19. Could my treatment stop to free up room and precious supplies? And if treatment stops, won’t my cancer get worse?
There is a whole host of other things we think about: our finances as I take a medical leave, Rachael finding work once this semester of university is done, our mental health as we social distance ourselves from almost all of our family and friends, and the list can go on and on. I write this not to vent or to win some award for ‘Most Things to Worry About,’ but as a reflection on what God has done in our lives.
That is because, despite our circumstances and situation, Rachael and I have felt a peace and joy that doesn’t quite make sense. That doesn’t mean things have been smooth sailing, some days are harder than others. But for the most part, we have felt God’s comfort and peace in an unexpected time. After talking and reflecting about it, Rachael and I wanted to share what God has done and what we have done to have peace in a time when we should be worried.
Prayer is Powerful and God Gives Good Gifts
Rachael and I have been praying for healing, wisdom, and peace during this time. A small army of people at Northview have been praying for us every day, asking God to help and heal us. We have felt God’s answer to prayer in so many ways and we have confidence that God is taking care of us. We have been reminded of Luke 11:1-13, where Jesus teaches His disciples how to pray, first with the Lord’s prayer, and then with a story:
“Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.” Luke 11:5-8
Jesus told this story not to tell us what God is like, but how we ought to approach God in prayer. We ought to pray with shameless audacity as we would asking our friend for a cup of sugar at 2:00 in the morning. This means when we pray, it is with humble, audacious hearts that ask for big things from God.
Rachael and I have been praying shamelessly, relentlessly for healing and peace, and we have seen God answer our prayers. I encourage you to do the same in this time when there is lots to worry about.
Read the Bible Not the News (or Social Media)
It is very easy to get sucked into article after article about COVID-19, especially about areas that have been hardest hit by the virus. Reading article after article simply produces more and more worry and anxiety. Moreover, many news sources write in ways that sensationalize and scare their audience. If you’re going to read the news, pick one or two reliable sources and limit your time spent consuming information on COVID-19.
And then, pick up your Bible, books, blogs, and podcasts that remind you about the power, awesomeness, and love of God. Being reminded about who God is has brought us peace. And being reminded about our future hope has set our perspective on things eternal, not on our temporal circumstances.
Trust God Even If It’s Difficult
When Rachael and I got married and moved into our place in August of 2018, we bought two floating shelves for our living room to put up photos of our wedding day. Amongst the pictures of us, in the center of one of the shelves, Rachael placed a quote that reads, “But if not, He is still good.” While the quote isn’t an actual verse in the Bible, it summarizes one of the great stories in the book of Daniel, Chapter 3.
When King Nebuchadnezzar ordered that Shadrach, Meshack and Abednego be thrown into the furnace for refusing to worship a statue of himself, they replied:
“King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” Daniel 3:16-18 (NIV)
In other words, if God didn’t deliver Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from the fiery furnace in the way they wanted, God was still good, and they had nothing to worry about.
Rachael and I have often reflected on this over the past few months. We have received a lot of bad news and prayers that have gone unanswered. The plans that we thought were good and God honoring have been put on hold, changed, and scrapped all together. Both in our personal lives and with what’s going on in the world, there is much to worry about. It can sometimes feel like God isn’t in control at all.
But Rachael and I have put our faith in God, the one that delivered Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from the flames, the one that delivered us from our sin through His Son, and He is the one that will deliver us from our worried hearts and minds. And that has given us peace that passes understanding.
Even if God doesn’t save us in the way that we think He should, He is still good.